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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Bubble breakdown: Opportunity knocks for NC State today

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Scott Wood and Lorenzo Brown (AP)

If NC State wants to be certain it hears its name called on Sunday evening, the Wolfpack have the opportunity to accomplish that today.

All they need to do is snap a 12-game losing streak to rival North Carolina on Saturday in the ACC semifinals. The top-seeded Tar Heels swept the season series yet again this year, winning by 19 in Chapel Hill and by 12 in Raleigh.

A 13th consecutive loss to North Carolina won't necessarily doom NC State to the NIT, but it will make for an anxious wait until 6 p.m. EST on Sunday, especially with possible bid thieves lurking in the Atlantic 10 and Conference USA. Below is my take on the bubble picture as it stands entering Saturday's action.

59. Texas (20-13, 9-9, RPI: 52): The combination of Texas' win over Iowa State and a wealth of losses from its bubble brethren have the Longhorns in solid shape despite their semifinal loss to Missouri on Friday night. A 5-10 record against the RPI top 50 isn't great, but Texas has now beaten Temple, Kansas State and Iowa State twice, which is more than most of other bubble teams have done. Their only two bad losses of the season were against Oregon State and Oklahoma State.

[Related: Bracket Big Board: Despite loss, Texas two-steps into Big Dance]

60. Colorado State (19-11, 8-6, RPI: 22): It's a testament to how flawed the rest of the bubble teams are that Colorado State's lack of success away from home likely won't be a deal breaker. The Rams' only road win in conference play came over Air Force, but they boast a top 25 RPI and notable wins over UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico. The Rams couldn't get a clinching win against the Aztecs in the Mountain West semifinals on Friday night, but Thursday's win over TCU looks like it may be enough.

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61. Xavier (20-11, 10-6, RPI: 59): Thanks to a second-half rally from a double-digit deficit against rival Dayton in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals, Xavier should feel pretty good about its position. A win over Saint Louis in the semifinals would make them a lock, but it's hard to see them being bypassed either way at this point.  Xavier's at-large case is bolstered three pre-brawl wins over Purdue, Vanderbilt and Cincinnati. Since then, the Musketeers' notable wins came at home over fellow bubble teams Saint Joseph's and Dayton.

62. Cal (24-9, 13-5, RPI: 36): By losing their final two regular season games against Stanford and Colorado and then falling to the Buffs again in the Pac-12 semifinals, Cal certainly did not help itself. Nonetheless, the Bears are still in the best position of any Pac-12 teams because they went 3-0 against Washington and Oregon head-to-head, they don't have any bad non-league losses and they have respectable computer numbers. Is that enough to land Cal a bid even though its best non-league win is Weber State? Maybe but it's certainly no guarantee.

63. South Florida (20-12, 12-6, RPI: 43): If South Florida narrowly misses the NCAA tournament Sunday, the Bulls will regret giving away a late lead against Notre Dame in the Big East quarterfinals. A win there would have likely put South Florida safely into the field of 68, but the overtime loss now means they'll have to hope a gaudy league record that includes wins over Louisville, Cincinnati and Seton Hall outweighs a profile otherwise light on marquee wins. They lost to Old Dominion, Penn State and Auburn in non-league play, though Anthony Collins and Jawanza Poland missed a total of 17 games in November and December.

[Related: Thirty years later, Fred Brown wants back in the NCAA tourney]

64. BYU (23-8, 12-4, RPI: 46): When Gonzaga trounced BYU in the WCC semifinals on Saturday night, it seemed as though the Cougars' at-large resume would inevitably get eclipsed by too many fellow bubble teams in the next eight days. Well, six days later, the Cougars seem to still be holding on to a tenuous spot in the field because so many other bubble teams have squandered opportunities too. BYU may yet rue going 1-4 against Saint Mary's and Gonzaga this season, but a solid RPI and wins over the Zags, Nevada and Oregon give the Cougars a decent shot at landing one of the final bids.

65. Drexel (27-6, 16-2, RPI: 70): Drexel's CAA title game loss to VCU makes the Dragons perhaps the most polarizing bubble team this season. On the one hand, they won 19 games in a row before that loss to capture the outright CAA title. On the other hand, they have a weak RPI, a miserable strength of schedule and a dearth of marquee non-league wins. Drexel certainly has looked like an NCAA tournament team the past two months, but will the committee feel the same about their resume?

66. NC State (22-11, 9-7, RPI: 44): Even though its ACC quarterfinal win over Virginia was its first victory of the season over one of the league's four best teams, NC State now can make a realistic case for an at-large bid. The Wolfpack have also beaten Texas and swept a pair of games from fellow bubble team Miami, putting them ahead of the Hurricanes in the ACC bubble pecking order. A win over North Carolina in the ACC semifinals would punch NC State's dance ticket, but otherwise the Wolfpack will endure a nervous 24-hour wait until the Selection Show.

67. Mississippi State (21-11, 8-8, RPI: 64): Living up to its reputation for suffering exasperating losses at the worst possible time, Mississippi State fell by 10 to Georgia in the opening round of the SEC tournament. That's a crushing loss for a team that already put its bid in jeopardy by losing to Auburn and Georgia last month. Notable wins over Vanderbilt, Alabama, West Virginia, Tennessee and Arizona bolster the Bulldogs' case, but they're in real trouble with no way to improve their case before Sunday.

68. Seton Hall (20-12, 8-10, RPI: 54): By losing its final two regular season games against DePaul and Rutgers and falling in a second-round Big East tournament game to Louisville, Seton Hall has put itself in a tenuous spot. Have the Pirates done enough to overcome an 8-10 Big East record and a resume that features just one decent road win (at Dayton)? Marquee wins over Georgetown, UConn and VCU and victories over fellow bubble teams Dayton, West Virginia and Saint Joseph's will help, but the Pirates have to root against their bubble peers the next few days.

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69.Washington (21-10, 14-4, RPI: 55): A stunning Pac-12 quarterfinal loss to Oregon State on Thursday leaves Washington in real jeopardy of being the first power conference regular season champ in more than a quarter century to miss the NCAA tournament. Although winning the outright Pac-12 title is a chip in the Huskies' favor, it may not be enough because of the weakness of the league this season and Washington's non-league woes. The Huskies failed to beat a single RPI Top 100 team out of conference and also lost at Nevada and at home to South Dakota State.

70. Miami (19-12, 9-7, RPI: 56): Miami's signature wins over Duke and Florida State will help, but the Hurricanes' resume has major flaws. Not only did they get swept by bubble hopeful NC State, they only have three top 100 RPI victories all season. The bubble is weak enough that there's still hope, but Miami probably still has work to do in the ACC tournament. The Hurricanes avoided a first-round upset against Georgia Tech on Thursday but they couldn't follow it up with a second win over Florida State again in the quarterfinals on Friday. That could be the loss that lands them on the wrong side of the bubble.

[Related: Pat Forde: Verdell Jones Jr. could only watch as Indiana fell]

71. Oral Roberts (27-5, 17-1; RPI: 50): As a result of its Summit League semis loss to Western Illinois, Oral Roberts may be left out of the NCAA tournament despite the Golden Eagles' dominance in that traditional one-bid league this season. Will Oral Roberts' gaudy record and non-league wins over Akron and a shorthanded Xavier team be enough to earn favor with the selection committee? It's possible given the state of the bubble, but it's going to be a stomach-turning few days for the Golden Eagles.

72. Iona (25-7, 15-3; RPI: 41): Thanks to a high-powered offense fueled by the trio of point guard Scott Machado, forward Mike Glover and Arizona transfer MoMo Jones, Iona would likely be a trendy upset pick if it makes the NCAA tournament. The problem is that its MAAC semifinals loss to Fairfield will make that challenging. The Gaels do have wins over Saint Joseph's and Nevada, but a 91-90 opening round loss to Purdue in the Puerto Rico Invitational looms large, as do a few losses to lesser opponents like Hofstra and Siena.

73. Marshall (21-12, 9-7, RPI: 37): Marshall's win over Southern Miss in the Conference USA semifinals elevates it into the bubble picture, but its stay is likely to be brief. Either the Herd beats Memphis on Saturday and wins an automatic berth, or it loses and its profile is unlikely to be good enough to land a bid. Marshall has a solid RPI and wins over Cincinnati, Memphis and Southern Miss twice, but that has to outweigh seven league losses including East Carolina, UAB and Tulsa.

74. Dayton (20-12, 9-7, RPI: 73): If Friday's matchup with Xavier was an elimination game for Dayton, then the Flyers are now on the outside looking in after a one-point loss to their most hated rivals. That leaves Dayton with a profile that probably won't be enough despite some marquee victories sprinkled in. The Flyers boast quality wins over Temple, Alabama, Saint Louis, Xavier and Minnesota with Trevor Mbakwe but also have losses to Rhode Island, Miami (Ohio), Duquesne and Buffalo (by 29 points).

75. Northwestern (18-13, 8-10, RPI: 48): Here's Northwestern's profile in a nutshell: It beat Michigan State and Seton Hall, and while it finished below .500 in the rugged Big Ten, it didn't lose to anyone bad and it played a lot of the best teams close. Does that sound at-large worthy to you? Me neither. The Wildcats had a chance to make a case by beating Michigan  in the Big Ten quarterfinals, but in true Northwestern fashion, they failed to even get to that game because they lost in the opening round in overtime to Minnesota.

Others considered: Ole Miss, Nevada, Tennessee, UMass, Arizona, Saint Joseph's, Oregon

On the bubble if they don't win projected automatic bids: Long Beach State

Friday's bubble recap:

• NC State 67, Virginia 64 — Believe it or not, this was the Wolfpack's first win against one of the ACC's top four teams.

• Saint Bonaventure 71, Saint Joseph's 68 — Golden opportunity squandered by Saint Joseph's considering would-be semifinal opponent Temple lost earlier in the day.

• Marshall 73, Southern Miss 62 — Marshall earned a closer look from the selection committee by upsetting the floundering Golden Eagles in the Conference USA semifinals.

• Ole Miss 77, Tennessee 72 — In a bubble elimination game, Ole Miss kept a glimmer of hope alive. The Rebels need an SEC title game appearance to have any shot.

• Florida State 82, Miami 71 — After finding out it would not have Durand Scott due to NCAA suspension hours beforehand, Miami lost a game it needed to lock up a bid.

• San Diego State 79, Colorado State 69 — San Diego State ensured that Colorado State will have an anxious wait until the Selection Show.

• Missouri 81, Texas 67 — The Longhorns go 0-for-7 on the year against Kansas, Missouri and Baylor.

• Xavier 70, Dayton 69 — Anything more satisfying than elevating yourself into the field of 68 and knocking out one of your hated rivals? Xavier fans probably enjoyed Friday night a whole lot more than Dayton fans did.

Saturday's bubble look-ahead:

• Marshall vs. Memphis — The Herd are in automatically with a C-USA title game win. Could they lose and get an at-large? Doubtful.

• NC State vs. North Carolina — The Wolfpack may yet survive a loss, but they're a lock with an upset victory.

• Mississippi vs. Vanderbilt — If the Rebels can win this one, their at-large candidacy becomes serious.

• Saint Louis vs. Xavier — Any slim doubt the Musketeers are safely in the field would vanish with a victory here.

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