It’s very early to tell what bubble teams will prove worthy of making the NCAA Tournament but some teams have better opportunities than others. Of course, there is always the chance an underdog team shocks everyone and wins their conference tournament, resulting in a bid being taken away from one of the bubble teams. But below is a list of teams that I think will play their way into the NCAA Tournament, as well as four teams that will be accepting an invitation to the NIT.
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PLAYING THEIR WAY IN
1. Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Cowboys would probably be one of the toughest teams for the committee to leave out of the tournament. Oklahoma State lost seven straight at one point and lost Marcus Smart to suspension for three of those games. However, with an RPI of 46 and strength of schedule of 48, they still have a great chance of making the tournament. Oklahoma State still has a BPI of 20 and plays in the toughest conference in college basketball. Their last three games of the year include Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State. All three of those games are crucial for Oklahoma State to make the tournament. If the Cowboys win two of those three, I think they’ll lock up a bid. Win just one and they will have to do work in the Big 12 Tournament to earn an invitation.
2. Arkansas Razorbacks
The SEC has a list of teams that are fighting for NCAA Tournament bids, but I think Arkansas has the best chance to get one. With Arkansas’ win last night at Kentucky, I think they will claim that spot. Arkansas doesn’t have a huge non-conference win, maybe other than a win against fellow bubble team Minnesota. However, the Razorbacks swept the season series against Kentucky and played Florida tough, losing by two in overtime. If Arkansas closes out the regular season strong by winning their next three and grabbing the three seed in the SEC Tournament, they will have the best chance of the SEC teams to make the tournament. Win a game in the SEC Tournament and I think they lock up a bid.
3. Saint Joseph’s Owls
The Owls sit in second place in probably the most underrated conference in basketball, the Atlantic 10. St. Joe’s hasn’t lost a game since falling to St. Louis three weeks ago. They have won five straight games and are 10-3 in the conference. The conference has displayed some great basketball in the past and has sent numerous teams into the tournament the past few seasons. I think the committee will definitely put that into the equation when looking at the Owls. St. Joe’s should win out the rest of the season and will be tough to beat in the A-10 Tournament. I think the Owls will definitely make the tournament this season.
4. Baylor Bears
Baylor played a tough non-conference schedule and plays in the best conference in basketball. I think their record (18-10) doesn’t display how tough this team plays every night. They have a nice win over Kentucky and played Syracuse tough early in the year. They have struggled against the upper part of the Big 12 but have a chance to get two big wins against Iowa State and Kansas State to end the season. I think the Bears will get at least one and then win at least two games in the Big 12 Tournament. If the Bears can get to .500 in the Big 12 before Selection Sunday, I don’t think there’s any way the committee can keep them out of the NCAA Tournament.
PLAYING THEIR WAY OUT
1. St. John’s Red Storm
The Red Storm will be NIT bound once again this season. Back-to-back losses at Villanova and home against Xavier has put the Johnnies back in a hole. I think they will take care of business against DePaul, but at Marquette to end the season will be a tough one. An early potential matchup with a top seed in the Big East Tournament doesn’t help their chances either.
2. West Virginia Mountaineers
The Mountaineers recent three-game skid after a huge win against Iowa State hasn’t really helped their chances. The Mountaineers need to take two of the next three and one of those wins has to be Kansas at home to end the year. They will need a big win to get back into the picture after their recent struggles. I think two wins in the Big 12 Tournament will be a must if the Mountaineers want to sneak into the madness. Juwan Staten and Eron Harris both average over 18 points a game, but must play even better to make up for the Mountaineers inconsistent low post play. I think it’s too large a task but the Mountaineers have a great guard duo heading into next season.
3. Tennessee Volunteers
The Volunteers win versus Virginia is the only thing they have to sell the committee on as of right now. They have no big wins in conference play and have no quality teams left to play in the regular season. Tennessee will have to make it to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament to even have a chance of convincing the committee on Selection Sunday. Unfortunately, I think they won’t make it; Arkansas and maybe Missouri will make the Dance instead.
4. Georgetown Hoyas
The Hoyas have two HUGE opportunities knocking at their door this next week. Hosting Creighton and visiting Villanova to end the season gives John Thompson III‘s squad the chances at victory that will solidify a spot in the tournament. Unfortunately, I don’t think they will win either game nor beat them in the Big East Tournament. A 16-14 record won’t have a chance against other bubble teams and they will be playing in the NIT.
What do you think?
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