NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams – 02/04/07
It’s the NCAA version of six degrees of separation this week…except there are only two degrees…can you spot the key link in the chain?
The Fighting Illini held off Michigan State in Champaign on Tuesday, despite horrendous free-throw shooting down the stretch, and now have themselves in position to make a late-season run. Illinois’ entire season essentially boils down to a Saturday afternoon trip to the Big Ten’s other Assembly Hall. A second win over the Hoosiers would really help Illinois’ case on Selection Sunday.
The Rams remain the CAA favorite at 12-1, but their at-large hopes were dealt a serious blow with a loss at Hofstra on Wednesday. Clearly there is no shame in losing to the Pride, but it was a chance for VCU to pick up a quality road win. If the Rams win the rest of their games until the CAA Final, it would be tough for the Committee to deny the league a second bid, but anything less makes VCU’s at-large situation considerably dicier.
Bob Huggins’ team seems to have gotten better with the season-ending knee injury to Bill Walker, reeling off seven straight wins. K-State’s schedule down the stretch is manageable, and if they could pick off their in-state rival once (or more), Huggins could have the Wildcats back in the Tournament a year ahead of schedule.
I know this is a repeat “offender” from last week’s column, but it is an important team to highlight. After watching most of both ‘Nova games last week, it wouldn’t surprise me if Jay Wright’s team went undefeated the rest of the way. The Wildcats missed a golden chance to move very close to lock status by falling late at home to Pittsburgh, but held on against surprising Louisville on Saturday. The toughest remaining matchup is a trip to Milwaukee on 2/19, but even a 9-7 Big East record would be good enough for an at-large bid with Villanova’s power numbers.
For those paying attention to the sequence, Xavier is the missing link.
The Musketeers’ best wins are picking up more steam (N-Villanova, N-VCU, Illinois, Kansas State), but the Xavier’s own train lost a little momentum with a loss at Duquesne mid-week. It seems like the A-10 deserves more than one team in the NCAA Tournament, but none of its top teams has played up to potential in conference play yet.