Commentary

Teams on the bubble

Plenty of SEC, Big 10, Pac-12 teams are sweating it out

Updated: March 3, 2014, 2:40 PM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

Phil Greene IVAnthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY Sports After dunking DePaul, St. John's is in position to push for the NCAA tournament.

Every season, there are teams that are lock city for an NCAA tournament bid, no matter what happens in their conference tournaments. This season, that list includes schools like Florida, Arizona, Wichita State, Kansas, Duke and Syracuse. They are not going to be sweating it out on Selection Sunday.

Then there are the teams on the bubble. There are 32 automatic bids for the NCAA tournament, leaving 36 at-large slots. With Selection Sunday right around the corner, many teams are vying for those at-large openings. Of course, these schools on the bubble can end the suspense by winning their conference tournament.

Let's look at some of the bubble teams from the power conferences:

Atlantic 10: Dayton, Richmond
The Flyers helped their cause with a win over Massachusetts last weekend. Richmond hurt its cause, scoring just 43 points in a bad loss to Rhode Island. I have George Washington and Saint Joseph's in the field. Could this league get six into the Big Dance?

ACC: Florida State, Clemson, NC State
The Seminoles have the best shot to be the sixth ACC team in the NCAA tournament. I have Virginia, Duke, Syracuse, North Carolina and Pittsburgh as locks. A win over Syracuse on March 9 would boost Florida State's chances. The Tigers and Wolfpack do not have strong RPI ratings, and NC State damaged its chances with a home loss to Miami. Mark Gottfried's team would have to do something special in the ACC tournament to get in, but it is not impossible. The Wolfpack could have beaten North Carolina but fell short in overtime. Clemson barely stayed alive by beating Maryland on Sunday.

Big 12: Baylor, Oklahoma State
Baylor has won five of its last six games to climb back into contention. But the Bears, who had a five-game losing streak earlier this season, still need a strong finish. Oklahoma State helped its cause with a win over Kansas last weekend. The Cowboys have righted the ship in Stillwater, and their seven-game losing streak is past history. They looked like a tourney team against the Jayhawks.

Big East: St. John's, Marquette, Providence, Georgetown
I have Xavier in the field after wins over St. John's and Creighton. The Red Storm have just one win over a top-50 team -- Creighton, one of my two Big East locks along with Villanova -- but they played well in February. Providence needs to pick up momentum and perform well in the conference tournament. The Golden Eagles and Hoyas are long shots but could make noise late.

Big Ten: Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana
Tim Miles has done a terrific job with the Cornhuskers, and if Nebraska finishes over .500 in the Big Ten, that will be impressive. I understand that the committee does not look at that, but the Cornhuskers' RPI makes them a possibility. So does a 6-1 record over the past seven games. Minnesota has a good RPI and could earn a bid. Illinois jumped back into the picture with the upset win at Michigan State. The Hoosiers are a long shot despite wins over Iowa and Ohio State last week, but a late surge could make them a candidate.

Pac-12: Arizona State, Colorado, Stanford, California, Oregon, Utah
All of these teams have a reason to be in contention. It will likely come down to the results of the conference tournament. Colorado's solid strength of schedule is a positive that helps its RPI. Oregon beat BYU and won at UCLA. California knocked off one of my Pac-12 locks in Arizona.

SEC: Georgia, LSU, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Texas A&M
The odds are not good for Ole Miss or A&M. The Rebels have dropped five of their last six. The Aggies are hurt by a poor non-league schedule and are very unlikely for the tournament. Tennessee took a big step by blowing out Vanderbilt last weekend. Arkansas has made a serious run by sweeping Kentucky, one of the SEC's two locks along with Florida. Georgia did not have nonconference success and would need a great SEC tournament run to get into the NCAA tournament.

One more thing to keep in mind as Selection Sunday draws near: Don't just look at the overall records, as they can be misleading. The quality of wins is so vital for those fighting to make the NCAA tournament.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.

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