Tourney tracker: Beware of bursting bubbles

Here is today’s version of our daily NCAA tournament tracker/bubble watch.

John Shurna and Northwestern are squarely on the bubble as the Big Ten tournament starts.
(US Presswire)

The final five league tournaments get under way Thursday, and it’s a huge day for bubble teams, with key games in the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. In other words, every Big Six tourney features a Thursday game that will have big-time bubble implications.

We’ll continue our tracker through the final days of the conference tournaments. We’ll also update as needed the “NCAA locks” chart.

All RPI figures come from

NCAA tourney locks (60)

(teams listed alphabetically by league; asterisked teams already have earned an automatic bid)
ACC (4): Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia
Atlantic Sun (1): Belmont*
Atlantic 10 (2): Saint Louis, Temple
Big East (7): Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Syracuse
Big Sky (1): Montana*
Big South (1): UNC Asheville*
Big Ten (6): Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Big 12 (5): Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Missouri
Colonial Athletic Association (1): VCU*
Conference USA (1): Memphis
Horizon (1): Detroit*
Ivy (1): Harvard*
Metro Atlantic Athletic (1): Loyola (Md.)*
Missouri Valley (2): Creighton*, Wichita State
Mountain West (3): New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Northeast (1): Long Island*
Ohio Valley (1): Murray State*
Patriot (1): Lehigh*
SEC (3): Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt
Southern (1): Davidson*
Summit (1): South Dakota State*
Sun Belt (1): Western Kentucky*
West Coast (3): BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s*
One-bid leagues regardless (10): America East, Big West, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Southland, Southwestern Athletic, Western Athletic.
Leagues that will get at least one bid but could get two (1): Pac-12

Thursday’s game of the day

Minnesota vs. Northwestern in Indianapolis, 5:30 p.m., Big Ten Network: This is a first-round game in the Big Ten tournament, and it’s a must-win affair for Northwestern if they have designs on making the NCAA tourney field for the first time. The Wildcats have to win twice in the Big Ten tourney to truly feel good about getting a bid, but one comes before two, so they need to be focused on beating Minnesota.

Other games of interest

Connecticut vs. Syracuse in New York, noon, ESPN: This is a Big East tourney quarterfinal. Syracuse and Kentucky are the two teams with a shot at being the overall No. 1 seed, and those hopes would go by the boards for the Orange if it loses to UConn. The Huskies looked to have wrapped up a bid with their victory Wednesday over West Virginia and now are focused on copying last season’s dash through the league tourney.

East Carolina vs. Southern Miss in Memphis, 1 p.m., CBS Sports Network: This is a Conference USA quarterfinal. Second-seeded Southern Miss looks to be OK for an NCAA bid, but the Golden Eagles don’t want to tempt fate by losing to the 10th-seeded Pirates, whose RPI is in the 160s. Southern Miss swept ECU this season.

[Pat Forde: Once-disgraced Larry Eustachy finds redemption at Southern Miss]

Boston College vs. North Carolina State in Atlanta, 2 p.m., ACC syndication/ESPNU: This is a first-round game in the ACC tournament. NC State is on the wrong side of the bubble and this is a must-win contest for the Wolfpack, who swept BC this season. NCSU almost certainly needs to win twice in this tourney to stay in the at-large hunt.

Oregon State vs. Washington in Los Angeles, 3 p.m., Fox Sports Net: This is a Pac-12 tourney quarterfinal. Washington won the league’s regular-season title, but that likely wouldn’t be enough for an at-large bid should they lose to the ninth-seeded Beavers. The Huskies swept the season series.

Alabama vs. South Carolina in New Orleans, 3:30 p.m., SEC syndication/Altitude/ESPN FullCourt: This is a first-round game in the SEC tournament. Alabama looks to be on the plus side of the bubble, but a loss to the Gamecocks would be damaging. South Carolina won the lone meeting between the teams this season, and does a team that loses twice to the Gamecocks really deserve an NCAA bid?

Colorado State vs. TCU in Las Vegas, 5:30 p.m., The mtn./CBS Sports Network: This is first-round game in the Mountain West tourney, and a victory keeps Colorado State on the good side of the bubble. A loss likely ends the Rams’ at-large hopes. Colorado State has won four of its past five overall, but the Rams had trouble with TCU in the regular season. TCU won by four in Fort Worth and lost by six in two overtimes at Colorado State.

Notre Dame vs. USF in New York, 9 p.m., ESPN: This will be the final Big East tourney quarterfinal of the day, and a victory likely locks up an NCAA bid for USF, which finished tied for fourth in the league and is seeded sixth. The third-seeded Irish are an NCAA lock, but they have reason to be worried a bit about their NCAA seeding.

Georgia Tech vs. Miami in Atlanta, 9 p.m., ACC syndication/ESPNU: This is a first-round game in the ACC tourney. Miami is on the NCAA bubble and faces a must-win situation to remain there. UM won the lone regular-season meeting, by 15 in Atlanta on Jan. 24.

Cal needs to beat Stanford to have any hope of securing a bid.
(US Presswire)

California vs. Stanford in Los Angeles, 9 p.m., Fox Sports Net: This is a Pac-12 tourney quarterfinal. These teams played in the regular-season finale Sunday, with Stanford winning and keeping Cal from sharing in the regular-season title. Another loss to the Cardinal likely would be the death knell for Cal’s at-large hopes.

Iowa State vs. Texas in Kansas City, 9:30 p.m., Big 12 syndication/Altitude2/MASN/ESPN FullCourt: This is a Big 12 tourney quarterfinal. While Iowa State safely is in the NCAA field, Texas has to play its way in. This is a must-win contest for the Longhorns if they want to go dancing. The teams split in the regular season, with each winning at home. Since beating the Cyclones on Jan. 24, Texas has just one win against a team with a winning record.

Georgia vs. Mississippi State in New Orleans, 10 p.m., SEC syndication/ESPN FullCourt: This is another SEC tourney first-round game. Mississippi State sits on top of the bubble, but the Bulldogs’ perch is precarious; a loss to Georgia almost certainly would knock them off that perch. In the lone regular-season meeting, Georgia won by two in overtime in Starkville.

Conference tourneys: Three other No. 1 seeds are in action Thursday. Long Beach State faces UC Davis (9 p.m., no TV) in the first round of the Big West tournament in Anaheim, Calif.; Long Beach swept the season series by a combined 48 points. UT Arlington plays fourth-seeded McNeese State in a Southland tourney semifinal in Katy, Texas; UTA is 16-1 against conference foes this season, and the Mavericks won by four at McNeese State in the only regular-season meeting. Nevada meets eighth-seeded San Jose State in the WAC first round in Las Vegas; Nevada swept the season series.

[The Dagger: All or nothing for the downtrodden Pac-12 as league tournament begins]

Wednesday review

USF 56, Villanova 47: This Big East tourney second-round win was big for USF as it chases its first NCAA bid since 1992. While a victory over Villanova won’t burnish the Bulls’ NCAA resume, a loss to the Wildcats likely would’ve knocked the Bulls, who have just one top-50 win, off the bubble. It was USF’s third win over Villanova this season.

Connecticut 71, West Virginia 67: UConn locked up an NCAA bid with this win. WVU still looks OK, but the Mountaineers will be sweating it out a bit on Sunday. WVU just isn’t playing good basketball right now, having lost eight of its past 12.

Louisville 61, Seton Hall 55: Louisville already was an NCAA lock, and the loss means Seton Hall is going to have a tension-filled weekend. The Pirates have three top-50 wins and seven top-100 wins; they also are a not-bad 7-9 away from home. The negative: They have three losses to teams ranked 121st or worse in the RPI, and their RPI has dropped from No. 5 to the mid-60s in the past eight weeks.

Long Island 90, Robert Morris 73: Top-seeded LIU won the Northeast Conference tourney by beating visiting Robert Morris, which was seeded third. Long Island is making its second consecutive NCAA appearance.

Lehigh 82, Bucknell 77: The second-seeded Mountain Hawks downed top-seeded Bucknell for the Patriot League tourney title. It was Lehigh’s second win at Bucknell this season, and it gave the Mountain Hawks their second NCAA bid in three seasons.

Montana 85, Weber State 66: The top-seeded Grizzlies used a huge second half to win the Big Sky tourney on their home court. Second-seeded Weber State led 36-31 at halftime, then was overrun in the second half. Montana, which has won 14 in a row, is headed to the NCAA tourney for the second time in three seasons.

Conference tourneys: There were three other No. 1 seeds in action Wednesday. Savannah State was stunned 59-46 by eighth-seeded Hampton in a quarterfinal of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tourney in Winston-Salem, N.C. Savannah State won by 16 at Hampton in the regular season, and finished eight games ahead of the Pirates in the regular season. UT Arlington hammered eighth-seeded Nicholls State 96-48 in a Southland tourney quarterfinal in Katy, Texas. UTA had won the lone regular-season meeting by 30. Mississippi Valley edged eighth-seeded Jackson State 63-60 in a SWAC quarterfinal in Garland, Texas.

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Mike Huguenin is a Yahoo! Sports college sports editor. Send Mike a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Thursday, Mar 8, 2012