The bubble watch is close to wrapping up its regular season run as we quickly approach the 2011 NCAA tournament. Smaller conference tournaments began this week and bigger conferences get going next week, leaving today as a regular season finale for many of these conferences. We’ve had several early games go final with a mix of bubble watch implications that could affect the St. Mary’s Gaels if they can’t win tomorrow and Monday in the West Coast Conference tournament.
The Michigan Wolverines knocked off the Michigan State Spartans placing both teams firmly on the bubble. Entering the game Michigan was No. 58 in the RPI and MSU was No. 45. This will bring them much closer together, and while they’re both members of a power conference, 40 or worse in the RPI will leave the teams chewing on their nails a week from Sunday.
The Alabama Crimson Tide knocked off the Georgia Bulldogs leaving both teams at 20-10 heading into the SEC tournament. Of course, Alabama is 12-4 in conference while Georgia is 9-7. However, Georgia had an RPI of 38 entering today, while Alabama was at 81. Alabama will likely need to win at least one game in the SEC tournament, if not more.
The Clemson Tigers wrapped up their 2010-2011 regular season with a 69-60 victory over the Virginia Tech Hokies. The teams were No. 64 and 63 respectively in the RPI prior to today’s matchup. It’s entirely possible that depending on results in next week’s ACC tournament this game was an elimination game for the two teams.
Finally, Illinois and Richmond both won their matchups today in games they were expected to win running away. Illinois came into their matchup at No. 39 in the RPI, while Richmond was No. 60. The Illini were in a better position, but a loss would have removed a lot of that wiggle room. The Spiders could still need a win or two in the A-10 tournament next week.
What does all this mean for St. Mary’s? Basically it only serves to muddy the waters. A team like Michigan, or teams like Clemson and Virginia Tech have all placed themselves in the bubble mix. The simple message is that St. Mary’s should just win the WCC tournament this weekend and remove any doubt about their tourney bid.