Here's a look at the weekend's 10 most notable games that feature at least one bubble team:
Notre Dame at Connecticut
This game is obviously much bigger for Notre Dame than it is for UConn, but before we break down the Irish and their chances, we want to give a little love to (an underpaid) Jim Calhoun and his Huskies, who apparently have figured out a way to play without Jerome Dyson. The combination of A.J. Price (who Calhoun compared to Rip Hamilton and Ray Allen after his 36-point performance against Marquette on Wednesday night) and the suddenly-aggressive Stanley Robinson (how many dunks did he have the other night? 4? 5?) helped the Huskies pick up a huge road win, and helped them keep their goal of a Big East regular season title alive. A win in this game would not only make the Huskies the new No. 1 team in the country, but it would also make them the new No. 1 overall seed in our Field of 65. It might also knock the Irish out of our field after a one-week cameo. Right now, there are only three bracketolgists out there (out of the 54 listed in the Bracket Matrix) that have ND in, and we are one of them. We've had to defend their inclusion all week, and we did so by saying that a 9-9 finish and a Big East tourney win or two would be enough to get them in. What we didn't expect was that the other two Big East bubble teams - Providence and Cincinnati - would pick up ginormous wins this week. The Friars' stunning upset of Pitt almost guarantees them a 10-8 Big East record, which is something that ND likely won't have. It would also mean that the committee would have to leap-frog the Irish over the Friars for the eighth (and presumably final) Big East bid. Leap-frogging is fairly common, but it usually only happens in cases where the team being passed over has played a much softer conference schedule or has a much weaker OOC resume. That isn't the case with ND and Providence. Ultimately, the final Big East at-large is going to be decided by what the three bubble teams do in the Big East tourney, but in terms of next week's bracket, there is a chance that Providence gets in over ND.
Duke at Virginia Tech
Providence wasn't the only outside-looking-in bubble team to pick up a huge win already this week. The Hokies, who most people - including us - left for dead after they lost at home to Florida State, bounced back with a stunning win at Clemson on Wednesday to keep them very much alive in the messy ACC bubble picture. At 7-6, Virginia Tech needs to win two of its last three games to get a bid, and with the opponents they have left, two wins might be enough to get them a bid regardless of what they do in the ACC tourney. Their season-ending stretch (Duke, Carolina, at FSU) starts today with a home game against the Blue Devils, who held them to just 13 second half points in a 69-44 win back on Jan. 4. Since that game, the Hokies have been wildly inconsistent, but they have managed to compile a pretty good resume that includes road wins over Wake, Miami, and now Clemson, as well as a home win over Boston College. If Virginia Tech had done anything OOC, they'd be solidly in right now and their RPI would be a lot higher than 55. Since they didn't (their best OOC win is Fairfield), they'll have to make some noise here down the stretch. They certainly have some chances, beginning this afternoon in Blacksburg.
Temple at Dayton
This game was important anyway, but it got a whole lot more important after both of these teams lost earlier in the week. The Flyers, who have been safely in the field for what seems like forever, lost a heartbreaker at Rhode Island on Wednesday night, and as a result, they now have to adjust to life on the bubble. They have lost two straight (both were on the road, but still...), and if they were to lose at home to Temple today with a game at Xavier looming next week, a case could be made that they don't deserve an at-large bid in our next field. They might be joined on the outside looking in by Temple. We went out on a limb two weeks ago and put the Owls in our field as a bid-stealer out of the A-10, and for a couple of games, we liked how our prediction was working out. That all changed, though, on Thursday night. Temple inexplicably lost at home to lowly LaSalle (look ahead much?), and it might cost them a spot in our bracket. If the Owls can't beat the Flyers today (something URI just did), there is a good chance that the Rams replace Temple as our A-10 automatic. URI has won nine of 10 and has set itself up nicely to get the 2 seed in the A-10 tourney, which would mean avoiding top-seeded Xavier until the final.
Big XII bubble battles (Nebraska at Kansas State, Texas at Oklahoma State, Iowa State at Texas A&M)
The last few days haven't been much fun for Kansas State fans. On Tuesday, Texas A&M beat Nebraska on a ridiculous three at the buzzer to keep their at-large chances alive, and the next night, the Wildcats got destroyed at Missouri and Oklahoma State crushed Colorado. Those results made the already cloudy bubble picture in the Big XII that much harder to figure out. The biggest loser based on what's already happened this week is Kansas State. Not only were they non-competitive against the Tigers, but their RPI dropped to 76 as a result of their loss - which is more than 40 points worse than A&M's and Oklahoma State's. If the Wildcats manage to beat Nebraska today, they'll have to beat the Cowboys in Stillwater next week or they're done. Oklahoma State, meanwhile, hosts Texas tonight to begin a rough three-game stretch to end their season. They finish up with a game at Oklahoma next Saturday. If the Cowboys can win two of their next three, they'll finish 9-7, but their Big XII resume will have no real quality wins on it. They don't have much OOC either, other than wins over Siena and Rhode Island, which means even at 9-7, they might have to win two Big XII tourney games to be safe. All of this is music to the ears of Texas A&M fans, who suddenly have to like their team's chances to sneak in and grab an at-large. The Aggies have by far the best OOC resume of any of the Big XII bubble teams (they have wins over LSU and Arizona) and they have a quality win in conference over Texas. The only thing A&M will lack heading into the Big XII tourney is an above-.500 conference record. At 6-7, they need to win their next two (Iowa State and at Colorado) and then get ready to try to pull the upset over Missouri at home in their season finale. Even if they don't beat the Tigers, they'll finish at 8-8 with an RPI in the mid-to-low 30s, and with a win in the Big XII tourney, they'll probably get a bid. Two wins and they'd be a lock.
LSU at Kentucky
When we were filling out our Field of 65 last Sunday night, we had a hard time coming up with a team that deserved the final spot on the 9 line. In the end, we decided to go with Kentucky, who had just finished up an impressive season sweep on Tennessee by beating the Vols in Lexington. How did the Wildcats repay us? They got destroyed at South Carolina on Wednesday night. That loss made the already complicated SEC bubble that much more muddled, and made this game between Kentucky and LSU that much more important for the Wildcats to win. LSU, which has kind of distanced itself from the rest of the SEC teams in the field, ran their win streak to nine by beating Florida at home on Tuesday. If the Tigers win this game, they might find themselves on the 5 line next week, which would be the highest an SEC team has been in months. A win by Kentucky would work wonders for their 62 RPI and keep them in the hunt for a potential SEC East title with two games to play. South Carolina enters this weekend with a one-game lead in the division over Kentucky, Florida, and Tennessee.
Utah at BYU
The Cougars came back from a 14-point second half deficit on Wednesday at SDSU to pick up a huge road win. The win gave them the season sweep over the Aztecs and puts them in great position for a bid. A home win over first place Utah would send them from Last Four Out in last week's bracket to a very safely in on Sunday. Even if the Cougars falter here, they will be in good shape if they can win next week's games against Wyoming and Air Force to get to 11 MWC wins. The Utes won the first matchup of the season of this in-state rivalry, which ended up being the game that started their current eight-game winning streak. Utah has a shockingly high 9 RPI, which is a little deceiving since it doesn't include their opening season loss to non-D1 Southwest Baptist. They already own a win over UNLV this week, so a win here would send their 8 seed skyrocketing to at least the 6 line.
Utah State at Nevada
Many bracketologists have already written off Utah State's at large chances, but we think it is a little early for that. If the Aggies managed to win out until the conference tourney final they would end up 29-4 in the 11th-rated WAC and they currently have a 25 RPI. History is also on their side; from 2004-2007 the regular season champ lost in the conference tourney yet still got an at large bid each year. However, they would still only have one Top 50 win and 13 of their wins have come against teams with an RPI higher than 200. A win today over the second place Wolfpack would give Aggie fans plenty off confidence for the WAC tourney, which will be back in Reno in two weeks. If the Aggies were to win out and then lose the conference final they'll need to hope that it is against Nevada since it would at least be considered a road loss.
Also receiving votes: Clemson at Florida State, Ohio State at Purdue, Indiana at Penn State, Georgetown at Villanova, Pittsburgh at Seton Hall, South Carolina at Vanderbilt, UCLA at California, Arizona at Washington, Arizona State at Washington State, USC at Stanford, Cleveland State at Butler, Gonzaga at San Diego, San Diego State at TCU
Cincinnati at Syracuse & Providence at Rutgers
Both the Bearcats and the Friars picked up huge wins this week to keep their tourney hopes alive. The Friars probably had the biggest bubble win of the week in beating Pitt. The biggest problem is that it was only their second top 50 win of the season. They actually need bubble rival Cincinnati to climb up a few spots in the RPI so they could double their top 50 win total. The Friars' season sweep of the Bearcats is huge right now since there is a good chance that the two will finish tied in the Big East standings. This road game is crucial for the Friars since they have to travel to Villanova later in the week. A win would guarantee a winning record in the Big East and they likely wouldn't have to play on day one of the Big East tourney. They would likely be pitted against a fellow Big East bubble team on day two in an elimination game. The Bearcats' win over WVU this week was their best of the season (which doesn't say much). A win in the Carrier Dome would be ginormous and would get them back into the field. They'd have a great chance to get to 11 Big East wins with games against South Florida and Seton Hall remaining. They have had a relatively easy Big East schedule, since they haven't had to play any of the top teams twice, so 10-8 won't be all that great.
Michigan at Wisconsin
This one gets the stamp for B101's bubble matchup of the weekend. The Badgers can pretty much punch their dance ticket if they can pick this one up. With lowly Indiana coming in next weekend, they would be virtually guaranteed of a winning Big Ten record. The Badgers resume isn't terribly impressive, but they do have a solid RPI, and with season sweeps over Penn State and Michigan, it would be tough for them to not get a bid. We have to admit that we left the Wolverines for dead last weekend after their loss at Iowa. With the schedule they had remaining we couldn't see a .500 conference record being possible and we didn't even include them on the next four out. Then they go out and pick up yet another top 50 win over Purdue. Their resume has plenty of nice wins, but none have come on the road and they already have 11 losses. They'll get another chance later this week for a good road win up in Minnesota. The next two will also give them a chance to improve on their 2-4 record against middle-of-the-pack/bubble Big Ten teams. The Minnesota game might actually be a little more important than this one since it would give them the season sweep over a suddenly vulnerable Gopher squad.
Maryland at North Carolina State
The Terps played Duke tough for 35 minutes but still ended up with a double-digit loss. Luckily for them, Va Tech was also unable to beat the Blue Devils at home on Saturday. They now have to travel to Raleigh to take on a N.C. State team that has already beaten Wake Forest and Miami on their home court. It likely won't be an easy one for a Maryland team whose only true road win all season came against lowly Georgia Tech. Because of that fact, this game may actually be more important then their Tuesday home matchup with Wake Forest. A .500 conference record is a must and if the Terps can manage to win out and finish 9-7 all they would need is one win in the ACC tourney to be a lock.
Also receiving votes: Marquette at Louisville, Michigan State at Illinois, Missouri at Kansas, Tennessee at Florida, West Virginia at South Florida