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Posted on Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 8:46 a.m.

Life on the Michigan basketball bubble: Pay attention to these games today

By Michael Rothstein

The big college basketball tournaments have arrived.

While the five-day long Big East tournament started Tuesday in New York, the rest of the major, multi-bid conferences around the country are just starting to get their postseason matchups under way.

This means members of the Michigan basketball team, who don't play until the second day of the Big Ten tournament (2 p.m. Friday vs. Illinois, ESPN), will start to pay more attention to what is going on around the country.

JOIN OUR LIVE CHAT FRIDAY sports reporters Pete Bigelow and Michael Rothstein will host a live chat from press row at Conseco Fieldhouse during Friday’s Michigan-Illinois game.
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While the Big East no longer has any bubble effect — all eight teams still playing are NCAA tournament bound — the rest of the leagues around the country have at least one bubble-type game today.

So let’s dive into today’s bubble watch.

Today’s bubble games:
Michigan State vs. Iowa: If you are reading this, you likely know the importance of this game for the Spartans. But it is important for Michigan, too. In many ways, Michigan wants Michigan State to win to keep the Spartans in the Top 50 of the RPI — those two wins help. It is Friday in the Big Ten tournament where Michigan wants to see its bubble friends in the Big Ten fall apart, not Thursday. (4:30 p.m., ESPN2)

Penn State vs. Indiana: No matter what, the Hoosiers will be a bad loss for Michigan, likely the only truly bad loss on its resume. Michigan also wants Penn State to look good because it has two wins over the Nittany Lions. Penn State should win this game handily. (7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network)

Georgia vs. Auburn: The Bulldogs should, repeat should, be in the NCAA tournament. But if they want to guarantee it, they don’t lose to a terrible Auburn team here. The SEC tournament has been wacky the past few years, so be on alert. If Georgia goes down, Michigan could move past Georgia with a win Friday. (ESPN3, 1 p.m.)

Tennessee vs. Arkansas: The Vols at one point looked to be a NCAA tournament lock. Now, after losing six of nine games to end the season, they are on the bubble. Drop this game to Arkansas — a team Tennessee lost to, 68-65, in January — and Bruce Pearl is going to have a sweat-filled stressful weekend in Knoxville. (ESPN3, 7:30 p.m.)

Oklahoma State vs. Kansas: The Jayhawks are playing for a top seed in the NCAA tournament. The Cowboys are likely out of the NCAA tournament, but if Oklahoma State manages to pull this one off, it might start flirting with becoming a bid stealer. Keep an eye on this. (ESPN2, 12:30 p.m.)

Kansas State vs. Colorado: Three weeks ago, this would have been a bubble-bursting game. Now, the Wildcats are in — and this writer’s pick to win the Big 12 — and Colorado is trying to make a case. It barely beat Iowa State yesterday (more on that below) but a win over K-State would be big for the Buffs bubble hopes. If you’re Michigan, you’re pulling for Kansas State. (ESPN3, 3 p.m.)

UAB vs. East Carolina: Right now, Conference USA is likely a one-bid league. But UAB could threaten for a second spot if it doesn’t win its conference tournament and gets to the league final. The Blazers open the C-USA tourney in El Paso, Texas against ECU. A loss hurts the at-large chances and likely pushes UAB behind Michigan. The Wolverines would rather see the Blazers just win the whole tournament to ensure the likely one-bid status. (1 p.m.)

Memphis vs. Southern Mississippi: Memphis is a certain bubble team and if it loses to Southern Mississippi in the C-USA quarters, it can essentially wave goodbye to any decent bubble chances. Southern Miss could make a run, but likely has to win Friday as well to even be considered. (3:30 p.m.)

UTEP vs. Marshall: The Miners beat Michigan in November in Atlantic City, N.J., and are now on the bubble with the Wolverines. While Michigan is above them in bubble thoughts, a win or two by UTEP in its hometown for during the C-USA tournament could help Michigan’s resume ever so slightly. Michigan wants UTEP to win…for now. (7:30 p.m.)

Boston College vs. Wake Forest: Wake is terrible, the worst major conference team in the country this year not named DePaul. Boston College has played its way on the bubble by winning 4 of its last 6 and finishing fourth in the ACC. A loss to a bad Demon Deacons team could push the Eagles almost out of the conversation, helping Michigan. (ESPN3, 2:30 p.m.)

Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech: The Mayor of Bubbleville, Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg, almost had his team off the bubble when it beat Duke two weeks ago. Then it lost to Boston College and Clemson and ended up right back in this position. A loss to Georgia Tech would likely send the Hokies out of the NCAAs, which would help Michigan. (ESPN3, 9:30 p.m.)

Colorado State vs. New Mexico: The Rams are a major bubble team and New Mexico can help out teams everywhere by beating Colorado State in the Mountain West quarters. If Colorado State wins this game, it could put itself in good position for a berth. (5:30 p.m.)

California vs. USC: The loser of this game has no chance at a NCAA tournament bid. The winner likely needs to pick off one more to really be considered. But it is a game worth paying attention to for future possibilities. (3 p.m.)

UCLA vs. Oregon: The Bruins are in right now, and are in fairly comfortably. But a loss to the woeful Ducks could nudge them toward the bubble if things break oddly around the country. Pull for UCLA to win if you’re Michigan because you don’t want to have that competition. (9 p.m.)

Washington vs. Washington State: The Huskies are in the NCAA tournament right now but won’t feel too comfortable if they lose tonight. They might be bubble watching a bit. Wazzu will have to win at least two games in Los Angeles to merit real consideration. If you’re Michigan, you’re pulling for Washington State. (11:30 p.m.)

Other games of note:
Bowling Green vs. Western Michigan: The MAC is a one-bid league. Bowling Green is a bad team. But, it has a chance to pick up a big win against Western Michigan in the conference quarterfinals. Why do you care? Michigan throttled Bowling Green this year, so it could slightly help the RPI/SOS. (ESPN3, 12 p.m.)

Minnesota vs. Northwestern: The Big Ten opener doesn’t mean too much, although it is on Michigan’s side of the Big Ten tournament bracket. Might not be pretty basketball, either. (ESPN2, 2:30 p.m.)

San Diego State vs. Utah: If Jim Boylen and Utah can somehow beat nationally ranked San Diego State, that’d provide a small strength of schedule and RPI lift for Michigan, which knocked off the Utes in December. Also, Aztecs coach Steve Fisher is a familiar face, having coached Michigan to a national title in 1989 and in the Fab Five era.

The Big East tournament: Just turn on ESPN today to understand how good the Big East is. All four quarterfinal games match up two teams already in the NCAA tournament (only Marquette isn't in the Top 25). Having covered the Big East for four seasons, nothing beats the Thursday-Friday of the Big East tournament in Madison Square Garden. The afternoon's session (Connecticut-Pittsburgh at noon and Syracuse-St. John’s at 2 p.m.) could be particularly entertaining.

Important results from last night:
Oklahoma State survives: It’s going to take a lot for the Cowboys to be a bubble team, but they helped Michigan and its bubble compatriots out by knocking off Nebraska, 53-52, when Cornhuskers guard Keiton Page drove into the lane but lost the ball before he shot in the game’s final seconds.

Baylor falls apart: Perry Jones III was suspended before the game and without him, Baylor looked nothing like an NCAA tournament team. The Bears were blown out by Oklahoma, 84-67, in the first round of the Big 12 tournament. The blowout, combined with Jones’ likely unavailability for the NCAA tournament, probably means Baylor’s at-large hopes are done. Or at least are behind Michigan's.

Colorado hangs on: The Big 12 almost became a big Big Ten supporter, but the Buffaloes rallied late to knock off Iowa State and keep their bubble hopes afloat. With the rest of the Big 12 carnage, Colorado might just sneak in if it wins today.

Top seeds win: Long Island (Northeast) and Northern Colorado (Big Sky) won conference tournament finals as top seeds. Not only do they get to the NCAA tournament, but it opens up two more NIT slots because if those teams had lost, they would have been awarded automatic berths in the NIT.

Marquette is in: The Golden Eagles were likely in anyway, but knocking off West Virginia in the Big East tournament second round sealed Bid No. 11 for the Big East.

ESPN: Michigan is a No. 11 seed and in a matchup that could easily happen, Joe Lunardi has the Wolverines facing No. 6 West Virginia in the first round with No. 3 Florida as a possible second-round opponent in Tampa.

CBS: The Wolverines dropped from a No. 10 to No. 11 seed in Jerry Palm’s latest bracket, and he has Michigan playing No. 6 West Virginia, this time in Charlotte with a potential second-round opponent of North Carolina.

SI: Michigan remains a No. 11 seed here, facing No. 6 Kansas State in Washington, D.C., with the possibility of Syracuse in the second round. I've seen some questions about this, but with 11 Big East teams in, the committee isn’t going to worry as much about potential second-round rematches from the regular season.

Crashing The Dance: Michigan is in as a No. 10 seed

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan basketball for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein



Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 7:13 p.m.

There is no way I could remember all of that. My head hurts just thinking about it. I'll just cheer for Michigan to win Friday. combined with the fourth-seed de facto fourth place tiebreaker, if they win tomorrow, it will make them one of the top four teams in the Big Ten. That should be more than enough to get a bid. Unless someone lower wins the Big Ten Tournament, I think a win gets them in and a loss puts them on the bubble. If they lose and are on the bubble, I am guessing that MSU gets a political "courtesy berth" and Michigan has to watch a team they beat twice go to the Tournament.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 3:39 p.m.

Wow Mike.. I'm glad you have a handle on this!! lol because i don't have the knowledge, so I'll let these games play out and look for your next article to come.. Thank you.. Go Blue..