Bubble Teams Worth Following
LAS VEGAS, NV (The Spread) - As we're headed into the final couple of weeks of the college basketball regular season, it's not that difficult to find teams with extra motivation.
If you are searching for an angle to wager on, I've got one that's worked out well in the past.
When you look over the weekend schedule at this time of the season, you might want to look over teams that are on the NCAA Tournament "bubble". It's not that difficult to figure out, but if you need help, there are many articles out there on the internet, showing which teams are locks and which ones are on the bubble. Since there are 68 NCAA Tournament teams and 32 automatic bids, that leaves 36 squads fighting for at-large bids.
The bubble teams are the ones that are usually in the range of 30 to 60 in the RPI (Ratings Percentage Index). The RPI is one of the tools that the NCAA selection committee uses to determine who should be in and who should be out of the "big dance".
Some teams that are on that bubble are really close to making it and have the numbers, but a few bad losses can cost them. One of those teams is Colorado, who is 20-8 straight up, 9-6 in the Pac-12 and they have an RPI of 26. The Pac-12 is a tough conference but not as strong as the Big 12, Big 10 and ACC. Arizona and UCLA are locks to make the tournament, but the Buffaloes are a team that has a nice profile but something is missing. That missing player is star guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who is out for the season with ACL tear. They are 2-1 since his injury but their 27-point home loss to Arizona was disturbing. They face a tough Utah team on the road that is 17-2 at home in Salt Lake City. A loss could hamper their chances although Utah has defeated UCLA and Arizona State at home, while losing to Arizona by four in overtime. Utah is likely to be a 4-5 point favorite and they are not considered a bubble team at 7-8 in the Pac-12. Take Colorado and the points.
Arkansas improved to 19-9 straight up and 8-7 in the SEC with an RPI of 57 after shocking Kentucky on the road on Thursday, 71-67 in overtime as a 10-point underdog. That was their fourth win in a row and put Mike Anderson's team back in the discussion. They face Georgia on Saturday, a team that is 16-11 straight up, but has won six of their last seven. They lack a quality road win and have an RPI of 80 so they are most likely an NIT team at this point. Even though this is a potential letdown game for Arkansas, they can't afford one. A loss to Georgia at home will diminish the excitement of the win over Kentucky. Georgia beat Arkansas in overtime from Athens in their first meeting in January. Expect Arkansas to be an 8-9 point favorite. Take Arkansas and lay the points.
One of the more underrated teams in the Big 10 and in the nation is Minnesota (19-11 straight up, 7-9 Big 10). The Golden Gophers are sitting on the NCAA Tournament bubble with an RPI of 44. They are coming off one of their best wins of the season, a 95-89 victory over Iowa on Tuesday at home. They also have wins over Wisconsin and Ohio State at home along with a decent non-conference victory over another bubble team in Florida State on Dec. 3. But Minnesota is just 3-6 on the road this season and they lack a strong road win. They take on Michigan on Saturday in a rematch for the Golden Gophers, who lost to the Wolverines at home on Jan. 2, 63-60. Michigan is one of those teams that appear to get up for the big games but they can let down. They've won two straight but have only covered in two of their last five games. They'll be a heavy favorite in this one and while they are playing for first place in the Big 10, Minnesota is playing for a lot more as a win could put them in the tournament. They'll be a 9-10 point underdog on the road. Take the points in this game and go with Minnesota.
Good luck and keep track of the teams on the bubble this weekend and next week when the conference tournaments begin. You'll find some good values because teams with motivation have a lot more to play for than squads that are already in the NCAA Tournament.