Key games this week for teams on NCAA bubble watch
Teams like Oregon, Michigan and SMU have opportunities to add marquee wins to their NCAA Tournament resume this week, while others like BYU hope to hold serve in must-win games
For NCAA Tournament hopefuls like BYU, there is plenty of scoreboard watching going on with the regular season winding down.
The Cougars (19-9, 7-6 West Coast Conference) have some solid wins on their NCAA resume, but recent losses — the program has lost five of its last seven — have proven costly to their postseason hopes.
With just two games left in the regular season, it leaves BYU — No. 53 in the NCAA’s NET rankings — squarely on the bubble and even looking to add a game against a Quad 1 opponent to bolster its NCAA Tournament resume.
BYU’s games this week
- BYU vs. Loyola Marymount, Thursday, 8 p.m. MST (CBS Sports Network): The Cougars needed overtime to edge the Lions in their previous matchup. That was a key victory, though, as it stopped a four-game losing streak for BYU.
- BYU vs. Pepperdine, Saturday, 6 p.m. (ESPNU): The Cougars wrap up the regular season against the WCC’s last-place team. Don’t look past the Waves, though. Pepperdine gave BYU a game in California two weeks ago, and BYU needs to finish strong and avoid adding another Quad 4 loss.
BYU’s record using NCAA’s quadrant system
Heading into this week, here’s how the Cougars’ record breaks down using the NCAA’s quadrant system, which helps determine the quality of wins and losses using the game’s location and the opponent’s NCAA NET ranking.
- Quad 1: 4-5 (Home 1-30, Neutral 1-50, Away 1-75).
- Quad 2: 3-3 (Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135).
- Quad 3: 3-0 (Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 135-240).
- Quad 4: 7-1 (Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353).
Where the bracketologists have BYU right now
- NCAA.com, Andy Katz: First four out.
- ESPN, Joe Lunardi: First four out.
- CBS Sports, Jerry Palm: Last four in.
- USA Today, Shelby Mast and Scott Gleeson: No. 12 seed.
- The Washington Post, Patrick Stevens: Last four in.
Key bubble games this week
It’s an important week for several other NCAA Tournament bubble teams. Here’s a look at some of the biggest games that could impact the bubble this week:
- Virginia vs. Duke, Wednesday, 5 p.m. (ESPN): The Cavaliers (17-10, 11-6 ACC) are still largely seen as a team on the outside of the NCAA Tournament field, though they have won five of their past six, including a 69-68 win over No. 7 Duke in their first meeting just over two weeks ago. Virginia would pick up a fourth Quad 1 win if it beats the Blue Devils again.
- Rutgers at Michigan, Wednesday, 5 p.m. MST (Big Ten Network): Both the Scarlet Knights (16-10, 10-6 Big Ten) and Wolverines (14-11, 8-7) are considered bubble teams that need to make a statement. Rutgers beat Michigan in their previous matchup this season. This is the Wolverines’ first game since head coach Juwan Howard was suspended for the rest of the regular season after an incident last week in the team’s loss to Wisconsin.
- San Francisco vs. Gonzaga, Thursday, 7 p.m. (ESPN2): The Dons (22-7, 9-5 West Coast) are largely seen as a tournament team right now, though they could go a long way to improving their seeding if they were to knock off the nation’s top-ranked team. San Francisco is 4-4 in Quad 1 games and No. 27 in the NCAA’s NET rankings heading into the week.
- Belmont at Murray State, Thursday, 7 p.m. (ESPNU): The Bruins (24-5, 14-2 Ohio Valley) are long shots for an NCAA at-large bid as-is and sit two games back of the No. 19 Racers in the Ohio Valley Conference standings. Murray State blew out Belmont by 22 in their first matchup this season, though the Bruins could build some confidence going into conference tournament time with a win.
- Oregon vs. UCLA, Thursday, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN): The Ducks (17-10, 10-6 Pac-12) have gotten themselves back into the NCAA Tournament discussion, though two straight losses (and three in their last four games) hurt their resume, even if one was by three points to No. 3 Arizona. Oregon can bolster their NCAA chances if they beat a No. 12 UCLA team they beat on the road earlier this year.
- Rutgers vs. Wisconsin, Saturday, 4 p.m. (Big Ten Network): Before losing in their last game to Purdue, the Scarlet Knights had four straight wins over ranked opponents and No. 13 Wisconsin provides them for a chance to earn another. Rutgers is 5-3 in Quad 1 games heading into Wednesday.
- Creighton at Providence, Saturday, 6:30 p.m. (FS1): The Blue Jays (18-8, 10-5 Big East) are on a five-game winning streak, and play at St. John’s on Wednesday before facing No. 11 Providence. Creighton’s first game with the Friars earlier this season was postponed, giving even more weight to this matchup.
- Oregon vs. USC, Saturday, 8 p.m.: The Ducks finish a crucial week by hosting another ranked Los Angeles-based program in the No. 16 Trojans. Oregon is No. 66 in the NCAA’s NET rankings and 2-4 in Quad 1 games heading into the week.
- SMU at Houston, Sunday, 10:30 a.m. (ESPN): The Mustangs (19-6, 10-3 AAC) sit a game back of No. 14-ranked Houston for the AAC lead and are squarely on the NCAA bubble, though a win would give SMU a 3-1 record in Quad 1 games. SMU already beat Houston once earlier this year, 85-83 at home.
- Michigan vs. Illinois, Sunday, noon (CBS): The Wolverines, currently No. 33 in the NCAA’s NET rankings, are just 4-7 in Quad 1 games heading into Wednesday. No. 15 Illinois beat Michigan by 15 in their first matchup this year.
Other key bubble teams to watch
- Florida (17-11, 7-8 SEC): The Gators have just one game this week, at SEC last-place Georgia on Saturday.
- Memphis (15-9, 9-5 AAC): The Tigers, seen as a team among the last four in by several bracketologists, have winnable home games against Temple and Wichita State this week.
- San Diego State (17-7, 9-4 Mountain West): The Aztecs missed a chance to knock off Boise State on Tuesday and wrap up the week with a home game Friday against MWC last-place team San Jose State.
- North Carolina (20-8, 12-5 ACC): The Tar Heels, winners of four of their past five, play just once this week, at N.C. State.
- Indiana (16-10, 7-9 Big Ten): The Hoosiers — who have lost five straight games, with all but one to ranked opponents — have winnable games against Maryland (home) and Minnesota (road) this week.
- Dayton (19-8, 11-3 A-10): The Flyers, seen largely as a team on the outside looking in at the NCAAs right now, won’t have any big opportunities to impress this week, with a home game vs. UMass and a road game at LaSalle.
- St. Bonaventure (18-7, 10-4 A-10): The Bonnies play at Saint Joseph’s this Saturday before a prove-it game next week at fellow bubble team VCU.