Bubble teams' chances of popping into NCAA Tournament

UConn off the bubble with win -- Seton Hall and other bubble teams' chances of popping into NCAA Tournament

3/7/12 in NCAABB   |   JoeKukura   |   492 respect

Automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament are fllling fast, and bracketology bubble teams are sweating out this week's conference championship results. With our March Madness brackets in mind, let's look at the teams on the mid-week bubble, and what they need to have happen in these remaining Championship week games.

UConn practically assured itself of a tournament berth with a 71-67 overtime win Wednesday afternoon over West Virginia. West Virginia are also a fairly solid bet to make the field of 68, despite the loss.

Still to come, you've got three automatic bids being handed out Wednesday night. If you love seeing little itty-bitty mid-major teams go bananas celebrating their NCAA Tournament berth, tune in Wednesday night to one or all of the following:

Patriot League Championship
7pm ET, CBS
Lehigh Mountain Hawks at Bucknell Bison

Northeast Conference Championship
7pm ET, ESPN2
Robert Morris Colonials vs. LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds

Big Sky Conference Championship
9pm ET, ESPN2
Weber State Wildcats vs. Montana Grizzlies

The latest in automatic bid-ness is available on the always-updated FanIQ list of automatic bid teams.

The bracket situation is a little less clear for some of your bigger-name bubble teams. These bubble watchers and tournament wannabes are going to need wins, and perhaps a little help as the clock winds down to Selection Sunday.

Seton Hall brought a great overall record and a terrible conference record into the Big East Tournament. A poor Big East record and an even poorer RPI means the Pirates have to not only beat Louisville tonight in a 7pm ET game, but then go on to win against Marquette Thursday night to make the Big East Semifinals.

Elsewhere in the Big East, South Florida must handle Villanova in a 7pm ET Wednesday night game, and then semi-upset Notre Dame Thursday night to maintain any chance to dance.

Northwestern struggled to stay afloat in the nation's toughest conference, so they'll need to put on some sort of show in the Big 10 Tournament. Probably the only way the Wildcats get on the right side of the bubble is by beating Minnesota Thursday at 5:30 ET, and then Michigan Friday at 6:30 ET.

Practically the whole PAC-12 Conference can view themselves as a bubble team. Any of them can realistically earn the automatic bid in a PAC-12 Tournament that has no clear favorite. There is no dominant squad in this group, teams that still maintain a reasonable shot without winning are Cal, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona.

Over in the ACC Tournament, North Carolina State likely needs to beat Virginia (Friday, 2pm ET, ESPN2) to keep flickering any realistic hopes of making the Tournament. Miami (FL) are in the same boat, with The U needing a semi-finals win over Florida State (Friday, 9pm ET, ESPN2) or else those bubble hopes probably pop -- in the bad way.

Texas ranks among your stronger bubble teams -- provided they acquit themselves well in the Big 12 Tournament. That means their Quarterfinal contest with Iowa State (Thursday, 9:30pm ET) is a must-win for the Longhorns' Tournament hopes.

Tennessee brings an embarassingly high RPI into the SEC Tournament, yet they still have the No. 2 seed. They'll need a win Friday night (5:30 ET) against the winner of the Ole Miss Auburn contest, and then a win Saturday in the semifinals (1:30pm ET, ABC). Mississippi State is the other SEC bubble team. Probably only one of those two SEC teams makes the field of 68, so look to whomever advances further to get their ticket punched Sunday.

If mid-majors are more your thing, there's plenty of suspense to go around the Cinderella programs and conferences.

Colorado State probably needs just one win in the Mountain West Conference Tournament. But without that one win -- against TCU, Thursday night at 5:30 ET -- the selection committee would probably decide that the Mountain West is represented well enough by likely locks UNLV, San Diego State, and New Mexico.

Dayton and Xavier meet head-to-head on Friday evening (9pm ET, CBS) in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, and to the loser of that game is stuck with NIT dreams The St. Louis Billikens -- Billekens! -- can make themselves a more-or-less lock with a win over Lasalle on (Friday, 6:30 ET, CBS). On the wrong side of the bubble, St. Joseph's desperately needs a win over St. Bonaventure (Friday, 2:30 ET, CBS), plus a little Hawk magic in the semi-finals on Saturday in order to celebrate on Sunday.

Wednesday is the first day of these games butting into the prime time network TV schedules, and games on three different channels simultaneously. This is a milestone in the pre-NCAA Tournament schedule.Stop working and soak it up, people -- the Madness is officially on!
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3/7/12   |   Dan_B   |   1067 respect

I have a feeling these next few days are going to be incredibly chaotic in and around the bubble...