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Bubble Banter: Boise State’s losses will hurt on Selection Sunday

Feb 6, 2014, 10:34 AM EDT

Thomas Bropleh

There are 38 days left until Selection Sunday. Every morning from now until the bracket comes out, we’ll help you get caught up on the happenings with impact on the bubble from the night before. 

We seem to say it every season, but that doesn’t mean it won’t become a talking point over the course of the next 38 days: the bubble is impressively weak this year.

On the one hand, that means that trying to fill out those last couple of spots in the field of 68 is enough to give even an amateur bracketologist a migraine. It’s good news for teams chasing an at-large berth, however, because it means two things: a) A poor non-conference performance doesn’t mean that the season is over; and b) One really good win may be enough to separate your team from the rest of the pack.

Think about it like this: Cal (RPI: 52, KenPom: 47) has lost four of their last five games, which includes a visit to USC and a pair of home games against Arizona State and Stanford, but since they beat No. 1 Arizona on Saturday, they’re safely in the tournament as of today. They were a No. 9 seed in NBCSports.com’s most recent Bracketology.

And that’s why Boise State (RPI: 61, KenPom: 62) has to be kicking themselves right now.

The Broncos don’t have a single RPI top 100 win yet this season. Their only sub-top 100 loss came at UNLV on Saturday. They blew an 11-point lead in the final 3:29 in that game. On Thursday night, the Broncos had complete control in the second half against No. 5 San Diego State, only to give up a 15-0 run late in the second half and, eventually, lose when Dwayne Polee hit a three with 4.2 seconds left in the game.

Right now, the Broncos are still within striking distance of an at-large bid, but it will take a borderline miracle for it to happen. Five of their last eight games are on the road, and only one of those games will come against a team ranked higher than 93 in the RPI. They’ll probably need to win out — and then pull off an upset in the conference tournament — if they want to go dancing.

Beating SDSU and UNLV wouldn’t have locked up a bid, but it would have put the Broncos in a position where an at-large was likely, not a prayer.

THE REST OF WEDNESDAY’S BUBBLE ACTION:

  • Tennessee (RPI: 49, KenPom: 24) seems determined to keep themselves in the bubble conversation this season, losing to Vanderbilt by four on the road last night. The Vols are probably in as of today, but Tuesday at home against Florida is huge.
  • Minnesota (RPI: 40, KenPom: 41) was a lock to dance ten days ago. Since their win over Wisconsin at home, they’ve lost to Nebraska, Northwestern and, on Wednesday, Purdue.
  • Florida State (RPI: 40, KenPom: 27) is much better than they were a season ago. They have no terrible losses, but they’re also without a good win in the ACC. North Carolina, at Pitt and Syracuse are three of their last five games.
  • Stanford (RPI: 37, KenPom: 34) beat Cal last night, moving both teams to 6-4 in the Pac-12. Both are firmly in the bubble discussion as well, and while Stanford has better computer numbers, Cal has that glorious win over Arizona.
  • Colorado (RPI: 26, KenPom: 63) bounced back with their second straight win (Washington State) after losing four of five following Spencer Dinwiddie’s injury. But six of their last seven games are against KenPom top 50 teams. They’re in for now, but that could change depending on how their season ends and their record without Dinwiddie.
  • West Virginia (RPI: 69, KenPom: 61) is slowly but surely getting closer to that cutline. The Mountaineers are currently sitting tied for third in the Big 12 with wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma. Seven of their nine losses are to RPI top 50 teams. They have plenty of work left to do — two games against Kansas, two against Iowa State, road trips to Texas and Oklahoma, a home date with Baylor — but Bob Huggins’ team is peaking. Get hot at the right time and who knows.
  • St. Joseph’s (RPI: 53, KenPom: 83) is in the same boat as Boise State. They had a chance to earn a marquee victory on their home floor on Wednesday and lost. The Hawks were clobbered, however, losing 65-49.