Bubble Teams Hoping To Strike NCAA Bids
Around this time of year, you usually have three types of teams in accordance to the NCAA tournament. The first group is full of the mortal locks, which usually includes most teams in the top 25 right about now and those who did well in both non-conference and conference play. The second group is filled with teams with losing records or barely winning records with RPI's that do not warrant tourney consideration. The third group is full of the teams that are described as being "on the bubble" of a tournament bid. That means that some could rise, some could pop, but not all will make it.
Connecticut is definitely a team on the bubble would be best off to start winning games. With a 17-11 record (7-9 in Big East play), UConn has two very winnable match-ups with Providence and Pittsburgh coming up. Last years NCAA championship Huskies team went 9-9 in Big East play, but eventually won the conference tournament to earn a #3 seed. This years version has lost a few more games and while a harsh schedule likely gives them the benefit of the doubt, they still would be much better safe than sorry by adding some wins to their total.
UConn is not alone on the bubble, as North Carolina State, Mississippi State and Northwestern all are fighting for spots in the NCAA tournament. Northwestern in particular is a school who has never played in a NCAA tournament and will need to bolster there resume. This may be the schools best chance yet, but they are 17-11 (7-9 Big East) and have a tough Ohio State team left to play. Northwestern has a marquee win over Michigan State, but it will be an uphill climb for a team that could sport a losing conference record.
Some other teams on the cusp include Virginia Commonwealth, coached by Shaka Smart. VCU was a controversial NCAA team last season, but ended up making a Cinderella run to the last years Final 4. Still, they may have to beat conference foe Drexel for fear of possibly being on the outside looking in this season.
A more surprising bubble team is typical Atlantic-10 powerhouse, Xavier. The Musketeers won their first 8 games of the year and were seen by many as a possible top 10 team in the nation. However, following a brawl in a win over in-state rival, Cincinnatti, the team has gone 10-10. Currently 18-10 (9-5 in A-10 play), they have no guarantee of grabbing a spot in the big tournament. Definitely has been a disappointing season for the Musketeers and they will have to step up their play these last few weeks to try and cement a NCAA tournament spot.