College basketball: Double trouble for NCAA Tournament bubble teams
Arkansas is in the Southeastern Conference. Cal is in the Pac-12. They both got ousted from their conference tournaments, and whatever slim chances they have of making it into the March Madness bracket now has as much to do with other conferences as the ones in which they reside.
To put it simply, after their losses Thursday, they cannot afford to see any surprises in any other conferences. Any team that receives an automatic bid by unexpectedly capturing a conference crown takes away an at-large spot that could go to a bubble team.
Of course, Arkansas and Cal are barely on the bubble anymore with their losses.
That said, here is a Pick Six of tandems whose fates have something in common:
PROVIDENCE AND ST. JOHN'S • In what might as well have been an NCAA play-in game, the Friars defeated St. John's 79-74 in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament Thursday. Both these teams were on the bubble heading in. Providence now looks good. St. John's does not.
VILLANOVA AND WISCONSIN • Jay Wright's team is still on some '1' lines, even after the 64-63 loss to Seton Hall. Wisconsin still is playing in the Big Ten, while Michigan and Kansas yes, eight-loss Kansas still are winning, too. By the end of the weekend, Wisconsin, or one of those others, probably will be a '1' and 'Nova will move down.
ARKANSAS AND CAL • Either could've solidified their status with a win or two in their conference tournaments. Both instead lost tight games in their openers. Their hopes now rest on everything falling right in action around the country over the weekend and on the committee having good memories: Arkansas beat Kentucky on Feb. 27 and Cal beat Arizona on Feb. 1.
CLEMSON AND IOWA • OK, you won't see either of these teams on many bubble watches. Twenty-four hours can make a big difference, though. Clemson would play its way onto the bubble with a win over Duke on Friday. The Tigers beat Georgia Tech on Thursday for their 20th victory. Iowa, meanwhile, shouldn't have much to worry about with 20 wins. But with their 67-62 loss to Northwestern on Thursday, the Hawkeyes have dropped six of seven. Big Ten or no, this is the sort of late-season slump that can hurt a team.
MISSOURI AND FLORIDA STATE • Missouri beat Texas A&M in double overtime. Florida State got the winning dunk against Maryland with 0.4 seconds left. It doesn't seem as if those wins alone will be enough to put either team in the bracket. But the exciting finishes could be something to build on. If the Tigers can put on a good show against No. 1 Florida or Florida State can compete against No. 6 Virginia, some heads could turn.
SOUTHERN MISS AND SETON HALL • These are the nightmare teams for those sitting precariously on the bubble. They both very much are alive in their respective conference tournaments. Southern Miss finished the regular season in a four-way tie for first in Conference USA, but is a precarious bubble team itself sans the conference tournament title. Seton Hall is 17-16 but only two wins away from crashing the party after an upset over Villanova.