Bubble Watch -- 2/26

Florida can just about secure their spot in the NCAA Tournament with a win at Georgia. The Bulldogs are in the lower part of the RPI top 100, meaning a road win will have some value while a loss wouldn't be a disaster for the Gators.

It was a loss to a considerably worse UGA squad last season in almost the exact same spot on the schedule that may well have kept Florida from returning to the NCAA field. While Billy Donovan's guys try to take care of business, here are some games worth watching that can help their chances as well.


Georgia Tech is still being projected into every NCAA field by the bracket gurus, but a loss here could finally force that to change. GT's lost 4 of their last 6, with the only wins coming at home over ACC bottom feeders UNC and NC State. The Yellow Jackets are already a game below .500 in conference play and have an overall mark of 18-9. Tack a home loss to a team outside the RPI Top 100 onto that resume and it will be hard to justify GT as an NCAA team without them getting some more wins. BC already knows their only NCAA shot is to win the conference tournament, but they have some momentum thanks to back to back wins. UF's hoping that streak moves to three.


Illinois has had one of the more peculiar seasons in college basketball. They already have ten wins in Big Ten play, which would normally be good enough to reach the NCAA tournament, but six of those victories are against the conference's three garbage teams (Penn State, Indiana and Iowa). With an RPI in the sixties, Illinois has to pick up at least one win against sure NCAA teams Ohio State or Wisconsin next week. If they slip up and lose at home to the mediocre Gophers though, even a 2-0 week next week may not be enough for the Illini to secure a spot.


Oklahoma State has an RPI in the low thirties right now, but at 19-8 they're still not a sure thing for the tournament because of the difficulty of their closing schedule. They lost at Texas Wednesday, and a loss to the top ranked Jayhawks would put them at .500 in Big 12 play heading on the road to take on a strong Texas A&M team next. A win over Kansas would definitely clinch Oklahoma State a spot, so Rock Chalk Jayhawk.


It's not clear how many teams from the Atlantic-10 will make it in, but Charlotte is the most at risk among the contenders of not reaching the field. Charlotte is 55th in the RPI and dropped three of their past four games including a pair at home. Two teams with solid tournament credentials await the 49ers next week, making this their best chance for a "winnable" game until the conference tournament. GW has no shot at the NCAAs but does have a winning record secured. They lost by just four in Charlotte earlier in the season, so there's a decent chance they can get the job done this time.


How did Northern Iowa - a team ranked in this week's top 25 - find itself on Bubble Watch? That would be thanks to their disastrous loss to 8-20 Evansville on Wednesday. The Panthers still lead the Missouri Valley Conference, but before adding that blemish on their resume they would have been an expected NCAA team even with a conference tournament loss. Now that status is far more questionable, and a home loss to the Redbirds would likely finish Northern Iowa's at large chances off.

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