NCAA Tournament: 10 Teams in Bubble Trouble
The craziness of Selection Sunday is just weeks away, and teams currently sitting on the bubble are fighting for a spot in the NCAA tournament.
It’s do-or-die time, and any win or loss for a team on the bubble could benefit it or keep it out of the of the field of 68.
While there are teams on the bubble that shouldn’t have underachieved as much as they have in conference play, there are teams that weren’t necessarily expected to come close to making the dance this season. The Big East easily has the most teams fighting for a tournament bid, but the Big Ten has a few itself.
With so much at stake and teams hoping to avoid seeing their bubble burst, here are 10 teams that are currently in bubble trouble:
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oklahoma State Cowboys (18-10, 6-9 in Big 12)
The Pokes are living on the edge and barely in the field of 68 at the moment. With high hopes of contending for a Big 12 title this season, it has come to this.
The final three games of the season will test this team and either make or break its season. Oklahoma State hosts both Kansas and Kansas State before heading to Iowa State to end the regular season. They are winless against all three teams.
Marcus Smart has averaged 16.5 points in Oklahoma State’s last two wins since returning from a three-game suspension.
Even though the Pokes have lost eight of their last 11 games, two wins in their final three regular-season games and one win in the Big 12 tournament should be enough to get in on the madness.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota Golden Gophers (18-11, 7-9 in Big Ten)
A critical win over No. 20 Iowa at home on Tuesday night puts Minnesota right on the bubble. They are currently in the last grouping of teams to make it into the NCAA tournament, according to Joe Lunardi’s current bracketology projections.
After losing seven of their last 11 games, a win at No. 16 Michigan on Saturday night is a must. A loss in Ann Arbor for the Gophers could cost them a shot at making the tournament, unless they are able to run the table in the Big Ten tournament.
Tennessee Volunteers (17-11, 8-7 in SEC)
Tennessee has a solid chance of avoiding a bubble burst with a favorable regular season schedule remaining. The Volunteers defeated Mississippi State 75-68 on Wednesday night and will face Vanderbilt, Auburn and Missouri in their final three games.
The Volunteers have two bad losses against Texas A&M, but have their best win of the season against current ACC leader Virginia.
Going unbeaten throughout the remaining three games of the regular season, as well as sneaking out two wins in the SEC tournament, should be enough to give Tennessee its first NCAA tournament bid since 2011.
Providence Friars (18-10, 8-7 in Big East)
Providence is hanging on for dear life at the moment. It has a quality home win over Creighton and a win over a Georgetown team that is on the bubble as well. What is hurting the Friars at the moment is their lack of consistency, as they've lost five of their last eight games.
Senior guard Bryce Cotton is the main reason why Providence is in a position to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade. Cotton is currently 13th in the nation with 21.5 points per game and 19th in the nation with 5.9 assists per game. Junior forward LaDontae Henton is also playing well by averaging 13.2 points and seven rebounds per game.
The Friars need to win their final three games of the season. Another victory over current No. 9 Creighton on the road Mar. 8, along with two wins in the Big East tournament, might be what Providence needs to avoid being left heartbroken on Selection Sunday.
St. John's Red Storm
St. John's Red Storm (18-11, 8-8)
Steve Lavin’s squad had won nine of its last 10 games prior to dropping two in a row to Villanova and Xavier. Tuesday night’s 65-53 loss at home to Xavier, which is also trying to reach the NCAA tournament, could very well have put St. John’s back on the wrong side of the bubble.
The Red Storm have a quality home win over then-No. 12 Creighton 70-65 on Feb. 9, but have bad losses to Penn State and DePaul.
With not much room for error, it will be up to leading scorer D’Angelo Harrison (17.3 points per game) and sophomore forward Jakarr Sampson (12.8 points per and 6.2 rebounds per game) to the lead the Red Storm down the stretch.
A loss against DePaul on Sunday would end the Red Storm's hopes of reaching the NCAA tournament, but if they can defeat DePaul and Marquette to end the regular season and knock off other conference teams on the bubble in the Big East tournament, the Red Storm could be dancing in March.
Florida State Seminoles
Florida State Seminoles (16-11, 7-8 in ACC)
The Noles quality wins are against nonconference foes VCU and UMass, as well as ACC opponent Pittsburgh. They don’t necessarily have a lot going for them, though, with seven losses in their last 11 games.
With only three games remaining, there is no room for error.
The Noles must win matchups against Georgia Tech and Boston College before hosting top-ranked Syracuse in their season finale. An upset win over Syracuse would help put Florida State on the right side of the bubble heading into the ACC tournament.
Even if Florida State comes away with four or five wins down the stretch, expect the Noles to sweat it out on Selection Sunday.
Oregon Ducks (18-8, 6-8 in Pac-12)
Oregon won three games in a row after losing on the road to both Arizona schools by a combined four total points. The Ducks continued their winning streak on Thursday night by knocking off UCLA 87-83 in double overtime. A win over the Bruins is just what Dana Altman's squad needed.
Oregon will now face a struggling USC team on Saturday in Los Angeles and then host Arizona State on Tuesday. It will finish the regular season on Mar. 8 with a critical matchup against highly ranked Arizona.
If the Ducks can go undefeated and be clutch in their final three regular-season games, they should be back in the NCAA tournament for a second consecutive year.
Georgetown Hoyas (16-11, 7-8 in Big East)
It hasn’t been a typical Georgetown season by any means, but John Thompson III's squad is still in position to make a fifth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament.
After going on a rough five-game losing streak in January, the Hoyas came up big with a win over then- No. 7 Michigan State 64-60 on Feb. 1. It was a resume-boosting win, but the much-needed win in Madison Square Garden didn’t necessarily translate to wins, as Georgetown went on to lose two of its next six games. Two losses to a less-than-subpar Seton Hall team aren't helpful, either.
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks will need to be clutch down the stretch for the Hoyas. Both have been solid offensively, as Smith-Rivera has averaged 16.8 points per game and Starks has averaged 16.7 points per game.
Georgetown lost a heartbreaker at Marquette on Thursday night 75-73, meaning it has no choice but upset both Creighton and Villanova in its last two games of the regular season.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (16-11, 8-7 in Big Ten)
Nebraska has suddenly become this year’s Cinderella team in the past month by upsetting then-No. 9 Michigan State on the road 60-51 and winning seven of its last 10 games since knocking off then-No. 17 Ohio State 68-62 at home on Jan. 20.
The Big Ten’s leading scorer, sophomore Terran Petteway, is averaging 18.2 points per game and is critical to the Huskers’ success down the stretch.
A 60-49 loss at Illinois on Wednesday night doesn’t necessarily hurt Nebraska’s tournament hopes, but it doesn’t help, either. Wins against subpar Northwestern and Indiana teams are a must.
The big one, though, will be the season finale at home against Wisconsin on Mar. 9. Three wins to end the season would put the Huskers in good shape heading into the Big Ten tournament.
Richmond Spiders (18-10, 8-5 in A-10)
The Spiders lost a critical matchup to George Mason on Wednesday night, 69-60. They now sit right on the borderline of being in the tournament or out of the tournament. Defeating VCU and Dayton to end the regular season would help Richmond’s cause of making it back to the tournament for the first time since 2011.
Losing leading scorer Cedrick Lindsay for the remainder of the season due to knee injuries has clearly been a loss for the Spiders, but junior guard Kendall Anthony has stepped up to the occasion. Anthony has averaged an impressive 20.8 points in the Spiders’ last 10 games.
After losing to George Mason, Richmond needs to win out and at least advance to the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament in Brooklyn if it wants to feel safe on Selection Sunday.
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