March Madness: NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams and Where They Stand
The annual NCAA basketball tournament is just around the corner.
But before we can tip off, there is still Selection Sunday, one of the most exciting and nerve-racking days in the sports world.
It's especially nerve-racking for teams that are not guaranteed a spot in the tournament per failing to win their conference tournament.
Let's see how some bubble teams stand as of now.
Record: 18-11 (8-10)
Best Wins: Michigan State
Bad Losses: None
Northwestern is a team that is really causing a large debate amongst "bracketologists."
Let's look at their body of work thus far. They won the games they should have won and lost the games they were expected to lose.
Throw in an upset of Michigan State on Jan. 14, and their resume looks slightly better. The big factor come selection time is their No. 8 strength of schedule.
The majority of their losses have come in conference, and the Big Ten is no slouch in basketball.
For now, barring a big loss in the Big Ten tourney or an unexpected conference title win elsewhere, I put the Wildcats in.
Record: 19-12 (9-9)
Best Wins: Kansas State, Iowa State
Bad Losses: Oregon State, Oklahoma State
Texas is another bubble team that is highly debated.
Unlike Northwestern, the Longhorns have some questionable losses (Oregon State and Oklahoma State). The biggest problem is that Texas does not have a great win that will "wow" the selection committee.
Sure, they beat two tourney teams in Kansas State and Iowa State, which were both conference games. Outside of those wins, their best win is probably UCLA (18-13).
Unless they have a great run in the Big 12 Tournament, the Longhorns are out of the NCAA tournament.
Record: 22-8 (13-5)
Best Wins: Kansas State, Iowa State
Bad Losses: Oregon State, Colorado
On paper, the Ducks have a good record, and you would expect them to easily be in the tournament, right?
Well, look a little deeper into that schedule and find the awful games they played.
Between a weak non-conference slate and the Pac-12 having another down year, Oregon's strength of schedule took a hit.
Now, they are fighting for their tournament lives in the Pac-12 Tournament. I am going to make a wild guess here. I believe Oregon should be able to win their quarterfinal game in the Pac-12 Tournament (Colorado-Utah winner).
That win, plus a good performance against Cal in the semifinals (and maybe a win), should put them in good shape. If they can somehow win the Pac-12 Tournament, then the bubble is no longer a concern.
I am not predicting that, so bubble-wise, I will put the Ducks in.
Record: 19-11 (8-10)
Best Wins: Georgetown, Connecticut
Bad Losses: DePaul, Rutgers
I really don't know what to think of the Pirates.
One game, they look great against No. 8 Georgetown (73-55 win), but the next two, they lose to Rutgers and get slaughtered by DePaul.
They had a weak non-conference schedule which helped them bolster the wins. Other than the in-conference wins against UConn and Georgetown, no other wins stand out.
I don't think the Pirates deserve to get in if you look at their whole body of work. Two quality wins should not solely put a team in the tournament. They will have to do some work in the Big East tourney.
I have the Pirates in the dance for now.
Record: 27-6 (16-2)
Best Wins: VCU, George Mason
Bad Losses: Norfolk State, Delaware
After losing to VCU in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament finals, the Dragons are now on the bubble.
The Dragons have a decent RPI of 67, but the 251st-ranked strength of schedule puts a dagger in them.
Sure, you can argue that they are a mid-major and wouldn't have played the quality opponents of a "Big Six"-conference team.
But the weak schedule, coupled with some ugly losses and a lack of any major wins, may have just knocked the Dragons out of the tourney.
Sorry, Drexel, but I think you are out.
Record: 18-13 (10-6)
Best Wins: Florida (twice), Connecticut
Bad Losses: Austin Peay, College of Charleston, Oakland
The Tennessee Volunteers have had an up-and-down season to say the least.
They have had highs such as beating Florida, UConn and posting a 10-6 record in conference.
But, they have also had lows such as losing to Austin Peay, College of Charleston and Oakland.
Their RPI is a mediocre 75, but their saving grace—and the only reason they are being talked about—is their best wins.
Sadly, I believe that the committee will look at the early-season woes and point those out as the reason Tennessee misses the tournament.
I have the Volunteers out of the tournament.
Record: 19-11 (10-6)
Best Wins: Vanderbilt, Dayton
Bad Losses: Oral Roberts, Hawaii
The Musketeers' year started out great.
They opened with a 7-0 record, and their wins included an upset of then-No. 7 Vanderbilt.
Then, that all came crashing down in the Cincinnati game.
A brawl between the two teams resulted in the suspension of top player Tu Holloway and sent Xavier spiraling down.
Sure, they beat the Bearcats, but they went on to lose five of their next six, including pitiful losses to Oral Roberts, Hawaii and La Salle.
Even when Holloway returned, they only posted a 10-6 record in the Atlantic 10, a conference they should have easily won.
The loss of Holloway showed this team has no depth. They will have to have a great run in the A-10 tournament to solidify any hopes of a bid.
For now, I have the Musketeers out.
Record: 20-11 (9-7)
Best Wins: Miami (Fla.) (twice), Texas
Bad Losses: Georgia Tech
NC State is a questionable team.
In my opinion, they shouldn't be considered for the tournament.
Yes, they played a great schedule (a credit to being in the ACC), but in that great slate, they haven't beaten anyone.
Beating Miami twice and Texas are NC State's best wins.
Most of their losses were against quality teams, but it's the wins where you make your statement, and the Wolfpack haven't made one.
They are out of my bracket.
Record: 18-11 (9-7)
Best Wins: Duke, Florida State
Bad Losses: Mississippi
Miami is another case of a team that has won most of the games it was supposed to (except Ole Miss), yet faced problems when pitted against the strength of its conference schedule.
When facing the ACC's best, Miami only could muster two quality wins.
That won't impress the committee; they want you to awe them with wins.
Miami just doesn't have the wins to get in the tournament. Plus, their out-of-conference record was nothing to brag about. The only games of note were losses against West Virginia and Memphis.
The Hurricanes are out.
Record: 24-7 (11-5)
Best Wins: Memphis, Colorado State
Bad Losses: Denver, UTEP
Last, but not least, we have the Golden Eagles of Southern Miss.
The Golden Eagles are considered a lock by most, but I do not agree with that.
I believe Southern Miss is squarely on the bubble.
First off, their schedule does not exactly blow you away.
Sure, they played Murray State early in the season, but they lost that game.
They also played Denver and lost to them as well.
Then, we switch to their conference schedule. Conference USA isn't necessarily a powerhouse.
Memphis is a perennial top team and Central Florida has had some solid years, but other than that, there are no great teams.
The Golden Eagles looked great early on in conference play, including a close loss to Memphis before beating the Tigers a couple of weeks later.
After that, though, the wheels started to fall off. Their mediocre record of 4-4 since beating Memphis featured losses to UAB, Houston, UTEP and Marshall.
Unless they are ousted in an unexpected upset during the C-USA tournament, the Golden Eagles should be in.