(Theme song for today: "Georgia On My Mind" performed by the late, great David "Fathead" Newman)
As you all know by now, Michigan sits firmly on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, and probably needs at least two more victories (@MINN on Saturday, 1st round of the BTT) to secure a spot in the Big Dance. Burstin' Bubbles will run down the relevant bubble games of the day leading up to the tourney. Jamiemac over at mgoblog has been doing a tremendous job of this, but it never hurts to spread the love a bit:
Michigan's Resume (for comparison's sake ... updated every day, as the RPI numbers tend to bounce around):
18-12 (8-9 Big Ten)
ESPN InsideRPI: 47 (up one from yesterday)
2-4 vs. RPI 1-25
3-5 vs. RPI 26-50
4-2 vs. RPI 51-100
Signature win(s): Duke (home), UCLA (neutral-site)
Bracket Matrix: Fifth team out; made 13 of 60 brackets.
Yesterday's bubble scores:
North Carolina State 74, Boston College 69 (Good)
North Carolina 86, Virginia Tech 78 (Good)
Georgia Tech 78, Miami (FL) 68 (Stunningly Good)
Georgia 90, Kentucky 85 (Ditto)
Mississippi State 80, Florida 71 (Good)
Minnesota 51, Wisconsin 46 (No Idea)
Texas A&M 72, Colorado 66 (Bad)
UNLV 46, Air Force 43 (Bad)
First of all, Michigan gets a huge boost thanks to Georgia Tech (previously 1-13 in ACC play) knocking off Miami and Georgia (heading into last night at 2-12 in the SEC) upsetting Kentucky (!) in Rupp Arena (!!) on Senior Night (!!!). Ladies and gentlemen, your word of the day is 'choke'.
What's crazy is that there were almost two more near-unfathomable upsets, with Colorado (1-14 Big 12) holding an eight-point lead with under six minutes to play against A&M and Air Force (0-15 MWC) giving UNLV all they could handle on their home floor.
The chips seem to be falling Michigan's way, with Georgetown, Cincinnati, Kansas State, Kentucky, Miami and Virginia Tech all either getting knocked off the bubble completely or getting dealt a near-death blow in the last two days.
On to tonight's slate, which features four games, all televised for your viewing pleasure (ESPN lists five bubble games, but Dayton, who boasts an RPI of 27, is a near-lock, and will only be on the bubble if they lose to Xavier and Duquense). Again, bubble team of note listed first:
Providence (18-11, 10-7 Big East; RPI: 69) @ No. 16 Villanova (24-6, 12-5 Big East) [7:00, ESPN2]: In all likelihood, Providence is going to become the eighth Big East team to make the tournament. They have as good a win as any team in the country (beating No. 1 Pitt on Feb. 24) and have won four of their last six games. Beating 'Nova puts them in the field. The Friars would probably have to lose this game and their first round game in the Big East Tournament to be in danger of missing the Big Dance. However, other than the victory over Pitt they are lacking in quality wins (2-5 vs. RPI 1-25, 1-2 vs. RPI 26-50) and the Bracket Matrix has them as the first team out, so it never hurts to root for a Providence loss here.
South Carolina (20-7, 9-5 SEC; RPI: 41) vs. Tennessee (18-10, 9-5 SEC) [7:00, ESPN]: Caught me off guard by looking at the records, but yes, the Gamecocks are the team on the bubble in this matchup, thanks to a 0-3 record against RPI top-50 foes. Tennessee is currently a lock for the tourney, and South Carolina is a near-lock (named in 55 of 60 Bracket Matrix brackets). A win here and USC is a lock. A victory Saturday at Georgia (no longer the lock it seemed to be, I guess) and they're in as well.
Penn State (20-9, 9-7 Big Ten; RPI: 66) vs. No. 23 Illinois (23-7, 11-6 Big Ten) [9:00, ESPN]: Brian over at mgoblog breaks down all the reasons why a Penn State team that finishes 10-8 in the Big Ten should not make the tournament over a 9-9 Michigan team. A win over a ranked Illinois team on the road would go a long way towards making that argument moot. However, the Nittany Lions boast the country's 314th-ranked non-conference schedule, which goes a long way towards explaining the 19-place RPI gap between them and the Wolverines. A win here and a victory at Iowa on Saturday probably puts Penn State in the tournament. Anything less, and they're precariously positioned on the bubble.
Arizona (18-11, 8-8 Pac-10; RPI: 45) vs. California (21-8, 10-6 Pac-10; RPI: 39) [10:30, FSN]: Both teams are technically on the bubble, though Cal could probably drop their last two regular-season games and still be in as long as they win a Pac-10 tournament game. Arizona, on the other hand, looked like a lock until it dropped its last three games. Their SOS (33) and quality wins (five over RPI top-50 teams) still make them a strong bet to make the tournament, but they have a 2-9 road record and aren't a "hot" team right now. Pull for the Golden Bears for this one.