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How this week’s college basketball results impact NCAA bubble teams

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BYU forward Fousseyni Traore (45) goes up fo a layup during an NCAA basketball game against Loyola Marymount.

BYU forward Fousseyni Traore (45) goes up fo a layup during a West Coast Conference game against Loyola Marymount at the Marriott Center in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. The Cougars avoided putting a costly loss on their postseason resume by beating the Lions.

Mengshin Lin, Deseret News

With a little more than two weeks until Selection Sunday, college basketball teams on the NCAA Tournament bubble are posturing to earn wins that could improve their postseason stock.

BYU finds itself squarely in the middle of teams hoping to improve their NCAA Tournament at-large hopes.

Results from the past two days helped a little in clearing the NCAA picture, though there is plenty of basketball to be played between now and when the NCAA Tournament field is revealed.

BYU in the latest bracketology predictions

Key results from bubble teams the past two days

BYU beat Loyola Marymount, 79-59 (Thursday): The Cougars (20-9, 8-6 West Coast) won by double-digits for the first time in a month, not surprising considering the Lions are near the bottom of the WCC standings. 

The win didn’t do anything to build BYU’s case for an NCAA at-large bid, but it prevented the Cougars from adding another costly loss to their resume and, as a result, BYU’s latest bracketology projections changed little.

Michigan beat Rutgers, 71-62 (Wednesday): Both schools are in the bubble talk right now, and the win gave the Wolverines (15-11, 9-7 Big Ten) a 3-3 record in Quad 2 games while strengthening their at-large chances. 

The Scarlet Knights (16-11, 10-7) missed a chance to add an important win, but are still in the tournament field in most of the updated bracketology predictions.

SMU beat Tulsa, 75-61 (Wednesday): The Mustangs (20-6, 11-3) took care of business against the Golden Hurricane in a game that had little bearing on their NCAA resume, unless they lost. 

For SMU, which is squarely on the bubble, it sets up a huge matchup with AAC league leader Houston on Sunday. SMU edged Houston in their first game this season.

Virginia lost to Duke, 65-61 (Wednesday): The Cavaliers (17-11, 11-7 ACC) came up short of sweeping Duke this season, and in the process, Virginia’s bubble chances took a hit. 

Even with a recent resurgence, the Cavaliers are largely seen as a team that will miss the NCAA Tournament this season.

San Francisco lost to Gonzaga, 89-73 (Thursday): The Dons (22-8, 9-6 WCC) faced a challenging task and despite keeping the game close for nearly a half, San Francisco simply couldn’t keep pace with the top-ranked Zags and lost an opportunity to earn a marquee win.

The Dons are still projected to be NCAA Tournament-bound, though their prospects dimmed a little in the immediate aftermath.

Oregon beat UCLA, 68-63 (Thursday): The Ducks earned a season sweep of UCLA, jumping nine spots in the NCAA’s NET rankings after the win. It gives Oregon a 3-5 record against Quad 1 opponents with the win.

Curiously, the Ducks’ win didn’t give them much of a jump in the updated bracketology predictions in the immediate aftermath of their win over UCLA — no major outlet predicted them as a NCAA Tournament team yet. Oregon can pick up another resume-building win on Saturday if it beats USC, though.

Belmont lost to Murray State, 76-43 (Thursday): The Bruins’ at-large NCAA hopes look all but dashed after Belmont (24-6, 14-3 Ohio Valley) lost convincingly to league leader Murray State for the second time this season.

The Bruins’ only chance to make the NCAA Tournament now appears to be winning their conference tournament.

Key NCAA bubble games this weekend

BYU vs. Pepperdine, Saturday, 6 p.m. MST (ESPNU): The Cougars won’t gain anything by beating the WCC’s worst team, but they need to win to keep any hopes of an at-large berth alive. A second Quad 4 loss would be costly.

Rutgers vs. Wisconsin, Saturday, 4 p.m. (Big Ten Network): Even after losing earlier this week, the Scarlet Knights can bolster their resume with a win over ranked Wisconsin.

Creighton at Providence, Saturday, 6:30 p.m. (FS1): The Blue Jays, winners of six straight, face Big East leader Providence in a game that could improve their Quad 1 record to an impressive 6-5.

Oregon vs. USC, Saturday, 8 p.m. (ESPN2): The Ducks already knocked off UCLA. Can they earn a season sweep of USC, too? 

SMU at Houston, Sunday, 10:30 a.m. (ESPN): The Mustangs could go a long way toward feeling safer about their NCAA Tournament prospects by earning a win at Houston, currently No. 4 in the NCAA’s NET rankings.

Michigan vs. Illinois, Sunday, noon (CBS): The Wolverines will get another chance to add to their NCAA resume when they host ranked Illinois, though the Fighting Illini beat them by 15 in their first matchup.

Other bubble teams of interest

  • Memphis has won five of six and faces Wichita State on Sunday.
  • Florida, who’s lost three of four recently but also beat then-No. 2 Auburn, plays at SEC-last place Georgia on Saturday.
  • Dayton is surging — having won five straight and eight of nine — and while its game this weekend against LaSalle isn’t expected to be a challenge, the Flyers face Atlantic-10 leader Davidson in their regular-season finale (March 5).
  • Indiana snapped a five-game losing streak by beating Maryland and, despite the recent swoon, are still seen as a team squarely on the NCAA bubble.
  • San Diego State, coming off a tough loss at projected NCAA Tournament team Boise State, plays Mountain West last-place San Jose State on Friday.