Countdown to Selection Sunday
The NCAA Tournament Selection Show is less than 48 hours away and for a dozen teams sitting on the bubble, it's crunch time at their conference tournaments.
So far, March Madness has lived up to its billing with several high seeds losing in early round conference play. The most significant surprise was Villanova's heartbreaking, last second loss in the Big East tournament to lowly Seton Hall. The loss probably takes Villanova out of the conversation for a top regional seed, but the Selection Committee will probably take into account their tough schedule and several good wins on the road to give them a 2 or 3 seed, probably in the East regional.
As always, it's the bubble teams that attract the most curiosity from fans and give the Selection Committee indigestion. Who is playing themselves into the Big Dance by doing well in the conference tournaments and who is in line for an NIT bid?
SI's Michael Beller is on the Bubble Watch:
6:30 p.m. -- Big Ten: Minnesota vs. Wisconsin
The Golden Gophers had just three wins in 10 tries against conference rivals that are headed to the NCAA tournament. Can they get three in the next three days? That might be what it takes to get in, and the road starts against the Badgers. (Follow along here.)
7:00 p.m. -- Big East: Providence vs. Seton Hall
Providence surely thought it would be getting top-seed Villanova if it got this far but Seton Hall's upset scuttled those plans. A semifinal win over the 17-16 Pirates won't help as much as a loss would hurt.
9:30 p.m. -- Big East: Xavier vs. Creighton
The Musketeers appear to be well within the field of 68, but they would remove any doubt with a win over Doug McDermott and the Blue Jays.
11:30 p.m. -- Pac-12: Stanford vs. UCLA
Stanford has to be feeling good about its case for the tournament after routing Arizona State on Thursday. The Cardinal split their season series with the Bruins.
ACC: Florida State vs. Virginia
It was simple: A win would have gotten the Seminoles into the field. A loss would keep them out. They lost.
FINAL: Virginia 64, Florida State 51
SEC: Missouri vs. Florida
The Tigers' only really impressive win this season came at home against UCLA back in early December. They couldn't add another one Friday against the nation's No. 1 team, getting routed by the Gators in the SEC quarterfinals.
FINAL: Florida 72, Missouri 49
ACC: Pittsburgh vs. North Carolina
The Pirates were probably going to make the tournament anyway, but their lack of signature wins was cause for concern. After knocking off No. 15 North Carolina in the ACC quarterfinals, they move into the lock category.
FINAL: Pittsburgh 80, North Carolina 75
Beller is keeping on eye on these bubble teams this weekend:
Illinois: The Fighting Illini needed to advance to at least the Big Ten championship game to entertain hopes of a bid. Their upset bid of Michigan on Friday came up just short in a one-point loss, so they'll have to settle for the NIT.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack pulled away late to beat Miami on Thursday, and though they struggled to a .500 finish in the ACC this year, they could create a little bubble chatter with a win over Syracuse in the quarterfinals.
Georgia: The Bulldogs are the No. 3 seed in the SEC tournament. Could a trip to the finals get them into the field if it includes a semifinal win over Kentucky? Not likely.
LSU: A win over Kentucky on Friday would be their second over the Wildcats this season, but the Tigers likely still need to win the SEC tournament to go dancing this year.
N.C. State may be the one team that falls victim to the Selection Committee's sensitivity to charges that they fill out the brackets with too many middling teams from big conferences. How many teams from the ACC really deserve to go? 5? 6? Same for the Big 12 and Big Ten. Some teams like Minnesota who didn't do well in a conference loaded with quality teams might "deserve" to go the Big Dance based on strength of schedule and non-conference record. But most conferences will only be guaranteed their conference tournament champion will make it.
There will be a lot of nail biting by players and coaches on Sunday afternoon.
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