Bubble Watch: Late collapses have Oklahoma, Arizona State feeling nervous
After being ranked in the top five earlier this season, Arizona State and Oklahoma suddenly find their NCAA Tournament hopes in question.
Both teams continued their late-season collapses Tuesday by losing early in their respective conference tournaments. Arizona State fell 97-85 to Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament at Las Vegas, while Oklahoma lost 71-60 to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament at Kansas City.
Oklahoma (18-13) has lost eight of its last 10 games. Arizona State (20-11) has dropped five of its last six.
“I didn’t expect to be in that position,” Oklahoma guard Trae Young said. “I obviously expected us to keep winning and hopefully have a chance to get a 1 seed or 2 seed or up in that range. But our body of work speaks for itself, and I think we have a good shot of getting in just because of our resume and all of that. We’ll have to see. Hopefully, we’ll get in.”
Oklahoma seems in better shape than Arizona State.
Both teams finished below.500 in their conference schedules, but the Big 12 is stronger than the Pac-12. Oklahoma entered Wednesday’s action 36th in the RPI, while Arizona State was 58th. Oklahoma has an impressive six Quadrant 1 wins, while Arizona State has three.
Quadrant 1 wins are defined as victories in home games against teams with RPIs in the top 30, neutral-court wins against teams in the top 50 or road wins against teams in the top 75.
Arizona State won its first 12 games and was ranked third in late December, matching its highest ranking in school history. The Sun Devils were the last remaining unbeaten Division I team after a sizzling start that included a road win at No. 9Kansas and a neutral-site victory over No. 3 Xavier.
“I believe we’re in the NCAA Tournament,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “Now, there is going to be debate about that and with good reason because we didn’t finish the season the way I’d hoped. But, again, we lost some close ones, some games that could have gone either way.”
Oklahoma was one of the biggest stories in college basketball during the early part of the season due to the emergence of Young, the NCAA Division I leader in points and assists per game.
The Sooners were ranked fourth in mid-January. Now they have to wait and learn their fate Sunday. “It’s very disappointing,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said.
ON THE RISE
Oklahoma State: The team that swept its regular-season series with Kansas gave its NCAA credentials another boost with its victory over Oklahoma. The Cowboys (19-13) still could have more work to do. Oklahoma State went 8-10 in Big 12 competition and entered Wednesday’s action 89th in the RPI, thanks in part to a weak nonconference schedule.
Texas: The Longhorns (19-13) avoided a potentially crushing loss by gutting out a 68-64 victory over Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament. Texas overcame the absence of Big 12 rebounding leader Mohamed Bamba, who missed the game with a toe injury. Marquette’s another bubble team that barely avoided a devastating loss, as it edged DePaul 72-69 in the Big East Tournament. Marquette faces No. 2 Villanova on Thursday.
Louisville: The Cardinals entered the ACC Tournament squarely on the bubble and made quite a statement Wednesday with an 82-74 victory over Florida State. Louisville (20-12) can erase all doubt by knocking off top-ranked Virginia in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
Notre Dame: Just like Oklahoma and Arizona State, Notre Dame was ranked in the top five earlier this season. The Irish struggled when Associated Press preseason All-American Bonzie Colson missed 15 games with a broken bone in his left foot, but he’s back now and helped Notre Dame (20-13) rally from a 21-point, second-half deficit in a 71-65 ACC Tournament victory over Virginia Tech. The comeback gives Notre Dame hope, but the Irish may need to upset No. 5 Duke on Thursday to secure a bid.
Syracuse: The Orange (20-13) went just 8-10 in ACC competition this season and could have helped their cause considerably by upsetting No. 12 North Carolina in the ACC Tournament. It didn’t happen, as the Tar Heels won 78-59. Syracuse entered Wednesday 37th in the RPI.
Washington: The Huskies (20-12) needed a big performance in the Pac-12 Tournament to get into contention for an NCAA bid. They instead lost 69-66 to Oregon State in overtime in the opening round.
Florida State and North Carolina State: Both of these teams will probably get NCAA bids, but their early losses in the ACC Tournament give them reason to feel a little nervous. While Florida State lost to Louisville, North Carolina State fell 91-87 to Boston College.