NCAA: Bubble Banter

NCAA: Bubble Banter

NCAA Bubble Banter
By Brian Edwards

We’ve reached that time of year when many college basketball teams are floating on the proverbial bubble in terms of garnering an NCAA Tournament bid. This sort of status has teams on edge and under pressure every time they take the court. In some cases, this can result in teams playing with passion and a sense of urgency. On the flip side, other squads play tight and the results are destructive.

In this conversation, we’ll take a look at some bubble teams and speculate on how things will play out for them. Let’s start with a pair of ACC teams in Maryland and Miami.

There had been quite a bit of conjecture surrounding Gary Williams’ job security until Maryland’s AD came out with an emphatic vote of confidence more than a week ago. This has seemingly taken some pressure off of the Terrapins, who captured a crucial 57-56 win Sunday at Ga. Tech.

Maryland (15-8 straight up, 8-6-2 against the spread) has covered the number in three consecutive games. The Terps, who are 4-5 in ACC action, have all this week to prep for Saturday’s pivotal home game against Va. Tech. They own solid non-conference wins over Michigan St. and Michigan.

With that said, it’s tough sledding to the finish line for Maryland, which will be a home underdog in looming games against Duke, North Carolina and Wake Forest. The Terps need to beat the Hokies this week and win at least one of the three aforementioned home games, while also prevailing in at least of two of three remaining road contests: at Clemson, at N.C. St. and at Virginia.

Miami (15-8 SU, 9-8-1 ATS) has lost four of its last five games, but the victory was a 79-52 blowout of Wake Forest. Also, the Selection Committee has been known to take into account near-misses, and the Hurricanes took Duke to overtime before losing a heartbreaker on the road Saturday.

The ‘Canes have an eight-day stretch to get ready for Sunday’s home game against UNC. After that, the schedule gets a lot easier. UM finishes with five winnable games: at FSU, vs. BC, at UVA, at Ga. Tech and vs. N.C. St.

In the Big East, the pressure has been mounting for Georgetown and Notre Dame, and neither team has responded well. Barring a miraculous late-season surge, the Irish are done and should be on every gambler’s fade (bet against) radar. They have lost seven in a row straight up and eight straight ATS.

Georgetown (13-9 SU, 6-11-1 ATS) hasn’t fared much better, but it’s probably a little early to put a fork in this squad. The Hoyas are in the midst of an abysmal 1-9-1 ATS slide, but they have monster wins at UConn and vs. Memphis, in addition to victories over Syracuse and Providence.

Most importantly, Georgetown’s upcoming schedule is manageable for Big East standards. The Hoyas can score points with the Selection Committee if they can win home games against Marquette and/or Louisville. They should be favored at USF, at St. John’s and vs. Depaul. Finally, they also have resume-building opportunities at Syracuse and at Villanova.

Wisconsin (14-9 SU, 9-11-1 ATS) is a bubble team that appears poised to come on strong. During Bo Ryan’s seven-year tenure, the Badgers have yet to miss the NCAA Tournament. However, a six-game losing streak in January that saw Wisconsin go 0-5-1 ATS has that streak in jeopardy.

But Ryan’s squad has won back-to-back games both SU and ATS, including a blowout win over Illinois. The Badgers have a solid non-conference win at Va. Tech, and they have the edge over the Big Ten’s other bubble teams in head-to-head play.

Wisconsin swept Penn St. and also knocked off Northwestern and Michigan. Also, it says here that the Badgers will be favored in five of their last seven games. Gamblers should look to back them in their next two home games vs. Iowa and Ohio St.

Nobody expected to find Texas (15-7 SU, 8-11 ATS) and Baylor (15-8 SU, 6-9 ATS) looking up at Kansas St. and Nebraska in the Big 12 standings in February. But that’s the situation we have, as the Longhorns have dropped three in a row and are in the midst of a 2-7 ATS slump. As for Baylor, it is in serious trouble after losing five straight both SU and ATS.

Rick Barnes’ team is in a lot better shape than Baylor because the Longhorns can fall back on non-conference wins at Wisconsin, vs. Villanova and vs. UCLA. With that said, Texas had better right the ship fast.

The Mountain West will probably get two teams in the Big Dance, but who will they be? UNLV has a huge win at Louisville on its resume, while Utah has beaten Gonzaga, LSU and Ole Miss before it lost three starters to injuries. However, both schools are looking up at San Diego St. in the MWC standings, while BYU and New Mexico are also in the mix.

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