Bracketology: NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams Falling Fast

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistMarch 6, 2014

Jan 2, 2014; Stanford, CA, USA; California Golden Bears guard Tyrone Wallace (3) and California Golden Bears guard Justin Cobbs (1) celebrate after the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Maples Pavilion. California won 69-62. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 NCAA tournament is approaching fast, and the excitement about which teams will make the field for the event has the annual bracketology experts coming out in force.

Bubble teams like California, Pittsburgh and Stanford have all struggled at the wrong time, and it may be a matter of time before these falling programs miss the tournament all together.

All of the following schools are at risk of having their tournament bubbles popped.


California (18-12, 9-8 Pac-12)

Mar 5, 2014; Berkeley, CA, USA; California Golden Bears guard Justin Cobbs (1) reacts after a play by Utah Utes during the second half at Haas Pavilion. The Utah Utes defeated the California Golden Bears 63-59. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Spo
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The California Golden Bears began the season as one of the strongest teams in the nation (started 14-4), but now the program is struggling to keep afloat in the tough Pac-12 (4-8 over the last 12 games).

Cal had the chance to get the team turned around when it played a mediocre Utah team at home on Wednesday night, but a devastating 63-59 loss has almost sealed their fate as a team looking in from the outside.

The Golden Bears must beat a hot Colorado Buffaloes team on Saturday night in convincing fashion, as well as make a deep run in the Pac-12 tournament, in order to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.


Pittsburgh (22-8, 10-7 ACC)

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 03:  Derrick Randall #11, James Robinson #0 and Jamel Artis #1 of the Pittsburgh Panthers react to losing to the North Carolina State Wolfpack 74-67 at Petersen Events Center on March 3, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

There is a strong case that can be made for the Pittsburgh Panthers making the NCAA Tournament regardless of how they finish the season after winning an unbelievable 16 of the first 17 games, but the team has been average in the second half.

Pittsburgh has gone 6-7 down the stretch with three of those victories coming in overtime. Instead of ensuring a spot in the tournament by beating N.C. State at home on Monday, the team dropped yet another must-win game, 74-67.

The Panthers could always make a deep run in the ACC tourney and trump how they finished the regular season, but if the program isn’t able to beat the Clemson Tigers on Saturday, there is no doubt that this bubble team will be in serious trouble.


Stanford (18-11, 9-8 Pac-12)

Mar 5, 2014; Stanford, CA, USA; Colorado Buffaloes forward Wesley Gordon (1) and Stanford Cardinal forward Josh Huestis (24) fight for position under the basket during the first half at Maples Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The Stanford Cardinal have avoided any long losing streaks this season, but the program has not been able to accumulate enough wins to make their case for a berth in the NCAA Tournament a lock.

Stanford had the potential to finish the season strong with a favorable schedule (sans another meeting with No. 3 Arizona) but has lost each of its last three games, including a tough defeat at the hands of Colorado on Wednesday night, 59-56.

While making a run in the Pac-12 tournament will be a hard feat to accomplish, the Cardinal have the chance to get back on track and build momentum when the school closes the regular season with a home game against Utah.

The way Stanford has played, though, doesn’t offer much hope.


*All stats via ESPN.