The 2014 NCAA tournament is just around the corner, but first the committee must set the entire 68-team field after the regular season and conference tournaments conclude.
This action-packed event, known as Selection Sunday, will determine which squads head to the Big Dance and which are left in the cold—having to settle for a bid to the NIT or other, lesser postseason tourney.
While some teams already punched their tickets by winning their conference and getting an automatic bid to March Madness, others are going to need some luck and the approval of the men and women who make up the committee.
Let’s take a look at a few programs that are currently thought to be on the bubble and need the blessing of the committee to dance.
Southern Methodist Mustangs
The Mustangs were one of the best stories of the 2013-14 season, and it would be a fitting conclusion for this squad to make a Cinderella run in the NCAA tournament.
Unfortunately, that may not be the case after SMU dropped a winnable game against Houston, a team it beat twice during the regular season, in the American Athletic Conference tournament.
It marked the third straight loss for head coach Larry Brown’s squad, although this latest defeat will resonate far more than the other two.
The Mustangs closed the regular campaign against a pair of ranked teams, Louisville and Memphis, and had an opportunity to add another signature win to their resume by going at least .500 during that span.
They faltered, losing both by double digits, but the Mustangs had a chance to avenge those shortcomings and snap their two-game streak by ousting a Cougars team that went just 16-15 during the regular season.
Jeff Greer of The Courier-Journal called it the biggest upset in AAC tournament history, which is humorous considering 2014 marks the inaugural American Athletic tournament:
Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports stated what everyone was thinking after the game:
SMU has signature wins against Memphis, Cincinnati and UConn but dropped games against USF, Temple and now Houston.
Coach Brown didn’t seem too concerned after the game about what will happen in regards to the tournament, as per TheAmerican.org: "I'm not thinking about that. I'm just disappointed because the same stuff happens over and over again. Things don't always go right, you know, and it's how you handle situations, that's what I'm concerned about."
SMU’s resume is still great enough to make the tournament coming out of a respectable conference, but it will need to cross its collective fingers in order to go dancing for the first time since 1993.
Green Bay Phoenix
The Phoenix were supposed to win the Horizon League and earn an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. The team hosted the conference tournament on campus but was stunned by fellow University of Wisconsin satellite Milwaukee in the semifinals.
That loss may have sounded the death knell on Green Bay’s chances of making an appearance in the Big Dance. The Horizon League’s regular-season champ only owns one truly impressive win and now has yet another bad loss on its resume.
While the Phoenix’s 24-6 record may not look bad, it includes double-digit losses to Valparaiso on the road and Milwaukee at home, as well as this recent overtime loss to the Panthers and an early-season shellacking at Eastern Michigan.
Virginia represents Green Bay’s signature victory, as the Phoenix overcame the Cavaliers 75-72 all the way back on Dec. 7. The team just missed upsetting Wisconsin on Nov. 16. A three-point shortcoming may have made a major difference in the selection committee’s eyes if it had gone the other way.
Head coach Brian Wardle is desperately campaigning for his team right now, promising the committee that it will not be disappointed if it chooses his squad, as per Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg:
If we get called, I feel we will make some noise and make the selection committee look smart. We can be a team fans can really embrace. We play a fun style of basketball, we have talented players and we've got a couple guys who can really do some things that the nation hasn't seen. We'd love the opportunity.
Jay Bilas, ESPN’s notable bracketologist, believes that the Phoenix shouldn’t be counted out just yet (behind Insider paywall): "Green Bay lost in the Horizon tournament but should still get consideration for an NCAA berth. It's all about matchups, as they say, and Green Bay didn't have a good one against Milwaukee."
It’ll be interesting to see if a team with an ugly strength of schedule (No. 165 in the nation) and mediocre RPI (60) gets the nod to participate in March Madness. Make sure you tune in to Selection Sunday to find out.
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