Bubble teams have the most to play for every season as the year comes to a close. The NCAA tournament is the ultimate prize for every Division 1 college basketball team (well, almost everyone). And for many teams, the best and worst part of the season is hearing (or not hearing) your team’s name called on Selection Sunday.
The fear of not hearing your team’s name at that moment can spark an unreal level of basketball. During the last few games of the regular season, bubble teams channel the ’96 Bulls’ energy as they look forward to March. Let’s discuss a few bubbles that you should look to back the rest of the season leading into conference tournaments and the NCAA tournament.
College Basketball Bubble Teams Preview: Teams to Back on the Path to the Dance
Kicking things off with the blue blood, North Carolina finds themselves in a similar position as last year. An underwhelming regular season has them as a bubble team looking to make a last-second push. However, this season’s stakes are higher as they could potentially be the first preseason #1 to not make the tournament.
The Tarheels have everything that makes a tournament team. They are 39th in offensive efficiency and 56th in defensive efficiency, per KenPom. They have a veteran team that has experience after their run to the national championship game last year. And that experience is why they can turn this season around.
KenPom has North Carolina projected to win their last four games, which consist of home games vs Virginia and Duke. And the Tarheels are going to need them as they currently sit 0-8 in Quad 1 games. With their veterans, if the Tarheels can make this run and have a good showing in the ACC tournament, then look out for them to get the “blue blood” love by the committee.
Last Three Games
2/25 vs Virginia
2/27 @ Florida St
3/4 vs Duke
Armando Bacot went OFF in @UNC_Basketball's win over Ohio State 🔥
His 28 points and 15 boards helped the Heels outlast the Buckeyes in overtime 💪 pic.twitter.com/xwgL9FYnpB
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) December 17, 2022
Crazy to think about a 26-3 team as a bubble team, but they very much are. Because of a “soft” schedule and lack of Quad 1 wins, the Cougars are on the outside looking in. KenPom actually has them ranked as the 66th-best team in the nation, which is just on the outside of the tournament.
Charleston is a balanced team led by five double-digit ppg scorers. They only have two games left in the season before the CAA tournament. However, the CAA tournament is when you should look to buy into the Cougars. Expect to see them use their 55th-ranked offense to win games in the CAA tournament and cover the spread, and dominate. While they will be one of the favorites to win the CAA, the Cougars will use their 10-6 record ATS in the conference to win by a margin.
2/25 vs Stony Brook
Utah St is another team sporting a great record at 21-7 but still finds themselves as a bubble team. The reputation of the Mountain West in the NCAA tournament does not help at all. However, the Aggies are 13-2 in the conference, so a strong showing and/or a win in the conference tournament can go a long way.
Utah St offense is driving the bus for the Aggies. They are ranked 14th in offensive efficiency, per KenPom, and 4th in three-point percentage at 39.6%. Not surprising as they are led by two dynamic scorers, Steven Ashworth and Taylor Funk, a St. Joe’s transfer. KenPom has Utah St predicted to win their last two games going into the Mountain West tournament. Back the Aggies in their games leading up to the tournament as they try to make a last push.
Last Two Games
3/1 @ UNLV
3/4 vs Boise St
FAU has stolen the show of the Conference USA all season. So much so they were mentioned first in a section about North Texas. However, do not sleep on the Mean Green as they are still a strong bubble team in the NCAA. North Texas is the 44th-ranked team in terms of defensive efficiency, per KenPom, while also being a top-75 offense. Senior guard Tylor Perry dominates the team in scoring with 17.2 ppg.
There is a sizable gap between North Texas/FAU and the rest of the conference. North Texas should be favored with the three remaining games on their schedule. But wins will not be good enough. Look for North Texas to win by a margin until a colossal rematch with FAU.
Last Two Games
3/2 vs MTSU
3/4 vs WKU
The Tylor Perry Firework Show 🎆#GMG pic.twitter.com/M2kdvsxdS7
— North Texas Basketball (@MeanGreenMBB) July 4, 2022
After a less-than-enthusiastic start to conference play, Texas Tech has sneakily gotten a lot better as time goes on. The Red Raiders started 0-8 vs the Big 12—arguably the best college basketball conference this season. Now they have won six of their last eight and have a legit claim to one of the last at-large bids into the NCAA tournament.
They have recommitted themselves to the thing that has made Texas Tech so great in previous seasons—defense! The Red Raiders are allowing teams to score 66.2 ppg during their current four-game win streak. That includes a Texas Longhorns team that is 20th in the nation in scoring.
If seniors De’vion Harmon and Kevin Obanor can continue to shoulder the offensive workload as they have been, then Texas Tech will be live dogs for the rest of the season. A road game at Kansas will be the marquee game for this team. Everything will be on display as they look to cement themselves in the NCAA tournament discussion.
Last Three Games
2/25 vs TCU
2/28 @ Kansas
3/4 vs Oklahoma St