March Madness bubble watch: Michigan State, Memphis hope a rough week in pursuit of NCAA bids ends kindly

March Madness bubble watch: Michigan State, Memphis hope a rough week in pursuit of NCAA bids ends kindly

If you’ve watched the teams that have populated the NCAA Tournament bubble watch since we began it a week ago, or even if you’ve simply checked scores because you were too squeamish to stomach the carnage, you know it has been something like one of those “Saw” movies they made 15 years ago.

Stanford got drubbed by USC. Michigan State was wrecked by Michigan. Boise State took a loss against sub-.500 Fresno State. Xavier fell twice on the Big East road.

So we mercifully will bring the regular-season bubble conversation to an end today.

And we will pick up the conference tournament bubble conversation in the days to come, hoping it will be less ghastly for the teams involved.

MORE: March Madness bracket tracker — Updated list of automatic bids

Sunday’s bubble games:

Memphis at Houston

When: 12 p.m. ET, CBS.

The Tigers (15-6, No. 55 NET) took a long while to figure out how to win basketball games, and during that time they lost most of the biggest ones they played: against VCU, Western Kentucky and even Auburn, at SMU. They have won six in a row against mostly inconsequential opponents. All of their opponents in that stretch were rated 100 or above. So beating the Cougars would not change everything for the Tigers. They’d still be 1-2 against Quad 1 and 4-5 against the first two quadrants combined. But it would keep them relevant as so many other bubble teams struggle.

Campbell vs. Winthrop

When: 12 p.m., ESPN.

If Winthrop were to lose the Big South Conference title game to a 17-9 Campbell team, it would finish the regular season with a 22-2 record and something in the neighborhood of a top-65 NET ranking. It would seem the committee would at least have to have a long conversation about how to grade a low-major team during a season in which non-conference competition was so difficult to arrange. If they were to have the same conversation about Belmont, it might easily be dismissed by the Bruins lopsided losses when faced with tough competition from Western Kentucky and Morehead State in the final weeks. So Winthrop’s options might be these: Win the automatic bid and enjoy the next seven days; lose close and at least hope to have a chance; get blown out and join Belmont in wishing this season had gone differently.

Drake vs. Loyola

When: 2:10 p.m., CBS.

If Drake (25-3, No. 42) were to lose the Missouri Valley Conference title game, it would finish 6-2 against the top two quadrants and with an .862 winning percentage. There’s no way on Earth that is not an NCAA Tournament resume. One would hope the committee, if faced with that discussion, agrees.

Michigan at Michigan State

When: 4:30 p.m., CBS.

When the redesigned final weeks of the Big Ten schedule were released and the Spartans (14-11, No. 73) were facing two games in four days against rival UM, that seemed like a good thing. Of course, that was before they put together back-to-back wins over No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed contenders Illinois and Ohio State. Suddenly a couple of games against mid-level Big Ten teams seemed more attractive. But this is where Michigan State stands: If they beat one of the nation’s best teams, it’ll be difficult to keep them out of the field. If they lose, they are in the mix with a lot of bubble teams that don’t own two high-end Quad-1 wins — but that also don’t have 14-12 records.