Bubble Watch: East Carolina, Arizona Pick Up Vital Wins
Conference tournaments around the country have either ended or will end today, giving bubble teams one last chance to improve their stock before Selection Monday. The 16 host sites will be announced tonight, unseeded. Here’s a final look at the teams on the hosting and at-large bubbles.
East Carolina: The Pirates entered the American Athletic Conference Tournament on the bubble for a hosting bid, but they leave it as a no-doubt host after defeating Connecticut, 4-3, in Saturday’s championship game. With the win, ECU moves up to No. 12 in the RPI and is 43-16 overall. There will be a regional in Greenville next weekend.
Florida State: Over the last month, FSU has surged into the hosting discussion and is now knocking on the door for a national seed after defeating Clemson, 5-4, in an ACC tournament semifinal thriller to advance to the championship against Louisville. The Seminoles have rocketed up to No. 6 in the RPI, and now the selection committee will have a difficult decision to make as far as which of FSU, Clemson and North Carolina deserve national seeds. If FSU wins the championship today, a national seed is a certainty.
Louisville: FSU’s opponent in today’s championship game, the Cardinals defeated No. 12-seed Pittsburgh, 5-2, and have yet to lose in the ACC Tournament. After a rough start to ACC play, Louisville has been red-hot to end the season, although the lack of elite competition keeps Louisville’s RPI at No. 24—outside of the hosting bubble. Still, the Cardinals could very well host if they win the championship today.
Coastal Carolina: The Chanticleers defeated South Alabama to advance to the Sun Belt championship game against Troy. At 41-17 and No. 20 in the RPI, Coastal Carolina is firmly on the hosting bubble but would separate itself with a Sun Belt trophy. The national title winners in 2016, the Chanticleers should once again be a dangerous tournament team whether they earn a hosting nod or not.
Arizona: The Wildcats still have a glimmer of hope after rallying back to defeat Oregon on Sunday and win the series. Arizona is right on the edge of the NCAA Tournament bubble with a 14-16 Pac-12 record and the No. 46 RPI. In Arizona’s favor: a non-conference RPI of No. 11, six of 10 Pac-12 series wins, a sweep of UCLA and a series win against Oregon State on its resume.
Louisiana State: The Tigers picked up impressive SEC Tournament wins against future national seeds in Florida and Arkansas to advance to the tournament championship. At one point on the bubble for an at-large bid, LSU has surged to No. 33 in the RPI and looks to have found its groove heading into the postseason.
Clemson: The Tigers just narrowly lost to Florida State in a tightly contested semifinal matchup. The Atlantic Division winners, the Tigers seemed like a national seed lock heading into the tournament, but with ACC regular season title holder North Carolina (No. 8 RPI) and FSU (No. 6 RPI) both ahead of Clemson’s No. 11 RPI, that standing is much less secure. The committee will face a difficult decision with all three teams. If FSU wins the ACC Tournament title, the Tigers might miss the cut for one of the top-eight seeds.
Connecticut: In the hunt for a hosting bid, the Huskies fell to ECU in the AAC championship game. At No. 16 in the RPI and boasting an impressive 22-13 road record, the Huskies could still host—especially with both North Carolina State and Duke slipping behind them in the RPI with early tournament exits. But UConn is not the lock it would’ve been had the Huskies won Saturday’s championship.
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Ohio State and Illinois: The Buckeyes were sent packing from the Big Ten Tournament after losing to No. 1-seed Minnesota, 8-1. However, at 36-22 (14-10 Big Ten) and No. 39 in the RPI, the Buckeyes still have a strong at-large case and should more than likely hear their name called on Monday. Illinois, meanwhile, lost to Purdue in an elimination game and sits at No. 47 in the RPI. The Illini should still be able to sneak in, but they’re not a lock.
UNC Greensboro: After going 39-15 and easily winning the Southern Conference regular season title at 18-3 in conference, the Spartans shockingly lost for the second time to a last-place 11-47 Western Carolina team, eliminating them from the SoCon tournament. UNCG’s RPI has torpedoed 11 spots to No. 68, and suddenly, UNCG has reason to be nervous heading into Monday.
Washington: The Huskies had an opportunity to steal the Pac-12 Conference title from Stanford with just one more win. While they were unable to do so, blowing a lead in the ninth, Washington finished in third place in the Pac-12 and should be an at-large team despite a No. 63 RPI.