It's that time of year where the result of nearly every game in college basketball has some sort of impact on NCAA Tournament bubble teams. With Selection Sunday on CBS just a few days away, the field of 68 for the Big Dance is coming into focus, and potential at-large teams with shaky resumes need all the help they can get.
Murray State gave the bubble squads something to cheer about on Saturday night, when the Racers won the OVC Tournament and ensured that it would be a one-bid league. If Murray State hadn't squeaked out a close victory over Morehead State, the OVC would likely have become a two-bid league for the NCAA Tournament, leaving a bubble team on the outside looking in as a result.
But there are plenty of potential bid thieves still lurking. With most conference tournaments crowning champions this week, there is always the possibility of an unexpected league champion emerging to disturb the bubble habitat. Remember last season? Georgetown, Georgia Tech and Oregon State came from nowhere to unexpectedly win their conference tournaments and earn NCAA Tournament bids they likely would not have secured otherwise. Those results left teams like Louisville outside the NCAA Tournament field.
Check out CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm's latest bracket, full field of 68 and all the teams on the bubble at the Bracketology hub.
So who are this season's potentials potential bid thieves? Our writers answer that question for this week's edition of the dribble handoff.
The most important thing to do when trying to identify a potential bid-stealer is to find a team that has, at one point or another, shown the ability to beat the type of teams it needs to beat this week to win its league's automatic bid. Saint Louis checks that box. The Billikens have beaten the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament (Dayton) and the No. 3 seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament (VCU) -- plus the No. 1 seed in the Mountain West Tournament (Boise State) and the No. 1 seed in the MAAC Tournament (Iona). That suggests they're capable. And even though Saint Louis is just the No. 5 seed in the A-10 Tournament, the Billikens are actually the third highest-rated team in the A-10, according to KenPom.com.
Will Saint Louis actually do it? As always, we'll see.
But with a backcourt of Yuri Collins and Gibson Jimerson, and a resume featuring five wins over top-100 KenPom teams, there's no denying the Billikens are legitimate bid-stealing candidates. -- Gary Parrish
I think we're getting at least one bid thief -- maybe two -- in the next five days. It's harder to see one emerging from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 or SEC. But the Big East and Pac-12 ... maybe. I look at the A-10 and I see a conference that is waiting to be pilfered. GP took Saint Louis, and I like it. I'm going to ride with a team no longer on the bubble, but one that was projected in the preseason to be the best: the Bonnies. In fact, St. Bonaventure was 8-1, then 10-3, before taking on one too many losses to keep its bubble case alive.
Look at the schedule as of late, though. This team, having some injury issues, has won seven of its past eight. Bonaventure also only played 28 games, having three taken off the slate due to COVID cancellations. If this team was 23-8 instead of 20-8, it would have a better case as an at-large. Bonaventure is the 4-seed in the A-10 Tournament, meaning it would likely face Saint Louis in the 4/5 game before getting top-seeded Davidson in the semifinals on Saturday in Washington, D.C. Those two faced each other once this season, on Feb. 1, a five-point win for Davidson.
Bona's fans will travel as well as anyone to the A-10 tourney. Mark Schmidt's performed well historically with his good teams in this conference tournament. Whereas Dayton and VCU are trying to make the A-10 title game to strengthen their bubble cases, it seems like D.C. is bound to have a party-crasher. Give me the Bonnies to redeem themselves. -- Matt Norlander
Norlander and I previewed the Pac-12 tournament earlier this week and we both decided that among power conferences, it offered the most potential for a bid thief. And my conclusion talking through it was that Colorado is the clear top contender to be that this week. The Buffs have won seven of their last eight entering the postseason -- including a win in that stretch over No. 1 seed Arizona -- and have given two really good fights (albeit, both losses) to No. 2 seed UCLA this season as well.
Colorado's case is two-fold: No. 1, it seems to have gotten hot at the right time. A year ago, Oregon State was in a similar spot (as the No. 5 seed) before catching fire and knocking off No. 1 seed Oregon, No. 4 seed UCLA and No. 3 seed Colorado en route to the conference tourney title. That could indeed be the same path for CU this week. Its second, and maybe most important asset this week, is that it has a rising star in sophomore Jabari Walker. Walker led the league in rebounds this season and averaged 16.6 points, 10.8 boards and shot 41.7% from 3-point range in the second half of the season.
At this point Colorado probably needs to run the table to get into the Big Dance despite its late-season surge, howevah, that seems like a significantly smaller task than it seems at first glance. For the second-hottest team in the Pac-12 it's far from an insurmountable feat, and no team in the league both needs and is capable of running the table than CU. If they've got their dancing shoes on by Sunday don't say we didn't warn you. -- Kyle Boone
A glaring lack of offensive firepower has the No. 6 seed Cavaliers just 18-12 (12-8 ACC) entering the ACC Tournament and squarely outside the at-large picture. But Virginia won at Duke on Feb. 7, which tells you all you need to know about this team's ability to do the unexpected in the ACC. UVA's path begins with either No. 11 seed Louisville or No. 14 seed Georgia Tech on Wednesday, neither of which should be a problem. The Cavaliers beat the Cardinals twice already and won their only meeting with Georgia Tech.
The next two would be against No. 3 seed North Carolina and likely against No. 2 seed Notre Dame. Virginia lost its only meetings with both in the regular season, but both were road games played in January. This team is 6-3 since January ended, and those three losses are by a combined 14 points. Playing UNC and Notre Dame on a neutral floor in March would be much different for the Cavaliers.
Finally, a tournament title game matchup likely with either No. 1 seed Duke or No. 4 seed Miami would be winnable. The Cavaliers did sweep the Hurricanes and nearly swept Duke in the regular season. Virginia ranked 13th in the ACC in 3-point shooting percentage during the regular season and still won 60% of its league games. The defense provides a nice safety net, and this team is a few hot shooting nights away from morphing from an NIT squad into looking more like the Virginia squads we've become accustomed to in Tony Bennett's 13-year tenure. -- David Cobb