Every March several teams are biting their nails wondering if their names will be called on Selection Sunday.
March 16th is Selection Sunday, the fateful day on which the selection committee will decide who qualifies and who cries into their popcorn while watching the tournament from home. “Bubble teams” are those on the fence, who could conceivably be in or out of the tournament.
The teams from this group who do find themselves in the tournament will have low seeds. But that doesn’t mean that a few of them won’t advance deep into March. We’ll take a look at a few schools on the fence including bubble teams to bet on and those to be skeptical about.
Bubble teams to bet on
Cowboys will ride this March
• Oklahoma State is stuck on the bubble after bookmakers expected them to be one of the best teams in the nation
• The Nebraska Cornhuskers hope to qualify for March Madness for the first time since 1998
• We are bullish about Oklahoma State, Baylor, Oregon and Arkansas State, and skeptical of Minnesota, Nebraska and Providence
NBA prospect Marcus Smart’s Oklahoma State Cowboys were predicted to be one of the nation’s top teams going into the season, with online sportsbooks in America drooling over them. After going through a mid-season lull and hitting rock bottom when Smart was suspended for shoving a fan, those lofty predictions looked sorely mistaken. Since Smart returned from his absence the Cowboys have been on a tear, winning huge games against Kansas and Kansas State. If they make the tournament, they have the talent to make a deep run.
•Verdict: Likely to get in, and could make the Sweet 16 or Elite 8
The high scoring Oregon Ducks
The Oregon Ducks are one of the highest scoring teams in the nation averaging 85 points per game. But they are only 9-8 in a weak Pacific-10 conference, and that is why they are still on the bubble. But the Ducks have recently beaten tough opponents the University of California-Los Angeles and Arizona State, and now seem to have a decent chance at making the tournament. While they have been inconsistent this year, their ability to outscore opponents means they can be a threat this March.
•Verdict: Likely to get in, and could win a game or two
Living on the razor’s edge: the Arkansas Razorbacks
Bill Clinton’s favorite basketball team boasts an impressive 10-7 conference record. But when you look at who they’ve played this year, it isn’t all that impressive. They have only three wins against top-25 teams. However, they have won six-straight games including an authoritative victory against #17 Kentucky. Like Oregon they are over-dependent on their ability to score, but can overwhelm their opponents when their shots are falling. They are led by bruising first-year forward Bobby Portis.
•Verdict: Almost certain to qualify for the tournament
Be bullish about the Baylor Bears
Baylor doesn’t have a great record, just 8-9 in the Big-12 Conference. But they have played 10 of their 30 total games against top-25 opponents, one of the toughest schedules in the country. If they are selected to compete in March Madness, you can be sure they won’t be intimidated by any opponent. They are also a veteran team, led by junior guard Kenny Chery. This gives them a leg-up in high pressure situations. ESPN currently predicts them to receive a #9 seed on Selection Sunday. When betting on March Madness, Baylor should be in the conversation.
•Verdict: Almost a lock to get in, and have a chance at making the Sweet 16
Approach with caution
The Minnesota Golden Gophers
The boys from up North, favorite team of yours truly, have been a roller-coaster ride all season long. They’ve beaten juggernauts Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa but lost to bottom-feeders like Purdue, Northwestern and Illinois. With that being said, two or three more wins could propel them into the NCAA tournament. They are led by excellent guards Andre Hollins and Deandre Mathieu as well as brilliant young coach Richard Pitino, so they can’t be counted out. I have my fingers crossed their number will be called on Selection Sunday.
•Verdict: 1/4 chance of being selected for the tournament, but approach with caution
The boys from the middle of nowhere: the Nebraska Cornhuskers
The Nebraska Cornhuskers have never won a game in March Madness, and haven’t qualified for the tournament since 1998. They have turned some heads this season, however, posting a winning record in one of the nation’s toughest conferences. The Huskers are led by star guard Terran Petteway and it looks likely we will see them this March.
•Verdict: Likely to get in, but we are skeptical of their chances to advance
The Providence Friars’ season can be described by this cheesy but classic expression: “Close but no cigar.” They have a 10-7 record in the Big East Conference but have mostly beaten up on weak teams, with their only truly impressive win coming against Creighton. But boy have they lost in style! They lost overtime games against ranked opponents Villanova and Massachusetts as well as a nail-biter against Kentucky. If they had won one two of those games we wouldn’t be talking about them being on the bubble. They are drive by senior guard Bryce Cotton, who is one of the best players in the nation.
•Verdict: Likely to be selected, but Cotton will have to catch fire for them to make a splash in March