This weekend represents St. Mary’s best opportunity to move completely off the current NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch. The Gaels travel to Las Vegas for the West Coast Conference tournament where two wins will guarantee them a spot in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. However, with Gonzaga surging right now and the University of San Francisco playing the role of upstarts, Saint Mary’s has a tough road ahead this weekend.
Given all this, I’d imagine St. Mary’s fans will find themselves checking scoreboards this week and next week. The more bubble teams that lose, the better for the Gaels at-large chances if it comes to that. ESPN.com has their college basketball scoreboard and includes a section on Bubble Watch games. Wednesday is generally a major day in the college basketball week, which means we’ve got a whole host of games that impact the bubble.
I’m not going to point out games like Duke versus Clemson. The Tigers are a bit on the bubble but it’s obvious folks should want Duke to win this game. We’ll stick to the more dicey games featuring two bubble teams. Here are the more pertinent games with a suggested rooting guide for fans:
Maryland @ Miami: Go Terps – Maryland would get to 19 wins with this victory, but with an RPI of 86, it seems like they would need a monster ACC tournament run, which seems unlikely. Miami is 69 in the RPI so in reality both these teams should be on the wrong side of the bubble. However, you never can trust the selection committee when it comes to power conference teams.
UAB @ Southern Miss: Go UAB Blazers. UAB is currently 20-7, 32nd in the RPI, and leading Conference USA with a 10-4 conference mark. Southern Miss is 21-7 and 9-5 in conference with an RPI of 40. This wouldn’t be a “bad loss” per se, but it would hurt the Golden Eagles profile and be a small boost to St. Mary’s.
Cincinnati @ Marquette: This is a tougher call. Cincinnati is 22-7 with an RPI of 37, while Marquette is 18-11 with an RPI of 53. A Cincinnati win might not Marquette completely off the bubble. A Marquette win brings Cincinnati closer to St. Mary’s range, but keeps Marquette in the thick of the bubble. Given the love the Big East gets, that could be dangerous. I’m leaning towards rooting for Marquette, but I guess it depends on how you view Cincinnati’s current resume.