With less than one month remaining until Selection Sunday, the NCAA tournament bubble is beginning to take shape. Bubble Breakdown is the Dagger's daily look at the results that impact who's in and who's out.
If Stanford was comfortably in the NCAA tournament field before its lost weekend in the desert, the Cardinal probably aren't quite so anxiety-free anymore.
First came a one-sided 76-64 loss at Arizona State on Thursday. Then came a 79-66 rout at surging Arizona on Sunday night.
Neither of those are bad losses, nor are they enough to send Stanford tumbling out of the field, but they do leave the Cardinal (18-9, 9-7) with work left to do. Stanford has a top 50 RPI, wins over UConn, UCLA, Arizona State, Cal and Oregon and no losses to any team outside the top 100, but its 6-10 record against top 100 teams isn't exactly inspiring.
Two home wins against Utah and Colorado next week would almost certainly secure an NCAA tournament bid for the Cardinal no matter what happens in the Pac-12 tournament. A home split or worse, and Stanford probably doesn't want to risk dropping its conference tournament opener.
The stakes are a little higher for Stanford than most bubble teams since coach Johnny Dawkins' job may be at stake. Athletic director Bernard Muir is on record as saying he expects this team to earn Dawkins' first NCAA tournament bid in his six seasons on the Farm.
It's not hard to figure out what Stanford needs to do better in order to make sure Selection Sunday is stress-free. The Cardinal have to avoid turning it over and fueling its opponent's fast break, a season-long problem for a team that has only had one ball handler, Chasson Randle, since Aaron Bright suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason.
Randle, Anthony Brown and Josh Huestis had spurts of success offensively at Arizona, but the Cardinal got almost nothing out of either Dwight Powell or Stefan Nastic against the Wildcats' long, athletic frontline. That's a huge problem since Stanford is paper-thin and lacks scoring off its bench.
Stanford's senior-laden starting lineup is experienced and talented enough to get the Cardinal to the NCAA tournament. We'll find out the next two weeks if they're able to finish the job.
BUBBLE TEAMS WHOSE STOCK ROSE SUNDAY
• St. John's (19-11, 9-8): It was closer than expected, but St. John's secured the win it needed against DePaul to set up a crucial regular season finale at Marquette on Saturday. The Johnnies need to win that against the Golden Eagles to avoid entering the Big East tournament in a position where they need to at least reach the title game and perhaps secure the automatic bid. Since a disastrous 0-5 start to Big East play, St. John's has climbed out of that hole by winning 10 of 13 games. The problem for the Johnnies is a lack of quality wins, aside from their victory over Creighton last month. The other decent wins St. John's has came against Providence, Georgetown and Marquette.
• Florida State (17-11, 8-8): Having resuscitated its hopes last weekend with a huge win at Pittsburgh, Florida State continues to register a pulse after taking care of Georgia Tech on Sunday to creep back to .500 in the ACC. Now the Seminoles have a must-win game against woeful Boston College before finishing the regular season with a huge opportunity game when Syracuse visits Tallahassee. Quality non-conference wins against VCU and UMass boost Florida State's stock, but the Seminoles had beaten nobody notable since Christmas until the Pittsburgh win. Unless Florida State catches fire the next two weeks, it feels like the Seminoles may regret letting potential upsets against Florida and Michigan slip away in non-league play.
BUBBLE TEAMS WHOSE STOCK FELL SUNDAY
• Marquette (17-12, 9-7): Credit Marquette for its late push onto the fringes of the bubble, but it feels like Sunday's game at Villanova was one the Golden Eagles desperately needed. Instead Marquette fell meekly 73-56, leaving its backs against the wall with two regular season games left. With an abysmal RPI in the 70s and no victories against surefire NCAA tournament teams besides George Washington and Xavier, Marquette badly needs a eye-popping victory to elevate its status. To have any shot at an at-large bid, the Golden Eagles probably need to win at Providence and at home against St. John's this week, then defeat either Creighton or Villanova in the Big East tournament. Otherwise Marquette may be headed for a rare appearance in the NIT.
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