Kentucky still has work to do if they want to repeat as champs (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Most of the teams in this year’s field have already done enough to punch their ticket to the big dance, but some squads could use another quality win or two on their resume. This brings us to Championship Week, when teams that haven’t won enough regular-season games have the chance to come out of nowhere to win their conference tournament and “steal” a bid away from an at-large team. 37 bids are up for grabs, but after all of the “locks” are accounted for, that leaves just 6 bids.
Today we’re going to look at ten teams from various conferences. These teams, which are certifiably “On the Bubble”, need some help over the next few days but are still in contention for the aforementioned final 6. The number-crunching and bracket-building all stops on Sunday, but for now it’s Bubble Time!
Baylor (18-13) – The Bears got a huge win last week, beating Kansas by 23. This bumped Baylor back up near the cut line, but right now they are still on the outside looking in. Scott Drew’s team draws Oklahoma State in the first round of the Big 12 tournament on Wednesday night, an opportunity they cannot pass up. Should the Bears lose they will have 14 losses, more than any team on the bubble, and will have to sit around waiting for the rest of the tournament pieces to fall into place. If Baylor can beat Oklahoma State however, they’ll most likely have done just enough to land on the right side of the bubble.
Boise State (21-9) – Boise State has been one of the most underrated teams in the bubble conversation. Not only are the Broncos the only team on this page with 4 top-35 RPI wins, they’ve also got the second-highest RPI, after Temple. The biggest blemish on this resume is the low non-conference strength of schedule, a measly but not crippling 217. If the boys in blue can beat San Diego State for a second straight time in Thursday’s Mountain West quarterfinal, they will be in for sure.
Iowa State (21-10) – Missed calls occur in sports almost daily, but rarely does a league commissioner admit to such mistakes. This was the case in Iowa State’s recent overtime loss to Kansas, where a missed charge at the end of regulation extended the game and deprived the Cyclones of a marquee win. Fortunately the Cyclones have done enough that they should be alright without one. They have beaten every other quality Big 12 tournament team and only suffered one truly bad loss in the process. They draw a struggling Oklahoma in the first round of the Big 12 tournament, and so long as they put up a fight, they should be fine come Selection Sunday
Kentucky (21-10) – One of the most intriguing bubble cases comes in the form of the defending champions. Granted, this team only returned 4 players from last year’s title team, none of which started in either season. The loss of star center Nerlens Noel a month ago nearly crippled this already under-performing team. But a recent win over Florida cat-apulted these Cats back into serious consideration. The Wildcats draw either Arkansas or Vanderbilt in the first round of the SEC tournament – a loss to either could drop them off the bubble for good. In the semis they would most likely draw the Missouri-Ole Miss winner. A win over one of these two teams could lock up a bid for John Calipari’s squad. However being that this game won’t take place until Saturday afternoon, mid-week bid thieves could make this another do-or-die game for the Cats.
La Salle (21-8) – La Salle has a very simple tournament path laid out – Win and you’re in. The Explorers get a bye to the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals, where they’ll face either Dayton or Butler. If it’s Dayton, they need to win to avoid their second sub-100 RPI loss. If they draw Butler, a win would be their second over the top-20 RPI Bulldogs, and would validate an already impressive resume. A loss to a very good Butler team probably wouldn’t hurt, but with the rest of the bubble teams trying to win important games at the same time, it could set them behind the rest of the field.
That’s the first five. But these teams do not have their spots reserved by any means. Which other teams want to take their place? Check back at lunchtime to find out, and we’ll also tell you which ones will actually have their names called come Sunday.