March Madness usually features exciting upsets, but getting into the NCAA tournament is a challenge on its own, especially for a number of teams on the bubble.
The 2015-16 college basketball season has been filled with parity at the top and a lack of consistency in the middle. While the final few at-large spots in the Big Dance are usually highly debated, this year's version seems even weaker than usual with just a few quality wins possibly enough to get a bid.
Although the last couple of weeks in the regular season and the conference tournaments will play a major role in finalizing the field, here are some predictions for a few notable teams currently on the NCAA tournament bubble.
Based on talent alone, it's hard to understand how LSU doesn't go dancing.
Ben Simmons is possibly the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA draft and has put up insane numbers, averaging 19.5 points, 11.9 rebounds and five assists per game. The team also has a plethora of guards who can take over a game, from Keith Hornsby to Tim Quarterman to Antonio Blakeney.
This deep roster helped lead to wins over Kentucky and Texas A&M, among others, showing the Tigers' potential.
Unfortunately, the team has also suffered some disappointing losses, including five to teams outside the RPI top 100. Nicole Auerbach of USA Today explains how the latest defeat will affect the squad's fate:
Another loss for LSU outside the RPI top 100. Again, I remain convinced Tigers need to win SEC tournament to dance.— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) February 24, 2016
Considering the latest loss to Arkansas was by a margin of 20 points, it's clear LSU is only getting worse. If this team doesn't win the conference tournament, fans will miss out on watching one of the best players in the nation.
The American Athletic Conference is a mess right now with arguably the best team, SMU, ineligible for the postseason. Connecticut might have the best resume after that, but its bid is far from guaranteed with Tulsa, Cincinnati and Temple all in the bubble mix.
Out of the final three options, Tulsa might have the best chance of getting into the field. The Golden Hurricane have split home wins with all three teams, although the latest 19-point victory over Temple was noteworthy. They also have impressive road wins over Wichita State and SMU.
"During this stretch we’ve been really, really good," Tulsa coach Frank Haith said after declaring his squad a tournament team, per John Klein of Tulsa World. "You’ve seen this team grow. We’re playing our best basketball right now."
With a relatively easy remaining schedule, Tulsa could finish conference play 13-5 with a legitimate chance of winning a share of the AAC regular-season title. This would be more than enough to earn an at-large spot.
The Big East is much better than many will give it credit for, but Butler has not taken advantage of its opportunities this season.
According to ESPN.com, the Bulldogs are just 2-7 against RPI top 50 teams to go with a disappointing loss to Marquette last month. The computer numbers aren't helpful, either, with a poor strength of schedule.
To make things worse, the toughest matchups are already behind them, which means the remaining games could do more harm than good. For example, a tough road trip to Georgetown wouldn't be an impressive win, but it would certainly be a damaging loss.
Butler has great guard play with Roosevelt Jones, Kelan Martin and Kellen Dunham and the talent to hang with most teams across the country. If the Bulldogs get into the field, they have the talent to make an impact with a run to the Sweet 16 and possibly beyond.
The problem is there are more deserving teams that would be on the outside looking in, and this could keep the Big East squad from participating in the NCAA tournament.
At this point of the year, one big win goes a long way toward solidifying a place in the NCAA tournament. Colorado could learn that firsthand after an impressive 75-72 win over Arizona Wednesday night.
The Buffaloes had been a middling team in the Pac-12, unable to separate themselves from the pack with just an 8-7 record. However, the latest win not only clinches at least a .500 mark in the conference, it also adds another elite win to the resume.
Colorado has beaten Arizona, Oregon and California with another matchup against Utah still on the schedule. If it can pull out that win, the squad will have defeated the four best teams the conference has to offer, proving it can excel at a high level when given the chance. Without any truly bad losses, Tad Boyle's squad appears to be in good shape.
With Josh Scott also being one of the most underrated big men in the nation, this is a team that passes the eye test as well.
The only issue is the road struggles, as Colorado is just 5-8 away from home with the best win coming against Stanford. Still, the team has likely done enough to get a bid this postseason.
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