March Madness is right around the corner. Before that, though, there is the matter of conference tournaments. For some teams, this is perfunctory. They have already punched their tickets to the tourney. Other teams aren’t so lucky.
This is the time of year you hear a lot about “bubble teams” and how conference tournaments could make or break them. A good run with a couple of upsets, and they will be just fine. An early exit, though, and they could be watching March Madness from home. Here are 10 college basketball teams on the bubble, presented in alphabetical order. Keep them in mind when watching conference tourneys.
Remember last season when the Sun Devils got off to a hot start and soared up the rankings? They ended up scuffling a bit, and this year they never quite had that run. Arizona State has been the second-best team in the Pac-12. The problem is that the conference is down this year. As such, getting upset before the finals, where a loss to Washington could be accepted, might do them in.
The Tigers won the college football title, but their basketball team isn’t quite as good. Their overall record isn’t great, and they actually have a losing record in the ACC. However, unlike Arizona State in the weaker Pac-12, the ACC is stacked, so Clemson can be excused, to some degree, for that record. All that being said, the Tigers will likely need an upset, or two, in the ACC Tournament to make it to March Madness.
Creighton is on the outside looking in but just got a big boost to its credentials. The Bluejays recently beat Marquette, which was a top 10 team at the time. That’s a true marquee win, and as you are about to find out, the Big East is loaded with bubble teams. This conference tourney is going to make or break some resumes.
Patrick Ewing has done some good things as the freshly minted head coach at his alma mater, but this isn’t the glory days for the Hoyas. What they have going for them, though, is that they’ve beaten a lot of their fellow Big East bubble teams. They also have one win over defending champs Villanova. Let’s see if Ewing and top scorer Jessie Govan have a tourney run in them.
Things were looking great for the Hoosiers early in the year. They’ve only lost two non-conference games, and one of those was against Duke. Romeo Langford was looking like an NBA lottery pick. Then conference play started, and Indiana’s stock plummeted. Langford’s stock also is down, and the Hoosiers are 6-12 in Big 10 play. They would probably already be out of it, but then they beat Wisconsin and Michigan State, giving them hope.
Much like his fellow Dream Team member Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin has gone back to his alma mater as head coach to try and restore it to former glory. The Red Storm have 20 wins on the season, and they are currently 8-9 in the Big East. They finish the season against Xavier. A win there could clinch it…barring a tournament collapse, of course.
We tried to avoid mid-major teams. If you look at some projections, you will see teams like Furman and Murray State on the bubble. However, they both are likely to win their conference tournaments, and if they don’t, it’ll be a major upset. Saint Mary’s is a true bubble team, though, and one that probably won’t win its conference tournament. There’s a little team called Gonzaga to contend with. That being said, the Gaels making it to the WCC championship game against the Zags could get them over the hump.
The Pirates, like the Hoosiers, previously looked sage. Then a collapse happened. They’ve lost the bulk of their games down the stretch, and they end the season at home against Villanova. Winning that would give them a good boost heading into the tournament. It’s hard to avoid recency bias, so Seton Hall probably needs to pick up a couple of tournament wins to counteract that narrative.
By: Chris Morgan