A check of conference tournaments with an eye toward bubble implications
Wake Forest got the win it was looking for, taking a 10-9 slugfest from Virginia. The Demon Deacons climbed to No. 22 in the WarrenNolan.com RPI and now have 15 wins against league competition, combining the regular season and tournament. They’re also assured of at least a 2-2 week in Durham, but they could all but wrap up a bid by beating Clemson in their final pool play game on Saturday. That won’t come easy, as the Tigers are red hot and playing for a national seed. Even with a loss in that game, the Deacons have probably done enough.
At the other end of the spectrum is Georgia Tech, which lost a gut wrenching game to North Carolina State in extra innings. The Yellow Jackets finish 0-3 in pool play and 1-3 on the week, with only their play-in win against Boston College to show for their trip. After a poor finish to the regular season and then a losing week in Durham, it’ll be a very anxious weekend in Atlanta. The Jackets end 14-19 against ACC foes, though their No. 20 RPI keeps them in the mix. The other issue at play is, has Tech’s poor ACC tourney showing opened the door for North Carolina, which missed out at 13-17? That’s a possibility, though Tech has the head-to-head edge on UNC after winning their series in Chapel Hill earlier in the year, which will be a factor.
Weather has wrecked the tournament schedule in Omaha, but of the games that managed to get played, the biggest development was Ohio State’s walkoff loss to Iowa. The Buckeyes are still alive in the losers bracket, but their elimination game with Michigan later Friday was suspended in the second inning with OSU up 5-2. The loss to No. 74 Iowa dropped the Buckeyes to No. 58 in the RPI, where a loss to Michigan would almost certainly doom them. Maryland has also crept into the bubble discussion after its elimination game win against Indiana pushed its RPI up to 51, but after going just 13-11 in the regular season and finishing sixth, the Terps probably need to get to the championship game to have a real chance.
Marshall stayed alive with a 7-6 win against Florida International. The Thundering Herd next get another crack at Southern Mississippi, which it lost to Thursday. The Herd have to beat Southern Miss twice to reach the championship game, but if they can do it—or even if they only win one—that very well might be enough to push their No. 56 RPI up to at-large range.
Add Brigham Young to the list of teams with nervous weekends ahead. BYU was booted from the WCC tourney with a 7-2 loss to Pepperdine, finishing an 0-2 showing. With an RPI of 57 and a 5-10 record against the top 100, BYU looks like a team destined for the wrong side of the bubble, despite finishing tied for the WCC regular-season title.
Bid Thief Watch
Will the Big 12 produce a bid thief for the second straight year? That’s a very real possibility after the top two seeds, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, were knocked out by Oklahoma and Texas, respectively. The Big 12 is now assured of either West Virginia or OU reaching the title game, neither of which is in at-large position. Texas will have to beat Texas Christian twice to reach the title game—bubble teams need to root hard for TCU to go the rest of the way. Elsewhere, Creighton was knocked off by Villanova in the Big East. With an RPI of 43 and only one top 50 win, the Bluejays aren’t a lock for an at-large, but the possibility exists the Big East becomes a two-bid league if they can’t make a run through the losers bracket.
The Big Ten also bears watching here, as neither Iowa nor Michigan State, the two 2-0 teams, are in at-large position, but it could well be the teams they’re displacing from the NCAAs are other Big Ten teams. There was good news elsewhere, as Tulane stayed alive in the American, though it still has to win three more games to claim the automatic bid.
Three noteworthy championship games are on tap for Saturday. Coastal Carolina (against Liberty), UNC Wilmington (against William & Mary), Dallas Baptist (against either Bradley or Missouri State) and Bryant (against either Fairleigh Dickinson or Sacred Heart) will all be playing with bids on the line, and bubble teams need to them to come through. UNCW and Bryant would have to be beaten twice.