Breaking Down What Each Bubble Team Must Do to Go Dancing in March
On Saturday, Joe Lunardi of ESPN wrote his latest list of schools on the bubble for the 2013 NCAA tournament. The list included his "Last Four In" and "First Four Out."
Those eight schools are the teams that are truly on the bubble. Their performances in their final games of the season will decide whether or not they make the tournament.
Of those teams, Baylor may have already burst its bubble, losing to a sub-.500 Texas team on Monday.
Here are the seven remaining teams on the bubble and what they need to do to make the tournament.
Alabama's two remaining regular-season games are against Ole Miss and Georgia. Alabama beat Georgia by seven on the road on Feb. 12, so it should be able to handle the Bulldogs at home.
Ole Miss will be a tougher game. The Rebels are 21-8 overall and are currently in Joe Lunardi's "Next Four Out" list. For Alabama, it will be a road game against a conference opponent that is also trying to make the NCAA tournament. Winning will be a tough task, but it is essential if the Crimson Tide want to be in the field of 68.
On top of that, Alabama needs to win at least one game in the conference tournament. Beating Ole Miss would mean less if it follows it up with a loss to a team in the bottom half of the SEC.
The Kentucky Wildcats were a likely tournament team before center Nerlens Noel tore his ACL during a Feb. 12 game against Florida. Now, the selection committee will evaluate them as a team without its best player.
Kentucky plays its first of two remaining games against Georgia on the road. The teams haven't met, but Georgia is a team with a losing record, and Kentucky must beat the Bulldogs to stay in the tournament hunt.
Its second game is a rematch with Florida at home. The Wildcats lost by 17 in their first meeting, and they could really use a victory against the 11th-ranked team in the nation.
Kentucky does not need to win its final game to make the tournament, but the Wildcats would need a strong conference tournament showing if they were to lose.
Southern Miss is currently second in Conference USA behind Memphis, but it still has work to do to make the NCAA tournament.
The Golden Eagles' next game is against Marshall, which should be a breeze considering that Southern Miss won by 56 points in the teams' first meeting this season.
The final game of the regular season is at home against UCF, a team that Southern Miss lost to by two points on Feb. 6 on the road. Southern Miss has to avenge that loss, which would give the team wins in 16 of its final 19 games, to make the tournament.
In the Conference USA tournament, Southern Miss cannot afford a loss to any team before the championship game if it wants to guarantee itself a spot in the dance. Memphis is 14-0 in conference play and is currently No. 25 in the country, so a loss to the Tigers would not keep the Golden Eagles from the tournament.
Losing to anyone else, however, would jeopardize their chances.
Joe Lunardi currently has Iowa State as one of his "Last Four In." It has a 19-10 record and is fourth in the Big 12.
The Cyclones finish their season with a home game against Oklahoma State, followed by a road game against West Virginia.
Oklahoma State is 22-6 and is ranked No. 13 in the country, but Iowa State played the Cowboys tight in their first meeting, losing 78-76 on the road. If the Cyclones can win that game, they likely will lock down a spot in the tournament.
If they lose the game to Oklahoma State, then beating West Virginia and playing well in the Big 12 tournament become a must. West Virginia may only be 13-16, but Iowa State only beat the Mountaineers by two points in their first meeting this season. The Cyclones must not overlook the Mountaineers in their final regular-season game.
The Temple Owls are currently tied for fifth in the very good Atlantic 10, and a strong schedule has them currently in the tournament, according to Lunardi. Temple beat No. 17 Syracuse earlier this season and has also played No. 3 Duke and No. 4 Kansas.
Temple's final two games of the regular season are against Fordham and No. 21 Virginia Commonwealth. Fordham has just two wins in conference play and six wins overall, so Temple should be able to take care of that game with ease.
VCU will be tougher, as it is the top-ranked team in the conference and is currently second in the standings. On Saturday, the Rams beat Butler, a team that was ranked No. 20 at the time, by 32 points.
Temple does get to play VCU at home, so the Owls should have a good chance to win. Losing to a ranked team would not be the end to their tournament hopes, but they definitely cannot suffer a blowout. Beating VCU or winning two games in the A-10 tournament should get Temple into the NCAA tournament.
Villanova has just one game remaining before the Big East tournament, and it is against possibly the hottest team in the country.
Georgetown was unranked on Jan. 24, but the Hoyas are now ranked fifth in the country, have won 11 straight games and are in the hunt for a No. 1 seed. They will be visiting Villanova on Wednesday with a chance to clinch the Big East regular-season title.
Villanova could clinch a bid to the tournament by beating Georgetown, which isn't out of the question. The Wildcats beat Louisville when it was ranked fifth in the country and Syracuse when it was ranked third.
To make the tournament, Villanova needs to at least play Georgetown tough and win two games in the Big East tournament. An upset of Georgetown should clinch a spot as well.
Tennessee has had an up-and-down season, blowing out Kentucky and beating No. 11 Florida but losing to 14-15 Georgia twice. Lunardi has the Volunteers as the last team in the tournament, but they still need to finish the season strong to make the field of 68.
They play 9-20 Auburn on the road on Wednesday, and Tennessee cannot afford another loss to a sub-.500 team.
The Vols' regular-season finale is at home against Missouri, a team that had been ranked earlier in the season. A victory over Missouri, which is ahead of them in the conference standings, would go a long way toward getting Tennessee into the tournament.