NCAA Tournament 2014: Bubble Teams That Would Be Dangerous in Tourney

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2014

Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart (33) celebrates during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, March 1, 2014. Oklahoma State won 72-65. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki

Every season, we see teams that fight to barely reach the NCAA tournament go on to win a few games once they get there. This year should be no different.

Whether it is increased momentum heading into the tourney or just March Madness coming through, some lower-seeded squads always seem to find a way into the Sweet 16—or maybe even further.

While the following teams still have some work to do to secure an at-large bid, each of them has a chance to do damage in the postseason. Watch out for each of them to play well in the coming weeks.


Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart (33) celebrates during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, March 1, 2014. Oklahoma State won 72-65. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

It seems like Oklahoma State has had three different seasons. The Cowboys started the year 16-3 and were ranked among the top 10 teams in the country.

However, it all went south with a seven-game losing streak that ended with a three-game suspension for Marcus Smart for shoving a fan. Somehow, the squad was able to regain momentum with a win over Texas Tech, which started a four-game winning streak.

Eric Prisbell of USA Today is one of many impressed by the latest turnaround:

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Now that the team has refocused, it is clear that Oklahoma State is one of the better teams in the country. The Cowboys have five wins over top-50 teams in the RPI, most recently defeating Kansas. They also really only have a single bad lossa road contest at Texas Tech.

Smart, Markel Brown, Le'Bryan Nash and Phil Forte all bring something different to the table and could go off at any point. This creates a talented, balanced unit that could make a deep run in March.



Like many bubble teams, Tennessee has been inconsistent throughout the year. The difference is that few squads are as good as the Volunteers are when they are playing well.

Cuonzo Martin's team is coming off one of its best performances of the seasonbeating Vanderbilt 76-38. Still, the coach is making sure his players are not thinking too much about bubble talk, per Patrick Brown of the Times Free Press:

Again, the thing I talk to our guys about is just play basketball. Don't get consumed with that, and again, it's easier said than done, because they read and they see things. 

Just play the game. If we play the way we're capable of playing, like we did Saturday and like in other games, with the consistency we're able to play with, everything will take care of itself. That's the biggest key.

If Tennessee does play to its ability, other teams are in trouble. The squad defeated Virginia—now No. 5 in the country—by 25 points back in December. rates the Volunteers as the No. 21 team in college basketball.

With an elite inside-outside tandem of Jordan McRae and Jarnell Stokes, the Volunteers will outscore many teams going forward.



Jan 7, 2014; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Tennessee Volunteers forward Jarnell Stokes (5) celebrates with guard Jordan McRae (52) after scoring against the LSU Tigers during the second half of a game at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Tennessee defeated LSU 6
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

Stew Milne/Associated Press

The Big East has a lot riding on the next few weeks, as Providence, Georgetown and St. John's all appear to be on the outside looking in for the NCAA tournament.

Among those three, though, the Friars have the best chance to be successful. The main reason for that is the play of Bryce Cotton.

The 6'1" guard has been simply outstanding this season, averaging 21.6 points per game to rank 13th in the nation. He has a willingness to take a big shot when it matters most, and he is usually able to come through.

Just as impressively, he has refused to come off the court, averaging 39.9 minutes per game. He played in all 50 minutes of double-overtime games three times this year.

Reid Forgrave of was also impressed by the play of Cotton:

In a conference without Doug McDermott and his historically great play at Creighton, Cotton would be a hands-down choice for player of the year. It's an amazing story, a talent who flew way below the radar and had only one Division I scholarship offer, from Providence. This season, after Dunn's injury, Cotton has had to shift his position from shooting guard to point guard.

With Cotton's consistent play alongside the talented duo of LaDontae Henton and Kadeem Batts up front, Providence has a chance to beat almost anyone in the country.