College basketball already has one of the most interesting postseason experiences with the NCAA tournament, but the hype surrounding the 2014 edition of Selection Sunday has programs across the nation on edge.
With elite programs like Nebraska, Tennessee and Brigham Young all currently sitting on the bubble, all of these teams should be supremely confident that what they accomplished this season will be enough to earn a spot in the NCAA tourney.
All of the following bubble teams will make the big dance.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (19-11, 11-7 Big Ten)
The Nebraska Cornhuskers aren’t going to excel in any one area with any real consistency, but the team has depth and talent across the roster and is willing to fight for every inch of space on the court.
As shown in the final regular-season game of the year against Wisconsin, Nebraska weathered the storm and rode elite shooting with stellar defense to help it almost certainly cement a spot in the NCAA tournament.
Head coach Tim Miles told the Associated Press, via ESPN, about the success of his team after it defeated Wisconsin on March 9:
That's what we want Husker basketball to be about and that's what we want it to continue to be about. We've had a good run, a really good run. But we're only halfway through the journey. This is my program. We don't carry any baggage. Everywhere we've been, I've been surrounded by great people and we win, and we're going to keep doing it. So all that cursed crap, all of the hexing and vexing and all that (stuff) that goes with it is exactly that.
The Cornhuskers started the year strong, but a tough stretch in late December through January resulted in six losses in seven games. Nebraska finished the season with momentum, though, and won 10 of its last 12 games.
For the program to ensure a spot in the big dance, the Cornhuskers must beat the winner of the Ohio State vs. Purdue game and advance to the next round in order to erase all doubt about Nebraska’s legitimacy.
Tennessee Volunteers (20-11, 11-7 SEC)
There is no doubt that the Tennessee Volunteers had a strong season in the Southeastern Conference, but the program has failed to beat the programs that would have catapulted the team into the NCAA tournament.
Losses to Wichita State, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Florida and Missouri have hurt Tennessee’s chances of taking the bracket. The Volunteers did finish the season strong (won five of the last six games), though, and have earned a bye in the SEC tourney as a fourth seed.
Regardless of which team Tennessee will play on Friday, the team has proved over the final few games that it has the talent rebounding the ball and playing defense to stifle any program in the SEC.
With that newfound confidence and the unpredictability of a conference tournament, the Volunteers have what it takes to reach the semifinals and even make some noise in the conference championship if their shots fall.
If Tennessee stays hot, the program is going dancing.
Brigham Young Cougars (23-11, 13-5 WCC)
The Brigham Young Cougars were defeated in the finals of the West Coast Conference Championship by Gonzaga, but the biggest loss of the night came when star guard Kyle Collinsworth went down injured.
According to Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports, Collinsworth will miss the remainder of the season:
Despite the devastating news, ESPN’s Andy Katz, via LoyalCougars.com, believes the team is still a bubble team likely to make the tournament:
Even with Collinsworth’s injury, BYU is still one of the most explosive offensive teams in the nation. Led by junior guard Tyler Haws’s 23.4 points per game, the Cougars averaged a third-best 84.2 points per game this season.
The loss of Collinsworth will seriously limit how effective BYU can be in the NCAA tournament—he led the team in rebounds and assists per game and was second in PPG—but the team’s record in the WCC and overall will be enough to get it into the dance.
*Stats via ESPN.com.