Bracketology: Bubble Teams That Need Strong Conference Tournament Showings

Brian Mazique@@UniqueMaziqueCorrespondent IIIMarch 2, 2014

California coach Mike Montgomery yells to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Washington State on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

The Oklahoma State Cowboys probably moved themselves off the NCAA tournament bubble with their upset win over the No. 5-ranked Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday.

The Cowboys might have drastically improved their chances of making the field, but there are still a few teams sitting uncomfortably on the bubble. With teams from smaller conferences set to snatch up automatic bids, the available slots are becoming few.

Here’s a look at three teams that will need strong performances in their conference tournaments to ensure a spot in the NCAA bracket. 

 

Nebraska Cornhuskers, 16-11

DAVE WEAVER/Associated Press

The Cornhuskers will have two more chances to fatten their regular-season resume. The team will play at Indiana on March 5 and finish up the regular season against the Wisconsin Badgers on March 9.

Splitting those two games would get them to 17 wins, but that’s not going to guarantee them a spot in The Big Dance.

Winning both might, but it still seems as though the Cornhuskers will need at least one win in the Big Ten tournament to sway the voters their way. 

Right now, Nebraska’s best wins have come at Michigan State and at home against Ohio State. With so many teams in the same boat, Nebraska could easily find itself on the outside looking in.

 

California Golden Bears, 18-10

Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead thinks Cal is in, but this might be a bit premature.

Sure, the Golden Bears knocked off the Arizona Wildcats on Feb. 1 and own road wins over Stanford and Oregon. However, Mike Montgomery’s team has bad losses to UC Santa Barbara and USC. The team has also lost its last two games. 

Here’s Montgomery’s somber postgame interview after Cal’s latest loss to the Arizona State Sun Devils. 

The team has winnable home games against Utah and Colorado remaining on the regular-season schedule. If the Golden Bears win out, they will get to the coveted 20-win plateau. Even with that, it wouldn’t hurt to win a game or two in the Pac-12 tournament to breathe a little easier on Selection Sunday.

 

Minnesota Golden Gophers, 17-11

EVANSTON, IL - FEBRUARY 16:  Andre Hollins #1 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers moves up the court against the Northwestern Wildcats at Welsh-Ryan Arena on February 16, 2014 in Evanston, Illinois. Minnesota defeated Northwestern 54-48.  (Photo by Jonathan D
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Gophers are in the Big Ten and on the bubble like Nebraska, but their status is even shakier. Minnesota’s best win came over Wisconsin on Jan. 22, but it also lost head-to-head against Nebraska.

Because it could come down to Nebraska or Minnesota for one of the final at-large bids, Minnesota needs to beat Penn State in the regular-season finale on March 8 and win two games in the Big Ten tournament to be comfortable.

 

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