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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 12:00 AM


We’ve hit mid-February and you know what that means …
It’s officially time to examine College Basketball’s “bubble teams” when it comes to this year’s NCAA Tournament and in today’s Jim Sez column we’ll strictly concentrate on those on-the-fence squads from the nation’s power conferences, so here goes:

MIAMI (15-8, 5-5 ACC) — No doubt the U of M Hurricanes are an interesting bunch when it comes to the $64,000 question as to whether they’re “in” or “out”.

After all, Jim Larranaga’s crew — a middle-of-the-pack squad in the 15-team ACC — does own a monstrous 90-74 win at Duke back on January 13th and among the team’s other key wins this 2014-15 season are non-league victories against Florida (in Gainesville) and Illinois.
Gotta believe that Miami must do no worse than go 4-4 the rest of the way in regular-season play and then win at least one mini-tourney game next month — that would get ‘em to the 20-win mark -- but consider this club has an RPI of 55 (not great) and has “bad losses” versus Georgia Tech and Eastern Kentucky and you see the ‘Canes have their work cut out for them.
Heck, they’re “on the bubble” about as much as any team in the land!

LSU (17-7, 6-5 SEC) — Okay, so the Bayou Bengals sure-as-heck passed the proverbial “eyeball test” in Tuesday’s close-but-no-cigar 71-69 loss-but-cover against 9 ½-point fav Kentucky as LSU shot nearly 58 percent (that’s 28-of-59) against the country’s best defensive squad but coming up short means LSU’s gonna have to win five more games the rest of the way.

Note LSU has an RPI of 51 and — other hoop experts may tend to differ — but when you’re a power conference team that’s on the fence then you probably feel a whole lot safer with an RPI of 40 or better.

The Tigers do own impressive conference road wins against Ole Miss and Florida but when you categorize “bad losses” then a home loss to Auburn on February 5th and a road loss at lowly Missouri in early January sure hurts the LSU cause.

This backcourt is snazzy led by ace perimeter shooter Keith Hornsby (12.7 ppg) but in order to secure an at-large bid to this year’s “Big Dance” we say LSU must do no worse than split its upcoming games against Tennessee and must bang out a road win either at Auburn or Texas A&M or Arkansas just to improve that aforementioned so-so RPI.

UCLA (14-10, 6-5 Pac-12) — Say what you will about this here-and-now Bruins bunch but Steve Alford’s crew has a 46 RPI (better than Miami and LSU named above) and the recent three-game winning streak snapped last weekend with a two-point loss at California did feature wins at Stanford and versus #11 Utah … not bad!

The Uclans, in fact, own a pair of wins against Stanford and could further build up their resume with upcoming games against Oregon on Valentine’s Day and then road games at Arizona and Arizona State.

If the Bruins could win two of these three tilts plus “handle their business” then we could see UCLA with either 19 or 20 wins while heading into the Pac-12 Tournament next month and that would be good enough for an NCAA Tourney berth … agree?
Anything less and our crystal ball says the Bruins would have to win a couple of games in the Pac-12 mini-tourney but the bottom line is the Westwood gang’s very much in the “bubble” conversation even if you hear nay-sayers proclaiming their 10 losses kayos ‘em from the chase … believe us, it doesn’t!

ILLINOIS (16-8, 6-5 Big 10) — Is it us or does the Fighting Illini seem to be on our “bubble watch” each and every February?
The good news for this Illinois team is that right now it sports a winning record inside Big 10 play and has an RPI closer to 40 (it’s at 48) than a couple of other bubble teams named above. Also, John Groce’s club enters Thursday’s home tilt against Michigan riding a three-game winning streak (versus Penn State, Rutgers and at 9 ½-point fav Michigan State) and that late-season momentum is also a plus for the bubble teams out there.
The down side is Illinois has three tough road games ahead — at Wisconsin, Iowa and Purdue — and a return match with the M-State Spartans ain’t gonna be a party even if the game’s in Champaign.

Maybe the biggest problem for the Illini should they remain a “bubble team” to the very end is a cupcake non-league that includes so-what/who-cares wins against the likes of Coppin State, Austin Peay, Brown and American.
P.S., Illinois needs at least one more “name win” to go with 22 or 23 overall wins to feel better about things.

XAVIER (16-9, 7-6 Big East) — Now here’s a really juicy team to examine when it comes to being “bubblelicious”:
The X-men have an RPI of 34 — better than Miami and LSU and UCLA and Illinois — but they also could easily enter next month’s Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden with as many as 12 or 13 losses and so right away you want to know if that’s too many to make it to the NCAAs.

Not necessarily, it’s not.
True, the Musketeers sported five- and three-game winning streaks earlier in this 2014-15 season but simply have not been able to get on a real roll ever since although Xavier does head into Saturday’s home game versus St. John’s having won back-to-back tilts against Providence and Marquette.

No doubt the NCAA Tournament Committee folks would love to see if Xavier can get revved up with a late-year winning streak but a better-than-.500 record in league play and an RPI that’s better than all the bubble teams listed here probably gets this crew into the mix.
How — then — do they blow it?

If Xavier finishes .500 or worst and loses a first-round game in the Big East Tourney, then they’re “curtains” but until then the ‘Teers remain a bubble bunch just like all the others listed here.

A reminder …
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will keep on piling up the profits all this week/month with lots of NBA and NCAA Basketball winners right here online at or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 — so go ahead and win with all the hardwood action today!

We’re heading into the All-Star Game break following Thursday night’s Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls clash on TNT, so let’s feed you more NBA Pointspread Notes …
The Atlanta Hawks have covered 37 of their last 51 games following an 0-2 ATS (against the spread) start …

The Cleveland Cavaliers are 24-29 ATS this year but they have covered eight of their last nine home tilts …

The Houston Rockets have notched spread wins in seven of their last nine road games …

The Milwaukee Bucks are 34-18 versus the vig this year and that includes seven covers in their last 10 games …

The New Orleans Pelicans are a solid 30-22 ATS this season …

The New York Knicks are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 overall games …

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s failed to cover seven of its last 10 games …

The Portland Trail Blazers have failed to cover 10 of their last 14 overall games …

The San Antonio Spurs — believe it or not — are 22-28-2 versus the vig overall this year and that includes a 1-7-1 ATS log in their last nine games …
The Toronto Raptors are 3-7 spreadwise in their last 10 home games …

The Utah Jazz — surprise, surprise — are 28-24 vig-wise this season and that includes a snazzy 12-5 ATS mark in the team’s last 17 away games.

Note: Don’t miss out on our next two Jim Sez columns as we’ll be bringing you the NBA Eastern and Western Conference team-by-team grades plus there’s plenty of college hoops notes/news/previews too!


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