Wednesday, March 5, 2014

College Basketball Bubble Watch

With just days left before the end of the season, we will look at several College Basketball teams who are on the bubble in terms of making it into the NCAA tournament.  These teams will mainly be teams that may not be in the big dance yet, but with a good end to the season and a solid performance in their conference tournament, they could be primed to hear their name on Selection Sunday.

Looks Like We Made It
These teams may have been forced to deal with the bubble for much of the year, but chances are, bar a dismal conference tournament performance, they will be seeing themselves on March Madness brackets.

St. Joseph's - The Hawk's success in the Atlantic 10 is undeniable, as their in-conference record of 11 and 3 is only worse than Saint Louis.  With wins over VCU and Dayton, as well as a reasonably difficult out-of-conference schedule where they had quality losses to Creighton, LSU, Temple, and Villanova, St. Joseph's should make the tourney despite being on the bubble for much of the season.

Oklahoma State - Early in the season they looked a lock for a high tournament seed, but after seven game loosing streak, Oklahoma State's tourney chances looked bleak.  With Marcus Smart back, though, the Cowboys have won four straight convincing games over solid teams, including victories over Kansas and Kansas State.  Regardless of whether they win their final game against Iowa State, Oklahoma State now seem a lock to be a member of March Madness.

Pittsburgh - The final half to the year has been terrible for Pitt after starting off winning 16 of their first 17.  Though they will be disappointed that they did not finish the season on a very high note, all of their losses have been against very respectable teams, and their solid overall record of 22 and 8 should be enough to carry them into the tournament.

Baylor - Baylor were sitting right in the middle of the bubble until their upset win over Iowa State on Tuesday night.  With a passable conference record (in the most competitive conference in college basketball this year) and a good overall record, as well as several great wins against ranked opponents, Baylor have finally jumped off of the bubble and into the tourney.

Xavier - Nobody would have penciled Xavier firmly into the tournament a week ago, but a win against Creighton will have provided a tremendous boost to their resume, even if they followed it up with a loss to Seton Hal.  After all, the selection committee has to select more than just two teams from the Big East, right?  Right?  RIGHT?!?!

Kansas State - K-State has some bad losses, like really bad losses (North Colorado and Charlotte), but they also four wins against ranked opponents. Despite just losing to Oklahoma State, the game beforehand they had upset Iowa State, which essentially made certain they would be in the tournament. Their final game against Baylor could be an interesting game in terms of tournament seeding, but both teams should be in regardless.

Arizona State - The Sun Devils have not dominated their in-conference opponents, but a 10 and 7 conference record should be enough to send them to the tournament.  It doesn't hurt them that the Pac-12 is regarded as a fairly good conference this year.  Oh yeah, a double-overtime win against Arizona can't hurt either.

Colorado - Chances are, the selection committee won't accept more than seven teams from the Pac-12 into the tournament, and with Arizona, UCLA, and Arizona State taking up three of those spots, there are five teams fighting for the last four spots.  What separates Colorado from these five are their supreme overall record of 20-9 as well as a huge early-season win against Kansas.

Arkansas - Behind Florida and Kentucky, Arkansas have now absolutely solidified themselves as the third best team in the SEC, a spot which will surely guarantee them a spot in the tournament.  Not only do they have a great overall record of 20 and 9 but they also swept the season series against Kentucky.

Gonzaga - Gonzaga will be disappointed that they were not able to capitalize on several opportunities to beat bigger programs like Kansas State and Memphis outside of the West Coast Conference, but ultimately they finished with a fantastic overall record of 25 and 6 as well as an in-conference record of 15 and 3.  Sitting at first place in the WCC, nobody can deny that despite their lack of big wins the bulldogs deserve to be around for March Madness.

Still on the Bubble
These teams, despite their best efforts, have still not guaranteed a birth in the NCAA tournament.  Some teams on this list will find that all they have to do is win their last one (or two) game to ensure that they are in the tourney, while others will need to couple that with a significant run in the conference tournament.  Realistically, a group of these teams will probably live to see March Madness, but another portion will probably find themselves playing in the NIT.  It is more than likely that all of these teams will be sweating it out on Selection Sunday.

George Washington - Wins against St. Joseph's and Fordham in the final two games of the season would likely be enough to see GW enter the NCAA tournament.  A lack of quality wins could cause voters to hesitate but I think it's unlikely that they would be left out if they win out.

Dayton - They are perhaps a more qualified to enter the tourney out of the Atlantic 10 than George Washington and Richmond, but their record still is beneath GW's.  Maybe a win against Saint Louis would be enough for voters to forget the records and go with the resumes.

Richmond - There is no doubt that Richmond would need a lot to happen to be accepted into the tournament out of the Atlantic 10 with a fairly mediocre record, but if they upset both VCU and Dayton in their final two games and then make a splash in the A10 tournament, we could be hearing their name come March Madness.

Florida State - FSU are really on the brink of the NCAA tournament right now, but a win in their final game against Syracuse would surely push them through.  If they don't win, they would likely need a successful conference tournament run to make it to the big dance.

Clemson - A win against Pitt on March 8th is just the start of what Clemson need to do to get in the tournament.  Right now they have just one win against a top-25 opponent (Duke in January), so they will need a remarkable performance in the ACC tournament to get to the NCAA tournament.

West Virginia - The mountaineers are long shots at this point, but if they win their last two games against Oklahoma and Kansas, they could make a very serious case for being in the NCAA tournament.  Of course, they would have to have a good conference tournament as well.

Providence - A win against Creighton on March 8th and Providence is in the tournament, no questions asked.  The problem is, beating Creighton on the road is not an easy feat in the least.  If it helps, the Friar's already have one win against the Bluejays.

St. Johns - Even if they win their final game against Marquette, St. Johns will need to make a long run in the Big East tournament if they want to get to the big dance.  Their resume just isn't that impressive.

Georgetown - Georgetown has the worst record of any Big East team that has a chance to get into the tournament, so they definitely need to beat Villanova on March 8th to stay in contention. They probably will also need a big conference tournament performance, not to mention that they will need Providence and St. Johns to have poor Big East tournaments.

Minnesota - Minnesota are in a tough position.  They have some solid wins against ranked opponents but they also have a fairly bad record.  Thus, they will need to crush Penn State in their final game and at least win one or two games in the Big Ten tournament if they want to get to the big tournament.

Nebraska - Nebraska are definitely in better shape than Minnesota, because, despite the fact that they have a worse resume right now, they have the opportunity to play against ninth ranked Wisconsin on Saturday.  If they win that game, there is no doubt in my mind that they will jump Minnesota in the eyes of the selection committee.

Indiana - Though their chances look bleak, if they win against Michigan on March 8th and can make a run in the conference tournament, they may just sneak into the chaos that is March Madness.

Oregon - The reality is, Oregon could lose their final game to Arizona and still make the tournament with a decent run in the Pac-12 Tourney.  Their overall record is just so much better than the others teams vying for the same spot.

Stanford - Wins against two other bubble teams, Colorado and Utah, would be huge for Stanford down the stretch.  If they only manage to win one of the two, though, they still have a fairly good chance at being selected for the NCAA tournament.

California - Cal hasn't played great recently but a win against Arizona will make their resume stand out among the crowd.  Games against Utah and Colorado are not must wins, but California probably need to take at least one of the two.

Utah - If Selection Sunday were today, Utah would not be in the NCAA tournament, but with games against Cal and Stanford, two other bubble teams, coming up, they could be challenging for a spot come Pac-12 tourney time.

Missouri - Whether Missouri will make the tournament is almost entirely dependent on if they can beat Tennessee on March 8th.  Tennessee is the only other true bubble team coming out of the SEC, so that game will likely decide the fate of both teams.

Tennessee - See above... The game against Missouri on Saturday will ultimately decide which of the two teams enters the NCAA tournament and which is relegated to the NIT.  They both have nearly identical resumes up until now, so voters will likely see that game as a good indicator of which team deserves the spot more.

LSU - LSU have a very slim chance of getting to March Madness this year.  They need to win out against Vanderbilt and Georgia, and then have a long run in the SEC tournament.  Even then, I'm not sure they really have a shot at making the tourney.

BYU - Though they actually have more quality wins than Gonzaga does, the latter still edged them out for the title of the West Coast Conference.  If BYU make it to the semifinals or finals of the WCC tournament, they will likely be hearing their name called on Selection Sunday.

Southern Miss - Only one team is going to get out of the Conference USA, and it's either going to be Southern Miss or Louisiana Tech.  Because they both have very similar resumes, who gets the call is going to come doing to who advances further in the conference tournament.

Louisiana Tech - In the same exact scenario as Southern Miss, the reality is that whichever team can outlast the other in the Conference USA tournament will earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Green Bay - They won the Horizon conference regular season title, but that might not be enough for them, as the Horizon is by no means a good conference.  Though they do have on enormous win against UVA, it would be nice for their sake to win the conference tournament just to make sure that they don't get screwed over by the selection committee.

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