NCAA Basketball: Pre-Season On The Bubble
Yes, it's way too early to talk about "bubble" teams but it's still fun.
Some teams have given themselves the opportunity to start building their cases early, while others have subscribed to the Virginia Tech school of non-scheduling and really have to hope that their conference records are very good.
Here is a look at some teams that may be able to position themselves forwardly or leave themselves in a precarious position once league play begins.
This list could probably have 25 teams on it. Who do you think is on the preseason bubble and needs to make some noise?
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The Bulldogs will be relying on the combined talents of Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins, two potential all-SEC performers.
We'll find out quickly what the 'Dawgs are made of as the toughest portion of their non-conference schedule is upon them early.
After a home date with Colorado, Georgia has a date with the Saint Louis Billikens, who were picked near the top of a strong A-10 conference until their two best players did not enroll this fall. Next up is the Old Spice Classic and an opening round game with Notre Dame. The winner/loser of California versus Temple is next with another possible matchup with either Wisconsin or Texas A&M, depending on how the tournament plays out.
Bulldogs fans will have a good idea of what to expect by the time they open conference play against Kentucky.
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The Pirates, a sleeper pick for an NCAA berth, have not done themselves any scheduling favours.
This is an ambiguous statement. Some might view this portion of their schedule as fairly soft. But I disagree.
They play the who's who of the A-10, hosting Richmond and Dayton, while hooking up earlier with Temple. And, if both win, Seton Hall and Xavier will meet in the second round of the Paradise Jam. Beyond Xavier is Clemson and Old Dominion, both of whom were in the NCAA's last season but will struggle to make it this year. However, the four games against four of the A-10's best will not be easy.
It really is a catch-22-type sked. The A-10 is as good as almost all of the top leagues but maybe not considered as such because they are not one of the "Big Six". But in reality, they are better than some in that group. Either way, the Pirates can't afford many slip-ups.
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If a conference is ever ripe for upward mobility it might look like the ACC this year.
The Hurricanes have a good, young nucleus and some decent recruits. However, their only games against top-tier competition are against Memphis and West Virginia.
Last year, Miami rolled through the non-conference portion of their schedule before tanking in the ACC. Obviously, they are hoping for a better record in conference play but really made a weak effort to do something prior to that.
They have to have a winning ACC record or they won't make the NCAA's again, and it won't be anyone else's fault.
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The Shockers are one of the picks in the Missouri Valley, a conference that desperately wants more than the one bid it received to the tourney last year.
If they don't win the league, the Shockers will have some opportunities to show they still belong there.
An away game with a strong San Diego State team will be important—for both teams. And, the Maui Invitational has a strong field again this year.
An opening-round win against UConn would lead to a second-round matchup with Michigan State. Kentucky and Washington are on the other side of the bracket as well. A loss to UConn leads to a second-round date with Chaminade, which doesn't help them.
A couple of wins in these games (Chaminade excluded) plus a win in the annual bracketbuster game in February puts them in pretty good shape—barring a weak finish in the Valley.
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The Cougars will have an opportunity similar to Miami in that the opportunity is available in the PAC-10 for a move up.
Two key home games highlight a pretty solid non-conference schedule. Consecutive dates with Kansas State and Gonzaga will be a big test for the Cougars. A Christmas holiday in Hawaii at the Diamond Head Classic presents a first-round game with the Mississippi State Bulldogs, who could be an early-season bubble team as well.
The winner likely faces Baylor, while Butler and Florida State loom on the other side of the bracket. So, the potential for some quality games exists, which would assuredly raise WSU's profile in terms of RPI.
North Carolina State
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With all the fanfare surrounding the incoming recruiting class and the fact that Sidney Lowe's job is essentially dependant upon an NCAA appearance this season, the Wolfpack have the opportunity to make some hay outside of the ACC.
Of the three key games they will play for sure, only one (Arizona) is at home. The other two are at Madsion, where Wisconsin loses every six or seven years and in New York against the Syracuse Orange. Two wins in these three games would be huge.
Another potential is a matchup with Georgetown in the Charleston Classic, assuming the necessary wins for both precede this.
This is a good schedule for N.C. State, one in which they could thrust themselves quickly into the NCAA at-large picture.