March Madness Bubble Begins to Thicken

The Associated Press

Anyone who is a college basketball fan knows that March is the greatest month of the year. Not because spring is right around corner and not because the snow begins to melt, but because March Madness and the greatest tournament is right around the corner. With the NCAA basketball tournament comes cinderella’s and that dreaded bubble watch. There are teams that are clearly in the field, but there are those that are going to be sweating come Selection Sunday (March 11th). Today, I am going to highlight some teams that are sitting clearly on the bubble and whether I believe they should be in or out.

UCLA

After starting the season 13-4, UCLA scuffled a bit in the Pac-12 ending the season just 7-6 on their way to a 20-10 (11-7) record. Although UCLA didn’t end the year so great, they did pick up some big wins down the stretch. UCLA beat #13 Arizona in Tucson while also sweeping USC and adding those wins to a win over then #7 Kentucky late in December. UCLA’s only real bad loss was a home slip up to Colorado.

Verdict: In. Even with an up and down season, I believe UCLA has done enough to get themselves into the big dance and they can help cement their place by beating Stanford today in the Pac-12 tournament and making a run towards the championship.

Arizona State

A team that looked like a sure bet top seed in the NCAA tournament now will be sweating it out on Sunday. Arizona State started the season 12-0 and was looking like one of the top teams in the nation, but they went just 8-10 in conference play finished the season 20-11 and losing 5 of their last 6 including dropping out of the Pac-12 tournament in the first round with a bad loss to Colorado. Arizona State is clinging to their strong non-conference record with wins over then #15 Xavier and #2 Kansas. They did beat USC and UCLA in conference play, but suffered a couple bad losses to Oregon State and getting swept by Stanford.

Verdict: In. Even though Arizona State has struggled down the stretch, I believe they did enough early to get themselves in on what seems to be a weaker bubble then normal years.

Louisville

Louisville is an interesting team. After everything that happened days before the season started and losing a hall of fame head coach in Rick Pitino, you have to give interim head coach David Padgett credit for keeping this team going. Now, Louisville finished the regular season 19-12 (9-9), but we wouldn’t even be talking about them if it wasn’t for a complete meltdown in the final seconds against #1 Virginia. Louisville doesn’t have any overly strong wins, but they also haven’t suffered an gut wrenching losses. They won their first game in the ACC tournament over Florida State which helps them that much more.

Verdict: In. Louisville has a chance to play themselves off the bubble with a win over #1 Virginia this afternoon, but even with a loss I believe their resume is good enough with no bad losses to get them into the dance.

Marquette

This team is so interesting. Marquette has the ability to beat anyone on any given night because of their offense, but they also have the ability to lose on any given night because of their defense. Marquette finished the season at 18-12 (9-9) and had some good wins sweeping both Seton Hall and Creighton, but they also lost to DePaul and Georgia which won’t help your resume much.

Verdict: Out. Marquette barley squeaked by DePaul in the first round of the Big East tournament giving them a shot to face #2 Villanova. A win over Villanova will almost certainly put Marquette in the field, but a loss to Villanova will likely see Marquette on the outside looking in come Sunday.

Notre Dame

Every team on the bubble is interesting, but Notre Dame has a different kind of interesting. After starting the season strong, they lost All-ACC player Bonzie Colson to an injury that kept him out for most the season. In the absence of Colson Notre Dame struggled. Notre Dame lost 7 games in a row at one point during ACC play and they finished the season 18-13 (8-10). Notre Dame had a very good win early over then #6 Wichita State, but has suffered some bad losses to Ball State, Indiana, and Georgia Tech.

Verdict: Out. Notre Dame right now, even after winning its first two games in the ACC tournament, is on the outside looking in. I can’t be sure how the committee will view this team with the injury to Colson, but Notre Dame has all the chances in the world to play itself in with a matchup against #5 Duke on tap later this evening.