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10 College Basketball Teams with the Most to Lose in Conference Tournaments

Avi Wolfman-ArentCorrespondent IIOctober 12, 2016

10 College Basketball Teams with the Most to Lose in Conference Tournaments

1 of 11

    If the season ended today...

    For the 10 college basketball teams listed ahead, those five words are like heat rising from the desert—a mirage dancing, flickering, hovering within reach.

    It's March. They're in position to make the NCAA tournament. A couple more wins, and the ticket is all but punched. One loss, and it all comes undone.

    Bummer.

    Those stakes in mind, let's examine what lies ahead for these 10 as they wind their way toward Selection Sunday.

Villanova

2 of 11

    Record: 19-12, 10-8 (Big East)

    RPI: 52

     

    Where They Are Now

    A monster win over streaking Georgetown in the regular-season finale snapped the Wildcats' two-game losing streak and gave Jay Wright's team its third victory over a Top Five team this season.

    The selection committee will have to weigh those high-profile wins against earlier losses to Providence (twice), Seton Hall and Columbia (at home).

     

    Next Steps

    Villanova draws St. John's in the opening round of the Big East tournament.

    A loss against the Red Storm wouldn't necessarily bump the Wildcats off the bubble, but it'd make Selection Sunday a heck of a lot less comfortable.

    Few teams have a higher ceiling or a lower floor.

Gonzaga

3 of 11

    Record: 30-2, 16-0 (WCC)

    RPI: 11

     

    Where They Are Now

    Thanks to a 13-game winning streak and some attrition at the top, Gonzaga is No. 1 for the first time in school history.

    No team in America has more wins. Then again, few top teams have played such a soft conference schedule.

     

    Next Steps

    The 'Zags have to be perfect if they want to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and that means beating rival St. Mary's in the WCC final on Monday.

    More than just seeding, though, this next week is about pride and program.

    Everyone in America, it seems, is waiting for these Bulldogs to falter. A win over the Gaels would solidify a spot on the top line and prove that this team knows how to navigate the national limelight.

Kentucky

4 of 11

    Record: 21-10, 12-6 (SEC)

    RPI: 50

     

    Where They Are Now

    A Saturday home win over No. 11-ranked Florida saved the Wildcats' season.

    Since losing star center Nerlens Noel, Kentucky is 4-3, with all four wins coming at home and all three losses coming on the road (by double digits, no less).

     

    Next Steps

    For a Kentucky team that's posted aggressive home-road splits, the neutral-court gauntlet of tournament week represents an ideal proving ground.

    The Wildcats play the winner of Arkansas-Vanderbilt in the SEC quarterfinal and likely need a win there in order to earn their fourth consecutive tournament berth.

Baylor

5 of 11

    Record: 18-13, 9-9 (Big 12)

    RPI: 62

     

    Where They Are Now

    Scott Drew's Bears sprang back to life with a stunning 81-58 win over No. 4-ranked Kansas in the regular-season finale.

    Baylor has as much raw talent as anyone in the Big 12, headlined by senior point guard Pierre Jackson and freshman standout Isaiah Austin.

    Early-season losses to College of Charleston and Northwestern damage the Bears' tournament stock.

     

    Next Steps

    Baylor's postseason hopes hinge on an opening-round matchup with Oklahoma State.

    Win, and Baylor would have two victories over the Cowboys on its resume. Lose, and the Bears are likely NIT-bound.

Temple

6 of 11

    Record: 23-8, 11-5 (Atlantic 10)

    RPI: 44

     

    Where They Are Now

    Since suffering a stunning home loss to Duquesne on Feb. 14, Fran Dunphy's Owls have won seven straight.

    A Sunday win over streaking VCU was the latest entry in a befuddling tournament resume.

    The Owls have wins over Syracuse, Saint Louis and La Salle. But they have losses to St. Bonaventure, Canisius and the aforementioned Dukes.

     

    Next Steps

    Temple seems well positioned for a sixth straight tournament appearance, but an opening-round loss in the A-10 tournament could jeopardize that streak.

    The Owls have struggled for consistency this year, and another defeat against a lower-rung conference opponent might weigh heavily on the selection committee.

    Coincidentally, cross-city rival La Salle finds itself in a similar position entering postseason play.

Boise State

7 of 11

    Record: 21-9, 9-7 (MWC)

    RPI: 37

     

    Where They Are Now

    The Broncos won five of their final six regular-season games, a run that included noteworthy wins over Colorado State and San Diego State.

    Finally, the Broncos have a few scalps to slap on a resume that's largely free of bad losses.

     

    Next Steps

    Boise State draws a rematch against San Diego State in the MWC tournament opener.

    If Leon Rice's team can bottle up Aztecs star Jamaal Franklin as it did in Boise, the Broncos should be dancing.

    Even with a loss, Boise State could wriggle its way into the field of 68.

Virginia

8 of 11

    Record: 21-10, 11-7 (ACC)

    RPI: 73

     

    Where They Are Now

    In a matchup of teams that beat Duke at home and then proceeded to disappoint, Virginia knocked off Maryland on Sunday for a key regular-season win.

    The Cavaliers have a number of high-profile wins, but bad losses against Delaware, George Mason, Boston College and, most egregiously, Old Dominion have deflated their RPI.

     

    Next Steps

    Combine the eye test with per-possession computer data, and Virginia seems to be a clear tournament team.

    But the strength-of-schedule genie isn't so kind, and Tony Bennett's team needs a win in the ACC tournament to feel safe.

Middle Tennessee State

9 of 11

    Record: 28-5, 19-1 (Sun Belt)

    RPI: 25

     

    Where They Are Now

    Middle Tennessee's worst fears have come to pass.

    After dominating the Sun Belt all season, the Blue Raiders dropped their semifinal game against Florida International on Sunday.

    This is the second year in a row that Kermit Davis' team has come into the conference tournament with the top seed and failed to make the championship game.

     

    Next Steps

    MTSU is the ultimate mid-major lightning rod.

    Supporters will point to this team's suffocating defense, impressive depth, stellar peripherals and high RPI.

    The skeptics, however, will surely make hay of the fact that Middle Tennessee's best win to date is a Dec. 8 victory over fast-fading Ole Miss.

Minnesota

10 of 11

    Record: 20-11, 8-10 (Big Ten)

    RPI: 24

     

    Where They Are Now

    The Golden Gophers looked like a March lock after their Feb. 26 win over then-top-ranked Indiana, but they have since dropped games against Nebraska and Purdue to finish below .500 in conference play.

    Minnesota gets a boost, however, from a 12-1 nonconference mark that includes wins over Stanford, Memphis, Florida State, Richmond and USC.

     

    Next Steps

    The Big Ten should get seven teams safely in the NCAA tournament, but where does that leave eighth-place Minnesota?

    The Golden Gophers have a better overall resume than Iowa (20-11, 9-9).

    Still, a quick tournament exit coupled with a win or two by the Hawkeyes could send Minnesota to its second consecutive NIT appearance.

Akron

11 of 11

    Record: 24-6, 14-2 (MAC)

    RPI: 53

     

    Where They Are Now

    The one-time owners of a 19-game winning streak, Akron finished the season with losses in two of its final three regular-season games.

    Making matters worse, starting point guard Alex Abreu has been suspended indefinitely after local police charged him with trafficking marijuana.

     

    Next Steps

    Akron's resume was already on the fringe of at-large worthiness.

    Now without their floor general, the Zips need a conference tournament title to salvage what was once a promising season.

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