College Basketball Homestretch: Bubble Teams Step It Up

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Hokies, Huskies & Illini Must Win

With Selection Sunday just 12 days away, several teams remain on the cusp as the regular season winds down and conference tourney play begins. Smaller conferences are already gearing up for their tournament runs with those first games scheduled this weekend.

Fun Five

Final FourSeveral games this week could help polish the resumes of teams likely bound for the tournament while a number of match ups could allow some teams on the bubble to prove whether they belong in the field of 65 or not. 34 bids are awarded to conference slots with the remaining 31 consisting of “at large” schools. At least two dozen of these positions are probably already decided leaving just ten slots available.

Games you are going to want to watch this week:

Illinois (18-11) at Ohio State (23-7) – Beating the Buckeyes at Columbus would be huge for the Illini, a win that would likely punch their ticket for the post season. After that, it is a home game against the Wisconsin Badgers (21-7), not a sure victory either. Win both games and the Illini can play much more relaxed basketball during the Big Ten tournament.

Connecticut (17-12) at Notre Dame (19-10) – The Huskies were on everyone’s list of tournament bound teams at the beginning of the season, but Big East conference play has been tough for UConn. At 7-9 in the Big East, the Huskies aren’t likely to get to the tournament unless they beat the Irish and South Florida (17-11) for their last two regular season games and win at least one game in the Big East tournament. Notre Dame is in if they win; South Florida is in if they win and advance at least one round in the tournament too.

NC State (16-13) at Virginia Tech (21-7) – Once considered a virtual lock three games back, the Hokies have lost three straight and need to get a monkey off of their backs by knocking off the Wolfpack at home. There are four ACC teams breathing down the Hokies back; a late season collapse could mean that the VT is out while those currently following are in. Hokie junior guard Malcolm Delaney needs to have the kind of game he had against Wake Forest last month when he scored 31 points.

Charlotte (19-9) at Rhode Island (20-7) – The fourteen team Atlantic 10 will send Temple and Xavier to the NCAA tournament with Richmond at 22-7 having a decent shot. There is a possibility a fourth A10 team will get in, which likely means that Wednesday’s match up between the 49ers and Rams will eliminate one team from content. By the way, Saint Louis (19-9) and Dayton (19-9) are also on the bubble. A Saint Louis victory over the #16 Temple Owls (24-5) helps their case.

Oklahoma State (20-8) at Texas A&M (20-8) – In all likelihood the Cowboys secured an at large bid by beating then #1 Kansas at home on Saturday. But if they lose to the Aggies, are upset by the Huskers and collapse in the first round of the Big 12 tournament, that win against KU may mean that the selection committee won’t be interested in a 20-11 Cowboy team. But that’s a doubtful scenario as junior guard James Anderson will continue to make a huge impact for OU.

March Madness

Of course, even after this week’s action is over, several teams will emerge and others will find themselves submerged. A handle of conference upsets will scramble the field further which means those team’s in the driver’s seat need to keep winning if they have a chance of being a part of March Madness.

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