The Big Ten’s bubble teams are officially in wait-and-see mode after Friday’s quarterfinals while one Conference USA bubbler moved past another:
Illinois: The Illini needed at the very least a win over Michigan on Friday (and then probably a win against Ohio State on Saturday) to get anywhere near the bubble conversation. The Illini gave it a real run, but Michigan held on down the stretch to win 64-63. And with that, the Illini's sudden long-shot hopes vanished just as quickly.
Nebraska: In the second game of the afternoon session, Nebraska gave one away against Ohio State. The Cornhuskers led by 18 at one point in the second half. They were better than Ohio State for all but the first five and final 10 minutes of the game. Where do the Cornhuskers stand? That answer could be affected slightly by the egg Minnesota laid against Wisconsin on Friday night. Both teams will spend the rest of the weekend uncertain of where -- or whether -- they'll end up in the bracket come Sunday.
Minnesota: On the one hand, losing to Wisconsin on a neutral court is not a bad thing. Wisconsin is really good and the Badgers will likely beat plenty of good teams on neutral courts in the next three weeks. But losing the way Minnesota lost on Friday night, in a game it desperately needed, is hardly the kind of final impression you want to leave with the committee. The Gophers got trucked by 26 in Indianapolis, a loss that made them 20-13 overall. Minnesota finished 8-10 in the Big Ten in the regular season and just 2-7 against the RPI top 50, with those only two wins (Ohio State, Wisconsin) coming on their own floor. The lone redeeming data point here is the Gophers' schedule, which is top-10 overall and includes a top-30 nonconference mark. That has kept Minnesota clinging to the cut line for weeks. The committee typically prefers to reward teams with good schedules, but Friday's letdown might override that preference after all.
Other at-large contenders
Southern Miss: Opinions have differed on Southern Miss-as-at-large for weeks now. Some thought the Golden Eagles were worthy. Some thought they needed the auto bid to have any chance. As debates go, that's a pretty mild one, but it was a matter of some confusion. Consensus should be easier to reach now. The Golden Eagles were thoroughly mediocre in their 88-70 C-USA semifinal loss to Louisiana Tech, giving up 1.30 points per possession and looking athletically outmatched in just about every regard. La. Tech should go ahead and win the C-USA tournament just to be safe. But if the committee does reach for a C-USA at-large, it won't be Southern Miss.
Louisiana Tech: As we wrote said, the chances for La. Tech to earn an at-large bid are probably small. The Bulldogs were small for Southern Miss, too. But if the committee is going to take one or the other, we know who that one will be. Besides, pending the rest of the weekend, perhaps the committee will feel better about taking a team whose best win came at Oklahoma as opposed to North Dakota State. And Southern Miss's top-30-ish RPI is a decent top-50 win addition for the Bulldogs, too. We'll see.
Check out full details on teams on the bubble here.