Our quick thoughts about Tuesday's results:
Can we get a mulligan on Minnesota? We really stuck our necks out for the Gophers in our latest bracket, and they rewarded us by getting absolutely embarrassed in a must-win game in Ann Arbor on Tuesday night, losing by 28 to a Michigan team that had lost three straight games coming in. The Wolverines shot 60 percent from the field against the Gophers and scored 83 points – 33 more than they’d averaged over their past three games. The loss dropped Minnesota to 17-12 overall and 8-9 in the Big Ten, and it may have put an end to their already tenuous at-large hopes. They now have to beat Iowa at home on Saturday in their season finale and get to at least the semifinals of the Big Ten tourney to get back into the at-large picture. A semis appearance would have guaranteed them a bid had they beaten Michigan; now it would put them in the mix, but they wouldn’t be completely safe at-large-wise unless they made the final.
Minnesota wasn't the only Big Ten bubble team to struggle on Tuesday. As expected, Illinois fell at Ohio State and has now lost four of five overall. The Illini now need to beat Wisconsin to get a bid - and they are likely to get two cracks at it. They will take on the Badgers at home this weekend in their season finale, and will likely face them again in their first Big Ten tourney game. If they can win either of these games, they will lock down a bid since they would have at least four wins against teams in the RPI Top 25, which would be enough to negate their high RPI. The Buckeyes finished off their Big Ten regular season slate and will finish with at least a share of the Big Ten title. We have the Buckeyes maxed out on the 2 line, but they have to be viewed as the favorite to win the conference tourney with Hummel being out for Purdue and considering they just won at Michigan State.
Florida also continues to move closer and closer to the bubble. The Gators lost their second in a row, 64-60 at home to Vanderbilt on Tuesday night, their RPI is down to a 51, and they are likely to finish the regular season with three straight losses with a trip to Kentucky looming this weekend. If they do end up 9-7 in conference, their at-large chances will rest on their performance in the SEC tourney. Two wins would guarantee a bid, and even one win might be enough. They have OOC wins over FSU and Michigan State, and have beaten Tennessee, Mississippi State and Mississippi in the SEC, which is better than what other bubble teams have. The win for Vandy, meanwhile, keeps them in the mix for a spot on the 3 line. It would likely take an SEC tourney title to get there, but there is also a chance that a trip to the final and another loss to Kentucky would be enough as well.
It all comes down to one game now for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets continued their putrid play on the road with a 91-80 loss at Clemson on Tuesday night, which drops them to 7-8 in the ACC and sets up a must-win game against Virginia Tech at home on Saturday. A home win over the Hokies (which we still think they will get) would put them in a position where two ACC tourney wins would be enough to lock up a bid. Anything less, though, and they might be sweating it out on Selection Sunday. Their conference road record (1-7) is a huge negative on their resume, as is their lack of a marquee OOC win. Clemson, on the other hand, pretty much wrapped up their bid with this victory. The Tigers have won five of six down the stretch, and even if they lose at Wake Forest this weekend, they’ll still finish 9-7 in conference with an OOC win against Butler to fall back on. One win in the ACC tourney will be enough to send them dancing.
The Big East bubble picture got a little clearer and a little more complicated – all as a result of one game Tuesday night. Marquette’s impressive 69-48 home win over Louisville all but wrapped up a bid for the streaking Golden Eagles, and it put the Cardinals in a little tougher spot with just one game left to play. Louisville faces top-ranked Syracuse at home in its season finale on Saturday, and if they win, they’re a lock to get an at-large. If they lose, they’ll likely have to win two Big East games to be a lock heading into Selection Sunday. The Cardinals are ahead of Notre Dame and UConn on the Big East bubble because of their sweep of the Huskies, their home win over the Irish, and their huge win at Syracuse, but that could change if they lose to the Orange on Saturday and then win just one Big East tournament game. We still like their long term-chances to get a bid, but they made things a little harder on themselves by losing on Tuesday.
Of note: Syracuse was dominant in its debut at No. 1, beating St. John's 85-66 at home to clinch the outright Big East title; Villanova held on to win 77-73 at Cincinnati; Zaire Taylor drove the length of the floor and hit a lay-up at the buzzer to give Missouri a 69-67 OT win at Iowa State; UTEP won its first ever outright Conference USA title with an 80-76 victory at Marshall (Randy Culpepper had 32 points in the win for the Miners); Baylor won at Texas Tech; Gonzaga beat Cal-State Bakersfield at home; South Florida won at DePaul.
Of note (Conference Tournament Edition): Murray State beat Tennessee State in its OVC opener; Coastal Carolina beat VMI in its Big South tourney opener.