10 College Basketball Teams with Most to Gain in Conference Tournaments

Doug Brodess@DougbrodessCorrespondent IMarch 12, 2013

10 College Basketball Teams with Most to Gain in Conference Tournaments

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    Has there ever been so much riding on the outcome of college basketball's Championship Week?

    Teams will work their way into or out of March Madness by what happens.

    Programs will improve or damage their position for Selection Sunday 2013.

    Here are 10 teams with the most to gain during the conference tournaments.

    Some of the following teams have already made it into the NCAA tournament, but if they come up big this week, they can drastically change their seeding.

    Others will be doing everything they can to get into the Big Dance.


    Let's go!

10. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (WAC)

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    Record: 26-5 (16-2)

    RPI: 46

    What could a team like LT have to gain during the WAC tournament in Vegas?

    The answer? Everything.

    They have worked hard, played hard and racked up an impressive record regardless in what conference you play.

    The Bulldogs' second year coach Michael White will be a hero if he can get them to the Big Dance for the first time since 1991.

9. North Carolina State Wolfpack (ACC)

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    Record: 22-9 (11-7)

    RPI: 28

    Does anyone think that the Wolfpack expected to be a No. 9-seed in the 2013 NCAA tournament (as CBSSports.com currently projects they could be)?

    After they were named the conference’s preseason No. 1 team in the ACC Coaches Poll, visions of Top 10 rankings and elite-level seeding had to dance in NC State fans’ heads.

    So far, Mark Gottfried’s second season in Raleigh has only been slightly better than his first. And last year, the Pack made it to the Sweet 16.

    C.J. Leslie has the skills to do it all, but he’s going to have to revive his game. He is only averaging 10.6 points per game over his last five outings.

    North Carolina State can't take anything for granted. One game at a time is the only way it is going to succeed this week or beyond.

8. Illinois Fighting Illini (B1G Ten)

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    Record: 21-11 (8-10)

    RPI: 43

    Illinois should get the “Jekyll and Hyde” award for erratic college hoops teams. It has beaten Gonzaga, Indiana, Minnesota and Butler.

    The Fighting Illini’s biggest challenge is playing away from Assembly Hall. They are 13-4 at home and 5-6 on the road, losing three of their last four regular-season games.

    U of I faces Minnesota in its opening round matchup. If the Illini get past the Gophers, they will face the Hoosiers.

    Not an easy road.

    But….what if?

7. Tennessee Volunteers (SEC)

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    Record: 19-11 (11-7)

    RPI: 55

    Hopefully, the Vols didn't get hot too late. Tennessee has won eight of its last nine games. And, should have a strong showing of its faithful fans this week in Nashville.

    Cuonzo Martin's men need to take full advantage of their SEC tourney draw.

    After getting a bye in the first round, the Vols face the South Carolina-Mississippi State winner. If they advance, they will face Alabama. Both of these are winnable games.

    From there, they would most likely face Florida, who they just beat.

    After going to the NIT last year, Tennessee doesn't want to fall short again this season.

6. Oklahoma Sooners (Big 12)

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    Record: 20-10 (11-7)

    RPI: 33

    How long will Oklahoma's Lon Kruger regret losing to TCU in the last Big 12 regular-season game?

    Right now, CBSSports.com has the Sooners as an 11 seed, but with a subpar performance in Kansas City this week, that can go away…fast.

    OU has commanding wins against Kansas and Oklahoma State, but there’s that putrid loss to the Horn Frog stinkin’ the place up.

    After getting a first-round bye, Oklahoma will go against Iowa State. If the Sooners knock off the Cyclones, then they will face Kansas.

    If they want to shore things up and improve their Selection Sunday security, they need to chuck both ISU and KU.

    No one said it was going to be easy.  

5. Ohio Bobcats (MAC)

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    Record: 23-8 (14-2)

    RPI: 74

    Only one team from the Mid American Conference will probably be invited to the 2013 dance.

    And if the MAC tourney in Cleveland goes as expected, Ohio will square off against Akron on Saturday.

    Ohio's D.J. Cooper does a little of everything for OU, scoring 14.2 points and dishing out 7.2 assists per game.

    Neither the Bobcats or the Zips deserve to go home, but one of these teams will most likely be watching March Madness and the other will be playing.

4. Iowa Hawkeyes (Big Ten)

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    Record: 20-11 (9-9)

    RPI: 75

    It pays to get hot in the last month of the season. The Hawkeyes have won six of their last eight Big Ten games and have marked up 20 W's on the season.

    Even so, Fran McCafferey's squad has no room for error and must at least get to the conference title game on Sunday in Chicago if it has a chance to have Selection Sunday success.

    Iowa has beaten Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin this season.

    But, the Hawkeyes would have to take down a few of the Big Ten's top-tier teams if their March Madness dreams could come true this season.

    Hawkeye fans, do you believe?

3. Colorado Buffaloes (Pac 12)

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    Record: 20-10 (10-8)

    RPI: 36

    The Colorado Buffaloes got hot last year, won the first-ever Pac-12 Tournament and were the conference's sole representative in March Madness 2012.

    This year, the Buffs are in a similar place, needing to ramp things up in Vegas in order to make it to this year's NCAA Tournament.

    CU uses balanced scoring and depth to get things done.

    Combo forward Andre Roberson is one of the nation’s most dangerous double-double dudes.

    Its RPI is good, but Colorado may need to win a game or two this week to make sure that it doesn't get snubbed again like it did in 2011.

2. Baylor Bears (Big 12)

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    Record: 18-13 (9-9)

    RPI: 61

    Baylor had a monster win against Kansas to finish off an uneven 2012-13 regular season.

    The fact that head coach Scott Drew has Pierre Jackson and Isaiah Austin on the court means that the Bears can hang with anyone.

    But, they are going to have to do work in Kansas City this week.

    They play Oklahoma State in their opening game, and then they would most likely have to take on K-State after that.

    Jackson led the Big 12 in both scoring (19.4 PPG) and assists (6.6 APG).

    If I were Drew, I would put it all on the 5’10” senior and see what happens.

1. Maryland Terrapins (ACC)

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    Record: 20-11 (8-10)

    RPI: 86

    Are signature wins against Duke and NC State enough to get Maryland into this year's NCAA tournament?

    The answer that the Terrapin fans don't want to hear is...No.

    UM is going to have to get nasty in the next few days, knocking off Wake Forest first.

    If it can dump the Demon Deacons, then it will face Duke.

    Even beating the Blue Devils would most likely still not be enough to get the Terps into March Madness.

    They might have to get to or win the ACC tourney to accomplish that lofty goal.

    The key to Maryland's success this week will be whether it takes advantage of its inside strength (No. 2 rebounding team in the nation).

    If the Terps can muscle their way into the ACC championship game, that may be enough to gain favor for Selection Sunday.