5 CBB Teams That Will Crash the Dance During Championship Week
Baylor freshman center Isaiah Austin. Photo: Tony Gutierrez
It's a team's final chance to make a run for it and crash the dance. Which teams will make a statement during Championship Week and make the NCAA tournament?
This week, Power 6 Conference teams are in desperation mode and trying to win whatever games they can to make it off the bubble. For most mid-majors, it means you win your conference's tournament title or you settle for a secondary tournament or nothing.
This right here is what makes college basketball so fun to partake in this time of year. A team loses one game in its tournament and it's officially finished—or a team waits it out on Selection Sunday to see if it was one of the last team's chosen.
Here are five teams that will hear their names called when the brackets are released on Selection Sunday.
1. Boise State Broncos
Boise State sophomore guard Derrick Marks.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Record: 21-9 (9-7 in MWC)
Key Wins: Creighton, UNLV, Colorado State, San Diego State
The Boise State Broncos are currently one of the last four teams in the tournament, according to ESPN's Joe Lunardi. A 69-65 win at home on Saturday against San Diego State keeps them in the thick of things.
After an important win on Saturday, the Broncos will have a chance to pick up more quality wins during the Mountain West Conference Tournament this week.
Sophomore guard-forward Anthony Drmic has to continue playing at the top of his game. Drmic has averaged an astounding 22.8 points in his last six contests.
Sophomore guard Derrick Marks has helped lead the Broncos down the final stretch as well. Marks has been known to go on scoring sprees this season, and he had two of his best games against teams the Broncos desperately needed quality wins against. Marks scored 38 points against Colorado State on March 2, and 27 points, along with nine rebounds, against San Diego State this past Saturday.
Like Marks, junior guard Jeff Elorriaga can also become a dangerous scorer. Elorriaga has averaged 10.4 points per game this season.
Boise State will get a rematch Thursday against San Diego State at the Mack Center in Las Vegas. A win over the Aztecs could put the Broncos in a solid position to receive one of the last bids into the NCAA tournament. They would still be sitting on the bubble come Selection Sunday time, though.
A win over San Diego State and a win in the semifinal round against the winner of New Mexico and Wyoming/Nevada would basically clinch them a spot in the tournament.
Look for Boise State to make its first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2008.
2. Ohio Bobcats
Ohio senior guard D.J. Cooper.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Record: 23-8 (14-2 in MAC)
Key Wins: Richmond
Remember last season when the Ohio Bobcats surprised everyone by shocking Michigan as a No. 13 seed and advancing to the Sweet 16? The Bobcats could be dancing again this season.
It appeared that Akron, who had been one of the hottest teams this season by winning 19 straight games, was the clear favorite to take the MAC and clinch an NCAA tournament bid.
Not only did Akron lose two of its last three games, resulting in the Zips sharing the MAC regular-season title with Ohio, but they lost one their best players, Alex Abreu, to possible drug charges.
Looks like the Bobcats have a legitimate chance to win heading into the MAC Tournament.
Senior guard D.J. Cooper and senior forward Reggie Keely will look to lead the Bobcats into the dance again. Cooper is averaging 14.2 points and 7.2 assists per game this season. Keely is averaging 11.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game for the Bobcats.
Ohio only has to play two games to win the MAC title, and chances are the Bobcats may not have to face Akron, who they have lost to twice this season, in the championship game.
Watch for the Bobcats to receive an automatic bid to the tournament and have upset on their mind heading into the dance.
3. Tennessee Volunteers
Tennessee junior guard Jordan McRae (Photo: Jeremy Brevard, USA TODAY Sports)
Record: 19-11 (11-7 in SEC)
Key Wins: Wichita State, Kentucky, Florida, Missouri
The Volunteers are going to need all the help they can get. They need to hope that teams like Virginia and Kentucky fall in their first games this week.
McRae has been hot by averaging an astounding 25.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in his last six games.
Stokes has been on fire as well. In 10 of his last 13 games, he has recorded double-doubles. He is averaging 12.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game this season.
Golden, like McRae and Stokes, has played well. Golden dropped 32 points on Texas A&M on Feb. 23, and scored 21 points on Auburn and 12 points on Missouri this past week.
Tennessee will have an advantage going into the SEC Tournament because of the tournament being played in Nashville. That will give the Vols more of a home-court advantage with their fanbase in attendance.
The Volunteers need to win against South Carolina or Mississippi State in the second round, then take down an Alabama team that is also on the bubble in the quarterfinals.
Two wins could do it for the Volunteers, but they will still be sitting there with their fingers crossed on Selection Sunday.
A win against Florida in the semifinals would lock everything up and put them in the NCAA tournament field for good.
Expect Tennessee to make a run in the SEC tournament and make the NCAA tournament.
4. Baylor Bears
Baylor's Pierre Jackson (front) and Isaiah Austin (back) against Kansas on March 9. (AP Photo/Waco Tribune Herald, Rod Aydelotte)
Record: 18-13 (9-9 in Big 12)
Key Wins: Kentucky, Oklahoma State, Kansas
The Baylor Bears finally showed signs of life Saturday when they knocked off Kansas at home, 81-58. Maybe RG3 should show up for the rest of the Bears' games.
Baylor has solid players and is a good team. The Bears just seem to have underachieved this season and lost games that they should have won.
Baylor saved itself by defeating Kansas, and is now on the outside looking in. The Bears are currently one of the first four teams out, and they have a chance in the Big 12 Conference Tournament to change things.
Jackson has averaged 19.4 points and 6.6 assists per game this season. He had his best overall game on Saturday, as he scored 28 points and recorded 10 assists and six rebounds.
Austin has had a great freshman year statistically, averaging 13.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
Jefferson has averaged 12.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. He had a breakout game on Saturday by scoring 25 points and going 11-of-13 from the field.
The Bears get Oklahoma State in the quarterfinal round on Thursday and must win. A win over a 14th-ranked Oklahoma State team will give them a quality win and a chance to earn another quality win if they play against Kansas State in the semifinals.
Another win against Oklahoma State this season could put Baylor into the "last-four-in" category. It simply will depend on what other bubble teams are doing. Advancing to the championship with wins over Oklahoma State and potentially Kansas State would get the Bears into the dance.
What's good for this Baylor squad is it finally has some momentum to feed off of.
5. Denver Pioneers
Denver junior forward Chris Odofia. Courtesy: Rich Clarkson and Associates
Record: 21-8 (16-2 in WAC)
Key Wins: Louisiana Tech, Northern Iowa
Not many people are paying attention to the Denver Pioneers, but they have won 17 of their last 18 games and are co-champions of the Western Athletic Conference.
The 24-point win at home against Louisiana Tech on Saturday gave the Pioneers a regular-season title in their only season with the WAC. Denver came to the WAC this season after being with the Sun Belt, and will move on to the Summit League next season.
The Pioneers are led by junior forward Chris Udofia and sophomore guard-forward Royce O'Neale. Udofia has averaged 15.4 points in his last five games and O'Neale continues to lead his team in rebounding with 161 rebounds this season.
Denver should win its first two games in the WAC Tournament and find itself playing Louisiana Tech in the finals on Saturday night. The Pioneers have momentum right now, and will take down the Bulldogs in a very tight game.
Denver has come close in years past to making the dance, but this will finally be the year the Pioneers make the first NCAA tournament appearance in school history.