Every year, college basketball programs sit down and watch selection sunday together in order to see where they will be seeded in the tourney. Most teams can sit back and relax knowing they have convinced the committee that they deserve to make the tournament. Teams sitting on the bubble are usually hanging on the edge of their seats and sweating bullets thinking about the possibility of their team not making the tournament. So, which teams this year on the bubble will make it? Syracuse, Wake Forest, USC, and Kansas State will fall on the right side and be the last four teams in. Which teams will fall short? Mid-major programs like Illinois State and Rhode Island.
After a rocky start to the season, Syracuse was able to find their groove and get back on track before it was too late. Wins against the likes of Florida State, Virginia, and Duke shows that Syracuse is plenty worthy of being in the tournament. The Orange led by long time coach Jim Boeheim will be looking to make another magical run from a deep seeded position.
Wake Forest will be looking to make their first appearance in March under Danny Manning and his young team. Even though the Demon Deacons only have three top-50 RPI wins on the season, their 22nd ranked SOS will prove helpful in their bid to make the tournament. Winning 4 of their last 5 on the season won’t hurt either. Even if Wake Forest doesn’t hear their name called on Sunday, they have to be excited for the future. Their conference record improved from a measly 2-16 last year to 9-9 this year.
USC is part of a Pac-12 group who doesn’t get enough national recognition because of their late night west coast schedule. This is a team who beat UCLA and regular season AAC Champions SMU. 6 of USC’s 9 losses have come to top 25 teams such as Oregon, UCLA, and Arizona. Three of the possible top ten teams in the country. USC’s tough competition and close games against top teams will help them win an at large bid on selection sunday.
Lastly, Kansas State will be the final at large team to make the tournament. Their impressive performance against Baylor and heartbreaking loss to West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament were just what the committee needed to validate their ticket. Beating the Baylor Bears 2 out of 3 times during the season is a fact the selection committee won’t be able to ignore. This Bruce Weber disciplined basketball team will be trying to crack the tournament for the first time since 2009.
So, which teams will be on the wrong side of the bubble? Looking at what the committee has done in the past, teams like Illinois State (27-6) and Rhode Island (23-9) will be left out. Mid-major schools just have a tougher time impressing the committee because of their weaker conferences.
Illinois State losing by 20 to Wichita State in their conference championship game will be a tough stain to remove from their body of work. Their SOS for the season is 159, they have losses to Tulsa (15-17) and Murray State (16-17).
Now, for Rhode Island, their best win is against Cincinnati, a very respectable team. However, they have some very bad losses to Fordham (13-19) and La Salle (15-15). These two teams RPI were 132 and 214. Now if Rhode Island beats VCU in the Atlantic 10 Conference championship on Sunday, then all of this becomes irrelevant. This is because Rhode Island will have clinched an automatic bid with a conference championship.
Welcome to the beginning of March Madness.