Finding a Path For Four Teams on the Wrong Side of the BubblePosted by Shane McNichol on February 17th, 2017
The end of the regular season is creeping up on us. With just a little more than three weeks remaining until Selection Sunday, teams around the country are prepping for their final stretch of conference games. For schools sitting precariously on the bubble, chances to grab signature wins are dwindling. For teams on the outside looking in, the home stretch represents a do-or-die opportunity to make an at-large bid a reality. The four teams we examine today all have pathways to March Madness ahead of them, but nothing will come easy and their odds are diminishing daily.
The Demon Deacons are 6-8 in ACC play but a losing conference record won’t be quite as damaging this season thanks to a soft mid-major bubble. Still, even if Wake manages to get to 8-10, some conference losing records will be viewed much better than others. The biggest issue for Danny Manning’s team is that it has yet to beat any top-tier ACC squads this season. The Deacs have a favorable RPI at #36, but close losses against Duke and Notre Dame simply aren’t enough. With four games remaining, Wake Forest must top Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech to remain on the bubble, but to truly make some waves, the Deacs need a win at Duke or against Louisville. Stealing either of those games would result in a 9-9 ACC record and a legitimate, perhaps even likely, chance at an at-large bid.
The Bulldogs are in a similar situation with five SEC games remaining. A conference record of 6-7 with zero wins against Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina or even Arkansas is not likely to impress the committee. Georgia’s high-value games include welcoming Kentucky to Athens tomorrow and ending the regular season at Arkansas. Failing to win either of those two contests would seriously hamper their at-large chances. Before meeting Arkansas, Georgia must avoid land mine losses in home games against LSU and Auburn, and next week’s road game at Alabama is also important. A 3-2 record the rest of the way keeps Georgia on the back of the bubble, but a 4-1 finish could change the Bulldogs’ fate (especially if one of the four wins is over the Wildcats).
The Atlantic 10 has had a difficult regular season with only two certain at-large teams in Dayton and VCU with Rhode Island currently on the outside looking in. The Rams made things much more difficult for themselves with a crushing home loss to Fordham earlier this week, but five winnable conference games are ahead, most notably a February 25 home battle against VCU. With only one signature win over Cincinnati to hang their hat on, the Rams must win all five of their remaining regular season games to get into position. Losing to any team other than VCU from here on out would be a crushing blow, while beating the Rams from Richmond would be a much-needed feather in Rhode Island’s cap.
The Hoyas have struggled to find their footing through an up and down regular season. Sitting at 14-12 (5-8 Big East) would seem to relegate Georgetown to the NIT, but a top 15 schedule at least keeps John Thompson III’s team in the conversation. With five Big East games remaining, the Hoyas need four wins to get to .500. That’s much easier said than done with trips to Creighton and Seton Hall on the schedule as well as a regular season home finale against Villanova. Unlike the other teams on this list, however, Georgetown has several quality victories over Oregon, Syracuse, Creighton and Butler. Beating Villanova to bolster its resume would be great for Georgetown, but any combination of four wins down the stretch should keep Georgetown alive heading to the Big East Tournament.