It’s very early to tell what bubble teams will prove worthy of making the NCAA Tournament but some teams have better opportunities than others. Of course, there is always the chance an underdog team shocks everyone and wins their conference tournament, resulting in a bid being taken away from one of the bubble teams. But below is a list of teams that I think will play their way into the NCAA Tournament, as well as four teams that will be accepting an invitation to the NIT.
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PLAYING THEIR WAY IN
1. Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Cowboys would probably be one of the toughest teams for the committee to leave out of the tournament. Oklahoma State lost seven straight at one point and lost Marcus Smart to suspension for three of those games. However, with an RPI of 46 and strength of schedule of 48, they still have a great chance of making the tournament. Oklahoma State still has a BPI of 20 and plays in the toughest conference in college basketball. Their last three games of the year include Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State. All three of those games are crucial for Oklahoma State to make the tournament. If the Cowboys win two of those three, I think they’ll lock up a bid. Win just one and they will have to do work in the Big 12 Tournament to earn an invitation.
2. Arkansas Razorbacks
The SEC has a list of teams that are fighting for NCAA Tournament bids, but I think Arkansas has the best chance to get one. With Arkansas’ win last night at Kentucky, I think they will claim that spot. Arkansas doesn’t have a huge non-conference win, maybe other than a win against fellow bubble team Minnesota. However, the Razorbacks swept the season series against Kentucky and played Florida tough, losing by two in overtime. If Arkansas closes out the regular season strong by winning their next three and grabbing the three seed in the SEC Tournament, they will have the best chance of the SEC teams to make the tournament. Win a game in the SEC Tournament and I think they lock up a bid.
3. Saint Joseph’s Owls
The Owls sit in second place in probably the most underrated conference in basketball, the Atlantic 10. St. Joe’s hasn’t lost a game since falling to St. Louis three weeks ago. They have won five straight games and are 10-3 in the conference. The conference has displayed some great basketball in the past and has sent numerous teams into the tournament the past few seasons. I think the committee will definitely put that into the equation when looking at the Owls. St. Joe’s should win out the rest of the season and will be tough to beat in the A-10 Tournament. I think the Owls will definitely make the tournament this season.
4. Baylor Bears
Baylor played a tough non-conference schedule and plays in the best conference in basketball. I think their record (18-10) doesn’t display how tough this team plays every night. They have a nice win over Kentucky and played Syracuse tough early in the year. They have struggled against the upper part of the Big 12 but have a chance to get two big wins against Iowa State and Kansas State to end the season. I think the Bears will get at least one and then win at least two games in the Big 12 Tournament. If the Bears can get to .500 in the Big 12 before Selection Sunday, I don’t think there’s any way the committee can keep them out of the NCAA Tournament.