2011 NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch

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Bruce Weber Illinois

We are hitting the stretch run of the college basketball season and teams are trying to improve their resume and pick up some key wins to help their NCAA Tournament hopes.  Here are some crucial games this week featuring bubble teams that could make or break their chances of being selected for the Field of 68Click here for my latest bracketology.

By: David Kay

George Mason 20-5, 13-2 at VCU 20-7, 12-3, Tues 6:00, ESPNU
If neither of these teams wins the Colonial Athletic Association’s automatic bid, they are both at-large possibilities.  However, a win in this game would certainly help their resume, more so VCU than George Mason since the Patriots have the 24th RPI in the country.  Thought to chew on; when you include Old Dominion, it is unlikely but nonetheless possible that the CAA could get three teams in the dance.  VCU also has a bracket buster game at Wichita State Friday that could carry a lot of weight for their resume.

Maryland 16-9, 5-5 at Virginia Tech 16-7, 6-4, Tues 7:00, ESPN3
Outside of Duke and North Carolina, no ACC team is firmly in the NCAA Tournament field.  The conference may only get four teams in the tourney this year with both the Terps and Hokies right on the bubble.  V-Tech has a 64 RPI and 96 strength of schedule while Maryland is a much worse situation with a 89 RPI and 82 SOS.  The loser of this game could be in big time trouble while the winner will keep their slim at-large hopes alive.

UAB 18-6, 8-3 at Memphis 19-6, 7-3, Wed 6:00
UTEP 19-5, 7-2 at Southern Miss 18-6, 7-4, Wed 7:00

The Conference USA Tournament winner could be the only league member to get into the dance although Memphis seems to have the resume needed to get an at-large bid.  All four of these teams have top 54 RPI’s but their strength of schedule leave something to be desired making these two match-ups crucial for all parties involved.

tom izzo michigan state

Michigan 16-10, 6-7 at Illinois 16-9, 6-6, Wed 7:30, BTN
Illinois at Michigan State 14-10, 6-6, Sat 8:00, ESPN

You have to figure that any team with a winning record in Big Ten play will be in the dance.  Right now, all three teams are hovering around the five-hundred mark and Illinois and MSU are not playing great basketball.  The Illini have lost six of their last nine while Sparty has dropped five of their last seven.  The Wolverines have the most work to do although they won three straight.

Duquesne 16-7, 8-2 at Dayton 17-9, 5-6, Sat 11:00
The Dukes have been the biggest surprise in the Atlantic 10 but because of a low RPI of 87 and a SOS of 122, they almost certainly need to win the conference tourney if they want to hear their name called on Selection Sunday.  The Flyers appear to once again be on the wrong side of the bubble as they have lost four of their last six games and need to get on a serious roll if they want to be tourney bound.

Utah State 23-3 at St. Mary’s 22-4, Sat 8:00, ESPN2
Probably the marquee match-up of Bracket Buster Week, both of these teams should get at-large bids even if they do not win their conference tournaments because of their top 30 RPI’s.  A victory Saturday would surely solidify that thought.

Cleveland State 22-5 at Old Dominion 20-6, Sun 12:00, ESPN2
I think the Horizon League is the most intriguing mid-major conference to watch during this final week.  Cleveland State, Butler, and Valparaiso are all in contention for an at-large bid but won’t feel comfortable on Selection Sunday unless they receive the league’s automatic bid by winning the conference tourney.  ODU has an RPI of 30 and should be an at-large team even if they don’t win the CAA Tournament, but beating the Vikings would certainly help their cause.  By the way, watch out for Cleveland State’s Norris Cole who posted a 41 point, 20 rebound, 9 assist game this past weekend.

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and former contributor for The Washington Times Communities.  You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

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