March Madness 2014: Top Bubble Teams Ahead of Selection Sunday

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March Madness 2014: Top Bubble Teams Ahead of Selection Sunday
Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

We won't know the fate of several bubble teams until Selection Sunday, but March Madness will largely be defined by the strength of the entire field.

Several teams are deserving of NCAA tournament bids, but not every bubble team will enter the fray. Only those the selection committee deems fit will get a chance at upsetting the higher-seeded teams they will inevitably face.

At that point, they'll look to really get into the March Madness spirit and bust some brackets.

Here are three teams deserving of NCAA tourney bids that are currently on the bubble. Don't be fooled by their bubble status, though. They each have the chance to make a little noise in the tournament.

 

Pittsburgh (23-8, 11-7 ACC)

Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

Florida State and NC State may ultimately be the reasons why Pittsburgh doesn't make it to the tournament. The Panthers have defeated all the bad teams on their schedule, but middling bubble teams such as the Seminoles and the Wolfpack took down Pittsburgh over the past several weeks.

This makes the Panthers' case as a bubble team interesting.

Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports breaks down the problems with Pitt's candidacy: 

Six of Pittsburgh's eight losses have come against teams in the RPI top 20 and all eight have been at the hands of top 60 teams. The Panthers have also been tantalizingly close to some huge victories, falling by one to AAC contender Cincinnati, by three to ACC champion Virginia and twice to Syracuse by a total of seven points.

None of those losses are embarrassing, but the problem is that the close calls don't give Pittsburgh the quality win it desperately needs. The Panthers are 1-6 against the RPI top 50, with their best wins coming against a Stanford team that's still no lock to make the NCAA tournament and an NC State team that will need a March miracle to get there.

There's no questioning the fact that Pitt is a good team, but the fact that it is without that "quality win" Eisenberg speaks of will impact its candidacy.

That being said, the Panthers have two quality players who can help this team succeed in the early rounds of the NCAA tourney in Talib Zanna and Lamar Patterson.

Don't be surprised if this team squeaks past Selection Sunday and into the tournament.

 

Oregon (22-8, 10-8 Pac-12)

Chris Pietsch/Associated Press

Oregon is no lock for a tournament berth, but its resume is impressive. The Ducks enter the Pac-12 tournament on a seven-game winning streak, and Jeff Borzello of CBSSports.com thinks the team could easily survive a loss in the tournament and still make it past Selection Sunday.

Per Borzello: "The Ducks are 22-8 heading into the Pac-12 tournament, 10-8 in the league—a heckuva turnaround from their 3-8 start exactly one month ago. Their RPI and SOS numbers are very solid, plus they now have wins over Arizona, UCLA, and are 10-7 against the top 100."

Unlike Pitt, Oregon has those "quality" wins the selection committee likes to see.

While it may be able to sustain a loss in the Pac-12 tournament and still advance, the goal for Oregon will be to win its conference tournament. Doing so would put all doubts aside.

Last season, Oregon won three games in three days to win the tourney. It'll need four wins in four days to repeat as the Pac-12 champ. Senior guard Jonathan Lloyd knows how to handle this type of situation. He told Ryan Kostecka of the Daily Emerald of his mindset: "I’m going into this tournament with the same mindset (as last year). Just go in and swing away, really."

Oregon has the resume to make the tourney, but it is a bubble team for now. It's definitely in the team's best interest to win the Pac-12.

 

Florida State (18-12, 9-9 ACC)

Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State has shown that it can run with some of the nation's top teams.

It routed then-No. 10 Virginia Commonwealth by a score of 85-67 on Nov. 21. The Seminoles also took down No. 20 Massachusetts by a score of 60-55 after a late surge on Dec. 21. Throw in two close losses to Michigan (82-80 in overtime) and Florida (67-66), and it's clear that the Seminoles play up to better competition.

While that's impressive, the Seminoles haven't really notched an impressive win since that game against Massachusetts. Their most impressive wins came early in the season, and that doesn't bode well for a selection committee that likes to choose bubble teams based on how they finished off January and February.

In fact, the Seminoles are just 5-5 since Feb. 1 and 6-8 since Jan. 18.

Florida State has the talent to run with the nation's top teams, even if it's been a while since the Seminoles have notched an impressive victory. I wouldn't be surprised if they were left out of the tournament, but they can definitely hit a stride if they get in.

 

Follow me on Twitter to discuss more bubble teams: @kennydejohn

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