Saturday Syllabus: The Bubble-Buster Edition

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Welcome to the last two days of the regular season … which are appropriately enough loaded with top games. Some games today, though, that aren’t getting the top billing are more important for the long-term. Many teams need key wins to get off the tournament bubble. Others are looking for convincing wins to strengthen their tournament resumes. So while the Duke/North Carolina, Kansas/Oklahoma, and Virginia/Louisville games are outstanding, don’t forget about these games either. Our recommendation? Settle in for an outstanding day of college hoops.

Pittsburgh at Florida State

12 p.m. ET, ESPN2

The ACC bubble game to watch is Pittsburgh, eighth in the conference, at Florida State. Both teams are riding a short losing streak: three games for Florida State and two games for Pittsburgh.  The first time they played against each other ended with a Pitt win 73-64 over FSU.  Two of Pittsburgh’s last six wins have been against Top 15 teams, while FSU only has one win against a ranked team this season.  Pittsburgh, which was once squarely on the tournament bubble but doesn’t appear on Joe Lunardi’s most recent bracketology iteration, is looking to sweep FSU this season and build on its resume to get back on the bubble.

Key Players:

  • Pitt: Michael Young (13.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, .527 FG percentage)
  • FSU: Montay Brandon (12.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, .555 FG percentage)



  • Joe Lunardi (ESPN): Not listed on most recent bracket iteration
  • Jerry Palm (CBS): Not listed on most recent bracket iteration


NC State at Syracuse

12 p.m. ET,  CBS

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before – NC State is on the bubble.

On the day after the NCAA levied significant sanctions against Syracuse and coach Jim Boeheim, NC State is looking to improve its NCAA Tournament resume with a win at the Carrier Dome.  NC State apparently loves to be on the bubble (at least it certainly seems that way) but usually finds a way into the tournament.

Syracuse enters on a two-game losing streak and has not lost more than three games in a row all season.  Excluding a huge hiccup against Boston College, NC State has been on a bit of a roll with two Top 15 wins in their last five games.  With the momentum that the Wolfpack has gained these last few weeks, they are looking strong to win against Syracuse.

Key Players:

  • NC State: Trevor Lacey (16.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, .440 FG percentage)
  • Syracuse: Rakeem Christmas (18.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg, .567 FG percentage)


NC State

  • Joe Lunardi (ESPN): 9-seed in West bracket
  • Jerry Palm (CBS): Not listed on most recent bracket iteration


St. John’s at #4 Villanova

2 p.m. ET, FOX

St. John’s is pushing to improve its resume to ensure its bid to the dance.  Sitting in fifth place in the Big East and currently listed as an 8-seed in Lunardi’s bracketology, St. John’s is looking for a showdown against No. 4 Villanova which is first in the Big East and a potential 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament.  Nova’s only two losses this season have come from unranked conference opponents.  Nova won the first matchup this season between the two teams, 90-72, and St. John’s is looking for revenge in this Big East showdown.

Key Players:

  • St. John’s: Sir’Dominic Pointer (14.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg, .540 FG percentage)
  • Villanova: Daniel Ochefu (8.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg, .638 FG percentage)


St. John’s

  • Joe Lunardi (ESPN): 8-seed in East bracket
  • Jerry Palm (CBS): 7-seed in Midwest bracket


UConn at Temple

2 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Temple is hosting Connecticut this week at the Liacouras Center and both teams are hoping to win to better their chance to get in the NCAA Tournament. Riding a five-game win streak at home, Temple is hoping to beat UConn, a team that has lost six of its last eight road games, for the second time this season. In the American, there is a tie for first, second and third place. A Temple win would give the Owls sole possession of third (depending on Memphis vs. Cincinnati) while UConn would drop a few spots with a loss in the last game of the season.  Whichever team wins should raise them off the bubble and get them into the tournament.

Key Players:

  • UConn: Ryan Boatright (17.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, .435 FG percentage)
  • Temple: Quenton DeCosey (12.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, .365 FG percentage)



  • Joe Lunardi (ESPN): 12-seed in First Four play-in games, last four in
  • Jerry Palm (CBS): Not listed on most recent bracket iteration


  • Joe Lunardi (ESPN): Not listed on most recent bracket iteration
  • Jerry Palm (CBS): Not listed on most recent bracket iteration


Illinois at Purdue

4:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network

The Big Ten bubble showdown for the last week of regular season is the Fighting Illini and the Boilermakers.  It is a home game for Purdue at the Mackey Arena where it has won its last five games.  Purdue is hoping to win this game and split the season series with Illinois, which won earlier this year, 66-57.  This weekend will be a big shakedown for the Big Ten with four teams tied for fourth place and two teams tied for fifth … as all the teams aim for a better seed in the conference tournament.

Key Players:

  • Illinois: Rayvonte Rice (16.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, .477 FG percentage)
  • Purdue: A.J. Hammons (11.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, .530 FG percentage)



  • Joe Lunardi (ESPN): Next four out
  • Jerry Palm (CBS): 11-seed in West bracket, last four in


  • Joe Lunardi (ESPN): 11-seed in First Four play-in games, last four in
  • Jerry Palm (CBS): 11-seed in Midwest bracket

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