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March Madness bubble watch: Syracuse can play its way into the field by defeating ACC champion Virginia



Those teams aspiring to enter the NCAA Tournament that are considered to be on the bubble and are competing today have got to be delighted with that circumstance.

Because not playing means your case cannot be improved. And not playing most likely means you took an early conference tournament loss and your case almost certainly is not good enough. Like Xavier. Or Stanford.

MORE: Bracket predictions: SN’s latest Field of 68

If your team is playing, there’s a chance.

Today’s bubble games:

Michigan State vs. Maryland, Big Ten Tournament, 11:30 a.m., BTN. Michigan State (15-11, No. 67 NET) still could be considered to be on the bubble, but with three victories over top-10 teams in the NET, they are not falling out. What is at stake for them vs. the Terps is simply whether they might be required to play an extra game in the NCAA Tournament by being assigned to the First Four rather than directly into the 64-team bracket. This game is much more consequential to Maryland (14-12, No. 34). Bill Bender of Sporting News has the Terps rated as a No. 11 seed, as does the consensus at the Bracket Matrix. It’s possible for them to slip all the way out of the field by losing — especially if they lose decisively.

Syracuse vs. Virginia, ACC Tournament, noon, ESPN2. The stakes appear quite obvious for the Orange (16-8, No. 39). Win, and they are in the field for now. They then would have the ability to strengthen their position even more with the ACC semis. Lose, and their case for inclusion just isn’t there. They would be 1-7 against Quad 1. They would be 3-8 away from the Carrier Dome. Their only Quad 1 win would be a road victory over N.C. State, whose association with this tournament will be limited to flashbacks of Lorenzo Charles’ dunk to beat Houston in the 1983 title game. It’s just not enough.

Seton Hall vs. St. Johns, Big East Tournament, 3 p.m., FS1. This game offers such great opportunity to both sides. The Pirates (13-12, No. 58) played themselves out of the projected field with losses in their last four regular-season games, but there still is a slight chance. The Red Storm (16-10, No. 66) spoiled their own February ascent with a loss to last-place DePaul. Whichever emerges from this game gets the opportunity to play a damaged Villanova team — two major injuries at the guard position — that would provide the opportunity for another quality win. The loser here is out, for good.

Utah State vs. UNLV, Mountain West Tournament, 9 p.m., CBS Sports Network. One weird development along the bubble line over the past week has been the tendency of Mountain West to lose against teams that are not among the best in their league. It rarely happened before March approached. Perhaps it’s a pressure thing. That certainly will be something the Aggies (17-7, No. 49) will confront in this one.

Ole Miss vs. South Carolina, SEC Tournament, 9:30 p.m., SEC Network. Ole Miss (15-10, No. 53) has managed to stay alive, although this will not strengthen its case to climb into the field.





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