March Madness 2014: Predicting Bubble Teams That Will Make Deep Run in Tourney

Sebastian LenaAnalyst IMarch 14, 2014

Don't underestimate the 'Noles.
Don't underestimate the 'Noles.Associated Press

Every season, several bubble teams make a splash during March Madness, making a deep run nobody expected.

This year will be no different.

Whether it’s been slow starts, late-season slumps or poor losses, each of these three teams have had their names dragged in the mud. So much so, their spots in the NCAA tournament have been up in the air.

But lately, each of these teams has started to show some life.

Here’s why you should expect these teams to make deep runs come tournament time.


Nebraska (19-11; 11-7 Big Ten)

Petteway (left) has the Cornhuskers surging.
Petteway (left) has the Cornhuskers surging.Nati Harnik/Associated Press

It’s been 16 years since the Cornhuskers last went dancing.

Thanks to a late-season surge, the team is poised to put an end to that drought.

Nebraska has won eight of its last nine games entering Friday’s showdown with Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament. Featured among that stretch are wins at Michigan State on Feb. 14 and against Wisconsin on Sunday.

Furthermore, guard Terran Petteway has seemingly got hot at the right moment. The sophomore is averaging 20.0 points over the last seven games.

Forward Walter Pitchford is also surging, averaging 11.9 points and 6.3 rebounds over that same span.

Things just seem to be clicking on both sides of the floor for the Cornhuskers at the moment. Defensively, the team hasn’t allowed an opponent to top 70 points in nine games going back to Feb. 5.

All in all, as ESPN’s Myron Medcalf notes, the success has greatly changed the landscape of a program that has long been known for just its football team:

If Nebraska can keep it up, there’s no telling how far this team could climb in the Big Ten tournament, let alone the Big Dance.


Stanford (21-11, 10-8 Pac-12)

Randle has performed well for Stanford lately.
Randle has performed well for Stanford lately.Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

The Cardinal have had quite the up-and-down season.

One minute they’re knocking off a top-10 team, then the next minute they’re losing a game they should have won. Although Stanford has recorded impressive victories over then-No. 10 UCONN, then-No. 17 Oregon and UCLA, it has also recorded losses against Oregon State and Washington.

Most recently, the team boosted its tournament resume with a win against Arizona State in the Pac-12 tournament.

“Obviously, this time of year that’s kind of something that’s always in the back of your mind,” said forward Josh Huestis about the NCAA tournament, per The Associated Press (via “But we started out this season with one main goal and that’s to win the Pac-12. The rest will take care of itself.”

Still, there’s no doubt that the team has the pieces to make a run.

Leading scorer Chasson Randle has come alive in recent weeks. The junior guard has averaged 20.6 points over the last seven games and has shot well all season long—48.6 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three-point range.

The Cardinal may be just 4-4 against top-50 opponents, but the team has shown it can compete. Stanford lost close games against Michigan, 68-65, and Arizona, 60-57. 

Riding a three-game win streak into the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament, the Cardinal have the momentum to keep this run going all through March.


Florida State (19-12, 9-9 ACC)

Thomas (left) will have to be at his best.
Thomas (left) will have to be at his best.Gerry Broome/Associated Press

The Seminoles may be just 6-7 since Jan. 25, but don’t let that make you underestimate this team.

Florida State has won four of five and will have a chance to prove its worth in the third round of the ACC tournament when it takes on No. 6 Virginia on Friday. But although the team is just 2-4 against ranked opponents, the Seminoles have proven they can hang with the best.

Take close losses to Michigan, 82-80 (OT), and Florida, 67-66, as examples of that.

Furthermore, with both Aaron Thomas and Ian Miller heating up right now, Florida State will be a tough team to beat. Thomas is averaging 17.5 points over the last 10 games, while Miller is averaging 17.1 points over his last seven.

If the duo can keep it up, the Seminoles will surprise a lot of people.


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