March Madness 2017: Bubble watch gone madBy Matt Verderame
The major tournaments for Championship Week are now all underway, and we already have some major results to ponder as we head toward Selection Sunday.
On Wednesday, the Syracuse Orange desperately needed to beat the Miami Hurricanes in the second round of the ACC Tournament to clinch a spot in March Madness. Instead, Syracuse fell by five points, putting it squarely on the bubble and perhaps on the wrong side of it. If the Orange are going to go dancing, they may need a few other bubble teams to fall quickly.
Staying in the ACC, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons lost 99-90 to the Virginia Tech Hokies. Virginia Tech is certainly into the tourney, while Wake Forest is the quintessential bubble team. That said, the Demon Deacons may have done enough by beating the Boston College Eagles on Tuesday.
Speaking of being on the bubble, the Xavier Musketeers were able to put themselves in terrific position by beating the DePaul Blue Demons at Madison Square Garden. In the first round of the Big East tourney, Melvin Bluitt scored all 17 of his points in the second half, putting his struggling team into the second round on Thursday. Even if Xavier falls there, it should be a NCAA Tournament team.
In the Pac-12, the California Golden Bears were able to help their cause with a win over the lowly Oregon State Beavers in the first round of the tourney. California now has 21 wins and with another victory, should be clinched into the field of 68. If there is a loss for the Golden Bears on Thursday, it will be a very anxious weekend on campus.
The only team to clinch a bid were the Bucknell Bison of the Patriot League, which took out the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, 81-65. Bucknell entered the conference tournament at 26-8 and should be able to avoid the No. 16 line in the NCAA Tournament. The Bison were led in the conference title game by Zach Thomas, who scored 17 points with nine rebounds and seven assists.
On Thursday, we’ll see more teams fighting for their tournament lives. The Illinois Fighting Illini take on the Michigan Wolverines at noon ET. Michigan will all but punch its ticket with a victory, while Illinois may need a deep run to have a real chance.
In the Big East, we have the Seton Hall Pirates and Marquette Golden Eagles in the quarterfinals. The winner will continue to raise its stock toward March Madness. The loser should be in, but it won’t be 100 percent before Sunday.