March Madness bubble winners andlosers

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NEGATIVE
When Villanova started its game against DePaul on a 7-0 run, it seemed like the Wildcats would cruise to the second round of the Big East tournament.
But things got scary in Madison Square Garden Wednesday night if you’re a Villanova fan.
DePaul, which didn’t win a single Big East game this season, gave Villanova all it could handle for 40 minutes.
In the final seconds, the Blue Demons led by two points, with Villanova’s NCAA Tournament hopes hanging in the balance.
The senior guard stepped up with the ball in his hands, drilling a 3-pointer with eight seconds left to give Villanova the lead.
It hung on for a one-point victory.
Barely beating DePaul is nothing to gloat about.
A case could be made for it being more damaging for Villanova than helpful to its NCAA Tournament case.
But in the end, the result is the only thing that matters, and Villanova is still alive.
That makes Thursday’s game against Marquette even bigger.
The Wildcats must win.
Come out with a loss, and it likely is another missed tournament.
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So Villanova still has a lot of work to do — as do many other bubble teams hoping to sew up an NCAA Tournament bid in the coming days.
With conference tournaments now in full swing and bubble teams playing, here are the winners and losers from Wednesday’s action.
WINNERSTCULet Micah Peavy’s heave from the opposite 3-point line to close the first half summarize how good Wednesday was for TCU.
In a battle between two Big 12 teams trying to gain positioning for the men’s NCAA Tournament, the Horned Frogs had everything going for them against Oklahoma, defeating the Sooners 77-70 in the second round of the conference tournament.
Oklahoma scored the first point of the game, but TCU took over the rest of the way, capitalizing on 18 Sooners turnovers that it converted into 20 points.
Peavy’s shot just before halftime was a massive momentum shift that Oklahoma could never recover from.
TCU had such a dominant game, it didn’t make a field goal in the last six minutes and still comfortably won.
A projected 10-seed in the latest USA TODAY Sports Bracketology prediction, TCU headed into Kansas City in danger of falling into the “last four in” conversation and having to play in Dayton to start the NCAA Tournament.
But Wednesday’s win gives the Horned Frogs two wins over the Sooners, as well as a fifth Quad 1 victory.
Wake ForestThings haven’t been looking great for Wake Forest in recent weeks, so the Demon Deacons couldn’t afford a one-and-done performance in the ACC tournament.
But on Wednesday, Wake Forest showed it is fighting for an NCAA Tournament spot with a wire-to-wire, 72-59 win against Notre Dame.
The Demon Deacons jumped out to a quick start, going up 7-0 in less than two minutes and never let the Fighting Irish get control of the game.
Meanwhile, Wake Forest dominated inside with 38 points in the paint.
There’s still plenty for Wake Forest to do in Washington, D.C., with a big bubble game against Pittsburgh to be played Thursday in the tournament quarterfinals.
The winner of that contest likely jumps over the loser in the bubble standings, and with the Demon Deacons among the first four teams projected to miss the tournament, they can’t afford to falter against Pittsburgh.
Colorado StateFor some time Wednesday, it looked like Colorado State was in jeopardy of falling out of the projected NCAA Tournament field.
San Jose State, a team that went 2-16 in conference, was neck-and-neck with the Rams.
If Colorado State managed to lose, it would severely hurt its tournament chances.
It’s a Quad 4 win, so there was nothing impressive about it.
However, given Colorado State had an up-and-down end to the regular season, it needed at least one win in Las Vegas to assure it wouldn’t have to worry about missing the NCAA Tournament.
ProvidenceProvidence is just outside the projected NCAA Tournament field, so it’ll take a solid week in New York for the Friars to prove they belong in the bracket.
Providence easily handled Georgetown in the first round of the Big East tournament, securing an 18-point win.
The Friars jumped out to a double-digit lead five minutes into the game and never looked back.
It will be difficult, but Providence did just beat the Bluejays in early February.
A loss Thursday will likely end any NCAA Tournament hopes.
New MexicoA “last four in” team can’t afford to be bounced in its opening conference tournament game.
New Mexico avoided that and left no doubt with a 26-point win over Air Force.
The Lobos avenged a questionable loss to the Falcons just a few weeks ago.
At one point in this one, New Mexico was up by 35 points.
New Mexico is safe for now, but it isn’t fully out of the woods when it comes to securing a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Up next is Boise State, a team that swept New Mexico in the regular season.
The Lobos can’t afford to lose three games in one season to the Broncos, so add

Villanova appeared to be cruising to the Big East tournament’s second round when it jumped out to a 7-0 lead against DePaul in its opening game.

But for Villanova supporters, Wednesday night in Madison sq\. Garden was a scary one.

For forty minutes, DePaul—which finished the season without a single Big East victory—gave Villanova everything it could handle. Villanova’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament were in jeopardy as the Blue Demons held a two-point lead in the closing seconds.

And finally, Justin Moore came to the rescue. With eight seconds remaining, Villanova took the lead thanks to a 3-pointer made by the senior guard who had the ball in his hands. It managed to hold on for a victory of one point.

It’s nothing to brag about to barely defeat DePaul. It is possible to argue that it hurts Villanova more than it helps its chances of making the NCAA Tournament. However, Villanova is still standing because the outcome is ultimately all that matters. Thus, the matchup with Marquette on Thursday is even more important. It must be the Wildcats’ day. Should you emerge victorious, it’s probably another tournament that was lost.

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So Villanova still has a lot of work to do — as do many other bubble teams hoping to sew up an NCAA Tournament bid in the coming days. Following Wednesday’s action, which featured bubble teams competing and conference tournaments in full swing, these are the winners and losers.

WINNERS.

TCU.

To sum up how fantastic Wednesday was for TCU, consider Micah Peavy’s heave from the other 3-point line to end the first half.

The Horned Frogs defeated Oklahoma 77-70 in the second round of the conference tournament, holding every advantage in a matchup between two Big 12 teams vying for a spot in the men’s NCAA Tournament.

Oklahoma scored the first point of the game, but TCU took over the rest of the way, capitalizing on 18 Sooners turnovers that it converted into 20 points. Oklahoma was unable to regain momentum following Peavy’s shot shortly before halftime. TCU was so dominant in the game that it won handily even though it failed to make a field goal in the final six minutes.

As the latest USA TODAY Sports Bracketology prediction had TCU ranked as the 10-seed, they were playing for the chance to be one of the “last four in” and avoid having to travel to Dayton to begin the NCAA Tournament going into Kansas City. However, the Horned Frogs’ victory on Wednesday gives them a fifth Quad 1 victory and two victories over the Sooners.

Wakefield.

Wake Forest couldn’t afford an ACC tournament one-and-done performance because things haven’t been going well for the Demon Deacons lately.

Wake Forest, however, demonstrated on Wednesday that it is competitive for a spot in the NCAA Tournament after defeating Notre Dame 72-59 throughout. Less than two minutes into the game, the Demon Deacons led 7-0 and never allowed the Fighting Irish to regain momentum. Even though the game was still close at the beginning of the second half, Notre Dame was unable to purchase a basket as it shot 5-for-25 in the last 20 minutes, with free throws being the only thing that separated them from the victory. Wake Forest scored 38 points in the paint, dominating the interior.

Wake Forest has plenty more to do in Washington, D.C. Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup in the tournament is a major bubble match against Pittsburgh. Given that Pittsburgh is among the first four teams predicted to miss the tournament, the winner of that game will probably move up in the bubble rankings, so the Demon Deacons cannot afford to lose to them.

Colorado State.

Colorado State appeared to be in danger of missing out on the projected NCAA Tournament field for a while on Wednesday. Both San Jose State and the Rams were evenly matched despite the latter’s 2-16 conference record. Colorado State’s chances of making the tournament would be significantly harmed if it were to lose.

When the game was tied with five minutes remaining, Colorado State’s offense came through, winning the final five shots to break the game open 16–6 and defeat San Jose State 72–62.

There was nothing noteworthy about the Quad 4 victory. But, Colorado State needed to win in Las Vegas at least once to ensure it wouldn’t have to worry about missing the NCAA Tournament because of its inconsistent finish to the regular season. The Rams could improve their seed if they play Nevada next, but they will undoubtedly be among several Mountain West universities in the field of 68.

Luck of the draw.

With Providence situated just outside of the anticipated NCAA Tournament field, the Friars will need to demonstrate their bracket-fitness during a strong week in New York.

They’re off to a solid start, in my opinion. The Big East tournament saw Providence defeat Georgetown handily in the opening round, winning by eighteen points. Five minutes into the game, the Friars jumped out to a double-digit lead and never looked back.

The game of the season is officially in front of the Friars: they play Creighton on Thursday night. Providence won’t be able to jump any bubble teams because everyone above them has either won or is still playing in their conference tournament. Providence recently defeated the Bluejays in early February, so it will be challenging.

Chances of making the NCAA Tournament will probably be eliminated with a loss on Thursday. If you win, there will be pandemonium.

NM.

It is not acceptable for a “last four in” team to lose its first conference tournament matchup. Defying Air Force by a score of 26 points, New Mexico avoided that and made their victory clear.

Only a few weeks ago, the Lobos exacted revenge for a dubious loss to the Falcons. In this one, New Mexico led by 35 points at one point.

Although it is safe for the time being, New Mexico still has some work to do to guarantee a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Boise State, a team that defeated New Mexico in the regular season, is the next opponent. In addition to the other teams that require a victory on Thursday, the Lobos cannot afford to lose three games in a row to the Broncos. This includes New Mexico.

LOSERS.

OK.

Oklahoma was ranked in the top ten in the nation and appeared to be a strong contender in the competitive Big 12 not too long ago. As an alternative, the Sooners performed poorly in conference play, and their 2-6 record at the end of the season brought them closer to the bubble than they had been all season. The Sooners’ defeat to TCU sealed the deal.

Oklahoma didn’t shoot poorly that day, but turnover-filled possessions and TCU’s explosive start to the game put it down big early and made it too late to rally from. The Sooners appeared to be gaining momentum in the latter minutes of the first half, but Peavy’s long 3-point heave just before halftime crushed any hopes of victory. With less than nine minutes remaining, the Horned Frogs had a 19-point lead, and not even Oklahoma’s offense finding its rhythm while TCU’s offense went cold was enough to keep it close.

Oklahoma’s recent struggles have dropped them to the lower half of the seed line, and it won’t be shocking if the Sooners slip even further after losing to the Horned Frogs twice. Oklahoma may be ranked as the 10th seed by Selection Sunday, and based on other results, they might be considered for a “last four in” position. After a 13-1 start to the season, coach Porter Moser had different ideas.

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