Teams around the country who are currently on Bubble Watch for the 2014 NCAA Tournament let out a depressing sign Friday afternoon as a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Jordan Gathers of St. Bonaventure knocked the top-seeded Saint Louis Billikens out of the Atlantic-10 Tournament 71-68. The Billikens, who fell to 26-6 on the season, are definitely getting an NCAA Tournament berth, so depending on which teams end up winning the A-10 Tournament, the conference could end up sneaking one more team into March Madness than anyone expected, hurting all the teams currently on Bubble Watch. Matthew Wright and Charlon Kloof each led the Bonnies with 22 points.
St. Bonaventure would definitely qualify as a team that would steal a bid. The Bonnies have a respectable overall record now of 18-14, but went 6-10 in the A-10 and weren’t on anyone’s radar in terms of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. St. Bonaventure finished ninth (of 13) in the conference regular season and entered Friday with an RPI of 95. The Bonnies will play either St. Joseph’s or Dayton in the semifinals and are two wins away from stealing an NCAA Tournament bid in epic fashion.
Saint Louis is the first team from the A-10 that was either a lock for the NCAA Tournament or was on Bubble Watch to be eliminated. The conference started its tournament with six teams who would at least gather consideration, with the St. Joseph’s-Dayton quarterfinal perhaps serving as an elimination game not only for the conference tournament, but for Bubble Watch, as well. No. 7 seed Richmond, which will play local rival VCU in a quarterfinal later Friday, is the only other remaining A-10 team with a profile similar to St. Bonaventure that could steal the conference’s bid.
The team perhaps hit the hardest by the A-10 adding a bid could be the Florida State Seminoles, who were eliminated in the ACC quarterfinals on Friday by Virginia. The Seminoles now finish at 19-13 (9-9 in the ACC), and a team like St. Bonaventure or Richmond stealing a bid would be the final blow to Florida State’s hopes, if Friday’s loss didn’t knock the team out of Bubble Watch for good.
Losing may be a blessing in disguise for Saint Louis, who now have at least six days to prepare and rest for the NCAA Tournament where the Billikens will probably be a No. 5 or 6 seed. Standout point guard and leading scorer Jordair Jett has been battling a nagging knee ailment, and he scored just nine points Friday on 4-for-11 shooting, though he did add six rebounds and eight assists. Saint Louis needs Jett at 100 percent to advance to the second weekend of March Madness. Saint Louis is the second top-seeded team to fall on a buzzer-beater in as many days. Villanova was knocked out of the Big East Tournament at the horn by Seton Hall Thursday.
That’s of no concern to St. Bonaventure, of course, who are two wins away now from dealing all the teams currently on Bubble Watch a very cruel blow.