March Madness bubble watch: Boise’s blunder could open NCAA Tournament door for Stanford, Syracuse … someone

Life on the March Madness bubble is a challenge for a college basketball fan. Every game your team wins feels more like relief than achievement. Every defeat seems calamitous.

Although this college basketball season is different in so many ways, that experience has not changed much this March for the teams involved.

And that includes moments such as what went down Tuesday in Idaho, when the Boise State Broncos lost a home game to Fresno State, which is under the .500 mark and ranked 186th in the NET.

MORE: NCAA bracket predictions: SN’s latest Field of 68

We saw something similar last year, despite ultimately not having an NCAA Tournament, when Xavier was firmly on the bubble and saw its hopes collapse with a first-round Big East Tournament defeat against last-place DePaul.

The Fresno loss presented Boise State with the distinction of standing as the only team in the NET top 60 to own a Quad 4 loss. Richmond, earlier in the week, lost to Saint Joseph’s, which gave the Spiders a second such defeat and assured that they’re not only outside the top 60, but also pretty much removed from bubble discussion.

Boise’s loss was good news, though, for those teams that are engaged in this fight. Several of them play tonight:

NCAA bubble games to watch Wednesday

Stanford at Southern California, 10:30 p.m. ET, FS1. There was no team that appreciated the Boise result more than the Cardinal (14-11, No. 61 NET), who will end up advancing into some mock brackets as a result. But can they stay there? A road win at USC would be Stanford’s fifth Quad 1 win, but a loss would put them into the same murky category as Xavier (which lost Tuesday at Georgetown), Duke (which fell at Georgia Tech in overtime) and Utah State (which has two remaining regular-season games).

Clemson at Syracuse, 5 p.m., ACC Network. The Orange (14-8, No. 55) are the most meager of bubble teams, with an 0-6 record against Quad 1 opponents, but their win over North Carolina at least kept them alive. Although this one wouldn’t count as a Quad 1 for SU, either, Clemson is firmly established as an NCAA Tournament team, and this would give the Orange a third win against the likely field.

Wichita State at Tulane, 6 p.m., ESPN+. The Shockers have played only 15 games, which makes them a challenge to evaluate. They have two wins each against Quad 1 and Quad 2, the prize being a road upset of American Athletic Conference titan Houston. This game will do little for the Shockers (11-4, No. 66), but it’s good for them to get more action as they prepare for the AAC tournament.

UConn at Seton Hall, 6:30, FS1. With the way the bubble is going, with so many teams taking damaging or even brutal losses, it might be a stretch to say UConn (12-6, No. 34) fits the description. But Ryan Fagan’s Sporting News bracket has them as a No. 10 seed, which means they’re close enough that defeating a fellow bubble team would be a wise idea. Seton Hall (13-10, No. 52) is close to desperate for a quality win. The Pirates are 3-6 against Quad 1.

Minnesota at Penn State, 7 p.m., BTN. After their recent loss at Nebraska, the Gophers (13-12, No. 69) are in a must-win circumstance. Injuries and road struggles have damaged what once stood as a firm at-large case. If the Gophers lose this, they probably would need to make the Big Ten title game to have a chance.

New Mexico at Colorado State, 8 p.m., Mountain West Network. The Rams (15-4, No. 39) have won just often enough against just the right opponents to be an 11 seed on the Sporting News bracket. Perhaps more important, they’ve avoided damaging losses; they are 9-0 against Quad 4. The Lobos would be a 10th Quad 4 victory, and only Drake among the SN at-large field has that many. That’s not good, but it’s better than a Q4 loss.

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