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Bubble Watch: Syracuse first out in latest Bracketology

Syracuse basketball has once again found itself squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Orange has two weeks to show why it is better than the other teams fighting for the final spots in the field of 68. With a new set of “bracketology” predictions out Monday and so much at stake in the last games of the regular season, here is a deeper look at the final week schedules for the teams on the bubble, including the Orange.

Syracuse Orange (18-11, 7-9 ACC)

Syracuse was safely in most tournament projections last week, but a pair of losses has found the Orange as the first team out in both ESPN and CBS projections. The ground lost was minimum since nobody expected SU to win against Duke and North Carolina, but other teams picked up ground and pushed the Orange out the back door. Syracuse finishes the season with Boston College and Clemson and will need to win both to have a reliable resume going into the ACC Tournament.

St. Bonaventure Bonnies (22-6, 12-4 Atlantic 10)

Both ESPN and CBS have the Bonnies safely in the tournament for the moment, but they also have the most to lose. St. Bonaventure plays Davidson next, a team the Bonnies lost to by 10 earlier in the season. A loss to Davidson or Saint Louis to end the regular season could end St. Bonaventure’s chances at an at-large bid. Of course, it still has a tiebreaker with the head-to-head win over Syracuse.

Louisville Cardinals (19-10, 9-7 ACC)

Louisville enters the final week of the season in a spot similar to Syracuse. Recent losses to Duke and UNC have dropped them onto the bubble, and the Cardinals lack any big wins this season. Louisville has two games against Virginia and NC State to end the season. If it can win one of those two, it should at least stay in the last four in as it enters the ACC Tournament.

USC Trojans (21-9, 12-5 Pac-12) and UCLA Bruins (19-10, 10-7 Pac-12)

Both USC and UCLA are squarely on the bubble, and they play each other in the only game left on either team’s schedule March 3. USC comes in on a four-game winning streak to work its way back into tournament contention after losing three straight. UCLA has lost two in a row and is trying to keep itself from stumbling into Selection Sunday. The winner of this game likely keeps a spot into Championship Week, but the Pac-12 Tournament will decide who does and doesn’t make it.

Baylor Bears (17-12, 7-9 Big 12)

Baylor is a mixed bag. The Bears are in according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi but aren’t even in the first four out of Jerry Palm’s CBS bracket. Recent losses to TCU and West Virginia have put Baylor into the crosshairs, but two big opportunities to build a resume come before the postseason. The Bears play Oklahoma (8 seed on ESPN, 9 seed on CBS) and Kansas State (10 seed on both ESPN and CBS) before the Big 12 Tournament. Wins in both games and Baylor is safely in, while losses could be the difference which gives a team like Syracuse an invitation.

Texas Longhorns (17-12, 7-9 Big 12)

Texas is the last team in the field of 68, according to ESPN and CBS projections, and has easily the hardest final week among the bubble teams. The Longhorns have already missed big chances at wins against Baylor (lost by one), Kansas State (lost by two) and Texas Tech (lost by two) in the last month. Now, it has to face No. 6 Kansas and No. 20 West Virginia to end the Big 12 schedule. Two losses there and the Orange could jump the Longhorns.

Syracuse has a tough road to the NCAA Tournament. The Orange will need at least one win this week and a solid ACC Tournament performance to be safe on Selection Sunday, but every other bubble team has the same story. The stakes are higher than ever, and the next two weeks will decide which of these teams will get the opportunity to play for a title.

Posted: Nathan Dickinson

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