Bubble Watch NCAA Basketball Picks: Who Needs to Win Their Way into the Tournament?

Kevin Stott

Tuesday, March 10, 2015 12:40 PM UTC

Tuesday, Mar. 10, 2015 12:40 PM UTC

Looking for professional betting insight for the NCAA Men’s Division I College Basketball Tournament? These teams still have some work to do this week in order to get to the Big Dance.

Less than a week from today, the NCAA’s 10-member Selection Committee will unveil the 68 Division I men’s basketball teams to participate in this year’s NCAA Tournament, and, as usual at this time of year, seasonal words like “Bubble” and “Bracket” and  “Lunardi” and “Madness” start popping up like so many red, yellow and purple tulips in a field underneath the warm Holland summer sun. With 32 teams automatically qualifying by for the Big Dance by winning their conference tournaments—which have already begun and been completed in some cases and which will begin (and conclude) en masse this week with the bigger conferences—36 other teams will have to try to get in via an At-Large bid from the Selection Committee, so performances from this point on in these various conference tournaments could, and will determine the fate of many of the colleges deemed (by ESPN resident Bracketologist Joe Lunardi) Last Four In, Last Four Out, and Next Four Out.

The four current teams which Lunardi has dubbed the Last Four Byes—Purdue, Oklahoma State, LSU and Colorado State—in my mind, will all probably get into this year’s somewhat weak field, barring an oddity of course, and will not be part of this discussion in which we’ll look at a number of teams that may either have to do everything right to make sure March remains Mad for them, and some others who will probably get in from recent play, reputation, and other various realities. The Selection Committee’s 68 teams and all four regional Brackets will be unveiled this coming Sunday afternoon on CBS by the TV network’s regulars Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg and Greg Gumbel (6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT).


A Look at A Bunch of Teams Who May Have to Win to Get to the Big Dance

American Athletic Conference: Tulsa, Temple
Tulsa (21-9, 14-4 in AAC) are on Lunardi’s First Four Out at this point in time after suffering two straight losses which cost them a share of the conference title to SMU (who will definitely be Dancing). The Golden Hurricanes face the winner of Houston-Tulane in their Quarterfinals game on Friday (March 13) at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut (ESPN2, 7 p.m ET/4 p.m PT) and may have to win a couple of games and get to this conference’s tournament championship game to try to earn the respect of the Selection Committee and get that precious bid. And, Temple (22-9, 13-5) is actually in Lunardi’s Last 4 In right now, and the No 4-seeded Owls face No. 5-seed Memphis (18-13) on Friday in the Quarterfinals (ESPN2, 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m PT), a tough opener to be sure. The skinny here is that one of these to may wins its way in while the other one probably gets bounced because of what happened this week in The Nutmeg State.


Atlantic Coast Conference: Miami, Pitt
Miami of Florida (20-11, 10-8 ACC) helped its cause by winning its last two regular season games but the Hurricanes may have to win some games in this week’s ACC Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC. The first (and hopefully not the last or Miami’s sake) will be its Second Round game on Wednesday (ESPN2/ACC Network, 9 p.m ET/6 p.m. PT) between the winner of the Wake Forest/Virginia Tech. Right now, Lunardi has Miami in the First Four Out, and my feel is that No. 3-seed Notre Dame will possibly eliminate the Hurricanes from this conference tourney as well as the Big Dance with a win over them on Thursday night in the Quarterfinals (ESPN2/ACC Network, 9 p.m ET/6 p.m. PT) in yet another so-called Catholics vs. Convicts showdown, this one on the hardwood. Pittsburgh (8-10, 19-13) faces NC State in its opener on Wednesday and will probably have to win the ACC tournament or get to the title game to have any chance. The NIT will probably be calling the Panthers.


Big East Conference: Xavier
Xavier (19-12, 9-9 Big East) won 74-73 at Creighton on Saturday in its Big East regular season finale to put the Musketeers at .500 in conference. The No 6-seed, Xavier will play No.3-seed Butler on Wednesday in the Big East Conference’s Quarterfinals at New York City’s Madison Square Garden (FS1, 9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT) on Thursday. With the thrilling win in Omaha over the weekend and despite the brutal path the Musketeers will probably have to negotiate in the Big East Tournament, Lunardi has the Musketeers already penciled in as No. 10 seed in the West Regional in the latest Bracketology. Losing to the Bulldogs mid-week will put Xavier under .500 in conference, leave them under the prestigious 20-win mark and may end up costing them a chance at The Tournament, although in this year’s watered-down field, the Musketeers could make it because of other’s weaker résumés and simply because of Saturday’s sweet 1-point win over the Bluejays. Always the little things.


Big Ten Conference: Indiana, Illinois
The general gut feeling here, despite the identical 19-12 overall and 9-9 conference records, is that Big Ten No. 8 seed Indiana (19-12, 9-9 Big Ten) will probably end up making the Big Dance, while neighbors Illinois (19-12, 9-9) somehow won’t. Lunardi has the Hoosiers in his Last Four In right now with the Fighting Illini in his Next Four Out. On Thursday in the Second Round of the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center in Chicago, Indiana will face No. 10-seed Northwestern (ESPN2, 7:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. CT/4:30 p.m. PT) in what may be a bad loss for the Hoosiers should the Wildcats beat them. Northwestern recently defeated Indiana, 72-65 in Evanston. Illinois will face No. 9-seed Michigan (BTN,  12 p.m. ET/11 a.m. CT/9 a.m. PT) in the day’s opener and an Illini loss to the Wolverines would be very welcome news to Indiana and anyone else currently on this proverbial Bubble and leave Illinois still stuck on 19 wins. Also, Indiana’s 80-74 win over the Fighting Illini in Champaign on Jan. 18 may end up being the slim difference for both schools in the end. We may never know.


Pac-12 Conference: UCLA
UCLA (19-12, 11-7 Pac 12) is a Next Four Out team for Lunardi and it does seem that the Bruins may have to make a very deep run into the Pac-10 Tournament to get the NCAA Tourney berth on Sunday. In its Quarterfinals conference opener, UCLA will meet the winner of the Arizona State-USC game on Thursday here at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas (Pac-12 Network, 5:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. CT/2:30 p.m. PT), so maybe the No. 5-seeded Sun Devils ruin the No. 4-seeded Bruins dreams of an At-Large bid and the Big Dance and send them the NIT’s way? That theoretical loss would leave UCLA at 19 wins and legendary coach John Wooden probably thinking his team didn’t deserve to go Dancing this year anyway.

Looking for 'Cinderella Stories' to bet on for the 2015 Tournament?

Big 12 Conference: Texas, Kansas State
Lunardi has Texas (19-12, 8-10 Big 12) in his Last Four In, but a loss by these 7th-seeded Longhorns on Wednesday in the First Round of the Big 12 Tournament at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri (ESPNU, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) against No. 10-seed Texas Tech would probably knock Texas down to First Four Out status, and rightfully so. Like UCLA (200/1 to win National Championship, Ladbrokes), there have been much better Texas (125/1) teams participating in March Madness, and if one, or both of these schools ends up making the final Field of 68, neither has any shot of winning it all this time around. Not even close. The NCAA Basketball Odds don’t lie brother and it seems the days of these schools producing stars like the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant (Texas) and Russell Westbrook (UCLA) may be long gone, although one really never knows. And, Kansas State (8-10, 15-16) isn’t tagged as anything by Lunardi, and the Wildcats will have to make a miraculous run in the Big 12 Tournament and probably win it to make The Field. Kansas State is a No. 8-seed and will face No. 9-seed TCU in the First Round on Wednesday (ESPNU, 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT/4 p.m. PT). They’re done if we’re being real.


Southeastern Conference: Texas A&M
Texas A&M (20-10, 11-7 SEC) is deemed First Four Out by Lunardi at this particular moment in Time, and the No. 5-seed Aggies will face the winner of the No. 12-seed Mississippi State-No. 13-seed Auburn game on Thursday afternoon in the Second Round (SEC Network, 3:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. CT/12:30 p.m. PT). If A&M (400/1) wins, a date with No. 4-seed LSU would follow on Friday, and the feeling here is that the Aggies may have to get all the way to the conference tournament title tilt here to even get consideration from the Selection Committee. It can be done, but it seems that this team is more likely bound for the NIT.


Some Others: BYU, Old Dominion, Murray State, Richmond and More
A Last Four Team in Lunardi’s mind today (Monday), BYU (13-5, 24-8 WCC) are a No. 2-seed in the West Coast Conference and go up against No. 6-seed Portland in the Semifinals over at the Orleans Casino here in Sin City this evening (ESPN2, 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT). But the Cougars upset over Gonzaga and their 24 wins already have them in the Tourney in my mind. Old Dominion (21-9, 13-5 Conference USA) is in Lunardi’s First Four Out, so the Monarchs may have to at least get to and/or win the conference tourney. No. 3-seed ODU will face the No. 6 MTSU-#11 Charlotte winner on Thursday in the Second Round of the Conference USA Tournament (ASN, 3:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. CT/12:30 p.m. PT), and if the Monarchs win, will likely face No. 2-seed UTEP in the Semifinals. What ODU does this week will determine its Fate.

Murray State (27-5, 16-0 Ohio Valley Conference) and Richmond (19-12, 12-6 Atlantic 10 Conference) are both Next Four Out Teams to Lunardi and both the Racers and the Spiders may have to win their respective conference tournaments. With an unblemished OVC mark, expect Murray State to win this conference tourney, get the NCAA bid and put another college in a precarious position come Selection Sunday. For Richmond, making the Semis and winning and then making the Finals (and maybe winning) seems like a bit too much too ask for the Spiders. Back to building webs, buddy.

Others teams to consider for NCAA Basketball Picks are Colorado State, Boise State, Georgia and Wichita State. Those believing Wichita State’s loss to Illinois State on Saturday in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament are probably way off base as the Shockers will be in the Big Dance and Lunardi actually has them penciled in as a No. 5 seed.

And, two historic schools also definitely worth mentioning: Last year’s defending champions Connecticut (125/1)—whom, in the name of Full Disclosure, I have a small ($5, USD) Futures Bet on, so drinks certainly won’t be on me—and 1990 champions UNLV (250/1 ), who will both definitely have to play miles over their heads and win their respective conference tournaments to become Automatic Bids. There will absolutely be no At-Large-iness for the Huskies or the Runnin’ Rebels this go around.

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