Championship Week is upon us, which means college basketball teams from conferences big and small are afforded a final opportunity to prove their NCAA Tournament worthiness. Especially for teams considered to be on the bubble, it's a chance to score a few wins over stiff competition to beef up their resumes before the selection committee sets the field of 68. Here is a look at some of those bubble teams and what each must do to punch their ticket to the big dance.
With just a single victory in Quadrant 1 (versus top-30 teams at home, top-75 road) all season, the Tigers (19-12 overall, 9-9 ACC) head into the ACC tournament with work to do in seeking an NCAA bid for a second straight year. The good news for Clemson, projected on most mock brackets as either the last team in or the first team on the wrong side of the bubble, is that its conference tournament offers a path to get some needed wins. The Tigers face fellow bubble team North Carolina State on Wednesday, with the winner facing top-seeded Virginia. If Clemson wins both of those games it is likely in.
The Hoosiers (17-14, 8-12) had an up-and-down season, looking formidable during stretches and feeble at other times. Among Indiana’s notable wins are triumphs over Louisville, Marquette, Michigan State (twice) and Wisconsin. But those strong victories are countered by seven consecutive losses in league play -- two against the two worst teams in the league, Nebraska and Northwestern. Indiana can help itself by beating Ohio State in the Big 10 tournament on Thursday. But, depending on what happens elsewhere, that still might not get the Hoosiers off the bubble. A deep league tournament run is almost a must.
A season-ending three-game skid doesn’t give Florida’s already flimsy resume much heft, especially when one of those Ls was against lowly Georgia (2-16 in the SEC). The Gators (17-14, 9-9) have wins over bubble teams Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi, and UF defeated No. 13 LSU on the road. But as it stands, Florida’s matchup on Thursday versus Arkansas is a virtual elimination game. Beat the Razorbacks, and the Gators might sneak into the NCAA Tournament. A loss makes their candidacy dubious.
The Golden Gophers (19-12, 9-11) likely solidified their NCAA spot by beating No. 11 Purdue on March 5. However, an early loss in the Big 10 tournament could leave the Gophers vulnerable. Most projections have Minnesota right around a No. 11 seed because, though the Gophers have an above average overall record, their sub-.500 league record and a non-conference strength of schedule ranked 159 hurt them. The Gophers have to avoid a bad loss in Thursday's game against Penn State, then hope a Cinderella doesn’t emerge elsewhere.
Ohio State is heading in the wrong direction at the wrong time, having lost three consecutive games and six of the past eight. The Buckeyes (18-13, 8-12) nearly scored a big win against No. 21 Wisconsin on Sunday but fell in overtime. That conference record is hard to overlook, though the Buckeyes have been without suspended star forward Kaleb Wesson for the past three games and will welcome him back for their showdown versus Indiana on Thursday. Wesson is Ohio State’s leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 14.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
After beating Marquette (on the road) and Villanova last month, the Red Storm appeared to be a lock to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years. But St. John's followed those impressive wins by losing four of its next five games, including three straight to conclude the regular season. That has the Red Storm (20-11, 8-10) on the bubble, susceptible to not qualifying should they fall in their Big East tournament opener on Wednesday against DePaul. If St. John's beats the mediocre Blue Demons, it should get in. A loss, however, and the Red Storm are in big trouble.
Most mock brackets have TCU as one of the last teams in the NCAA Tournament, a tenuous position that puts the Horned Frogs at risk if a team not slotted to qualify ends up stealing a berth. But provided no unexpected winners emerge across the tournaments in mid-major conferences, TCU (19-12, 7-11) should feel comfortable thanks to wins over Baylor, Iowa State (twice) and Texas (twice), accompanied with a 32nd-ranked strength of schedule. The Horned Frogs face Oklahoma State on Wednesday in the first round of the Big 12 tourney.
The Longhorns have wins over North Carolina and Purdue, but that isn’t likely to get them in the tournament thanks to a record (16-15, 8-10) the selection committee is not likely to look favorably upon. The Longhorns' situation makes their Big 12 tournament quarterfinal game on Thursday versus Kansas a virtual must-win. Three significant victories would force the committee to reconsider the Longhorns’ candidacy.