Bubble Watch - 3/5-6

On the heels of another loss, Florida fans may feel like the only bubbles they're watching are the ones coming up from the team as they sink to the bottom. Despite suffering their third straight defeat, the Gators actually got quite a bit of help staying in contention Wednesday night.

Fellow bubble teams Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech all suffered important defeats, and Florida's next opponent Kentucky was shocked by Georgia. The season finale with the Wildcats is now a must-win or the Gators' NCAA hopes are toast, but in the meantime here are the next two days worth of matchups which can help UF out.

PROVIDENCE AT VILLANOVA (7 PM) - The Friars have won two straight and reinserted themselves into NCAA discussion after having appeared to be a lost cause. The Big East worshippers in the national media are giving them a major push right now, but their RPI still sits at a less than imposing 68. Providence is 18-11, with a 10-7 mark in conference. That sounds better than the facts indicate, with four of the Big East wins coming against bottom feeders USF, Rutgers and DePaul. A road win against a ranked Villanova squad that's won 10 of their last 12 would be a huge resume boost for the Friars.

ILLINOIS AT PENN STATE (9 PM) - Penn State opened the week with an RPI of 64 thanks to a wretched non-conference schedule. This is their final chance for a much needed quality win prior to the Big Ten tournament. This is a rematch of the 38-33 debacle these two teams played just two weeks ago, a game won by the Nittany Lions. Illinois is comfortably in the tournament but has to want to redeem themself for that putrid offensive performance in Champaign. Without a sweep of their final two games of the year, Penn State is going to have some work to do in their conference tournament.

CAL AT ARIZONA (10:30 PM) - Arizona is the definition of a bubble team right now. They have just 18 wins and their conference record is at .500. The Wildcats finished their road schedule with just two wins, and began the week at 47 in the RPI. With two home games against the Bay Area universities to close their regular season, Arizona really needs a sweep. Cal is by far the tougher of the two opponents. The Bears are tied for third in the Pac-10 and handled the Wildcats by 14 in their first meeting this season. Cal's a tournament team, and the other bubble teams are hoping they'll help keep Arizona from achieving the same distinction.

ST. JOHN'S AT NOTRE DAME (Friday 7 PM) - Notre Dame's chances of making the tournament are basically dead after losing at home to Villanova Monday night, but another shovel of dirt on the grave is never a bad idea. The Fighting Irish are 16-13 and have a 7-10 conference record. They lost to St. John's in New York earlier this season, and another loss to the Red Storm here would provide insurance for bubble teams against an ND run in the conference tournament getting them back into the discussion for the NCAA field.


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