It took until the final stretch of the regular season but Kansas State’s upset of Kansas has finally made the bubble-watch interesting.
First we take Manhattan Beating the #1 team in the nation always helps, especially when you deliver a stomping in February. Jacob Pullen picked a great night to finally show his potential as he scored 38 points, including nailing 5 of 6 from 3-point land, to lead K-State to an 84-68 victory over Kansas. The win over the Jayhawks immediately leaps the Wildcats back inside the bubble despite owning just a 5-6 record in conference play.
The win, in particular how well Pullen performed, could have a big impact on how the selection committee narrows down the field to 68 teams. Up until Monday night it looked like there would be nowhere near the usual level of arguments over who makes it to the dance, with a clear drop-off between worthy at-large candidates and teams lucky to get a ticket. K-State’s win changes all of that.
How will the Wildcats be viewed? The committee could be forced to re-assess the cases for Kansas State and UNLV come Selection Sunday. For the Wildcats the case is simple, they played part of this season without Jacob Pullen but now the band is back together. If they keep on track and split their games against Missouri and at Texas, then the Wildcats should go dancing.
The Rebels are a more complicated case. Their best quality win of the season came against K-State. While an improvement to K-State’s resume would normally aid UNLV’s cause, the committee might see things differently. UNLV beat the Wildcats without Pullen and Curtis Kelly, giving the selectors food for thought. College Basketball betting fans know the selectors may be inclined to view that win in a lesser light given the circumstances. That could leave the Rebels, who are 0-5 against the top three teams in the Mountain West, on the outside come selection Sunday.
Conference tournament overload The other factor affecting the soft bubble is the sheer lack of mid-major teams that will lock up at-large bids in the regular season. Most of the contenders from outside the power conferences have records that are too patchy to be certain of a place in the NCAA Tournament. That could all change however with a string of upsets in the end of season tournaments. There are enough good mid-major teams that will survive the cull to ensure a dramatic end in the race for those final tickets to the dance. We’ll have a deeper look at who could push for an at-large bid with our Bracketbusters preview later this week.