Bubble teams in a handful of conference tournaments have taken losses right and left, increasing the chances that programs like the Blue Raiders, Gaels and Broncos may yet be able to secure an at-large NCAA tournament bid.
Tennessee shot 24 percent from the field in the second half and tanked against Alabama in the SEC quarterfinals. Virginia continued its late fade with an ACC quarterfinal loss to NC State. And La Salle squandered a chance at a badly needed marquee win with a Atlantic 10 quarterfinal setback against Butler.
The bubble is weak enough, though, that those three teams can't be completely removed from consideration just based on those losses. Here's a look at their chances as Selection Sunday approaches:
Virginia (21-11, 11-7, RPI: 70)
Quality wins: Duke, North Carolina, NC State, Wisconsin, Tennessee
Bad losses: Old Dominion, George Mason, Delaware, Wake Forest, Boston College
Outlook: When Virginia upset Duke on Feb. 28 in Charlottesville to improve to 10-5 in the ACC, the Cavaliers appeared likely to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament. That's much less certain now, however, because Virginia dropped three of its final four games. Friday's 75-56 ACC quarterfinal loss to NC State was especially damaging because the last impression Virginia left the selection committee was not flattering to say the least. They'll now have a long 48-hour wait to find out if one of the nation's most confounding profiles is good enough or not. Virginia has a list of quality wins some Top 25 teams would envy, but the combination of seven sub-100 RPI losses and a poor finish to the season may be too much for the Cavaliers to overcome.
La Salle (21-9, 11-5, RPI: 45)
Quality wins: VCU, Butler, Villanova
Bad losses: Charlotte, Central Connecticut State
Outlook: Had La Salle been able to take down Saint Louis in its regular season finale or Butler in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals, that might have bolstered its profile just enough to sneak into the NCAA tournament. Instead the Explorers fell to the Billikens and went one-and-out in the Atlantic 10 tournament, neither of which are promising. La Salle beat Villanova when it was struggling before conference play and had one brilliant week when it swept Butler and VCU, but besides that, the Explorers haven't played like a team worthy of an NCAA bid. Their record against top 50 RPI teams is 2-5 and against top 100 RPI teams is 6-8. That has them on pace to be one of the last teams in or out of the field.
Tennessee (20-12, 11-7, RPI: 55)
Quality wins: Wichita State, Kentucky, Florida, Missouri
Bad losses: Georgia, at Georgia
Outlook: Having won eight of nine to end the regular season and dispatched Mississippi State to open SEC play, Tennessee appeared to be in position to all but secure an NCAA bid by beating fellow bubble hopeful Alabama in the SEC quarterfinals. That's why it has to be frustrating for the Vols to have come away with an ugly 58-48 loss instead. There's still a fair amount to like about Tennessee's profile, especially its four quality wins against RPI top 50 opponents. Nonetheless, all four came at home and the Vols did lose seven SEC games, which is a lot for a league that endured a down year this season. Tennessee may still eke out a bid despite Friday's loss, but it's certainly going to be stressful.
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