March Madness Bracketology: Power Ranking the Bubble Teams
The first day of March means one thing, let the madness begin.
The NCAA College Basketball tournament is continually one of the biggest sporting events in the world. Year after year, millions of people gather around to watch the tournament.
In anticipation to the tournament every year, there are always several teams on the controversial "bubble." This season is no different.
In fact, since the tournament has expanded to 68 teams instead of 65, the bubble has grown. More teams are fighting for the last few spots, meaning every single game down the stretch counts.
In this article we are taking a look at what teams have the best chance to make the tournament, what schools need to do to bolster their resume, and how much damage teams can do once in the dance.
So let's get started, here are your top ten bubble teams getting ready for the big dance.
10. Nebraska Cornhuskers
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Record: 18-10, 6-8 in the Big 12
Quality Wins: USC, Texas A&M, Texas
Bad Losses: Davidson, Iowa State, Texas Tech
Breakdown: Doc Sadler's club has been through plenty of up's and down's this year. They started off the season 12-2 through non-conference play.
The Cornhuskers can't seem to put together a solid string of wins in the tough Big 12 conference though. They beat Texas at home which was huge, followed by two straight losses which really hurt their tournament chances.
Nebraska has generally beat the teams they were favored against, and lost to the teams they were supposed to.
Tourney Chances: They have two remaining games at home versus Missouri and at Colorado. They really need to win at least one to keep themselves in the conversation. Colorado is also on the bubble which makes that game absolutely huge for both teams.
On top of winning at least one (or both) of their remaining games, they have to make something happen in the Big 12 tourney. Nebraska will likely draw Oklahoma State or Oklahoma in the first round of the Big 12 tournament. Both of those match ups are "must wins" for Doc Sadler's squad.
After that they would play either Kansas or Texas in the second round. If Nebraska wants to squeeze into this tournament they would have to beat one of those teams or prove they can at least hang with the big boys.
Verdict: Sorry Nebraska, but you will be NIT bound this season.
9. Boston College
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Boston College's Resume
Record: 17-11, 7-7 in ACC play
Quality Wins: Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, Maryland (twice)
Bad Losses: Yale, Rhode Island, Harvard, Miami (twice)
Breakdown: Steve Donahue has had a turbulent first year at Boston College. The ACC is "down" this year and the traditional Boston College Eagles are a big reason why.
Losing to Ivy League schools Harvard and Yale by a combined 17 points really hurts the Eagles. Now Harvard is a quality team this year, but they have no business beating a team like Boston College. The Ivy League conference will only get one team in the tournament, further hurting BC's resume.
Their best win comes against Texas A&M on November 25th, over three months ago. They were able to beat conference foe Maryland twice, giving them solid leverage against the Terrapins.
They beat Virginia Tech at home, but the Hokies have their chance for revenge tonight in Blacksburg. Their real problem is lack of quality wins, losing to Florida State, Duke, and UNC during every match up.
Tourney Chances: Boston College is basically in a must win scenario tonight verse Virginia Tech. If they lose this one, they almost have no shot to convince the committee to give them an at large bid. Boston College will have to beat Virginia Tech, win convincingly over Wake Forest, and then gain momentum in the ACC tournament.
As things stand today, BC would play Virginia in the first round, which is a definite "must win." After that they would likely get UNC, which is beyond crucial for the Eagles. Boston College still has an outside chance to make the big dance, but plenty of things have to go right.
Verdict: Boston College loses tonight at Virginia Tech, all but ending their tournament hopes.
8. Memphis Tigers
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Record: 21-8, 9-5 in Conference USA play
Quality Wins: Gonzaga
Bad Losses: SMU, Marshall, Rice
Breakdown: The Memphis Tigers have underachieved bad this year. Entering the year ranked 19, Memphis would eventually climb up to 13 in the polls.
After losing to top teams Kansas and Georgetown, Memphis was exposed by Tennessee and SMU.
Memphis has traditionally rolled through the weak Conference USA, but this year was different. They lost to SMU, Marshall, Rice, Tulsa, and UTEP. With the talent they possess Memphis should easily handle those teams.
With two conference games left, Memphis definitely has to win them to even be considered for an at large. They just came off an embarrassing 74-47 loss to UTEP, so it will be interesting to see how the Tigers respond.
Tourney Chances: Though Memphis has been a disappointment this year, they still have a good chance to make the big dance. They play in Conference USA, so all they have to do is roll through their conference tournament.
If Memphis doesn't care about an at large bid, they can lay down these last two games and get ready for the conference tournament. If they want to have a chance at an at large bid, they will have to win out and at least make it to the conference championship.
Verdict: They still play in Conference USA, where anything is possible. A few of the main guys on Memphis are leftover from the Calipari era, so they need to prove they can play. I'll take Memphis to win the Conference USA tournament, giving them an automatic bid to the big dance.
7. Colorado Buffaloes
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Record: 18-11, 7-7 in Big 12 play
Quality Wins: Missouri, Kansas State (twice), Texas
Bad Losses: Harvard, San Francisco, New Mexico, Oklahoma
Breakdown: Colorado is this year's team that will suffer from a very weak non conference schedule. The toughest team they scheduled was Georgia, who they lost to.
They are led by stand out guard Alec Burks, who is averaging 19.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. Burks is a 6'6 do-it-all guard. He creates match up problems for everyone guarding him, and holds his own on the defensive end.
Colorado went on a four game losing streak during Big 12 play, which will surely come back to haunt them. They have won three of their last four, only losing to the elite Kansas Jayhawks. Colorado has beat Texas and Kansas State over that span, which really bolsters their resume. If they can win out by beating Iowa State and Nebraska they will have serious momentum heading into the Big 12 tourney.
Tourney Chances: Alec Burks will have to shoulder the load for the Buffaloes. They need him to carry them to regular season victories over Iowa State and Nebraska, followed by a solid Big 12 tournament showing.
Watch out for Colorado to continue to build on the momentum from beating Texas, which is surely the biggest win for the program in years. Just like Nebraska, Colorado will likely be matched up against Kansas or Texas in the second round. Even though they don't need to win that one as badly as Nebraska, it sure wouldn't hurt.
Verdict: Colorado will be the team talked about because of their weak non-conference schedule. Unfortunately for the Buffaloes, the committee has demonstrated how they hate a weak schedule.
Expect the selection committee to make another example out of Colorado, further showing why schools need to schedule harder teams. Sorry Colorado, but you will lose your spot to someone who probably doesn't deserve it as much as you.
6. Clemson Tigers
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Record: 19-9, 8-6 in ACC play
Quality Wins: Florida State
Bad Losses: Old Dominion, South Carolina, Virginia
Breakdown: Clemson has been up and down this season after losing head coach Oliver Purnell to "sleeping giant" DePaul.
In ACC play, Clemson has three two game win streaks, with two two game losing streaks. The big hurt to Clemson's resume is the lack of big wins. After looking at their schedule, Florida State is their only tough game that they won, which is very sad.
Clemson has a chance to get a signature win tomorrow night versus Duke. Just like Colorado, Clemson has a weak non-conference schedule they weren't able to take advantage of. Losing to Old Dominion is simply inexcusable, especially since the game was at home.
Clemson has games versus Duke and Virginia Tech remaining, which are absolutely huge.
Tourney Chances: As of now Clemson is not in. However, they still get to play Duke and Virginia Tech.
If they can beat the Blue Devils tomorrow night, Clemson will seriously improve their tournament hopes. If not, they get Virginia Tech at home the last game of the season, making it a "must win." Clemson can't simply fold and go out early in the ACC tournament.
They are one of three ACC teams right on the bubble, and it will come down to the last weekend.
Verdict: These last two games will decide it all for Clemson. The Tigers have to beat Duke, and if not they will have to make a run in the ACC tourney. Keep a close eye on Clemson as every single possession will matter for them.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, I don't know if they can even beat Virginia Tech at home.
Sorry Tigers, but you need one more transition year before you join the top portion of the ACC.
5. Alabama Crimson Tide
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Record: 19-9, 11-3 in SEC play
Quality Wins: Kentucky
Bad Losses: St. Peter's, Iowa, Ole Miss, Providence, Arkansas
Breakdown: St. Peter's? This is by far the worst loss of anyone on this list.
The Crimson Tide had an above average non-conference schedule, but weren't able to win any games they needed to. They lost to all the low end conference teams they scheduled including Iowa, Seton Hall, Providence, and Oklahoma State.
Alabama has been able to roll through the SEC, which isn't saying a whole lot. Their side of the conference includes Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU, and Auburn. Come on SEC West, you're killing Alabama!
None of those teams are even mentioned being in the tournament, and possibly NIT for that matter. They did beat Kentucky which was huge, but the Wildcats haven't exactly been the model of consistency.
The Tide are led by JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell, both of whom hold their own in the paint. Fortunately for 'Bama they have two huge games left. They square off against Florida tonight, followed by at large hopeful Georgia on Saturday.
Tourney Chances: Alabama has a decent shot to make it. Playing at Florida tonight will be tough, but if they can pull it off they will greatly increase their chances.
Alabama also plays Georgia the last game of the season, which is another "must win" for the Tide. Alabama will have to win at least one of these games, followed by an impressive SEC tournament run.
Verdict: In the SEC almost anyone can beat anyone. Expect 'Bama to win at least one of their remaining games, followed by a couple wins in the SEC tourney.
Whether that is enough to make it or not is entirely up to the selection committee.
If freshman point guard Trevor Releford isn't rattled by the crowd tonight at Florida, anticipate 'Bama to be in this game till the end. However, if Florida gets off to a fast start it will be all but over.
Get ready for Georgia, and count on winning more games than expected in the SEC tourney
4. Michigan Wolverines
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Record: 18-12, 8-9 in Big 10 play
Quality Wins: Clemson, Michigan State
Bad Losses: UTEP, Northwestern, Indiana
Breakdown: Michigan has been involved in plenty of down to the wire games. Unfortunately, for John Beilein and the Wolverines, they have been on the wrong end one too many times.
Narrow losses to Kansas, Ohio State, Syracuse, Wisconsin, and Illinois has crushed their chances. Just imagine if Michigan had won one or two of those close games against those teams. Beating a Kansas or a Syracuse would have skyrocketed their tournament hopes.
Michigan currently sits at 7th in the Big 10, in a league where they are more than likely to only enter six teams to the big dance. Michigan has one game left against rival Michigan State, a "must win" for both schools.
Tourney Chances: If it weren't by the buzzer beating banked in three pointer by Wisconsin just under a week ago, Michigan might have a comfortable seat in the field of 68.
Heck, if the ball would have bounced their way in any of their "good" losses this wouldn't even be a conversation. However, that's basketball, and Michigan has learned the hard way.
They have to beat Michigan State at home on Saturday. If they can't pull off that game, their only chance will be to win the Big 10 tournament.
Verdict: Sorry Michigan, but you guys came up on the wrong end of too many game changing plays this year. With a young core you will be back next year in a big way. Unfortunately, the NIT is calling your names.
3. Florida State Seminoles
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Florida State's Resume
Record: 20-8, 10-4 in ACC play
Quality Wins: Duke, Baylor
Bad Losses: Auburn
Breakdown: Now before everyone freaks out, the Seminoles aren't a true "bubble" team. Not yet that is.
The 'Noles lost their heart and soul player a few games ago, junior forward Chris Singleton to a fractured foot. FSU has gone 2-1 since then, but didn't even come close against Maryland.
FSU has a solid resume so far, but nothing exceedingly flashy about it. The 'Noles were able to take down number one Duke at home which was huge for them. However, if you look through the history books, FSU has traditionally played Duke tough when they needed to.
The 'Noles have two big games left. First one comes at home tomorrow night verse UNC. FSU matches up terribly with the run-and-gun Tar Heels, which will be difficult to overcome. Their last game falls at NC State.
This one is beyond crucial. FSU needs to show they still function with Singleton doing everything, and this game is a good test of that. FSU has to win at least one of these to avoid falling down the ACC standings at a rapid pace.
Tourney Chances: As of right now, the 'Noles have a very solid chance of making the big dance. Unfortunately, those odds grow against FSU by the day. It's evident they aren't the same team without Singleton, and the selection committee will take note of that.
Verdict: They have to beat NC State (which is very doable), followed by at least one win in the ACC tourney. If the 'Noles can find a way to not screw this up, they will get in. Good job FSU, you will make the tourney for the third straight year, but by the slimmest of margins.
2. Richmond Spiders
Record: 22-7. 11-3 in A10 play
Quality Wins: Purdue
Bad Losses: Iona, Old Dominion, Georgia Tech
Breakdown: Richmond comes in with a very solid resume.
They beat Purdue, but lost to lowly Iona and Old Dominion in non-conference play. Fortunately for Richmond, the 11 point victory over Purdue will probably overshadow those bad losses.
They went 11-3 in conference, but weren't able to beat either team they needed to. Conference leaders Xavier and Temple beat the Spiders by a combined 43 points!
Richmond has two games left against St. Joes and Duquesne, which are certainly "must wins." Richmond is led by seniors Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper, who combined average 34 points per game. This type of senior leadership will be huge for Richmond down the stretch.
Tourney Chances: Although Richmond has a quality resume, they are by no means in right now. They have to win their last two games, and win some in the Atlantic 10 tourney.
Not only do they have to win some in the tourney, they really need a win over Xavier or Temple to secure themselves a spot. The selection committee isn't very kind to mid majors, so beating either of those teams is beyond important.
Verdict: This one relies all upon what they do in the A10 tourney. If Richmond can beat Xavier or Temple they will be in. The key word there was "if."
Rely on your senior leadership Richmond, and you can make it to the big dance where you belong. Congrats to the Spiders, who will be the third A10 team in the big dance.
1. Baylor Bears
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Record: 18-10, 7-7 in Big 12 play
Quality Wins: Texas A&M (twice)
Bad Losses: Iowa State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech
Breakdown: The Baylor Bears are easily one of the streakiest teams in the country. They can come out and beat anyone one night, and follow it with a loss to a terrible team the next.
They have big time players in LaceDarius Dunn and Perry Jones, who can't always seem to put it together. Dunn's "Iverson-esque" style of play really hurts what other teammates can contribute. He does average over 20 points per game, but takes more than his fair share of bad shots.
Like other teams in this article, Baylor suffers from a relatively weak non-conference schedule. They lost every important non-conference game they played, falling short against Florida State, Gonzaga, and Washington State.
For having so much firepower and athleticism, many anticipated Baylor capable of beating the powers in the Big 12. They still have two games left against Oklahoma State and Texas. These games are extremely important for the Bears.
Tourney Chances: Baylor has work to do. They absolutely have to beat Oklahoma State tonight.
Followed by that, the Bears have a huge opportunity against Texas. Even though Texas is on a skid lately, this would be a big signature win.
If Baylor can't pull it off at home against Texas, they will have to try their luck in the conference tourney. The Bears are right in the middle of the pack in the Big 12, meaning they would have a very tough second round matchup.
Verdict: Baylor has the firepower all around to make it possible, so it's up to them at this point. The home crowd will be rocking when Texas comes into town, making this game even bigger for both schools.
The Bears are more than capable of a big upset, and if it doesn't come against Texas it will come in the conference tourney. Way to go Baylor, you will squeak into the big dance on the shoulders of Dunn and Jones.