BUBBLE WATCH: Davidson takes best shot; ’Bama, USC wait
A barrage of 3-pointers gave Davidson a shot to make the NCAA Tournament.
Another accurate day from the arc for the Wildcats could burst the hopes of bubble teams across the country.
The Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament final on Sunday between Davidson and top-seeded Rhode Island may be must-see viewing at Arizona State, Louisville, Syracuse and any other school on precarious NCAA tourney footing.
Win and the Wildcats snatch the A-10′s automatic NCAA bid away from top-seeded Rhode Island. But the 25th-ranked Rams (25-6, 14 RPI) have a good enough resume to claim a precious at-large bid even if they lose.
Davidson (20-11, 74 RPI) is no lock if it loses. The Wildcats are 3-6 against Quadrant 1 teams and ranked 108th in strength of schedule.
Quadrant 1 wins are defined as victories in home games against teams with RPIs in the top 30, neutral-court wins against teams in the top 50 or road wins against teams in the top 75.
Still, bubble teams might have reason to worry. The Wildcats’ stock is rising thanks to all those 3s: 16 in an 82-70 win over St. Bonaventure in the A-10 semifinals on Saturday to snap the Bonnies’ 13-game winning streak.
“I think it’s just us sticking to our game plan and sticking to what we do best, which is move the ball, attack appropriately, find the open man, throw to the next one,” said guard Kellan Grady, who scored 23 points.
In the Big 12, Oklahoma remains one of the more interesting teams on the bubble. The Sooners (18-13, 48 RPI) stumbled in February and finished 8-10 in the Big 12. They were booted from their conference tournament in their first game by Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma also has six Quadrant 1 wins, including a victory in January over Kansas, which beat West Virginia to win the Big 12 tourney on Saturday. The Big 12 is one of the strongest conferences in the country this season.
The brackets are scheduled to be announced Sunday at 6 p.m. ET, after the American Athletic final between Houston and Cincinnati wraps up conference tournament season. But those two teams ranked in the AP Top 25 appear to be safely in the tourney no matter what happens.
For bubble teams, that makes the Atlantic 10 final in Washington the most important game to watch on Selection Sunday.
ON THE RISE
Alabama: A 23-point loss to Kentucky in the SEC semifinals in St. Louis on Saturday isn’t the ideal lasting impression to leave on the NCAA selection committee. But the Crimson Tide (19-15, 36 RPI) may have still done enough to make the NCAAs after beating No. 16 Auburn by 18 on Friday.
“When we got on the plane to come to St. Louis, there are a lot of unknowns about kind of our future, especially in the NCAA Tournament,” Crimson Tide coach Avery Johnson said. “But the perseverance that they’ve showed this year and especially over the last 48, 72 hours ... we’ve played ourselves hopefully (into) the tournament.”
Southern California: A run to the Pac-12 Tournament final against Arizona may have put the Trojans (23-11, 33 RPI) on firmer footing and made Saturday night more about an opportunity to improve NCAA seeding.
Butler: “On the rise” might be pushing it for the Bulldogs after getting blown out by Villanova in the Big East tourney semifinals. But Butler (20-13, 40 RPI) has an important Quadrant 1 win in the regular season over the Wildcats on its resume. Villanova beat Providence to win the conference tourney on Saturday.
St. Bonaventure: Coach Mark Schmidt plans to pray on Selection Sunday. The resume looks impressive with nonconference wins over Syracuse and Maryland. But the loss to Davidson deprived the Bonnies (25-7, 21 RPI) a chance to cement their NCAA tourney hopes.
“I don’t know if we could have done any better,” Schmidt said about building the Bonnies’ resume. “So I think we’re going to have a good day tomorrow. Those guys deserve it ... so let’s pray that we do.”
Middle Tennessee: A threat to win a first-round game in the NCAA Tournament — if it gets in. But the Blue Raiders (23-7, 34 RPI) must rely on getting an at-large berth after getting upset by Southern Mississippi in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament.
Big Ten teams: Remember Nebraska and Penn State? When the NCAA selection committee unveils the bracket on Sunday, more than a week will have passed since the last time the Cornhuskers (22-10, 57 RPI) and Nittany Lions (21-13, 78 RPI) played in the Big Ten tourney. They’re probably NIT-bound.