BUBBLE WATCH: Michigan, Vanderbilt get hot at right time
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Michigan coach John Beilein is seeing his team get hot at the right time of the year, solidifying its NCAA Tournament standing. The same can be said for Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew.
The Wolverines and Commodores earned big wins in their conference tournaments against ranked teams on Friday. Michigan upset No. 13 Purdue in the Big Ten quarterfinals, and then Vanderbilt outlasted 17th-ranked Florida in overtime in the Southeastern Conference quarterfinals.
“We just want to keep winning games,” Drew said. “Hopefully the committee realizes how well we’re playing, and we get in.”
The Commodores (19-14) entered the day among ESPN’s last teams into the NCAAs, and then added a sixth top-50 RPI win this season — and a third win against the Gators. They have won seven of eight.
In the Big Ten, Michigan began the day as a No. 9 NCAA seed in ESPN’s projected field of 68 after beating bubble-team Illinois in Thursday’s second round. But the Wolverines followed with Friday’s overtime win against regular-season champ Purdue to reach the semifinals.
Michigan was playing its second game since a scary mishap when its plane slid off the runway before takeoff. It led to a delayed arrival in Washington for the tournament, even forcing the Wolverines to play their opener against Illinois in practice jerseys. But they now have won eight of 10.
“I believe a lot in it,” Beilein said of getting hot at tournament time. “It’s happened to us. . We’ve been selling the fun of a run is really — it’s irreplaceable in their lives, really. You throw in what happened on Wednesday, now they got a lot of memories. We don’t want it to stop.”
MISSED CHANCES IN THE BIG 12: TCU and Kansas State both lost games that could’ve seriously helped their NCAA hopes.
TCU was coming off the upset of top-ranked Kansas, but lost 84-63 to No. 23 Iowa State in the semifinals. The Horned Frogs (19-15) entered the day among ESPN’s first teams out of the field and desperately needed this one.
Then there was Kansas State (20-13), which beat No. 9 Baylor on Thursday but couldn’t follow with another upset against No. 11 West Virginia and lost 51-50.
Kansas State had regular-season wins against Baylor and West Virginia on its resume and sat at No. 29 in KenPom.com’s rankings, but only at No. 55 in the RPI. The Wildcats were among the last teams in on several projected brackets, but beating the Mountaineers might have eliminated doubt.
LAST CHANCE?: California lost 73-65 to No. 5 Oregon in the Pac-12 semifinals. The Bears (21-12) are No. 54 in the RPI and fell to 1-8 against RPI top-50 teams.
HOUSTON FALLS: Houston might have seen its chances disappear with Friday’s loss to Connecticut in the American Athletic Conference Tournament. The Cougars (21-10) are No. 51 in the RPI and No. 49 on KenPom, but they entered the day on the wrong side of the bubble in ESPN’s projections before losing to a .500 Huskies team.
TOP-SEED SHUFFLE?: There’s also plenty of intrigue near the top, too.
Two leading candidates for No. 1 seeds — Kansas and No. 6 North Carolina — have now lost this week after the Tar Heels fell to No. 14 Duke in the Atlantic Coast Conference semifinals Friday night. The question is whether either loss will drop them to a 2-seed, possibly depending on what happens with Saturday’s Oregon-Arizona final in the Pac-12 or No. 8 Kentucky’s finish in the SEC.
No. 2 Villanova could be the top overall seed when the bracket is unveiled Sunday, while No. 4 Gonzaga is a strong contender after a 32-1 season.
Then there is preseason No. 1 Duke, which might be climbing toward a No. 2 seed with a national-best 12 wins against RPI top-50 teams. The Blue Devils play No. 22 Notre Dame in the ACC final on Saturday.
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