College Basketball Bubble Watch

Heading into a crucial bubble weekend, late-charging teams like Gonzaga make a move

By Eamonn Brennan
ESPN.com

Editor's note: This file has been updated to include all games through Thursday, Feb. 24. RPI numbers will be not updated until the next Bubble Watch.

We're not used to seeing Gonzaga fighting for its life this late in the season, but give it up for the Zags: They rose to the moment Thursday night.

Gonzaga's overtime victory at Saint Mary's was one of those instant classics borne of vicious rivalry, evenly matched teams and, in an unusual twist, desperation. Gonzaga, the WCC's dominant force for the past decade, usually isn't this desperate for a conference road win on Feb. 24. Usually the Zags take care of their at-large chances in nonconference play. Instead, thanks to disappointing performances in their typically -- and unnecessarily -- brutal nonconference schedule, Gonzaga found itself with a potential win-or-go-home proposition in Moraga on Thursday night.

Strangely enough, the same was true of its opponent. A week ago, Saint Mary's was a Top 25 team with a decent -- if not great -- at-large profile. Then the Gaels lost at San Diego. Then they fell to Utah State at home. All of a sudden, Saint Mary's couldn't afford to lose again. And on Thursday night, it did.

Such is life on the bubble, especially among the handful of teams still fighting for at-large bids in mid-major conferences. This season has a notable dearth of mid-majors with strong at-large résumés. George Mason and Old Dominion are the only teams outside the power six, Mountain West and Atlantic 10 that currently appear likely to receive at-large bids on Selection Sunday. In other words, if your favorite team is a mediocre high-major with a shaky résumé -- say, Minnesota, Michigan, Penn State, Colorado, Baylor, Nebraska or Alabama -- you can't ask for more favorable conditions than these.

Two quick notes before we get to the rundown:

First, our original rule still applies. We're being careful with the "locks" category, because we'd rather move teams up a line than have to move them down, and we definitely don't want to lose any locks. That's no fun. We're less cautious about losing -- and bringing back -- teams from the Watch, so if your favorite team isn't listed here this week, it doesn't mean it is done for good. Just that it has a heck of a lot of work to do to get into the picture. Make sense? Good.

Second, we appreciate your comments as always. We read them all. That said, if you'd like to make a case for or against a certain team, your suggestions are always going to be better received if they're accompanied by a civil, rational argument, rather than a "YOU SUCK, BRENNAN" diatribe. Not that diatribes aren't fun. But you do catch more flies with honey, is all. If you'd like to contact me specifically, hit me up on Facebook, Twitter or e-mail.