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Men's College Basketball

Men's March Madness bubble winners, losers: No doubt, Gonzaga will make NCAA Tournament

You didn’t really think Gonzaga would miss the NCAA Tournament, did you?

The Bulldogs' presence in the big dance hasn’t been certain nearly all season, but Gonzaga won’t have to worry about missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998 after it convincingly beat . Saturday's victory marked the Bulldogs' third Quad 1 win of the season and gives them all the momentum heading into the West Coast Conference tournament.

To start February, Gonzaga was coming off a narrow home loss to the Gaels and sported a 16-6 record and no Quad 1 wins. Since then, the Zags have won eight straight games while picking up three Quad 1 wins in the process, capping it off by being the first WCC squad to beat Saint Mary’s this season. Gonzaga has gone from being one of the last teams in, in the latest ˽ýӳ Sports Bracketology prediction, to a team that is capable of making some serious noise in the big dance.

It couldn’t be stressed enough that this week was the biggest one of the season for the Bulldogs with San Francisco and Saint Mary’s on the road to close out the regular season. Gonzaga ripped apart the Dons in the second half for an 18-point win, and the Zags pounced on the Gaels early and never let go. Forward Graham Ike put up a monster showing with 24 points and 10 rebounds, leading a team that put up 46 points in the paint. At one point, Gonzaga led by 19 points.

Gonzaga forward Graham Ike reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Saint Mary's, Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Moraga, Calif

This may not be the usual top seed Gonzaga team every college basketball fan has come to know, but this team never wavered in its capabilities.

"We still control our destiny. We know that," Ike told ˽ýӳ Sports two weeks ago.

No, it isn’t official just yet, and Gonzaga didn’t even win a share of the regular season conference title for the first time since 2011-12. But it can be guaranteed not many teams would want to see this team as its first round matchup in the bracket. The Zags are hot, and regardless of what happens in Las Vegas next week, they should sleep well knowing they’ll make the NCAA Tournament for an astonishing 26th-straight time, and that’s why they lead Saturday's winners and losers on the bubble.

WINNERS

Villanova

Heading into Saturday, had lost seven straight games against Quad 1 opponents and was one of the first four teams projected to miss the NCAA Tournament. didn’t waste time getting its shooting started, catching fire on 3-pointers in the first half and, at one point, led by seven points in a raucous Amica Mutual Pavilion.

But whatever Kyle Neptune said at the break worked. Down by three, Villanova started the second half on an 18-2 run and made 13 total 3-pointers that Providence would never recover from, leading the Wildcats to a and their second win of the season over the Friars.

Less than one month ago, Villanova was 12-11 and well on its way to missing the tournament again. But since then, it has won five of six with victories over fellow bubble teams like Butler, Seton Hall and now Providence, something that will certainly be under consideration from the selection committee.

The road to securing a spot in March Madness doesn’t get easier for the Wildcats; they have to face on the road next before hosting . But in what is such a pivotal stretch, getting any Quad 1 win is a plus, and Saturday could be a reason why Villanova makes the tournament for the first time under Neptune.

Boise State

The Mountain West may be on its way to sending six teams to the tournament ... or four of those teams could be out of the picture entirely in a couple of weeks.

In short: every game between contenders could be the difference between who is in and who is out, and the big winner in the conference on Saturday was , which topped . After going neck-and-neck in the first half, the Broncos caught fire by shooting 57.1% in the last 20 minutes.

Entering the day, New Mexico was No. 25 in the NET rankings, just one spot ahead of Boise State, and they were both a 10-seed in the projected bracket. By the end of the weekend, the Broncos should leapfrog the Lobos in the NET rankings, which would make them the second-highest rated Mountain West team in the NET rankings. Most importantly, Saturday's win keeps Boise State in a tie for first in the conference, and for a team that is projected to be a double-digit seed, gaining a share of the regular season title could solidify a tournament spot, regardless of what happens in the conference tournament.

Pittsburgh

learned Saturday how massive it can be when you capitalize on chances.

With other ACC bubble schools tumbling in epic fashion, the Panthers didn’t waste the opportunity to stand out from the others with a dominant at .

No, there really isn’t much to gloat about when you beat a team hanging in the basement of the ACC. But Pittsburgh has been shaky since it got stomped by Wake Forest a few weeks ago. As a result, the Panthers were among the first four teams projected to miss the field, but they could move up a couple of spots, or possibly slide into the tournament field outright, as a result of what happened in the conference. The slate is easy to wrap up the regular season, but if teams above them continue to falter, Pittsburgh could be the beneficiary.

Colorado State

The Rams can finally feel a sense of relief after holding off a pesky team.

emerged as a Mountain West title contender in the beginning of February, but the wheels began to fall off when it lost its third in a row after a heartbreaking, buzzer-beating loss to Nevada. This time around, it led for nearly all of the contest against the Cowboys and picked up a .

While it isn’t a major victory – Wyoming was a Quad 4 team – Colorado State needed a win as it began to plummet down the projected bracket, currently one of three Mountain West teams projected as a No. 10 seed. It also keeps the Rams in contention of getting at least the No. 5 seed in the conference tournament, which means a first-round bye and avoiding a top-three seed until at least the semifinals.

The Mountain West is no easy conference to be in, and Colorado State still has a chance to pick up a solid seed in the NCAA Tournament, as long as it doesn't fall into any traps.

Teams hanging on by a thread

For some teams, a win on Saturday was needed just to be worthy of consideration in the coming weeks. A loss would all but certainly eliminate them from any future bracket projections.

So consider , , , and still alive.

Butler got the worst of the Big East in DePaul and didn’t waste any chance it had by to end its five-game losing streak. Texas A&M also ended a five-game skid by in the second half. Cincinnati thanks to a late 3-pointer. Utah in the second half to sweep the Bay Area schools. Lastly, Ole Miss to get its second win in eight games.

There were no tournament-altering wins for any of the teams mentioned, but with the way the season was turning for them, picking up any win keeps faint hopes alive. So congratulations to the Bulldogs, Aggies, Utes, Bearcats and Rebels, you live to fight another week.

LOSERS

Providence

It looked like such a promising start for . It felt like it rarely missed a 3-pointer and had an answer for anything Villanova put up in the first 20 minutes.

But then the second half started, and the Friars went ice cold. After shooting 53.8% from the field with seven 3-pointers in the first half, Providence shot a horrid 26.9% and made only three shots beyond the arc as it was handed a disappointing 11-point loss.

Providence doesn’t have a bad résumé when it comes to qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, but it has to pick up wins when facing other squads in the same position, especially when some of the recent wins haven’t been anything to gloat about. The Friars were projected to be one of the last four teams in to make the tournament, but after Saturday's loss, they likely could see themselves on the outside looking in.

Oregon

may have quickly risen into NCAA Tournament consideration, but it may fall just as fast after the shellacking it took from .

One of the first teams projected to miss the tournament, the Ducks stood no chance against the Arizona buzzsaw Saturday, falling behind early and unable to pull itself out of a hole in a .

It was a tall task for Dana Altman’s team to go into Tucson and beat a Wildcats team that has only lost at home three times in the past three seasons, but a win was necessary when Oregon just entered the conversation as a fringe tournament contender. It only took 10 minutes for Arizona to build up a 17-point lead, and at one point, the Wildcats led by 28.

The Oregon offense did have a good second half, putting up 53 points in the final frame, but it doesn’t mean much when the defense lets the other team make a season-high 14 3-pointers and record a shooting percentage of 61%.

Not all hope is lost for Oregon; it has another Quad 1 opportunity against next week. But what happened against Arizona might hurt the Ducks too much to recover from.

Mississippi State

has been able to show it can keep up with some of the top teams in the SEC, but anyone that watched what happened in Neville Arena on Saturday saw the Bulldogs had no answer for .

The Tigers quickly pounced on Mississippi State, getting out to as much as a 19-point lead in the first half, going wire-to-wire in a over a team that entered the week blazing hot. In the first half, the Bulldogs shot 27.6% and had more turnovers (10) than made shots (8). Mississippi State looked more of the tournament team it had become in the second half, but the deficit was too big for it to catch up.

Saturday’s defeat marks two missed opportunities for the Bulldogs this week with two Quad 1 losses after they narrowly fell to on Tuesday. There isn’t a need for panic at the moment in Starkville with Mississippi State projected to be a No. 8 seed, but it’ll need to come up big against and next week to avoid plummeting down.

Wake Forest

How quickly the world can change in a week.

had its biggest win of the season last week vs. Duke, which propelled it into being a projected last four team in. Since then, the Demon Deacons have lost two straight and find themselves right back out of the projected field.

Wake Forest looked in sync in the first half against , leading by as much as 15 in the first half, drilling nine 3-pointers. But when it came out after halftime, the 3-point shot wasn’t there and it felt as if Virginia Tech couldn’t miss a shot if it tried. The Hokies put up 50 second-half points to .

With things now falling apart, Wake Forest’s resume suddenly comes back into the picture. It’s now 1-6 in Quad 1 games and in need of another boost if it wants a spot in the field again. The Demon Deacons will close the regular season against , and that last chance of a Quad 1 win might be the difference maker in whether Wake Forest will be dancing or not.

Virginia

The tournament may no longer be a guarantee for after Saturday's awful performance against .

The Cavaliers didn’t show up inside Cameron Indoor Stadium, falling behind by 10 points just five minutes into the game. By the time it was halftime, the Blue Devils were up by a whopping 40-18 score in what turned out to be a .

You know you’re in for a low-scoring game when Virginia is on the court, but it is concerning that it has lost by double-digits in four of its last six games, with two of those defeats coming by at least 25 points. It’s still in third place in the ACC, but the conference has been shaky this season, to say the least, so there’s no security in the Cavaliers being a quality tournament team. In the first edition of bracketology this season, Virginia was in the first four out. It may find itself there soon if it falls flat in the ACC tournament.

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