With conference season coming to a close in the upcoming weeks, this is typically the time where bubble teams are trying to bolster their individual resumes before conference tournaments start in attempt to receive an at-large bid in March. With only three games remaining in most conferences, it’s starting to get much easier to determine what’s a lock, should be in or a bubble team when it comes to Selection Sunday. Let’s take a look at some of the traditional power conferences:
Locks: Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State,
Should be in: Oklahoma
Bubble Teams: Iowa State, Baylor
With Kansas and Kansas State tied at the top of the conference with a 12-3 record, the final three games of conference season before the conference tournament will be real exciting. Kansas is searching for their ninth straight conference championship which is a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since the days of John Wooden and the UCLA Bruins. Look for them to be successful as they finish their season with two homes games against Texas Tech and West Virginia and a road tilt at Baylor. Give all the credit in the world to Bruce Weber for taking Frank Martin’s players and competing in the Big 12 this season but I don’t envision them going into Stillwater and knocking off Marcus Smart on March 9th ; still, quite the successful year for the Wildcats. After Oklahoma State, who has to be a lock to make the tournament after walking into the Phog and coming out victorious, the conference takes a little bit of a dip in talent and it becomes much difficult to determine who else is going to get an at-large bid.
Oklahoma (18-8, (9-5), KP: 48)
Lon Krueger and his Oklahoma Sooners have been a tremendous surprise this season and do have home wins against Kansas and Oklahoma State which should honestly be enough to receive a bid. Only way I envision Oklahoma not making it is if they don’t take care of business at home against Iowa State and West Virginia as well as an early exit in Kansas City for the conference tournament.
Iowa State (19-9, (9-6), KP: 40)
Losing at home Monday vs. Kansas in overtime after controlling most of the game didn’t help their bid aspirations for March. They really don’t have a marquee win on their schedule that one could point to which seems to be the problem with Hoiberg’s Cyclones. With a tough game on Saturday in Norman, for Iowa State to make the tournament, they will need some help from opposing bubble teams as well most likely win out their remaining schedule against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia.
Baylor (16-11, (7-7), KP: 50)
I never know what to make of this team as they seem to have the talent to compete in the Big 12 year in, year out; but yet never seem to piece it together. I’ve been calling for Scott Drew’s head for awhile now and after this dismal season in which they have lost 6 out of their last 8 games, it may finally come to fruition. One of the only reasons the Bears still have an outside shot at an at-large bid is the fact that they face Kansas and Kansas State at home in the next two weeks and if they somehow can pull off two wins with a deep conference tournament run, look for Baylor to receive a bid in March. Do I think it’s plausible? Of course not, especially after that pathetic performance in Norman against Oklahoma on Saturday, but that being said, with the greatness of Pierre Jackson actually shooting well; anything is possible.
Locks: Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State
Should be in: Minnesota
Bubble Watch: Illinois
In what is being proclaimed as the best conference in college basketball this year, I’m a little more hesitant to make such proclamations. There’s no denying that Indiana is most likely the best team in the country this season even after their loss last night to Minnesota, but will they actually win their own conference? Wisconsin is playing awfully well after completely manhandling their last three opponents by an average of 27 points and also have one of the easiest schedules to finish the season with 2 games at home. Michigan I guess has to be thrown into the equation for possibly winning the conference but with 2 home games against Michigan State and Indiana, I can’t see them winning both of those games. I think I’ll just sit back and stop trying to analyze the craziness of this conference and watch the madness of the final weeks of the season.
Minnesota (19-9 (7-8) KP: 18)
After their win last night at home vs. Indiana, they’ve pretty much received their bid in my opinion with non-conference wins vs. Michigan State, Stanford, and Memphis. With three games remaining and the way Tubby had his Gophers running the floor last night, look for them to easily knock off Penn State, Purdue, and Nebraska to finish the conference 10-8.
Illinois (20-9 (7-8) KP: 34)
Does two marquee wins at Gonzaga and at home vs. Indiana get this team a bid come tournament time? Possibly. With two road games at Iowa and Ohio State, look for Illinois to finish conference season 8-10 which in my opinion doesn’t get them an at-large bid unless they win a couple games in Indianapolis for the conference tournament.
Locks: Duke, Miami FL
Should be in: Virginia
Bubble Watch: North Carolina State, North Carolina, Maryland
What a lackluster year for the ACC this season with Duke’s mediocre play against inferior opponents to North Carolina acting as if it’s 2010 all over again; I have not been impressed by any team within this conference. Sure, Miami FL has been a pleasant surprise to the conference and currently lead Duke by two games going into their final match-up this Saturday but I’m not convinced that their recent success is actually sustainable but I guess that’s why they play the games. As of now, Duke and Miami FL are obvious locks to receive bids for March but other than them, I see so many mediocre teams that I don’t know where to actually start.
Virginia (19-8 (9-5) KP: 17)
With non-conference wins at Wisconsin and vs. Tennessee, I like to think the tourney committee would give Tony Bennett and his team an at-large bid given they’ve been somewhat successful throughout ACC conference season. They do have some really bad losses against Delaware and Old Dominion, but I like the Cavaliers to finish the conference season strong and actually beating Duke at home tomorrow night.
North Carolina State (19-8 (8-6) KP: 45)
Being predicted as the pre-season favorite to win the ACC, the Wolfpack have been an utter disappointment lead by C.J. Leslie. After winning what seemed to be the biggest game in North Carolina State history against Duke, Gottfried and the Wolfpack have lost 6 of 10 but do indeed have a favorable schedule to end conference play. If they seemingly take care of business, which has been harder said than done lately for this team, look for them to receive a bid no matter their performance in the ACC tournament.
North Carolina (19-8 (9-5) KP: 31)
I honestly don’t see North Carolina receiving a bid unless they win the conference tournament this year. With no big wins against a top 25 opponent, North Carolina has been the definition of mediocre this year. Look for them to have a nice run in the NIT though just like 2010.
Maryland (19-8 (7-7) KP: 60)
Honestly, the only good reason to watch this team is the potential Alex Len has as a pro prospect. After playing one of the weakest non-conference schedules in the country, this team was declared as one to compete for ACC dominance throughout the conference season but yet their guard play has been atrocious. With one win over a top 25 opponent in Duke (Ryan Kelly is still out FWIW), I don’t see Turgeon and the Terps getting a bid especially considering 3 out their last 4 games are on the road where they’re 1-5 on the year thus far.
Locks: Georgetown, Syracuse, Louisville, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame
Should be in: Cincinnati
Bubble Watch: St. Johns, Villanova,
Two weeks ago, I would have said Syracuse runs away with this conference especially after the return of James Southerland from whatever the hell was going on with his eligibility. By the way, doesn’t it always seem that Syracuse’s big men always have some sort of eligibility problem at some point during the season? Anyways, with Southerland returning, the Orange have lost 3 of their last 5 games which has dropped them to a 10-5 conference record and 2 games out of the first place Georgetown Hoyas. I pity the individuals that weren’t lucky enough to watch Otto Porter go into a sold out Carrier Dome last Saturday and have the performance of his life while knocking off Syracuse while also jumping them in the Big East standings. As of now, it looks like its Georgetown’s conference to lose but with games against Connecticut (who faces NCAA sanctions, so they won’t be competing in postseason play this year), Syracuse and Villanova to end their season; it won’t be an easy feat to do so.
Cincinnati (19-9 (7-8) KP: 36)
Mick Cronin’s Bearcats have to be the biggest performance thus far throughout Big East play. Starting the season 12-0 with non-conference wins against Iowa State, Oregon, Alabama, and Xavier, people thought that Cincinnati were going to be part of the upper echelon of the Big East this season but injuries and inconsistent shooting has plagued them to the bubble watch. With three games remaining, if Cincinnati can hold serve at home against Connecticut and South Florida, then they should be in line for an at-large bid come Selection Sunday no matter their result in the Big East tournament.
St John’s (16-11 (8-7) KP: 92)
Any other year, I don’t see St. John’s even being considered for an at-large bid for March, but this year’s bubble seems extremely soft. With non-conference losses to UNC Asheville and San Francisco along with a weak conference showing with their best win on the road against a depleted Cincinnati team; I can’t see St John’s getting a bid unless they win 3 games in the Garden for the Big East tournament.
Villanova (18-11 (9-7) KP: 54)
Seemingly playing for their tournament lives, Villanova recently has been playing very well winning 5 of their last 6 games before Monday’s letdown game on the road against Seaton Hall. With two games left on their schedule at Pittsburgh and at home vs. Georgetown, Villanova has ample possibilities for building their resume. I like them personally to knock off Georgetown next week at home which should get them an at-large bid.
About the Author, Michael Gray:
Baseball and basketball enthusiast as well as a former baseball blogger for my beloved Toronto Blue Jays. Expect some Midwest bias in most of my writing as I’m currently a Junior at The University of Kansas. Rock Chalk Jayhawk! You can follow him on twitter at @Jays_Fan2.