/Bracketology Bubble Watch: Teams on the cut line and possible bid stealers heading into conference tournaments
Bracketology Bubble Watch: Teams on the cut line and possible bid stealers heading into conference tournaments

Bracketology Bubble Watch: Teams on the cut line and possible bid stealers heading into conference tournaments

Conference championship week is the last chance for teams on the bubble to make their case to the NCAA Tournament selection committee. Or, they could take the decision out of their hands by winning the automatic bid. We also might see teams win their tournaments that could not get in any other way and “steal” a bid, popping someone else’s bubble.

Here is a bubblicious conference by conference look at this week’s major conference tournaments.

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ACC

ACC Tournament schedule

This one could be wide open. There are some good teams in this league, but no great ones, providing greater opportunity for an outlier to make a run.

Bubble teams

Syracuse – The Orange start the week as the second team out of my bracket. Their primary issues is the lack of quality wins away from home. They are just 2-7 away from home. The better of those two wins is at NC State.

NC State – The Wolfpack are a late add to the bubble and their stay may be short. They have won five in a row to get to four games above .500, but only the win at Virginia is significant. That is their only Quad 1 win and they are just 4-8 against the top two quadrants. It is going to take something of a deep run to get the selection committee’s attention.

Potential bid stealer

Duke – After playing themselves off the bubble, the Blue Devils are just five wins away from a spot in the field. They need to channel that mojo they had a few weeks ago when they got hot.

American Athletic Conference

AAC Tournament schedule

Houston is the only sure thing, although regular-season champ Wichita State is looking better lately. For a team to get an at-large berth, they will likely have to go through the Cougars.

Bubble teams

Wichita State – The Shockers ended up winning the regular season title and beat Houston along the way. They also did not play SMU at all due to COVID problems with the Mustangs and only played Memphis once, which was a 20-point defeat. They should be ok as long as they lose to Houston. Any other loss makes things nervy.

Memphis – The Tigers came agonizingly close to getting the big win over Houston that they needed to cap its tournament resume. The big win over Wichita State is nice, but it is hard to see Memphis as an at-large team without beating the Cougars. They have two losses to Tulsa holding them back as well.

High school – We don’t know much about the 11-4 Mustangs, who have been sidelined with COVID issues since Feb. 8. They were swept by Houston and split with Memphis in the regular season. They also lost at home to Cincinnati, which is the only result that really stands out. They are not bracketed so that they can play Houston before the conference final, so if they get that far, we will have to see if beating Wichita State is enough help.

Potential bid stealer

High school – While I have the Mustangs as a bubble team, it may be that they have to win the conference tournament to get in.

Big 12

Big 12 Tournament schedule

With seven dominant teams this season, there are no bubble teams or any likely bid stealers.

Big East

Big East Tournament schedule

It’s been a rough year for the Big East with COVID and injury problems and there may not be many teams in the field. Three look to be in the top half of the bracket, but there are a couple others that might not make it.

Bubble teams

Xavier – The Musketeers got off to a great start this season, but they got derailed by COVID. They have lost five of their last seven and only one of those losses has come to a likely NCAA Tournament team. Home wins over Creighton and Oklahoma are keeping them afloat for now, but the margin for error is very small

St. John’s – The Johnnies are a longshot. They have a couple of big wins against Villanova and at Creighton, but lost at home to Marquette and DePaul. If they don’t get in, that will be why.

Potential bid stealer

Marquette – The Golden Eagles have been hot down the stretch, winning four of their last five, including one at North Carolina. There is something to be said for being hot at the right time.

Big Ten

Big 12 Tournament schedule

The bubble has been fluid in the Big Ten this season, with at least four teams spending there. Most recently Michigan State has been the team to watch, but suddenly, Maryland is back for another go around.

Bubble teams

Michigan State – The Spartans have made a remarkable run from dead in the water to the middle of the bracket. The only thing that could set them back now would be a first round loss in the Big Ten Tournament, and even that may not be enough.

Maryland – Just a week ago, Maryland picked up its fifth straight win, beating Michigan State by 18 at home to move to 14-10 with games left against Northwestern and Penn State. The Terrapins just had to win one of them to be safely in the field. Instead, they blew big leads in both games and now enter the Big Ten Tournament at 14-12. A loss in the opener to drop to 14-13 makes for a very nervous selection Sunday. The selection committee will have to swallow hard to take a team one game above .500, even in a pandemic season.

Potential bid stealer

Penn State – There aren’t many good choices here. Healthy Minnesota would be great, but that isn’t a thing. Indiana has talent, but often looks lost. Penn State has had some good moments this season. The Nittany Lions swept Maryland, beat Wisconsin, VCU and Rutgers at home and won at Virginia Tech. Can they string five wins in a row in this tournament?  Probably not, but they’ll put up a fight.

Mountain West

MWC Tournament schedule

This league has set up shop on the bubble, with only regular season champion San Diego State not on it among the four potential NCAA Tournament teams. Boise State is among my last four in starting the week, while Utah State is among the first four out.

Bubble teams

Colorado State – The Rams are a game below .500 against Quad 1 and also Quad 2, but they have no other losses. Their schedule is just so-so and everything good they have done has come in league play. They should make it if they can avoid an upset.

Boise State – The Broncos struggled down the stretch of the season losing three in a row at the end. The first two losses were at San Diego State, which isn’t a problem, but the third one was at home to Quad 4 Fresno State. They were also swept by Nevada in the regular season. They do have the league’s only Quad 1 non-conference win, which came at BYU.

Utah State – The Aggies finished second in the conference but are at a disadvantage because of two Q3 losses, one of which came in non-conference play. They are just 3-5 against Quads 1 and 2 and all three wins came at home.

Potential bid stealer

Nevada – The Wolf Pack have had some good moments in conference play, including a sweep of Boise State and a win over Colorado State in their only meeting this season. They have too many bad losses to be an at-large team, but could be dangerous this week.

Pac-12

Pac-12 Tournament schedule

The Pac-12 had a rough time in non-conference play and that will likely show up in lower seeds for its better teams. My current bracket has USC as the highest seeded Pac-12 team and the Trojans are only a six. That said, there is only one team still on the bubble, and it is one of the bluebloods of the sport in a year that has been rough on that group of teams. Arizona would be a bubble team as well, but they have taken a self-imposed postseason ban.

Bubble teams

UCLA – The Bruins have hit the skids late in the season and are on a three-game losing streak entering the Pac-12 Tournament. They are still on the high side of the bubble and should be ok if they can avoid a bad loss.

Potential bid stealer

Stanford – Despite living a nomadic existence early on, the Cardinal got off to a good start this season and has a win over Alabama to its credit. They have struggled down the stretch though, losing four in a row coming into this week. If they can find their form, they have a chance to be dangerous.

SEC

SEC Tournament schedule

The SEC has had a couple of teams move off and on the bubble this season, but six teams are solidly in the field and only one is left on the bubble. That team is among the first four out.

Bubble teams

Be Miss – The Rebels shot themselves in the foot enough times that it will be tough to make the tournament as an at-large, but it’s not impossible. They finished strong, winning seven of their last night, but one of the losses was one of its two in Quad 3. There are potential quality wins in front of them if they can get there.

Potential bid stealer

Georgia – The Bulldogs have enough hits to be dangerous, but can they string four in a row together?  They have wins over LSU, Missouri, Mississippi and Auburn, so they have to be taken seriously.