2010 NCAA Tournament: Five Bubble Teams No One Wants To Play in March
It happens every year.
A talented team or two having a disappointing season puts things together at the last moment and slides into the tournament.
A mid-major or two secures an at-large bid that everyone knows they deserve over the major conference's middle-of-the-pack squad.
A surprise team or two makes good on their preseason dreams by doing just enough to punch a ticket to the Big Dance.
No matter what their story is, there is always a group of bubble teams that make the four, five, six, and seven seeds squirm when the brackets are released.
Here are five bubble teams no one wants to play in March.
Univesity of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers
Where They Stand: The Blazers have won four straight Conference USA games after losing three of their previous four, making themselves a strong argument for an at-large bid.
They play Memphis and UTEP in the final two games of the regular season, and need to win at least one of those games to cement their NCAA bid. UAB has a good shot of winning the Conference USA tournament as well, but even a run to the finals would also all but assure them a ticket to the Big Dance.
The Lowdown: Junior transfer Elijah Millsap leads the Blazers attack. The dynamic 6'6" swingman is the team's leading scorer and rebounder, with 15.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Jazz forward Paul Millsap's little brother is the key to the team's success.
The Blazers also count on junior guards Jamarr Sanders and Aaron Johnson. Both are scoring around 10 points a game, while Sanders helps on the board by averaging 4.8 boards per game, and Johnson distributes the ball to the tune of 4.8 assists per game.
6'8" senior Howard Crawford is the veteran leader and team's second-leading scorer. His ability to hold back other team's big men may be the key to the Blazers success the rest of the season.
Final Analysis: Guard play is huge in the NCAA tournament, and the Blazers definitely excel in that area. Millsap, Sanders, and Johnson could make for a difficult match-up for any team the Blazers face.
The Blazers have a great shot at pulling off an upset in the tournament's first round, and a run to the Sweet 16 wouldn't be that big of a surprise.
Where They Stand: After big wins over Villanova and West Virginia, the Huskies were in the tournament. However, a loss Sunday to Louisville puts them back on the bubble.
The Huskies need to beat Notre Dame and South Florida to secure a bid to the tourney, but that is easier said than done. Both the Irish and the Bulls will be looking to pad their own tournament resumes.
The Lowdown: The Huskies are amongst the most talented teams in the nation, and after a tremendous struggle, the talent is finally starting to show itself. The Huskies turnaround can most be attributed to the recent exceptional play of point guard Kemba Walker, who struggled mightily at times this season.
In addition to Walker, the Huskies are led by the dynamic duo of seniors: shooting guard Jerome Dyson and forward Stanley Robinson, one of the most athletically gifted players in the nation. Senior big man Gavin Edwards is the team's grinder, and freshman big men Ater Majok and Alex Oriakhi provide some size down low.
Final Analysis: The Huskies can play well enough to beat any team in the nation, or poor enough to lose to anyone in the nation.
Their run to the Final Four last season means they have experience, so a run deep into the tournament is a possibility. No team will be happy to see them in the first round.
St. Mary's Gaels
Where They Stand: The Gaels finished the season with a 24-5 record, including 11-3 in the WCC following Saturday's victory over Loyola-Marymount.
They appear to be in the tournament at the moment, but could get bumped with an early exit from the WCC tournament. Assuming the Gaels can win at least a couple games in the conference tournament, they should have a spot in the Big Dance.
The Lowdown: The high-flying Gaels feature five players averaging double-digit points, but their unquestioned star is 6'11" senior center Omar Samhan. The big man has been incredible this season, averaging 21.5 points and 11.1 boards.
The Gaels second- and third-leading scorers, guards Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova, also help distribute the ball, averaging 5.3 and 4.6 assists per game respectively. McConnell and Dellavedova will provide the Gaels with the guard play necessary for success in March.
Senior guard Wayner Huner adds another 11 points per game, and senior Australian big man Ben Allen contributes 10.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
Final Analysis: St. Mary's is a very intriguing team. They feature strong guard play and complement it with a top-notch big man in Samhan.
With three senior starters and recent tournament experience, the Gaels know how to handle themselves in March. The Gaels are an excellent bet to end someone's season early.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Where They Stand: The Irish seemed down and out before two big wins over Georgetown and Pitt this week. Now they seem to be sitting squarely on the bubble, and although it's a tough road, their final two games against UConn and Marquette give them a chance to add another big win or two.
The Lowdown: The Irish are a dangerous team that, like UConn, has seen the Big East's depth play to their advantage. The strength of the Big East has given them a lot of chances to collect quality wins, and the Irish took advantage in their triumphs over Pitt and Georgetown.
What's most impressive about Notre Dame's two big wins is that they came without senior star Luke Harangody. Harangody is still battling a lingering knee injury, but should be back in time for the NCAA tournament at the latest should Notre Dame qualify.
A positive of the Haragody injury is that it has allowed some of the Irish's other big guns to step up, namely junior forward Tim Abromaitis and senior guards Tory Jackson and Ben Hansbrough. When Harangody does come back, he very well may be coming back to lead a team that was better than when he left it.
Final Analysis: The Irish could be peaking at the right time. They need at least one more quality win to get into the tournament, but if they do, no one will be excited to see them in the first round.
The Irish seem like the perfect candidate to pull off the classic twelve over five upset, and to play a close second-round game against a four seed.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Where They Stand: The Bulldogs have collected three consecutive SEC victories, but still sit squarely on the bubble, because none of the three wins were over a quality team. The committee isn't going to reward them too much for winning games they should win
They should beat Auburn Wednesday, then finish the regular season with a hot Tennessee team. A win over the Vols would lock up a bid, but if they lose, they'll probably have to win a couple games in the SEC tournament to get in.
The Lowdown: The Bulldogs balanced attack is lead by senior power forward Jarvis Varnado. He averages 13.5 points per game, and is a tenacious rebounder, bringing in 10.5 boards per game. However, where he really shines is in blocking shots. His 4.9 blocks per game are second in the nation.
Junior swingman Ravern Johnson is the Bulldogs leading scorer at 13.8. He is a sniper who shoots the three well. Sophomore Dee Bost runs the point, dishing out 5.2 assists while adding 12.6 points per game. The Bulldogs other big, Junior Kodi Augustus, is a fine role player. He averages 9.1 point per game while pulling down 5.6 boards.
Guard Barry Stewart averages 11.5 points per game, and provides more senior leadership for the Bulldogs. Mississippi State also gets solid contributions off the bench from guard Phil Turner and forward Romero Osby.
Final Analysis: Mississippi State has the ability to play with most teams in the nation. Their season hasn't gone as well as they hoped it would, but they still have a chance to slide into the tournament and make a statement.
The ability of Varnado to block and alter shots in the paint can cause huge problems for any team who relies heavily on scoring down low. If the Bulldogs get a favorable matchup or two, they could make a nice run to the Sweet 16.