Conference tournament action begins Tuesday in the Big South and Horizon League. As for some bubble-relevant games …
* Baylor at Oklahoma State, 7. In a lean year for the at-large pool, both the Bears and the Pokes (more likely the Pokes) could wind up with a decent resume if they can finish strong. Loser heads to the “better win the conference tournament” bin, though Baylor does get reeling Texas this weekend.
* Illinois at Purdue, 7. Despite what you might have heard during the Purdue-Michigan State broadcast on Sunday, Illinois is not a bubble team. Not this year. The Illini aren’t great, but are also in no immediate danger of missing the 68-team field.
* Alabama at Florida, 7. So noted since there’s a misperception Alabama is a credible at-large team. Not with a losing record against the top 200 (8-9). Not with the No. 279 nonconference schedule strength. Not with more triple-digit losses (five) than top-100 wins (four). Florida, the SEC pace-setter, can end any hand-wringing from Crimson Tide fans tonight.
* Missouri at Nebraska, 8. The Tigers seem intent on helping every borderline decent Big 12 team, so why not the Cornhuskers. Mizzou has road losses to Colorado, Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma State, Kansas and Kansas State. But hey, the Tigers beat Iowa State —- which just happened to topple Nebraska. The Huskers’ long-shot hopes are on life support at best (that Texas win gets less valuable by the day), and a loss here puts them to rest.
* Boston College at Virginia Tech, 9. Can the Hokies handle prosperity after toppling Duke? The Eagles, who really need to distinguish themselves in the next couple weeks, certainly hope not. Virginia Tech probably won’t be on the wrong side of the bubble for a change if it splits the next two and doesn’t suffer a bizarre ACC tournament loss —- or just wins the next two.
* Ohio State at Penn State, 9. Listed mainly because Penn State’s RPI remains reputable. In reality, the Nittany Lions are a dubious road team (2-8) that happens to be one of the nation’s smartest schedulers this year. Good on them —- but they’re probably heading to the NIT, anyway. Beating the Buckeyes, though, would offer a sliver of hope as March begins.
—- Patrick Stevens