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NCAA Tournament: Three key games that could affect bubble teams

Houston guard Damyean Dotson talks with guard Galen

Houston guard Damyean Dotson talks with guard Galen Robinson Jr. after Robinson was called for a foul during the second half of an NCAA game against SMU, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, in Houston. Credit: AP / Eric Christian Smith

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.

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