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NCAA Tournament 2018: In/Out For Top Bubble Teams

Trae Young, Oklahoma
With regular season conference play beginning to wind down, and conference tournaments on the very near horizon, the NCAA Tournament bubble watch heats up. A strong cast of teams are competing for limited spots in the Field of 68, and there is sure to be a lot of debate about which teams should qualify to play in the Big Dance. As of right now, here is my opinion on which teams should get in, and which teams still need to buff up their resume.

Syracuse Orange (18-10, 7-8 ACC)
RPI: 37
SOS: 57
Best Win: @ Miami
Syracuse has been a constant bubble team over the last couple seasons, and that is certainly the case once more in 2018. This team has legitimate talent and having legendary head coach Jim Boeheim on the sideline is clearly an advantage, but their resume is relatively underwhelming. Playing in the ACC, which the Selection Committee is known to favor, will help, but Syracuse's best win is on the road against a good, not great, Miami squad. Beating Duke on the road or upsetting Clemson at home would go a long way in helping their chances, but as of right now, this team just doesn't have the resume to be an NCAA Tournament team.
Verdict: Out

Texas Longhorns (17-12, 7-9 Big 12)
RPI: 52
SOS: 3
Best Win: vs. Texas Tech
With Oklahoma struggling lately, the Big 12 has a big chunk of teams sitting firmly on the bubble, including Kansas State, Baylor and the Longhorns. Texas may sit at 16-12 and under .500 in the conference, but they are helped by an extremely impressive strength of schedule, and they have opportunities down the road to strengthen their resume. They end the regular season with a road trip to Kansas and a showdown with West Virginia. Winning either one of those games and putting together a solid performance in the Big 12 tournament makes them essentially a lock. The Longhorns' RPI is low and there are still questions about this team, but the Mo Bamba-led 'Horns are in if I'm on the Committee.
Verdict: In

Oklahoma Sooners (16-11, 6-9 Big 12)
RPI: 31
SOS: 1
Best Win: vs. Kansas
If you want great evidence on just how quickly things can change in college basketball, look no further than Oklahoma. The Sooners were one of the Top 16 seeded teams just 12 days ago, but has now lost six straight, and finds themselves on the bubble. A weak conference record hurts them, as does some bad losses (Oklahoma State, Iowa State). However, Oklahoma is helped by a big victory against Kansas and a strong non-conference showing, where they beat Wichita State and USC. Having Trae Young is also a huge advantage; the high-scoring point guard has a huge following and would draw tons of viewers, which the Committee also tends to factor into when selecting teams.
Verdict: In

Nebraska Cornhuskers (21-9, 12-5 Big Ten)
RPI: 61
SOS: 60
Best Win: vs. Michigan
It's amazing, but despite being 12-5 in the Big Ten and 21-9 overall, Nebraska finds themselves in a worse position than either Texas or Oklahoma. The reason? A very weak strength of schedule and the fact that the Big Ten overall has been extremely down throughout '17-'18. They are also hurt by a pretty poor showing in the non-conference, where they lost to UCF and St. John's, although that St. John's loss doesn't look quite as bad in retrospective. Nebraska finishes the regular season with a meeting against Penn State, another team on the bubble watch. A win there will help, but how the 'Huskers perform in the conference tournament will really decide their NCAA Tournament destiny. As of right now, that weak SOS likely dooms them.
Verdict: Out

St. Bonaventure Bonnies (22-6, 12-4 A-10)
RPI: 26
SOS: 91
Best Win: vs. Rhode Island
While Rhode Island appears to be the clear favorite in the Atlantic 10, St. Bonaventure finds themselves in an interesting spot. The Bonnies don't have an overwhelmingly strong resume and have a poor strength of schedule, but they still sit at 22-6 and second in the conference. They also managed to beat Rhode Island at home earlier on in the year, the only team to beat the Rams in the A-10 in 2018. While their resume isn't great up and down, this win, plus victories over Syracuse and Maryland, should be enough to get this team locked into the NCAA Tournament.
Verdict: In

Other Teams To Watch on the Bubble
USC Trojans
UCLA Bruins
Penn State Nittany Lions
Louisville Cardinals
Baylor Bears
Kansas State Wildcats

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