On a night when numerous bubble teams had opportunities for resume-building victories, only a handful managed to come through.
There was joy at Seton Hall and Colorado State after big wins. There was heartache at Mississippi State and Northwestern after blown leads. And there was despair at Illinois and NC State after blowout losses.
Here's a look at which bubble teams teams helped and hurt themselves Tuesday night. I'll have more on the ACC's bubble teams and NCAA tournament picture in a separate post later today.
Stock up: Kansas State
If Kansas State hadn't already punched its ticket to the NCAA tournament with its win at Baylor on Saturday, then the Wildcats moved to near-lock status by finishing a season sweep of Missouri on Monday in Columbia. Kansas State dominated the paint and the glass for much of the game and limited the Tigers to 38.3 percent shooting, rolling to an impactful 78-68 victory. Now the Wildcats have a realistic chance of playing their way into a favorable seed if they can close the season with wins over Iowa State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State.
Stock down: Northwestern
In Northwestern's long history of basketball futility, few losses have stung more than the one the Wildcats suffered Tuesday. They led Michigan 47-43 with less than two minutes to go before the Wolverines suddenly became scalding hot from the perimeter, making a pair of threes to force overtime, then three more to coast to a 67-55 win. By letting a chance for a resume-building win slip away, Northwestern (16-10, 6-9) also may have squandered its chance to make its first NCAA tournament. The Wildcats will need to win their final three games just to make it to .500 in Big Ten play, which would mean upsetting an Ohio State team that beat Northwestern by 33 in their first meeting.
Stock up: Colorado State
Catching New Mexico coming off its two biggest wins of the season surely helped, but credit Colorado State for doing what UNLV and San Diego State could not last week. The Rams beat New Mexico 71-63, strengthening the Mountain West's case for four potential NCAA tournament berths. At 17-9, 6-5, Colorado State is certainly no lock but the Rams boast a surprisingly strong RPI and wins over San Diego State and Colorado in addition to the upset of the Lobos. Opportunities for more marquee wins remain with San Diego State and UNLV up next on the schedule.
Stock down: Xavier
Xavier could have taken a step toward playing itself off the bubble with a win at UMass but this year's Musketeers seem determined to make nothing easy. Instead Xavier unraveled in a first half in which it committed 16 turnovers and then staged a furious second-half rally that fell short, resulting in a 71-63 loss. The loss appears to leave the Musketeers (17-10, 8-5) squarely on the bubble with only three regular season games left: home games against Richmond and Charlotte sandwiched around a difficult road test at Saint Louis. If Xavier doesn't beat the Billikens, they may need to make a run in the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Stock up: Seton Hall
Few teams could survive a six-game losing streak in the middle of conference play, but Seton Hall may just be able to pull off that feat. The Pirates have now won four of five since that stretch culminating in a crucial 73-55 shellacking of Georgetown in Seton Hall's final opportunity for a noteworthy win before Big East tournament play. With wins over VCU, St. Joseph's and Dayton out of conference and Georgetown, West Virginia and UConn in Big East play, Seton Hall (19-9, 8-8) has a solid though not spectacular resume. The Pirates can finish 10-8 in the Big East with wins over Rutgers and DePaul in their final two games, but they still may need a Big East tourney win or two to feel absolutely safe.
Stock down: Mississippi State
Credit Mississippi State for an inspired performance in leading Kentucky for 35 minutes Tuesday night, but the Bulldogs couldn't pull off the upset. In fact, the 73-64 loss raised two pertinent questions: 1. Why can't Mississippi State play this hard all the time? 2. Will the Bulldogs pay for their previous lapses in effort by missing the NCAA tournament altogether? Amazingly enough for a team that boasts top-flight talent throughout its starting lineup, not hearing its name called on Selection Sunday remains a possibility thanks to losses to Georgia, LSU and Auburn in its previous three games. The fading Bulldogs (19-9, 6-7) now visit Alabama on Saturday for a game in which the loser will be in jeopardy of letting a once-surefire NCAA bid slip away.
Stock down: Illinois
If a 23-point loss at Nebraska last Saturday didn't end Illinois' at-large chances, then an 83-67 throttling at Ohio State three nights later surely did. The Illini have lost nine of 10 and appear to have lost all interest in listening to soon-to-be-fired coach Bruce Weber. The worst part of this collapse for Illinois is that its profile was so strong at the end of January. The Illini had beaten Gonzaga, Michigan State and Ohio State, which is why many have been reticent to slam the door shut on their NCAA tournament chances until now. If there was a way to auction off marquee wins to bubble teams who needed them, the Illini could have a profitable fire sale.
Rivals.com: NCAA tournament watch
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- Colorado State
- Mississippi State
- Seton Hall
- Kansas State
- San Diego State