The 2014 NCAA tournament is shaping up to be one of the deepest in years, but there are several talented programs on the bubble that have not done enough down the stretch to deserve a berth in the Big Dance.
With the Minnesota, Arkansas and California programs all struggling in the later stages of the regular season and into their respective conference tournaments, the selection committee will have hard decisions to make on Sunday.
Here are the bubble teams that will have their NCAA dreams burst.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (20-13, 8-10 Big Ten)
The Minnesota Golden Gophers were on the bubble before the Big Ten Conference Championship, and a devastating loss to Wisconsin in the second round has severely damaged the program’s chances of making the NCAA tournament.
While the team did beat Penn State in the final game of the regular season and in the first matchup of the conference tournament (PSU was 15-17 this season), Minnesota lost nine of its last 15 games, including five losses at the hands of ranked teams.
Head coach Richard Pitino spoke to the Associated Press, via ESPN, about his thoughts on the team’s loss in the Big Ten tourney and their hopes for a NCAA berth:
Offensively, we didn't have it tonight and they made us pay. Just disappointed with the effort tonight, not so much effort but I think we let our offense frustrate us. I hope we get into the NCAA tournament, I feel like we've played one of the best schedules in the country. That's normally what they want you to do.
While there is no denying how tough the Golden Gophers’ schedule has been this year, the program has not been able to pull out key wins on the road. The loss in the first round of the conference tourney proved Minnesota will be a bubble team on the outside looking in.
Arkansas Razorbacks (21-11, 10-8 SEC)
The Southeastern Conference was much stronger this season than in years past, but the Arkansas Razorbacks have not done enough over the course of the season to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.
Two wins over Kentucky and a strong finish to the season launched Arkansas into the conversation for a berth in the Big Dance. Unfortunately, a loss in the regular-season finale to Alabama and an early exit in the conference tournament at the hands of South Carolina (14-19, 5-13 SEC) indicate the Razorbacks may be a bubble team that misses the NCAA tourney.
According to Eric Prisbell of the USA Today, many believe Arkansas is out:
And Arkansas' NCAA tourney hopes fade to black. What a sour March for Razorback fans.— Eric Prisbell (@EricPrisbell) March 13, 2014
There is no doubting the raw skill of Arkansas—the team ranked 17th in the nation with an average of 80.3 points per game—but the team’s lackluster record against conference foes (10-8) will have the selection committee looking elsewhere to fill its bracket.
California Golden Bears (19-13, 10-8 Pac-12)
The Pac-12 Conference was been one of the strongest in the nation this season, but the California Golden Bears have not done enough to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament after losing four of the last five games.
California was able to knock off Arizona earlier in the season to bolster the program’s resume, but it was the devastating three-point loss to Colorado in the quarterfinal of the Pac-12 tournament that showcased why the team won’t make the Big Dance.
The Golden Bears started the season strong and amassed a solid record in the conference overall, but nine losses in the team’s last 14 games—including seven defeats at the hands of unranked programs—likely cost the Cal a chance to go dancing.