Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Bubble at a Glance

Championship week and the week before it are two of the most important periods in the college basketball season for bubble teams. They need to finish on a high note to impress the committee, and it is also a chance to upset some of the top teams on a neutral court. There are still several teams out there with an opportunity to make the NCAA Tournament. Here's a brief rundown of who stands where on the bubble and what they need to do the rest of the regular season to get into the Tournament.

Maryland: Last time the Terps won a game in regulation was February 8th; that demonstrates the struggles they are having lately. But if they win on the road Saturday at Virginia Tech, Maryland will get to .500 in ACC play and will be a lock.

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets can lock up a bid tonight at Wake Forest if they can somehow pull off a win. That is unlikely, although they beat them the first time they played the Deacons. At home against Clemson awaits them on Saturday. A win there, and they finish .500 in the ACC and would be in the tourney.

Miami (Fl.): The Hurricanes basically blew a shot at a Tournament bid when they lost at home to Georgia Tech over the weekend. However, if they can pull a huge upset on the road at Duke on Thursday, which would make them 8-8 in the ACC, I can not see how you could leave them out of the Big Dance.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies are essentially done after a heartbreaking loss to Clemson after they were up 3 with 10 seconds left. They still can get to 8-8 in the ACC with a win at home vs. Maryland this weekend, but they would probably still need a win or two in the ACC tournament.

North Carolina State: They have to win out to get in the conversation, which includes at Virginia, and at home against Wake Forest. I can't see it happening.

Georgetown: After looking like a six seed 2 or 3 weeks ago, the Hoyas have lost three in a row, and need to win one of their final two, plus a game in the Big East Tournament. Tonight at Connecticut is going to be tough, but at home vs. Providence should be winnable.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers are on a roll and should get to 9-7 in the conference at Seton Hall on Saturday. A win in the Big East tourney would wrap things up but West Virginia is definitely in good shape.

George Washington: So much for feeling safe. After an awful-looking 15-point home loss to St. Joseph's on Saturday, the Colonials should probably win the A-10 Tournament if they want a bid. Although they still have a chance to get an at-large nod, they go to Rhode Island this weekend, and that won't do much for their chances.

Iowa State: Tonight vs. Missouri is a must-win after losing two straight games. This weekend, they go to Colorado in another must-win. If the Cyclones win both, a win in the Big 12 Tournament would lock up a bid.

Texas: A blow out loss at home to Oklahoma doesn't kill them, but the Longhorns now have to win at Oklahoma State Saturday to finish above .500 in the Big 12. I don't see them beating the Cowboys, which will leave them needing one or two wins in the conference tournament.

Texas A&M: Tonight at Oklahoma State would be a huge victory for the Aggies and would put them in the Field of 65. Without a win, however, they can still get to .500 in the Big 12 with a win at Baylor on Saturday. Similar to the two above teams, a win in the Big 12 Tournament is going to be necessary.

Minnesota: A win tonight at Penn State would give the Gophers 10 wins in the Big Ten and 20 overall, which is going to be tough to ignore, plus the fact that they would have won four in a row to finish the year. I would say that a win in the Big Ten Tournament would be icing on the cake.

Indiana: A heartbreaking, buzzer-beating loss to Wisconsin Tuesday night really deflated the Hoosiers' bubble. They stand at 9-6 in the Big Ten with an easy home game vs. Northwestern to finish the year. However, they are only 15-12 even with a win on Saturday. Two wins in the conference tournament are the minimum if they want a bid. Their chances are slim currently.

Houston: The last team out in this week's bracket, Houston could finish 11-5 in the conference and be a virtual lock heading into the conference tournament. However, they finish at Marquette and home vs. UAB--not the easiest of closing stretches. If they can go 2-0, they are in. If not, good luck in the Conference USA Tournament.

UAB: I can't figure out if I should putt the Blazers on the bubble. They can finish 10-6 in the conference with two wins this week, but they still don't have a Top 50 win. Anyway, if they can win at home vs. Depaul tonight and at Houston on Saturday, UAB should only need a win or two in the conference tournament to be a lock.

Memphis: The Tigers are pretty much done, but if they finish 11-5 in the conference with wins at Saint Louis and vs. Cincinnati this week, they deserve mention.

Wichita State: With a loss to Northern Iowa in a huge bubble game, the Shockers might have to win the Missouri Valley Tournament to get a bid after losing 5 of their last 6. Come see me if they get to the conference championship.

Northern Iowa: With a win at Wichita State in a bubble elimination game, they are right back into the thick of things. The only problem for them is that they got the 4 seed in the conference tournament, and that means a third date with Southern Illinois if they get to the semi-finals. Win that, and they are in.

Creighton: The Bluejays jump into the discussion after winning their last 5 combined with bad stretch runs by the two above teams. If they can beat Wichita State for a third team in the semi-finals, Creighton would make a great case for an at-large bid.

Kent State: Look who's back. After being left for dead a few weeks ago, the Golden Flashes return with a date at conference leader Miami (Ohio) tonight. If they can pull the upset, Kent St. will be back in the forefront of the bubble. A loss, and they leave the bubble again.

Akron: A loss at Kent State on Saturday hurt their chances big-time, but they still have opportunities. If they win at Marshall tonight, it would set up an elimination game at Buffalo on Saturday. If the Zips win there, a bid could be in the offing providing they grab a win or two in the wide-open MAC Tournament.

Buffalo: If they win their final two, they are a lock. However, that is going to be very difficult. Tonight they head to Ohio, where the hosts have only lost one game this season. A win there, and Buffalo will welcome Akron in what would be a MAC bubble game.

New Mexico: This is an interesting profile. With Danny Granger, the Lobos are 21-3; without him, they are 0-3. They have won 8 of their past 9. If they win vs. Colorado State on Saturday, they still will need to reach the Mountain Wst finals to feel safe about a berth. Their numbers are still extremely low.

Vanderbilt: Winning out is the only option. The Commodores need to win tonight at home vs. South Carolina, and then at LSU on Saturday. Their chances are slim before these games; after them, their chances are going to be gone.

UTEP: The Miners are doing everything they can do to feel comfortable about a bid. If they win at home vs. Boise State on Saturday, they will finish 14-4 in the WAC and 22-7 overall. Two wins in the conference tournament would give them 24 wins--how could the committee leave them out?

St. Mary's: This is the team closest to a lock out of any of the aforementioned clubs. 18 wins in their past 21, a Top 30 RPI, a 22-7 record and finishing only one game back of Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference is seeming like a tournament profile for the Gaels. Mark them down if they get a win in the conference tournament.

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