Hello, college basketball fans!
It's the time of year when if you are a bubble team, you not only have to worry about winning your tournament games (assuming you are still in your tournament), you also have to worry about other teams winning or losing around you. So if you want to make the NCAA's, who should you root for today and the rest of the weekend? Here's a guide.
These are the teams I think bubble teams should root against or hope lose:
ACC: Virginia Tech and Clemson
Boston College of course is also a bubble team but Boston College has the better profile outside of the fact that Clemson beat BC at home this year (if BC wins today, their neutral site win will trump Clemson's home win). Boston College also swept Virginia Tech this year. If Clemson loses today, it almost certainly knocks Clemson out but I can't say the same about Boston College.
As for Virginia Tech, the win over Duke is great but I think they would be a long shot if they don't beat Florida State today. If you are a Hokie, the worst case scenario for you would be a loss and a Clemson win. For sure, FSU, Clemson, and BC get in ahead of you. Can the ACC get six teams in? I doubt it.
Now if Clemson and Virginia Tech both lose today, both seem like longshots. If you had to choose one, who would you take? They tied in conference play. Clemson won the head to head but it was at home and Virginia Tech didn't have the chance to play in Blacksburg. On the other hand, Virginia Tech beat Duke but Clemson had to play at Duke. If Clemson had a chance at Duke at home, would they have won? Duke hasn't beaten any NCAA caliber conference teams on the road this year.
Big Ten: Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State
Similar situation with Illinois and Michigan. Illinois's overall profile is better right now (and they did beat Michigan in their only meeting although it was in Champaign). I think the Illini have a better chance at surviving a loss than Michigan does. Then again, Michigan swept both Michigan State and Penn State and unless one of them pulls an upset today (and possibly another one Saturday), I have a hard time picking either the Spartans or Nittany Lions ahead of the Wolverines.
I think Penn State has the worst chances of making the NCAA's if they lose today (Michigan State probably has a better chance). If you're not from Michigan State and Penn State, you certainly don't want either of them winning.
I think Illinois is safe right now but the total nightmare situation for Illinois would be if they lose to Michigan and Michigan State and Penn State also win today. All of a sudden six Big Ten teams have 10 wins while Illinois has only 9. All six of those teams beat Illinois this year. Is seven Big Ten teams a possibility? As an Illini fan, I don't want to have to find out.
Big 12: Colorado
Colorado may have punched their ticket with a win over Kansas State in Kansas City (their third win over the Wildcats this year). But a win over Colorado and of course the Buffaloes will be dancing. There is no shame losing to Kansas but maybe if Colorado loses by about 30 they could be in trouble.
C-USA: Memphis, UTEP
Both need to make the final to have any chance of dancing. That's still not including UAB, who were stunned in the first round but still won the regular season and will likely have an RPI in the 30's (it was 28 before the game according to CBS Sports). I doubt this league will not have an at large berth as it is hard to pass over UAB.
As for UAB, here's your nightmare scenario. Memphis makes the final and loses and loses to UTEP (essentially a road loss and a reasonable one). If you compare Memphis and UAB straight up, UAB was two games better than Memphis in conference but Memphis swept UAB and would have made it to the final, beating the team that knocked off UAB. Memphis also beat Gonzaga at Spokane (not a true road game but close). If you had to take one team in that scenario, you probably take Memphis. If you are UAB, you probably would rather Memphis win the whole thing to guarantee you will be the best at large candidate in the conference (assuming C-USA gets an at large team at all).
As for UTEP, I thought the only chance they had for getting in as at large would be to lose to UAB in the final (they would win a head to head over Memphis since they beat the Tigers and would have made it farther in the tournament). UTEP certainly can't lose today and if they don't win the tournament at least UAB has to be ahead of them in the pecking order.
Don't laugh. Harvard would have a slight chance of getting an at large bid. At the very least, how do you like your at large chances if you are either Boston College or Colorado, two teams that lost to Harvard this year? Harvard probably doesn't get in as at large but they certainly can take BC and/or Colorado with them to the NIT. It would be hard to justify either team over Harvard (who has Boston College beaten this year?)
USC has almost no chance to get in if they lose to Arizona but I think they would have a shot if they beat the Wildcats. Of course in that scenario, the Trojans would be in the final, would have already knocked off the top seed, and No. 2 seed UCLA has already lost. They would have a chance to actually win the whole thing and guarantee they will be in.
Of course, you want absolutely no part of Oregon winning it all.
If you still believe RPI means something, you clearly want Georgia to beat Alabama in the head to head match. Maybe a loss by Georgia would knock them out of bubble consideration but I imagine Alabama would have a harder time getting in with a loss than Georgia would. On the flip side, maybe an Alabama win takes Georgia out but doesn't put Alabama in and neither team makes it if Kentucky wins today and beats Alabama on Saturday.
Tennessee plays Florida and a loss probably doesn't hurt them too much. What probably would hurt them would be if Alabama wins today. Then you have to take the Crimson Tide over the Vols (who are just .500 in the SEC and who lost to Alabama in Knoxville). They also don't want to see Georgia make the final either.
It's a little too early to call, but the SEC probably has the best chance among BCS conferences of a party crasher to win the tournament and steal another at large bid. Last year, Mississippi State went to overtime against Kentucky, who had pretty much had a No. 1 seed locked up (luckily John Calipari played to win and did someone a favor in keeping MSU out last year). In 2008 (the year of the tornado in Atlanta), Georgia stole a bid. Hopefully, Kentucky, Florida, and/or Vanderbilt take care of business because the last thing any bubble team wants is a Mississippi school winning the tournament. Heck, no one outside of Mississippi wants to see either of them win and I'm not sure anyone in Mississippi even cares about basketball.
WAC: Anyone other than Utah State
Some people think Utah State is a shaky at large candidate. Well they are currently 16th in the RPI and have lost only 3 games (two to teams currently in the top 5 of the RPI). I can't believe for a second the Aggies would miss the Dance, if someone else wins the WAC then some other bubble will pop, not Utah State's.
So you now know who to cheer for, bubble teams! Get your popcorn ready and start cheering for the big boys, your Ohio State's, your Duke's and North Carolina's, etc.