NCAA Tournament 2013: Breaking Down the Bubble Teams and Who's Going Dancing
The Big Dance is 33 days away, but not everyone is ready for it. The Bubble Teams (and even the Top 10) are constantly shifting between being dressed up and ready to go and being glued to the makeup chair with a bare face. Is anyone really certain for the NCAA Tournament?
Surprisingly, some are looking to be on a consistent path to the Big Dance. Of course, all that could change within one week.
Still, here I break down ten teams on the bubble and decide who's going dancing and who will be left at home.
University of Virginia Cavaliers
Interestingly enough, the University of Virginia is in a position to go dancing. The Cavaliers are currently 18-6 and 8-3 in ACC play. They have some wins under their belt worthy of an at-large berth.
What will determine Virginia's chance at a Tournament bid will be how they finish the season. Their RPI is dangerously low, and the Cavaliers have two huge games that they must win to set their berth in stone.
Games against Duke and Miami are looming ahead, and only one game stands between the two.
If the Cavaliers want a guaranteed spot in the Big Dance, both wins are a necessity.
One win, and their chances are still pretty high.
Two losses, and it will be out of their hands. The Cavaliers would have to win out the rest of their season, and remain in the top three of the ACC.
Judging from their recent play, two out of the three are possible.They have won 7 of their last 8, and aside from Duke and Miami, the Cavaliers have beaten the remaining teams once already.
The Big 12 has some strong competition this season, and Oklahoma has felt its effects. At 16-7 and 7-4 in conference play, The Sooners are slowly drifting to the tournament, and it appears the road from here won't be difficult.
The Sooners will have to face No. 17 Oklahoma State for the second time, and you have to assume that they aren't that worried. Of course, the victory against the Cowboys came when both teams weren't ranked.
Times are different. The Sooners may find themselves facing a different team. A win here would be huge for their Big 12 standing, which in turn would help their case for an at-large berth.
However, even if they lose, the Sooners are almost guaranteed to finish the season with wins. The problem begins when the stronger teams in the Big 12 also emerge victorious. Oklahoma won't be waltzing with the best of them so easily.
And considering their schedule is not the hardest, Oklahoma's bid will be a toss up. In that case, their RPI could play a factor and push them over the edge.
Iowa State Cyclones
The Cyclones are in a similar state; they are competing for a near-the-top spot in the Big 12. While their schedule is on the weak side, Iowa State has taken on ranked opponents. One of the key wins of their season came against Kansas State, who was No. 11 at the time.
Currently at 16-7 and 6-4 in the Big 12, the Cyclones need to win out their season. Five of their seven losses have been to ranked opponents, which can favor them during the selection process.
They will face No. 14 Kansas and No. 17 Oklahoma State, both of whom they've already played. The games were close, but the Cyclones couldn't finish.
They'll have to finish these.
If they can beat at least one of these teams and finish the season strong, Iowa State will go dancing. They will obtain a better placement in the Big 12, and their .599 RPI and a big win against the Sooners could give them an edge.
Ole Miss Rebels
The SEC is not as strong as it could be, but Ole Miss has emerged as a team placing their bets for a dance. 18-6 and 6-4 in the SEC, the Rebels control their own destiny.
Ole Miss' schedule will consist of SEC-only play until the regular season ends. In a way, this might hurt them because their schedule isn't very strong.
The SEC Tournament will be their final bid.
The Kentucky Wildcats are down this season, and if Ole Miss gets to the SEC tournament, they have a good shot of winning it.
If they can win out the rest of their season (which is possible considering the standings of the SEC) and advance far into the SEC tournament, the Rebels will get to put on a glass slipper.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Call it déjá vu, but the Minnesota Golden Gophers are in familiar territory at this point of the season. They're 17-7, riding that fine line of a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.
Last season they went on a downward slope, losing to several ranked teams. It ended with a trip to the NIT Tournament.
This season won't be easy either.
Minnesota plays in one of the toughest conferences in college basketball, and the latter half of their season shows it. They will take on No. 1 Indiana, No. 20 Wisconsin, and No. 13 Ohio State.
Getting to that Big Dance will require some big wins. They've already had losses to Indiana and Wisconsin—Indiana was No. 5 at the time and Wisconsin was not ranked.
The chances are looking slim for Minnesota.
If the Golden Gophers want to make their dreams a reality, they must win the games against their ranked opponents, or make sure to win the rest of their games. If not, the Gophers will be looking at another season ending in the NIT.
The Cincinnati Bearcats are smack-dab in the middle of the Big East standings. 19-6 overall and 7-5 in conference play, the Bearcats are on the path for a chance at the Big Dance.
What stands in their way, however, are three ranked teams seated comfortably towards the top of the Big East. The Bearcats first have some hills to climb.
They have already suffered a loss to then No. 17 Notre Dame, but the margin of victory wasn't very high. Now, the Fighting Irish are No. 21, and the Bearcats have a lot to lose.
What will be interesting for Cincinnati will be their games against No. 15 Georgetown and No. 12 Louisville, whom they have yet to face this season. Last season the Bearcats beat both of them. It can certainly happen again.
The strength of their schedule, which is pretty fair, may favor the Bearcats' chance for an at-large bid. They'll need to move up in the Big East—victories against Connecticut will be crucial to that shift.
I predict Cincinnati will be dancing come March.
North Carolina State Wolfpack
The Wolfpack's impressive win against then No. 1 Duke started the conversation of a team worth watching. Since then, talk has quieted.
Still, NC State has the opportunity to return to the NCAA Tournament and shake things up a bit.
The remainder of their schedule should be a cake-walk, as none of their opponents are ranked (however, this season, ranking seems to be irrelevant). Their RPI is good; their strength of their schedule is fair.
What is going to stop this team from advancing?
From the looks of it, not much. Unless NC State embarks on a downward spiral, they should have no problem being selected.
Their conference isn't very strong and the chance for a championship may not be unattainable. In that case, the only teams standing in their way are Duke and Miami.
The Wolfpack will go dancing. From there, their dance may be short-lived.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois' win against No. 1 Indiana sent shock waves through all college basketball fans (or not, considering the season so far).
The Fighting Illini are currently 18-8 and 5-7 in the Big Ten. They're in a much better position than last season.
Illinois has quite a few remarkable wins under its belt, and this could be paramount for an at-large bid. Their schedule has been pretty difficult so far, but the last few games should be easier.
The latter half of their season should aid them in the selection process. Last season's final stretch was a lot more difficult, in which they only won one out of their final ten games.
Don't expect that to happen this season. With an average RPI and a tough schedule in their favor, the Fighting Illini will fight all the way to the NCAA Tournament.
The Colorado Buffaloes are on bubble watch.
Just let that sink in.
At 16-7 overall and 6-5 in the Pac-12, the Buffaloes are in the prime position for a bid. Unlike last season, the rest of their schedule will be more difficult. They will have to take on No. 9 Arizona and No. 23 Oregon.
Nonetheless, they've already beaten the Ducks once this season and took Arizona into overtime. These teams can be beat, and the Buffaloes might be the team to do it.
If Colorado can win out the rest of their season and shuffle the Pac-12 around, the Big Dance won't be so far away.
They're 1-4 against Top 25 teams, but an RPI of .6254 may set them over. I see the Buffaloes in the NCAA Tournament.
Earlier this season it looked like Villanova might have a shot at making the NCAA Tournament. Now, it's a long shot. At 15-10 and 6-6 in the Big East, the Wildcats won't be dancing any time soon.
The win against then No. 3 Syracuse was monumental for this team, but since then Villanova has been inconsistent. Most of their losses have been to unranked opponents.
And the road ahead doesn't make things easier for them.
They will come head to head with No. 18 Marquette, No. 16 Pittsburgh on the road, and end the season with No. 15 Georgetown. They've already lost to Pittsburgh once this season, and Pittsburgh is ranked this time around.
With the predicament they're in, Villanova would have to win all of their games just to get into the selection conversation, and something tells me that's not going to happen.