College Basketball Bubble Watch: The Last Stretch
Over the past four months, each and every college basketball team across the country has seen their season take a unique shape.
Some have put themselves in a position where they know their name will be called on Selection Sunday, while others have lost a few too many games and will be relegated to one of the lower postseason tournaments (or maybe no tournament at all).
And then there are a special handful of teams whose plans for March are still up in the air. They have had their fair share of ups and downs from November through February, and with just over two weeks remaining in the regular season, they still don't know where they will be playing postseason basketball.
Yes, these are the bubble teams. Life on the bubble is a nervous existence, but in this piece we will try to see which teams have even more cause for concern than others based on the final few games remaining on their schedules.
nERD Rank: 33rd
Remaining Schedule: at Portland, at Gonzaga, Santa Clara, at USF, GCU
Projection: Missed Tournament
The Gaels could very well win the WCC Tournament and avoid the bubble altogether, but they have a good shot at making the NCAA Tournament as an at-large if they can take care of business down the stretch. Taking care of business is really code for "no bad losses," which could come in each one of their final five games (save for Gonzaga). A win in Spokane would all but guarantee Saint Mary's a bid, but a 4-1 record nonetheless should do the job as well. In any case, Randy Bennett's team would likely receive a 12 seed and be sent to Dayton for a First Four game.
nERD Rank: 37th
Remaining Schedule: Pittsburgh, NC State, at North Carolina, at Florida St
Projection: 9 Seed
With four quality wins and a top-40 RPI rank, Syracuse looks to be in good shape heading into their final four games of the regular season. The most important of those four will be the last one on the road against Florida State. The Seminoles are another bubble team, and a loss to them could give the selection committee pause when debating on the Orange. Still, Syracuse has done enough where they should sneak into the field with a pair of wins in the final couple of weeks of the year.
nERD Rank: 39th
Remaining Schedule: at St. John's, Providence, Xavier, at Butler, at DePaul
Projection: 12 Seed
With a record of 18-7, Seton Hall is set up nicely going into the stretch run. They have a few low-risk, high-reward games remaining against Providence, Xavier, and Butler, meaning losses in those games won't kill the Pirates. Their résumé is similar to that of San Diego State's back in the 2009-10 season, when the Aztecs won 22 games in the regular season and were given an 11 seed by the committee. Two wins in their final five games should get them in the tournament, while three or four would get them off of the bubble completely.
nERD Rank: 54th
Remaining Schedule: Cincinnati, at UCF, Temple, at Memphis, So. Florida
Projection: Missed Tournament
The Golden Hurricane are on the wrong side of the bubble at the moment, and that fact won't change unless they sweep their final five games or win the AAC Tournament. That stretch of contests includes challenging home games against Cincinnati and Temple and a tricky road matchup with the Tigers in Memphis. So it's going to be tough to get out unscathed. What we do know is that they will need better production down the stretch from James Woodard, who was completely neutralized in Saturday's loss at Connecticut. Tulsa's postseason fate will likely hinge on the play of the senior guard.
nERD Rank: 65th
Remaining Schedule: at Oregon, UW, Washington State, at USC, at UCLA
Projection: 8 Seed
Wayne Tinkle's team currently sits as one of the first few teams out of the field of 68 with a great RPI and a record of 15-9. The good news is that they still have four chances to pick up quality wins and play their way into the tournament, but that will be a challenge for a road-weary team that still has three games left away from Corvallis. They are also one of the few bubble teams that has a chance to make a big move in Championship Week considering the depth of the Pac-12 provides ample opportunity for success in their conference tournament. Oregon State certainly has a look at making their first Big Dance since 1990, but they will need to win a game or two outside of Gill Coliseum to do so.