In just a few days, college basketball fans will celebrate the sport's biggest day: Selection Sunday. As soon as the bracket unveiling ends, the speculation will begin over who will be this year's Cinderella.
Arkansas is in the Southeastern Conference. Cal is in the Pac-12. They both got ousted from their conference tournaments, and whatever slim chances they have of making it into the March Madness bracket now has as much to do with other conferences as the ones in which they reside.
To put it simply, after their losses Thursday, they cannot afford to see any surprises in any other conferences. Any team that receives an automatic bid by unexpectedly capturing a conference crown takes away an at-large spot that could go to a bubble team.
Of course, with their losses, Arkansas and Cal are barely on the bubble anymore.
That said, here is a Pick Six of tandems whose fates have something in common:
PROVIDENCE AND ST. JOHN'S: In what might as well have been an NCAA play-in game, the Friars defeated St. John's 79-74 in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament Thursday. Both these teams were on the bubble heading in. Providence now looks good. St. John's does not.
VILLANOVA AND WISCONSIN: Jay Wright's team is still on some '1' lines, even after the 64-63 loss to Seton Hall. Wisconsin is still playing in the Big Ten, while Michigan and Kansas — yes, eight-loss Kansas — are still winning, too. By the end of the weekend, Wisconsin, or one of those others, will probably be a '1' and 'Nova will move down.Perhaps you’ve already seen what happened in this one, but let’s watch it again because finishes like this are kind of what we’re all here for.
Big-picture implications aside, the game was simply a thrill to watch, with seven lead changes and three ties in the final five minutes. Villanova freshman reserve Josh Hart, who bettered his season average by 11 points with 18 in the game, put the Wildcats up two on a layup in transition with 41 seconds to play, only for Gibbs to find Jaren Sina, another first-year player, for a corner three to put Seton Hall back ahead. On the other end it was Darrun Hilliard — whose 11 points all came after halftime — who answered by rolling a floater off the iron with 7.8 seconds left, giving Villanova the 63-62 advantage it would lose on Gibbs’s game-winner.
ARKANSAS AND CAL: Either could've solidified their status with a win or two in their conference tournaments. Instead, both lost tight games in their openers. Now, their hopes rest on everything falling right in action around the country over the weekend — and on the committee having good memories: Arkansas beat Kentucky on Feb. 27 and Cal beat Arizona on Feb. 1.
CLEMSON AND IOWA: OK, you won't see either of these teams on many bubble watches. Twenty-four hours can make a big difference, though. Clemson would play its way onto the bubble with a win over Duke on Friday. The Tigers beat Georgia Tech on Thursday for their 20th victory. Iowa, meanwhile, shouldn't have much to worry about with 20 wins of its own. But with their 67-62 loss to Northwestern on Thursday, the Hawkeyes have dropped six of seven. Big Ten or no, this is the sort of late-season slump that can hurt a team.
MISSOURI AND FLORIDA STATE: Missouri beat Texas A&M in double overtime. Florida State got the winning dunk against Maryland with 0.4 seconds left. It doesn't seem as if those wins alone will be enough to put either team in the bracket. But the exciting finishes could be something to build on. If the Tigers can put on a good show against No. 1 Florida or Florida State can compete against No. 6 Virginia, some heads could turn.
SOUTHERN MISS AND SETON HALL: These are the nightmare teams for those sitting precariously on the bubble. They are both very much alive in their respective conference tournaments. Southern Miss finished the regular season in a four-way tie for first in Conference USA, but is a precarious bubble team itself sans the conference tournament title. Seton Hall is 17-16 — but only two wins away from crashing the party after an upset over Villanova.