Big East, SEC bubbles get messier as conference foes jockey for spots
The focus of the bubble in the SEC has been in the football-rich western part of the conference, with Mississippi, LSU and Texas A&M all jockeying for position toward the back end of the field of 68. After Tuesday night, an eastern team has been added to that mix.
For most of the season, Georgia has been living between worlds in the conference. It is comfortably behind Arkansas, and not even in the same universe as Tennessee, but with a pair of top-50 wins and an RPI that sat in the low-20s for most of the last six weeks, It appeared ahead of its western counterparts in the conference pecking order. All that changed in a matter of three days.
Last weekend, the Bulldogs dropped a one-point game at home to lowly Auburn, a team with five sub-100 losses. Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann combined for 32 points on 29 shots, and the team shot just 37.7 percent (23 for 61) as a whole.
The situation got even worse on Tuesday, when South Carolina came into Athens and jumped out to a 21-point lead in the first half. The Bulldogs battled all the way back in the second half, tying the game at 51. The Gamecocks quickly took back the lead on a Mindaugas Kacinas jumper and never again trailed.
Georgia is now 2-4 against the top 50 and 6-5 against the top 100, with a quartet of unsightly losses on its resume. In other words, the Bulldogs are now firmly on the bubble with a little more than three weeks before Selection Sunday.
Let's go around the country for the rest of Tuesday's bubble action.
Georgetown 79, St. John's 57
St. John's got itself out of the First Four with a road victory against Xavier over the weekend, but it still has work to do to feel good about its standing in the field of 68. That work did not get off to a good start on Tuesday in D.C.
The Hoyas kept the Red Storm at arm's length for most of the first half, and then pulled away by connecting on their first seven three point attempts after halftime. Six different Hoyas scored in double figures, and five tied for the team lead with 12 points.
A 22-point loss to a tournament-bound Georgetown team doesn't by any means look bad on St. John's resume. What it does, however, is remove one of Steve Lavin's team's remaining chances to impress the selection committee. It is now 3-6 against the top 50, with three games left against teams that should hear their names called on Selection Sunday. The Red Storm may need a pair of wins among those three to go dancing.
Texas A&M 68, LSU 62
A sweep of LSU isn't going to get Texas A&M into the dance by itself, but with the attrition of conference play grinding down the likely number of SEC teams that will get at-large bids, a win over direct competitor for one of those spots is a coup for the Aggies.
Danuel House led the Aggies on a 12-0 game-changing run in the middle of the second half, turning an eight-point deficit into a slim lead. The teams traded punches for the next few minutes, but a three-point play by Kourtney Roberson with two minutes left gave the Aggies a lead they would never relinquish. House finished with 20 points.
Texas A&M had fallen out of our most recent Bracket Watch because of a resume that didn't include any top 50 wins. The Aggies still don't have one, with the Tigers just outside that class. Still, they've done well to avoid any losses that would turn off the committee, and get one more shot to impress at Arkansas next week.
As for the Tigers, they're still in decent shape thanks to four earlier top-50 wins. They probably have to do some more work to offset three losses to teams outside the top 100, though, and that leaves them right on the edge of the field heading into the final week of the regular season. The good news is they still have games remaining with Mississippi and Arkansas, meaning they can prop up a case that could crumble with a few more losses.