Dayton and Xavier is always a heated game because of the intrastate rivalry between the two Atlantic 10 powers, but expect Friday night's conference tournament quarterfinal to be especially heated because of what's at stake.
It's practically a bubble elimination game, though the Musketeers enter in slightly better position than the Flyers because they have less bad losses this season.
Xavier-Dayton is just one of a handful of games from Friday's slate with key implications for the final few slots in the NCAA tournament. Below is my take on the bubble picture as it stands with Selection Sunday two days away.
60. Texas (20-12, 9-9, RPI: 52): The combination of Texas' win over Iowa State and a wealth of losses from its bubble brethren on Thursday have the Longhorns in solid shape entering Friday's Big 12 semifinal matchup with Missouri. They'd be safely in the field with a win on Friday, but they now have a very good chance to survive even with a loss. 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.
61. Cal (24-8, 13-5, RPI: 36): Even before Washington and Oregon tanked in the Pac-12 quarterfinals, the Bears have the league's best resume. They went 3-0 against Washington and Oregon head-to-head and they have respectable computer numbers. Cal's losses at Colorado and Stanford in the final two games of the regular season were costly, but the Bears avenged the loss to the Cardinal in Thursday's quarterfinals. If they beat Colorado on Friday to advance to the title game, they'll be in pretty good shape.
62. Colorado State (19-10, 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 and their best non-league win away from home was UTEP, but they boast a top 25 RPI and notable wins over UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico. Thursday's win over TCU may be enough, but the Rams can seal it with a second win over the Aztecs in the Mountain West semis.
63. Xavier (19-11, 10-6, RPI: 59): Xavier's at-large case remains heavily dependent on three pre-brawl wins over Purdue, Vanderbilt and Cincinnati. Since then, the Musketeers' only notable wins came at home over fellow bubble teams Saint Joseph's and Dayton. The question now facing Xavier is whether an A-10 quarterfinal win over Dayton would be enough to get a spot in the field of 68? It's possible, but a potential semifinal win over Saint Louis would be the clincher.
64. 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.
65. 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.
66. 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?
67. Miami (19-11, 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 still need to topple third-seeded Florida State again in the quarterfinals on Friday to have a good chance to make the field of 68.
68. 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.
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69. 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.
70.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.
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. Dayton (20-11, 9-7, RPI: 73): Few bubble teams have a more odd profile than Dayton. 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). Exactly where that leaves the Flyers is tough to determine, but the best guess is with more work to do in the Atlantic 10 tournament. A win over Xavier in the quarterfinals is a must and a semifinal win would help a lot too.
73. 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.
74. 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.
75. Saint Joseph's (20-12, 9-7, RPI: 56): For Saint Joseph's to have a realistic chance at an at-large bid, the Hawks will need to reach the Atlantic 10 title game on Sunday, which means first defeating Saint Bonaventure and probably Temple the next two days. That would help shore up a so-so profile with some quality wins and head-scratching losses. The Hawks have defeated Temple, Dayton, Drexel and Creighton this season, but they've lost to the likes of American, Richmond and Saint Bonaventure in addition to fellow bubble hopefuls Iona and Seton Hall.
76. Oregon (22-9, 13-5, RPI: 45): Oregon needed a run to the Pac-12 title game to have realistic hope, but that dream ended quickly with a quarterfinal loss to Colorado late Thursday night. As a result, the Ducks can probably start planning for the NIT because they don't have enough quality wins to make much of an at-large case. A road win at Arizona and a split with Washington in conference is decent, but the Ducks got swept by Cal, they lost to the three best teams they faced out of conference by double figures and the best non-league win they have is either Nebraska or UTEP.
Others considered: Tennessee, NC State, Middle Tennessee State, Central Florida, Mississippi
On the bubble if they don't win projected automatic bids: Long Beach State, Nevada
Thursday's bubble recap:
• Oregon State 86, Washington 84 — Tony Wroten spearheaded Washington's second-half surge to take the lead, but his four late missed free throws also may have doomed the Huskies to the NIT.
• Colorado State 81, TCU 60 — The Rams left no doubt, setting up a semifinal against top-seeded San Diego State where they can lock up a bid with a win.
• NC State 78, Boston College 57 — The Wolfpack need to beat Virginia in the ACC quarterfinals and upset rival North Carolina in the semis to make a realistic case.
• Minnesota 75, Northwestern 68 (OT) — The dream officially died here for Northwestern, but narrow home losses to Michigan and Ohio State the past few weeks were just as galling.
• Miami 54, Georgia Tech 36 — Bonus points to the Hurricanes for holding Georgia Tech to a football score. Now if they beat Florida State on Friday to reach the ACC semis, they're in good shape.
• Notre Dame 57, South Florida 53 (OT) — It will be a stomach-turning three-day wait for the Bulls after they let a three-point lead late in regulation slip away.
• Cal 77, Stanford 71 — The Bears avenged a regular season-ending loss to the Cardinal and advanced to the Pac-12 semifinals against surprising Oregon State.
• Texas 71, Iowa State 65 — Considering the sorry state of the bubble, this win might have been enough for Texas to slip into the field.
• Georgia 71, Mississippi State 61 — Things you do not want to do as a bubble team: Lose to Georgia twice in three weeks.
• Colorado 63, Oregon 62 — With its season on the line, the Ducks turned to Devoe Joseph, but his fallaway jumper at the buzzer was off the mark.
Friday's bubble look-ahead:
• NC State vs. Virginia — Believe it or not, this would be the Wolfpack's first win against one of the ACC's top four teams.
• Saint Joseph's vs. Saint Bonaventure — The first of two Atlantic 10 must-wins for the Hawks is this quarterfinal matchup.
• UCF vs. Memphis — UCF officially becomes worthy of a closer look if it can upset the Tigers in the Conference USA semifinals.
• Ole Miss vs. Tennessee — An SEC title game appearance is a must for either of these two. The loser has no chance.
• Miami vs. Florida State — This ACC quarterfinal matchup may turn out to be the difference between the Hurricanes snagging one of the final bids or getting left home.
• Colorado State vs. San Diego State — The Mountain West definitively becomes a four-bid league if the Rams pull the slight upset.
• Texas vs. Missouri — The Longhorns can lock up a bid and spoil Saturday's potential Border War rubber match with a win.
• Dayton vs. Xavier — This rivalry game may also be a bubble elimination game, but the Musketeers enter in better position than the Flyers by virtue of having less bad losses on their resume.