“Duke is Duke. They’re on TV more than ‘Leave it to Beaver’ reruns.”
That statement sounds more impactful, and a tinge funnier, when said with Pete Gillen’s distinctive accent.
It is less amusing and more ominous to those competing with the Blue Devils for an NCAA Tournament bid.
Duke is attempting to make its 25th consecutive NCAA Tournament, and there are many people out there who believe it’s an advantage for the Blue Devils, simply, to be Duke. Consciously, subconsciously, whatever — you see Duke on the team sheet as opposed to some team from a mid-major league, it’s going to be hard not to give an edge to the team that’s been there so often.
This is entirely new territory for the Devils, though, and for the committee. They have been to 35 NCAA Tournaments under Mike Krzyzewski, and they’ve never been lower than a No. 8 seed. That still might be in reach, but it would require an amazing finish. Most likely, if the Devils make it, it’ll be something in the double-digit range for the first time in the program’s history.
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Here’s what they and other bubble teams are up against tonight:
NCAA bubble games to watch Tuesday
Duke at Georgia Tech, 8 p.m., ACC Network. Both teams desperately need this one. The Devils (11-9, No. 59) are outside the projected consensus of approximately 100 brackets at BracketMatrix.com, and they’ve got two significant opportunities to change that with this game and Saturday’s trip to Chapel Hill to play the Tar Heels. Getting two chances at Quad 1 wins, for a team currently 1-3 in that department, is huge.
The Yellow Jackets (13-8, No. 40) burst into a lot of mock brackets with their success against Virginia Tech and Syracuse and are working to make the NCAAs for the first time under coach Josh Pastner, and beating the Blue Devils would put them in an excellent position.
Indiana at Michigan State, 8 p.m., BTN. The Hoosiers (12-12, No. 57 NET) are backed about as far into the corner as possible without falling through the wall. There have been indications that the committee will not, because of circumstances that developed from the pandemic, remain bound to norms in place for the first 35 years of expanded NCAA Tournaments. We know that no team ever has earned an at-large bid with a record worse than two games over .500, and only two got in at that mark. But it’s hard to imagine anyone making it as a losing team.
In its loss Sunday at Maryland, Michigan State (13-10, No. 77) squandered some of the goodwill it earned by beating Illinois and Ohio State in the space of a week. But the Spartans still have two games remaining against No. 1 seed candidate Michigan and the chance to knock off a fellow bubble team in IU. If they somehow could win two of those three, it would be hard to picture a scenario in which the Spartans failed to extend their consecutive NCAA Tournament streak to 23.
Xavier at Georgetown, 7 p.m, FS1. The problem for the Musketeers (13-5, No. 48) is having two remaining road games on the regular-season schedule that certainly are losable (Georgetown has beaten Creighton and Seton Hall, Marquette just won at North Carolina last week) that would do a meager amount for the resume if claimed as wins. They would both fall into Quad 2, though, and it would be helpful for Xavier, currently 6-5 against Quad 1 and 2 combined, to stay above .500 in that department.
Fresno State at Boise State, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network. Getting swept last weekend by San Diego State brushed the Broncos (17-6, No. 35) too close to the edge of the bracket. They are under .500 against Quad 1 and 2 combined, and nine of their victories are against Quad 4, which is a higher number than any bubble team that is not a true mid-major. A home win over No. 203 Fresno will do nothing for Boise, but Rutgers’ trip to Nebraska should have reminded everyone that such results are not guaranteed. The Mountain West Conference Tournament begins March 10.
Memphis at South Florida, 9 p.m., ESPNU. The Tigers (14-6, No. 60) put themselves well behind the field with a rough first month, and taking care of the Bulls is all about setting up a final-day showdown against American Athletic Conference power Houston that at least would give them an outside chance.