Bubble Breakdown: Xavier falls back to bubble after losing key game, key player

Bubble Breakdown: Xavier falls back to bubble after losing key game, key player
Bubble Breakdown: Xavier falls back to bubble after losing key game, key player

With less than two weeks 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.

To understand how disastrous Monday night was for Xavier, consider that losing for a second time to lowly Seton Hall wasn't even the worst part. 

A 71-62 loss to the Pirates paled in comparison to the potentially serious knee injury top big man Matt Stainbrook suffered.

When Stainbrook was fouled by Fuquan Edwin with 8:02 left in the first half, he collapsed to the floor, wailed in pain, pounded the court and indicated his knee was hurt. Seton Hall outscored Xavier 16-8 the rest of the first half and held the Musketeers to a season-low 20 first-half points, building a big enough lead to survive Semaj Christon's 24-point second-half barrage.   

The extent of Stainbrook's injury won't be clear until he undergoes an MRI on Tuesday, but the 6-foot-10 junior reportedly left the locker room on crutches without putting any weight on his knee. The Western Michigan transfer had averaged 10.9 points and 7.9 rebounds this season, production made possible by the effort Stainbrook put in this offseason to reshape his body. 

It would be difficult for Xavier to put together much of an NCAA tournament run without Stainbrook, but the Musketeers first have to figure out how to make it into the field of 68 at all. 

They appeared to be in good shape after defeating fellow bubble team St. John's and upsetting first-place Creighton last week to improve to 20-9 overall and 10-6 in the Big East. Even one more victory might have been enough to guarantee a bid, but that won't be easy now with Villanova visiting on Saturday and a Big East quarterfinal against a fellow bubble team looming after that.

Before Monday night's game against Seton Hall, Xavier appeared to be a half step ahead of the rest of the Big East's bubble teams. 

Not only did the Musketeers lose that cushion, they may have lost more than that in the process.


• Oklahoma State (20-10, 8-9): Had the season ended 14 days ago with Oklahoma State 4-9 in the Big 12 and mired in a seven-game losing streak, the Cowboys likely would have missed the NCAA tournament. Four victories later, however, Oklahoma State might be able to all but wrap up a bid even before the Big 12 tournament. Two victories over TCU and Texas Tech gave the Cowboys life. Saturday's upset of first-place Kansas boosted Oklahoma State into contention. And Monday night's home win over Kansas State solidified the Cowboys as an NCAA tournament team as of now and put them into position to all but wrap up a bid if they can win at Iowa State this weekend. Even if the Cowboys fall in Ames, they still might not need to win more than one game in the Big 12 tournament to feel secure. They now have non-league victories over Memphis and Colorado and Big 12 wins against Texas, Kansas and Kansas State.


• Pittsburgh (22-8, 10-7): If Pitt wasn't already officially a bubble team before its loss at NC State on Monday night, the Panthers are now. That's the price of further damaging a resume built almost entirely on not losing to bad teams. Pittsburgh has not lost to a team worse than NC State, which is No. 72 in the RPI, but the Panthers also have only beaten one team ranked above the Wolfpack. That's Stanford, which is no lock to make NCAA tournament itself. In six other games against the RPI top 50, Pitt is 0-for-6. Some of those losses were excruciatingly close, but that doesn't bolster the Panthers' resume. Pitt would probably still make the NCAA tournament were the season over today, but the Panthers still have a road game at Clemson and the ACC tournament left. They would be wise not to lose to the Tigers or in the opening round in Greensboro. 

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