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Article:College Basketball Tourney Bubble Watch 3-9

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The last weekend of the regular season was thrilling. Along with the great bubble matchups, many teams have already punched their ticket to the big dance by winning their conference tournaments.

The first set of conference tourneys started this past Tuesday. Cornell, East Tennessee State, Morehead State, Northern Iowa, and Radford are guaranteed a spot in the tourney. The major conferences start their tournaments Tuesday-Thursday, culminating in the tournament selection on Sunday afternoon. This week will be the last chance to impress the selection committee.

Remember, there are 65 spots available, comprised of 31 automatic bids to conference champions and 34 at-large bids. Here is a comprehensive look at the major leagues in Division-I (full rankings are current AP poll)...  

From the results that follow, I predict that at this point 59 teams are safe, which includes 31 auto-bids and 28 at-large bids. Out of thees 59 teams, 31 come from major conferences and 28 from minor ones. March 15th is approaching rapidly, so teams need to bunker down and play hard to make the field of 65.

This means that there are SIX remaining at-large bids that will go to the "bubble" teams that I have listed. If I were to choose from the remaining bubble teams that are listed below, my last six in, in order, would be: Penn St., Michigan, New Mexico, Arizona, Minnesota, and San Diego St. My first four out would be Florida, Miami, Creighton, and Kansas State. And my next four out would be Auburn, UNLV, Providence, Maryland. Davidson, Tulsa, Siena, Kentucky, Rhode Island, Temple, VCU, and George Mason are also on my bubble list (read below).

This ordering is based on where they stand now, and how I predict them to finish down the stretch. These ranking could change dramatically during next week's conference tourneys. Look for my picks for these crucial bubble watch games at the end of each conference's analysis. My picks will be italicized.

SEC (3) - Championship March 12-15 in Tampa, FL - Projected Champion: LSU  

Locks: #20 LSU (25-6, 13-3), #44t Tennessee (19-11, 10-6)

Should be in: South Carolina (21-8, 10-6)

Bubble: #31 Auburn (21-10, 10-6), Florida (22-9, 9-7), Kentucky (19-12, 8-8)

Analysis: The Gators got the big win that they were looking for at home against Kentucky. When they hit their threes, they are a very tough team. During our live blog for the Mississippi St game, we discuss many possibilities that may lead the Gators to a bid. Most notable is the fact that if Florida defeated Kentucky (which happened), and then won their first two conference tourney games (Arkansas, Auburn), then they would be sitting with 24 wins.

Now, I don't think I've ever seen a team from a major conference have 24 wins and not make the big dance. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

LSU is the clear leader of this somewhat tame SEC. They've lost their last two regular season games, but they had already clinched the outright conference regular season title. I expect them to win the conference tourney, but a score of other teams can upset them.

South Carolina and Tennessee are a step ahead of Florida in regards to tournament seeding.

Tennessee secured their berth with a nice road win over South Carolina last week. In doing so, they clinched the SEC East. They are playing inspired basketball as of late and I expect them to give LSU a run for their money in the SEC tourney. They did lose to Alabama at home on Sunday, but that shouldn't affect their chances of making it.

SC has beaten Kentucky twice, and Florida once, so they seem more likely to make the tourney that they others, even with the loss last this week to Tennessee. They won big at Georgia this weekend, and barring disaster in their first round game, I see them in the tournament.

Kentucky is in a similar position as Florida. The loss at Florida this weekend will probably cost them a bid. Also, they had a terrible home loss to Georgia last week. I thought the Florida loss on the road in Athens was bad, but this trumps it. Billy G isn't winning the games that he needs to, which are home games. You lose a large amount of home games, and the boosters will start calling for your head.

Auburn is quietly making their case for a bid. The win at home against SEC Champ LSU was huge. In our forums the other day, I brought up a great point that Clay Travis made on Auburn's chances. This is precisely why I've been keeping them on my bubble watch while ESPN and CBS don't even have them listed. Say Auburn defeats LSU this weekend (which happened), then defeats the UF (#E3 seed) in the conference tournament, they would have every right to say they deserve a bid over either the Gators or the Wildcats. It's pretty wild to think about.

This weekend's results (3/6-3/8): Kentucky lost at Florida, South Carolina won at Georgia, LSU lost at Auburn, Alabama won at Tennessee

Games this week (3/9-3/12): Thursday - First round tournament games - 1:00 pm (E4) Kentucky vs (W5) Ole Miss, 3:15 pm (W3) Mississippi State vs (E6) Georgia, 7:30 pm (W4) Alabama vs (E5) Vanderbilt, 9:45 pm (E3) Florida vs. (W6) Arkansas  

ACC (6) Championship March 12-15 in Atlanta, GA - Projected Champion: North Carolina  

Locks: #1 North Carolina (27-3, 13-3), #9 Duke (25-6, 11-5), #8 Wake Forest (24-5, 11-5), #17 Clemson (23-7, 9-7), #22 Florida St (23-8, 10-6), Boston College (21-10, 9-7)

Should be in:

Bubble: Miami (18-11, 7-9), Maryland (18-12, 7-9)

Analysis: I expect North Carolina to win the ACC tournament at the Georgia Dome. They won a big game against Duke on Sunday to secure the regular season title, and should be a lock for a #1 seed in the big dance.

Boston College is pretty much a lock after defeating Georgia Tech this weekend. However, they have looked pretty bad in their late season wins. I think they are in, but their seeding will fall dramatically.

The bubble is more complex. Miami rebounded nicely from a poor showing against GT last week by defeating NC State at home. This season, they have challenged UNC and Duke late on the road, and have beaten Wake Forest at home. If they win one or two ACC tourney games, they should make the tourney.

Maryland was on track for a spot before this past week, losing two games to Wake Forest and and bad loss at Virginia. They hurt themselves the most and will have to make a very deep run in the conference tourney to move on.

Virginia Tech lost again this weekend and I no longer have them on the bubble. Too many late losses have cost them their chance at an at-large bid.

This weekend's results (3/6-3/8): Georgia Tech lost at Boston College, N.C. State lost at Miami (Fla.), Maryland lost at Virginia, Virginia Tech lost at Florida St., Duke lost at North Carolina, Clemson lost at Wake Forest

Games this week (3/9-3/12): Thursday - First round tournament games - 12:00 pm (8) Virginia Tech vs (9) Miami, 2:00 pm (5) Clemson vs (12) Georgia Tech, 7:00 pm (7) Maryland vs (10) NC State, 9:00 pm (6) Boston College vs (11) Virginia

Big East (7) Championship March 10-14 in New York, NY - Projected Champion: Pittsburgh  

Locks: #2 Pittsburgh (28-3, 15-3), #3 Connecticut (27-3, 15-3), #5 Louisville (26-5, 16-2), #10 Villanova (25-6, 13-5), #18 Syracuse (23-8, 11-7), #21 Marquette (23-8, 12-6), #30 West Virginia (21-10, 10-8)

Should be in:

Bubble: Providence (18-12, 10-8)

Analysis: Clearly the most competitive conference, and the deepest, the Big East should have some major firepower in the big dance. I have Pittsburgh taking the title, but UConn, Nova, Louisville, and Marquette could all jump up and grab it. Syracuse and WVU are locks as well.

With the Pitt win over UConn, and Louisville winning this weekend, Louisville took the regular season title. Pitt, UConn, and Louisville will all have a great shot at a #1 seed.

As for the bubble, Providence is the only team worth consideration. They have some big wins, including a #1 Pitt squad. They took care of Rutgers on the road last weekend, but couldn't hold on at Villanova Thursday night. With their season over, they'll hope to win a game or two in the Big East Tourney.

This weekend's results (3/6-3/8): Connecticut lost at Pittsburgh, Syracuse won at Marquette, Louisville won at West Virginia

Games this week (3/9-3/12): Tuesday - First round tournament games - 12:00 pm (16) Depaul vs (9) Cincinnati, 2:00 pm (13) St. Johns vs (12) Georgetown, 7:00 pm (15) Rutgers vs (10) Notre Dame, 9:00 pm (14) South Florida vs (11) Seton Hall ;

Wednesday - Second round - 12:00 pm (8) Providence vs Dep/Cin, 2:00 pm (5) Marquette vs SJ/Gtwn, 7:00 pm (7) West Virginia vs ND/Rut, 9:00 pm (6) Syracuse vs SH/SFla;

Thursday - Third round - 12:00 pm (1) Louisville vs Prov/Dep/Cin, 2:00 pm (4) Villanova vs Marq/SJ/Gtwn, 7:00 pm (2) Pittsburgh vs WVU/ND/Rut, 9:00 pm (3) Connecticut vs Syra/SH/SFla

Big Ten+1 (5) Championship March 12-15 in Indianapolis, IN - Projected Champion: Michigan St  

Locks: #7 Michigan St (24-5, 14-3), #24 Purdue (22-8, 11-6), #26 Illinois (23-8, 11-7)

Should be in: Wisconsin (18-11, 9-8), #44t Ohio St (19-9, 9-8)

Bubble: #40t Penn St (21-9, 10-7), Minnesota (21-8, 9-8), Michigan (18-12, 8-9)

Analysis: The Big Ten+1 is weird because I could see as much as eight teams making it, and as low as four teams making it. As of now, Michigan St is the favorite to win the conference tourney. However, they have been wildly inconsistent and could easily be upset by fellow locks Illinois and Purdue.

Wisconsin is playing really well right now, and I think they should be in the tournament. They'll be a lock with one conference tournament win against OSU.

Ohio St had been playing really well lately, but a bad loss against Purdue halted their good fortune. A win over Northwestern this past weekend all but sealed their tournament fate. They'll be a lock with one conference tournament win against Wisconsin.

As for the bubble, Penn State, Minnesota and Michigan are all similarly positioned.

Penn St has surprised a whole lot of people and have continued to be in the discussion for a tournament berth, including sweeping Illinois. I thought the win Thursday night against Illinois secured a bid. However, they faltered at Iowa in overtime this weekend to put them right back onto the bubble. They should be in with a first round win over Indiana, and they'll be a lock with a win over Purdue.

Minnesota had a rough spell for long while during conference play. However, a win this week against Wisconsin was huge and quite possibly might have secured their bid. The loss at home against Michigan really hurt them. They should be in with a first round win over Northwestern, and they'll be a lock with a win over Michigan State.

Michigan is also playing well as of late, including a home win over Purdue. They're early season split with Duke, their wins against UCLA and Illinois, and their strong showing against UConn should be enough for them to make the tourney. The road win at Minnesota this weekend was huge. As of now, I think they're in, but it'll be real close. They should be in with a first round win over Iowa, and they'll be a lock with a win over Illinois.

This weekend's results (3/6-3/8): Michigan won at Minnesota, Penn St. lost at Iowa, Purdue lost at Michigan St., Northwestern lost at Ohio St., Indiana lost at Wisconsin

Games this week (3/9-3/12): Thursday - First round tournament games - 12:00 pm (8) Minnesota vs (9) Northwestern, 2:30 pm (7) Michigan vs (10) Iowa, 5:00pm (6) Penn State vs (11) Indiana

Big 12 (6) Championship March 11-14 in Oklahoma City, OK - Projected Champion: Oklahoma  

Locks: #6 Oklahoma (27-4, 13-3), #11 Kansas (25-6, 14-2), #14 Missouri (25-6, 12-4), #40t Texas (20-10, 9-7)

Should be in: #27 Texas A&M (23-8, 9-7), #37t Oklahoma State (20-10, 9-7)

Bubble: Kansas St (21-10, 9-7)

Analysis: Kansas wrapped up the regular season title with a big home comeback win over Texas this weekend.

Although Oklahoma didn't win the regular season title, with Blake Griffin healthy I expect them to win the conference tourney.

Missouri is a lock with their stellar play all season. They scored a huge win at home against Oklahoma last week, but they got hammered by Texas A&M this weekend.

Texas stumbled for a short period, but have regrouped with big wins, including Oklahoma. The win against Baylor is good enough for me. They are now a lock.

OSU defeated Kansas St at home last week and I have moved them up to the "should be in" category. An opening round win against Iowa State will move them to a lock.

TAMU was 14-1 to start the season, but had a dreadful start to the conference schedule. They been playing well as of late, and a big road win at Colorado helped them. They won big at home against Missouri and I think they're pretty much locked. They are now in the "should be in" category. An opening round win against Texas Tech will move them to a lock.

The only bubble team is Kansas St. They had a great opportunity to come up with a big win over Oklahoma St last week, but they blew it. They took care of Colorado to end the regular season. A second round win against Tex/Col should put them into the tourney, and a semis win against Kan/Neb/Bay will move them to a lock.

This week's results (3/6-3/8): Colorado lost at Kansas St., Missouri lost at Texas A&M, Oklahoma St. lost at Oklahoma, Texas lost at Kansas

Games this weekend (3/9-3/12): Wednesday - First round tournament games - 12:30 pm (9) Baylor vs (8) Nebraska, 3:00 pm (12) Colorado vs (5) Texas, 7:00 pm (10) Iowa State vs (7) Oklahoma State, 9:30 pm (11) Texas Tech vs (6) Texas A&M ;

Thursday - Second round - 12:30 pm (1) Kansas vs Bay/Neb, 3:00 pm (4) Kansas State vs Col/ Tex, 7:00 pm (2) Oklahoma vs ISU/OSU, 9:30 pm (3) Missouri vs TT/ TAMU

Pac-10 (4) Championship March 11-14 in Los Angeles, CA - Projected Champion: Washington  

Locks: #13 Washington (24-7, 14-4), #15 UCLA (24-7, 13-5), #23 Arizona St (22-8, 11-7), #40t California (22-9, 11-7)

Should be in:

Bubble: Arizona (19-12, 9-9)

Analysis: The Pac-10 is certainly up for grabs, with the clear favorites being Washington and UCLA. At one point I thought that UCLA was the clear class of this league. A late season swoon made me rethink my pick and choose Arizona St. However, ASU dropped the ball, so my newest pick is Washington.

California is a lock with their road win at Arizona last week.

There is only one bubble team. I felt pretty comfortable about Arizona before last weekend because I thought they could pull of an upset of Washington. However, with the loss against California, they had dropped four in a row. They rebounded nicely to defeat Stanford to end the regular season. A second round win over Arizona State should get them into the tournament, a semis win over Wash/OSU/Stan will lock them in.

Washington St. had risen from the dead lately with some huge wins over quality opponents. But a loss against Washington this weekend ended all of the slim hopes they had of receiving an at-large bid.

This weekend's results (3/6-3/8): California lost at Arizona St., Oregon lost at UCLA, Washington St. lost at Washington, Stanford lost at Arizona

Games this week (3/9-3/12): Wednesday - First round tournament games - 9:00 pm (8) Oregon State vs (9) Stanford, 11:30 pm (7) Washington State vs (10) Oregon;

Thursday - Second round - 3:00 pm (4) Arizona State vs (5) Arizona, 5:30 pm (1) Washington vs OSU/Stan, 9:00 pm (3) California vs (6) USC, 11:30 pm (2) UCLA vs WSU/Ore

Other Conferences (28) (Conference tournament winner will be Bolded)  

Projected Champions (Locks/Should Be In's): Xavier (Atlantic 10), Memphis (Conference USA), Butler (Horizon League), BYU (Mountain West), Gonzaga (West Coast), Utah St (Western Athletic)

Projected Champions (must win conference): Binghamton (America East), East Tennessee State (Atlantic Sun), #35 Weber State (Big Sky), Radford (Big South), Cal State Northridge (Big West), #33t VCU (Colonial Athletic), Cornell (Ivy League), #37t Siena (MAAC), Buffalo (Mid-American), #37t Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley), Morgan St (MEAC), Robert Morris (Northeast), Morehead State (Ohio Valley), #44t American (Patriot League), College of Charleston (Southern), Stephen F Austin (Southland), Alabama St (SWAC), North Dakota St (Summit League), Arkansas-Little Rock (Sun Belt)

Locks: #4 Memphis (28-3, 16-0, Conference USA), #12 Gonzaga (25-5, 14-0, West Coast), #16 Butler (26-4, 15-3, Horizon League), #19 Xavier (24-6, 12-4, Atlantic 10), #25 BYU (24-6, 12-4, Mountain West), #29 Utah (21-9, 12-4, Mountain West)

Should be in: #28 St Marys (25-5, 10-4, West Coast), #33t Utah St (27-4, 14-2, Western Athletic), #32 Dayton (25-6, 11-5, Atlantic 10)

Bubble: Rhode Island (22-9, 11-5, Atlantic 10), Temple (19-11, 11-5, Atlantic 10), VCU (23-9, 14-4, Colonial Athletic), George Mason (22-9, 13-5, Colonial Athletic), Tulsa (22-9, 12-4, Conference USA), Siena (25-7, 16-2, MAAC), Niagara (26-7, 14-4, MAAC), #36 Creighton (26-7, 14-4, Missouri Valley), UNLV (21-9, 9-7, Mountain West), #40t New Mexico (21-10, 12-4, Mountain West), San Diego St (21-8, 11-5, Mountain West), Davidson (25-6, 18-2, Southern)

Analysis: There are many great teams out there that aren't in any of the big six major conferences. I have broken up the projected conference champions by their ability to make the tourney regardless of whether they won their conference title or not.

Memphis is the clear best contender for the national title out of this group.

Xavier, Butler, Gonzaga, Utah, and BYU are locks and will be very dangerous come tournament time.

Dayton at 25-6 in the A-10, Utah St at 27-4 in the Western Athletic, and St Mary's at 25-5 in the West Coast seem like they should be able to hold on for tournament spots if they fail to win their own tournaments. I think one more tourney win for each of them cements their bid.

As for the bubble, I have added 11 teams for which a limited number of spots remain.

From the A-10, Rhode Island and Temple have outside chances at a bid. Rhode Island lost at home against UMass, and this really hurts their at-large chances. Temple is coming on strong as of late and with a big splash in the A-10 tourney, they might squeeze in for an at-large bid.

From the Colonial Athletic, VCU and George Mason may have a shot at an at-large bid if they lose in the finals of their conference tournament. However, it is a very very slim shot at that.

From Conference USA, Tulsa is still alive. If they reach the CUSA finals, they have an outside shot at a bid.

From the MAAC, Siena and Niagara are still alive. They must make their conference finals. Even so, an at-large spot is very unlikely.

From the Missouri Valley, Northern Iowa won the title and is in. Creighton lost in the conference semis which really hurts them. I think if they would have lost int he finals, they'd be a shoe in, but now it's a toss up.

From the Mountain West, UNLV, New Mexico and San Diego St are still alive. I've already stated that Utah and BYU should be in, and I've heard reports that all five teams that I've mentioned might get in. That would be huge for a mid-major conference. New Mexico and San Diego St have played much better than UNLV down the stretch. UNLV plays San Diego St in the first round of the conference tourney, and this seems like a weed out game. I think New Mexico is in with a first round win.

From the West Coast, St Marys seems like the logical choice to make it, with a 25-5 record. Now that Patty Mills is back, the selection committee can view how the team is/will be with him. A big win in the semis against Portland moved them into the "should be in" category.

This weekend's results (3/6-3/8): Illinois St. lost vs Northern Iowa, Illinois St won vs Creighton, Tulane lost at Memphis, Massachusetts won at Rhode Island, New Mexico won at Wyoming, TCU lost at Utah, Xavier lost at Richmond, Duquesne lost at Dayton, Air Force lost at BYU, San Jose St. lost at Utah St., UNLV lost at San Diego St.

Games this week (3/9-3/12): A-10 - Thursday - Quarterfinals - 12:00 pm (1) Xavier vs Las/SLU, 2:30 pm (4) Temple vs SJU/Char, 6:30 pm (2) Rhode Island vs Duq/Mass, 9:00 pm (3) Dayton vs Rich/SBU

Big Sky - Wednesday - Finals - 10:00 pm Portland St/Montana St vs Weber St /Idaho St

Colonial Athletic - Monday - Finals - 7:00 pm (1) VCU vs (2) George Mason

Conference USA - Thursday - Quarterfinals - 1:00 pm (2) Tulsa vs Mar/Rice, 7:00 pm (1) Memphis vs Tul/ECU

Horizon - Tuesday - Finals - 9:00 pm (1) Butler vs (3) Cleveland State

MAAC - Monday - Finals - 9:00 pm (1) Siena vs (2) Niagara

Mountain West - Thursday - Quarterfinals - 3:00 pm (1) BYU vs CSU/AF, 5:30 pm (4) San Diego State vs (5) UNLV, 9:00 pm (2) Utah vs (7) TCU, 11:30 pm (3) New Mexico vs (6) Wyoming

Northeast - Wednesday - Finals - 8:00 pm (2) Mt St Mary's vs (1) Robert Morris

Southern - Monday - Finals - 7:00 pm (3) Collage of Charleston vs (1) Chattanooga

Summit - Tuesday - Finals - 8:00 pm NDST /SUta vs SDST/Oak

Sunbelt - Tuesday - Finals - 10:00 pm WKU/NTex vs AKLR /SAla

West Coast - Monday - Finals - 9:00 pm (1) Gonzaga vs (2) St Mary's

Western Athletic - Thursday - Quarterfinals - 5:30 pm (1) Utah State vs Haw/Fres

Any Thoughts??? Feel free to comment below!

Next Update - Friday, March 13th


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