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Posted: Wednesday March 10, 2010 1:13AM; Updated: Wednesday March 10, 2010 11:46PM
Andy Glockner
Andy Glockner>BUBBLE WATCH

Wednesday Update: Notre Dame takes big leap, South Florida done

Story Highlights

Notre Dame won a big bubble battle with Seton Hall, which is likely done

Oklahoma State appears to have locked up the Big 12's seventh invitation

South Florida needed more than one win at the Big East tourney to get in

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Dominique Jones
South Florida's Dominique Jones led all scorers with 21 points, but Georgetown stomped the Bulls 69-49.
AP

Andy Glockner will offer a full edition of the Bubble Watch each morning, then provide updates as the action plays out. Check back throughout the day for ongoing bubble analysis. All times are ET.

11:44 P.M. UPDATE: LOUISVILLE HAS A LONG WAIT TIL SUNDAY

Louisville lost its Big East tourney opener to Cincinnati and has opened itself up to what could be a very unfriendly examination of its at-large profile. This will be explored in more detail in tomorrow's Bubble Watch, but it's not inconceivable to think Louisville could miss the NCAAs. With the upset, Cincinnati moves a step closer to forcing someone's hand, but certainly needs to get past West Virginia tomorrow to be in any position to be considered for an at-large bid.

9:03 P.M. UPDATE: ND LOOKS GOOD, OKLAHOMA ST. LOOKS BETTER

In the big bubble game of the night, Notre Dame easily handled Seton Hall 68-54 and took a massive step toward the NCAAs while crucially wounding the Pirates' hopes. ND gets a quarterfinal shot against Pitt now, but might not even need to win that one to get in. The Pirates now have to hope that the bubble teams around them also lose relatively soon and that the selection committee values its competitive losses against a brutal schedule. It doesn't look all that good for them at the moment with several "win-and-in" games between teams around them on tap for later this week.

In the Big 12, Oklahoma State looks assured of dancing now that it got past Bedlam rival Oklahoma in the first round. That should lock up seven bids for the Big 12 and close the book on that conference unless Nebraska pulls off a miracle and wins three more to steal the auto bid.

7:43 P.M. UPDATE: MISSOURI HURTS SEEDING WITH ONE-AND-DONE

If you're wondering whether Missouri's 15-point loss to Nebraska in the first round of the Big 12 tournament puts the Tigers in bubble danger, the answer is no. There were too many teams between the Tigers and the cutline with inferior credentials. Missouri has four top-50 wins over teams that could be top-eight seeds (including Kansas State) and five of their losses are to teams in the top 11 of the RPI. That said, for a squad already looking at the 8/9 seed area, this loss could very well mean Missouri will be wearing dark jerseys on the first day of the NCAAs.

4:36 P.M. UPDATE: MARQUETTE (LIKELY) PUNCHES TICKET

It wasn't easy -- is it ever for Marquette (a.k.a. Team Bubble Watch)? -- but the Golden Eagles held off St. John's by a deuce. That puts them into the Big East quarterfinals and, presumably, the NCAA tournament.

It's hard to imagine an 11-win Big East team missing. Marquette has wins over Georgetown, Louisville and Xavier, along with six road/neutral wins in the RPI top 75. Despite some so-so overall computer numbers, not giving the committee an excuse to omit them with a loss here likely is enough.

2:24 P.M. UPDATE: SOUTH FLORIDA'S NIT-BOUND

South Florida made a nice late-season push to get into NCAA tournament contention, but Wednesday's second-round loss to Georgetown will condemn the Bulls to the NIT.

While the Bulls were 9-9 in the Big East, they're only 3-5 vs. the RPI top 50 and 6-11 vs. the top 100, with a bad home loss to No. 191 Central Michigan thrown in. That's not good enough, even with the softness of the bubble.

USF started the day outside the bracket and may have needed to beat Syracuse, too, to have a serious claim. Seton Hall and Notre Dame now take the court tonight knowing that a league rival has fallen by the wayside, opening just a bit more room for the winner of their game.

Wednesday morning's full Bubble Watch

The good news keeps coming for bubble teams, as favorites keep winning the smaller conference auto bids. That means two things:

1. If big-conference teams don't show some separation later this week, we could be looking at one of the softest and most convoluted bubbles in memory.

2. The bottom of the NCAA tournament bracket is going to be very deep with quality. The best small-conference teams are getting in and there aren't bid thieves from better leagues like the Horizon or Colonial that will push others up a seed line.

Tuesday night, Butler romped past Wright State to take that Horizon auto bid and leave an at-large for someone else. Elsewhere, fringe at-large hopefuls UConn and Charlotte removed themselves from the picture with first-round tourney losses.

Today starts the real business of sifting at the cutline. Here's are the bubble games you need to track:

South Florida-Georgetown (Noon ET): Bulls need this one, and maybe one more, to have a real claim.
St. John's-Marquette (2 p.m.): This win should be enough for the Golden Eagles. A loss? Hmm...
Seton Hall-Notre Dame (7 p.m.): Elimination game. Loser is probably out. Winner has a good chance.
Oklahoma-Oklahoma St. (7 p.m.): Cowboys should be OK either way, but win just in case.

In auto-bid land, Quinnipiac hosts Robert Morris in the NEC title game while Weber State hosts upstart Montana for the Big Sky crown.

Congrats to North Texas (Sun Belt) and Oakland (Summit) for nailing down auto bids Tuesday night.

Remember, records listed are Division I only, per NCAA tournament selection guidelines. All RPI and SOS data are from Tuesday's collegerpi.com RPI report.

Send your very valuable feedback to bubblewatch@gmail.com or to @aglock on Twitter. All submissions are read; polite, fact-based ones stand the best chance of a response. Readers who claim their team's record is wrong because they failed to read the previous paragraph will get to watch a copy of Monday's WCC final with Mark Few.

Summary key:

GW: Good wins over top-50ish foes (home league wins judged more strictly).

BL: Bad losses to teams outside top 100 or to direct bubble competitors.

ACC

Locks: Duke, Maryland

Duke remains strongly in the mix for a No. 1 seed. Maryland is playing for a protected one. Beyond those two, Clemson and Florida State look set to dance, while Georgia Tech may be playing its way right into the NIT.

SHOULD BE IN

Clemson (21-9, 9-7, RPI: 27, SOS: 23) got the split it needed and should be fine for the NCAAs. We'll keep them and the teams below in territory for now, pending one ACC tournament win, but all three are pretty much assured of a spot. The Tigers are a notch ahead of the 'Noles based on FSU solely cleaning up on the middle/bottom of the league. Clemson has better wins.
GW: Butler (N), Maryland, sweep of FSU.
BL: None, but handful to bubble competition: league foes Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, plus Illinois.

Florida State (22-8, 10-6, RPI: 35, SOS: 46) escaped Miami with a one-point win that should ensure an NCAA tournament berth. The 'Noles beat Wake Forest earlier in the week, making their league position pretty clear. They went 0-5 against Maryland, Duke and Clemson and 10-1 against everyone else.
GW: Marquette, swept Georgia Tech and beat Virginia Tech and Wake (bubble purposes).
BL: Home to N.C. State, swept by Clemson and lost to Florida (bubble purposes).

Wake Forest (19-9, 9-7, RPI: 33, SOS: 30) finally stopped messing around and beat Clemson on Sunday night, more or less ensuring an NCAA spot. The Deacons still cost themselves some seeding in the last couple of weeks, though.
GW: at Gonzaga, Xavier, Richmond, Maryland.
BL: None awful, but W&M and UNC at home, plus at Miami and N.C. State.

IN THE MIX

Virginia Tech (23-7, 10-6, RPI: 51, SOS: 130) did itself a world of good by winning at Georgia Tech on Saturday to get to 10 ACC wins. It's arguably VT's best win of the season, and now it's a lot harder to see the Hokies missing. Losing their ACC tournament opener isn't advised, but given the dearth of quality at the bubble, the Georgia Tech win may be the Hokies' golden ticket.
GW: at Georgia Tech, plus Clemson and Wake at home and vs. Seton Hall (all bubblers).
BL: Nothing awful, but at Miami and at Boston College are hurting.

Georgia Tech (18-11, 7-9, RPI: 44, SOS: 19) now is in very legitimate danger of missing the NCAAs after losing at Clemson and at home to Virginia Tech to finish under .500 in the league. Beyond the upset of Duke, there's not a ton here helping the Jackets. Now they draw North Carolina in the 7-10 game (in Greensboro), with Maryland waiting in the quarters. Tech very well may need to win both.
GW: Duke, Siena?, splits with Wake and Clemson?
BL: Swept by FSU in addition to Wake/Clemson splits (bubble purposes), lost at Miami.

Big 12

Locks: Kansas, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Texas, Baylor, Missouri

Kansas remains locked in as a No. 1 seed, but K-State's hopes of pushing onto that line ended abruptly with two losses this week, including a home shocker to Iowa State. Missouri joins the lock party after getting to 10-6 in the league. The only question, outside of a shock tourney champ, is whether Oklahoma State makes it, and the Cowboys are in solid shape.

SHOULD BE IN

Oklahoma State (21-9, 9-7, RPI: 28, SOS: 28) got the win over Nebraska it needed to get to 9-7 in the league. As long as the Cowboys don't lose their Big 12 tournament opener to Oklahoma, they should be fine. Even then, they're probably fine, but why risk it?
GW: at K-State, Kansas (plus Baylor and A&M at home).
BL: at Tulsa, vs. URI (for bubble purposes).

IN THE MIX

None.

Big East

Locks: Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown, West Virginia, Pitt

Syracuse remains entrenched as a No. 1 seed despite the loss at Louisville. That win very well may send the Cards to the NCAAs.

SHOULD BE IN

Marquette (20-10, 11-7, RPI: 57, SOS: 52) was a second away from dancing, but gave up a buzzer-beating three to Notre Dame that sent the game into overtime, where the Eagles lost. Now Marquette draws St. John's Wednesday in the Big East tournament. Win there and it's done. Lose and, well, they probably should make it, but it's not a mortal lock.
GW: Xavier, Georgetown, plus Louisville for bubble purposes.
BL: at DePaul, a ton of close ones overall.

Louisville (20-11, 11-7, RPI: 31, SOS: 4) picked the right team to beat twice if the Cardinals were only going to have two high-quality wins all season. Sweeping Syracuse should see them safely make the bracket. At least they showed the capability to beat someone, which puts them ahead of other contestants in this bubble race. Avoid a first-game loss in the Big East tournament to be certain, but it's hard to see them missing at this point.
GW: Sweep of Syracuse, also beat nominal Big East bubblers UConn and USF.
BL: Charlotte (injury asterisk, but by 22), W. Carolina, at Seton Hall?

IN THE MIX

Notre Dame (21-10, 10-8, RPI: 58, SOS: 53) continued its remarkable resurgence without Luke Harangody, who returned on Saturday but only played a handful of minutes and will come off the bench the rest of the season. Good move by the Irish to confirm to the committee that what it has seen recently is what it will get in the NCAAs. Beat SHU Wednesday and things look pretty good.
GW: WVU, Pitt, at Georgetown, at Marquette, UConn (for bubble purposes).
BL: Loyola Marymount, Northwestern (N), plus at Rutgers, at Seton Hall and St. John's.

Is this where it ends for the Big East? Could be.

Seton Hall (19-11, 9-9, RPI: 54, SOS: 32) almost coughed up a 29-point second-half lead to Providence, with the Friars missing a last-second 3 for the tie. The Pirates got the win they needed, though, to set up a huge bubble clash with Notre Dame, a team that have beaten already. A loss probably KO's SHU. A win isn't a clincher, but if a quarterfinal win is needed, too, they split with Pitt this season.
GW: Pitt, at Cornell, plus L'ville, ND for bubble purposes
BL: None bad (all in top 75), just a lot of them

South Florida (20-11, 9-9, RPI: 65, SOS: 65) slogged past DePaul to get its shot at Georgetown, a team the Bulls already beat on the road this season. Get past the Hoyas and USF gets Syracuse and a real chance to get into the dance. FYI, USF's overall SOS (for 31 games) dropped 11 spots thanks to playing DePaul on Tuesday. Yay, all-inclusive conference tournaments!
GW: at G'town, Pitt
BL: Cent. Michigan, vs. So. Carolina?, plus BE foes Louisville, Marquette, and swept by ND

Cincinnati (17-14, 7-11, RPI: 68, SOS: 10) beat Rutgers, barely, and advances to face Louisville in the second round of the Big East tournament. The Bearcats may need the auto-bid to dance, but you have to start somewhere.
GW: Vandy (N), Maryland (N)
BL: At SHU and St. John's are disappointing; Gonzaga (OT) and Xavier (2OT) could be costly.

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