Championship Week is underway in college basketball, and many teams on the bubble for the 2019 NCAA Tournament will be looking to make their final case to make it into the Big Dance.
Selection Sunday is less than a week away, and the 68-team field will become a bit more clear as automatic bids are set and teams jockey for the remaining 36 at-large bids.
Here are six bubble teams that are worth keeping an eye on as conference tournament week rolls on.
NC State (21-10), ACC
NC State is a versatile offense that currently features six players averaging at least nine points per game. Torin Dorn leads the Wolfpack with 13.7 points per game. They are 32nd in NET rankings, meaning they should be a solid bet for the field of 68, but lack in terms of statement wins. They went 1-1 against ranked non-conference opponents, beating Auburn at home and falling to Wisconsin on the road. So where does that leave them? NC State faces off against Clemson in the first round of the ACC Tournament on Wednesday. At least one of those teams should get into the dance. While both Clemson and NC State could get bids, winning Wednesday would go long way.
Indiana (17-14), Big Ten
This perhaps is the most interesting case for an NCAA Tournament bid. The NCAA introduced a new method to evaluate teams for the 68-team field, which is broken into four quads used to classify teams’ wins. Quad 1 consists of a home game against an Associated Press top 10 opponent, a neutral site game vs. an AP top 25 or a road game against an AP top 30. Indiana has played a ton of Quad 1 games, going 6-9. However, the Hoosiers went 1-12 from Jan. 6 to Feb. 22, yes … 1-12. They can cling on to a season sweep of Michigan State and a solid home wins against Wisconsin, Marquette and Louisville, but Indiana no doubt has work to do in the Big Ten Tournament.
Florida (17-14), SEC
An 0-3 finish to the regular season has made the SEC Tournament an all-important one for the Gators. Florida is another case of a team that played particularly stout schedule, going 3-11 in Quad 1 games, all three of those wins coming on the road. The Gators aren’t particularly strong on offense, averaging just 68.3 points per game, good for 283rd in the country. Florida surely will find itself in the last four in or last four out category come selection Sunday.
Seton Hall (18-12), Big East
Seton Hall was 11-3 and 2-0 in conference play on Jan. 2, having already notched key wins against Kentucky at Madison Square Garden and Maryland on the road. But things took a bit of a dive from there, with Kevin Willard’s team dropping five of sevens games to start the new year, then dropping three consecutive matchups against Xavier, St. John’s and Georgetown. They perhaps played themselves back into the tournament conversation with back-to-back wins against No. 16 Marquette and No. 23 Villanova to close out the regular season. This is a team that can win a big game and has a big-game player in Myles Powell, a shot-creating junior guard who is averaging 22.6 points a game. Should they avoid a cataclysmic appearance in the Big East tournament, they should be in.
Temple (23-8), American
The Owls have résumé-boosting wins against Houston and UCF to close out their regular-season but lack a true statement road win. Temple can put some distance between itself and the bubble watch with another profile win against a top AAC team in the conference tournament. The Owls, statistically, are about as middle-of-the-pack as it gets, with an offense that ranks 115th and a defense that rings in at 166th. They do take care of the ball, with the second in the nation with 0.80 steals per turnover. And they have a game-changing senior guard in Shizz Alston Jr., who averages 19.7 points and 5.1 assists per game.
VCU (25-6), Atlantic 10
Mike Rhoades’ squad is 210th in the country in scoring, averaging 71.5 points a game. So what does that say about the Rams, winners of their last 12 games? They play outstanding defense — the seventh best defense in the country to be exact — propelling them to the top seed in the A-10 Tournament. VCU does not have a single player averaging over 15 points, but they do average eight steals per game, which currently ranks 24th in the nation. The Rams got a signature win over Texas 54-53 on the road in December and gave Virginia a scare just days later. The Rams not only shold be in, but could be a popular Cinderella pick.
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