Bubble Teams That Deserve NCAA Berths Entering Conference Tournaments


Conference tournaments rev up this week, and their results will play a pivotal role in which schools are selected to the 2016 NCAA Tournament on Sunday night. Teams that win their conference tournament are granted an automatic bid to the NCAAs.

Prepare for March Madness with our “first four in” entering conference tournament week.

Syracuse, ACC
Record: (19-12, 9-9 in conference play)

The Orange consistently have been a national title contender under head coach Jim Boeheim, but that isn’t the case this year. Syracuse has quality wins over UConn, Duke, Notre Dame and Texas A&M, but none of those are statement victories and only one (Duke) was on the road.

Syracuse must win a game or two in the ACC tournament to secure an NCAA Tournament spot, either as a play-in team or a low seed in the regular bracket. The Orange begin their conference tournament schedule against Pittsburgh. The Panthers already have beaten the Orange twice, and a third defeat probably would be too much for Syracuse to overcome.

Tulsa, American
Record: 20-10 (12-6)

Tulsa’s No. 48 RPI ranking is higher than a lot of bubble teams, including Syracuse, Monmouth, South Carolina, Florida and conference foe UConn. The Golden Hurricane also beat certain tourney teams in SMU (although the Mustangs are ineligible because of rules violations) and Wichita State, and it also has valuable victories over UConn, Temple and Houston.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the NCAA selected a huge brand like UConn over a small school like Tulsa, but at the moment, the Golden Hurricane has the better tournament résumé. An opening-round conference tournament win over Memphis, which beat Tulsa a week ago, would be a huge help as well.

USC, Pac-12
Record: 20-11 (9-9)

The Trojans have an RPI ranking of 46, which sits above Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, Tulsa, Syracuse and the schools listed in the section above. USC has quality wins over Monmouth, Wichita State and a very good Arizona team.

The Trojans also have a very good chance to advance in the Pac-12 tournament with a first-round matchup against UCLA, which USC already has beaten twice this season. Beating two other semi-bubble teams in Colorado and California during the conference tournament would really help the Trojans’ case, too.

USC projects to be a No. 10 or No. 11 seed with its current résumé.

St. Bonaventure, Atlantic 10
Record: 22-7 (14-4)

St. Bonaventure’s best chance to make the NCAA Tournament will be during the A-10 conference tournament. There are a bunch of bubble teams in the A-10, including VCU, Saint Joseph’s and George Washington. A run to the tournament final would do wonders for St. Bonaventure’s chances.

The Bonnies are No. 27 in RPI, the highest ranking of any team in this article, but their only quality win was against Dayton. They lost to Syracuse, VCU, La Salle, Siena and Hofstra.

Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Mar 2, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; O'Shea Jackson Jr. (center) poses with Southern California Trojans players after an NCAA basketball game against the Oregon State Beavers at Galen Center. Jackson is the son of recording artist Ice Cube (not pictured). Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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