With Selection Sunday 10 days away, bubble teams are vying to bolster their mediocre resumes. There are a few important games Thursday night, from that standpoint.
Houston at No. 18 Cincinnati: Despite having a 20-8 record, Houston has not accomplished anything all too impressive. The Cougars are 53rd in the RPI with the 71st toughest schedule. They are 0-3 against the RPI’s top 25 and 2-4 versus the top 50, and they have lost home games to Memphis (No. 110) and Harvard (No. 129) and a road game at LSU (No. 169). So a win over Cincinnati would not push Houston into the NCAA Tournament. The Cougars also would need to beat East Carolina to close out the regular season and make a run in the AAC tournament, probably picking up a win over either Cincinnati or SMU. But starting with a win tonight would give Houston a chance.
Iowa at No. 22 Wisconsin: Believe it or not, Iowa still has an at-large pulse. It’s faint, but it’s there. The Hawkeyes (16-13, 8-8) are 91st in the RPI — not good — but they are 4-8 against the top 50 with a win over No. 20 Purdue. Iowa is the 9th team out in Newsday’s latest bracketology, but a win at Wisconsin could bump them up a few spots, possibly as high as fourth team out.
California at Utah: Despite having an 18-10 record, Utah is in worse shape than a lot of bubble teams, including Cal. The Utes are not even among the first 10 out in our latest bracketology because they have not played anybody. They are just 4-9 against the RPI’s top 150, which is awful. So while a win here would not hurt Utah, it would not help too much either. This game is bigger for Cal (19-9, 10-6). The Golden Bears are our fourth team out, so taking a loss at Utah (No. 81 in the RPI) would hurt a bit. Winning would not give much of a boost at this point, but it would help keep Cal firmly in the mix.