NCAA Tournament 2014: Bubble Teams That Would Make Deep Runs

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistMarch 8, 2014

Mar 4, 2014; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks forward Elgin Cook (23) celebrates with Oregon Ducks Mike Moser (0) following a shot from Oregon Ducks Mike Moser (0) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Matthew Knight Arena. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

If you are trying to make heads or tails of this year's NCAA tournament field, good luck. We know Florida and Arizona are really good. Wichita State is undefeated and will probably get a No. 1 seed if that holds true through the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. 

Other than that, everything else is a crapshoot. Syracuse can't seem to buy a win. Duke has reached incredibly high highs but also lost to Notre Dame. Kansas stumbled against Oklahoma State. 

With so much instability at the top of college basketball this season, the door is wide open for a bubble team to make a run to the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight. They still have work to do to make the field, but if they do, look out.

Here are the bubble teams trending upward. 


Oregon Ducks (21-8, 9-8 in Pac-12)

Chris Pietsch/Associated Press

Key win(s): BYU, UCLA, Arizona State

In his latest bracketology breakdown, ESPN's Joe Lunardi had Oregon comfortably in the tournament as one of the last four teams with a bye.

That could change after Saturday's regular-season finale against No. 3 Arizona, but how do you punish the Ducks if they lose to one of the best teams in college basketball? Especially when they already played them so well in Arizona earlier this year. 

Oregon's biggest flaw is a lack of defense. It has given up at least 80 points 11 times, so that gives the Ducks the great chance to implode. But they play a great uptempo style that can give bigger teams who want to bang in the paint fits. 

They are currently eighth in the nation in scoring (82.9 PPG) and have five players shooting better than 35 percent from three-point range. The long-distance shot is the great equalizer in college basketball. 

Remember, Florida Gulf Coast made a run last year with a fast-paced uptempo style that captivated the nation. Oregon has more pure talent than the Eagles, so don't rule out a run from these Ducks.


Arkansas Razorbacks (21-9, 10-7 in SEC)

LEXINGTON, KY - FEBRUARY 27:  Coty Clarke #4 of the Arkansas Razorbacks celebrates with a teammate  after the 71-67 OT win over the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena on February 27, 2014 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Key win(s): Kentucky (twice), Minnesota

It speaks volumes about how deep college basketball is right now that a team with 21 wins overall and 10 in the SEC sits squarely on the bubble. 

Of course, Arkansas has done that to itself by losing games to the likes of Georgia (No. 79 RPI) and Texas A&M (No. 133). Inexplicable defeats like that take a lot of the shine away from two wins against Kentucky and four total wins against the RPI top 50. 

When the Razorbacks are on, they are as good as any team in the SEC that isn't Florida. Speaking of the Gators, Arkansas played them very well on January 11 with a two-point overtime loss.

Mississippi head coach Andy Kennedy told reporters (via Kyle Ringo, Yahoo! Sports) after Arkansas hit 17 three-pointers against his team on March 5 that the Razorbacks are "an NCAA tournament team, and hopefully they'll continue to show that and get that opportunity."

It might take one more win in the SEC tournament for Arkansas to secure its spot, but based on the way this team is shooting now, combined with eight wins in its last nine games, should push the Razorbacks into the Big Dance. 


St. John's Red Storm (19-11, 9-8 in Big East)

Chris Szagola/Associated Press

Key Win: Creighton

Unlike Oregon and Arkansas, two teams that seem squarely on the right side of the bubble, St. John's has a lot of work to do in the next week to convince the selection committee it belongs in the tournament. 

There was a time when 19 wins in the Big East would be good enough to get you in, but with the conference undergoing drastic changes, that's no longer the case. 

Working in favor of the Red Storm is one win and one close loss against the No. 2 team in the conference (Creighton) and two losses by a combined 10 points to the best team in the conference (Villanova). 

Yes, losses hurt, but you have to factor in who these teams are playing and losing to. Is a close loss to Villanova or Creighton worse than, say, BYU, another bubble team, losing three games to teams ranked lower than 150 in RPI?

St. John's is a prototypical Big East team, not scoring a lot or creating much on the offensive end. However, it has size in the middle with Chris Obekpa, who averages more than three blocks per game, and hasn't given up more than 64 points in a game since February 13. 

Not bad for a team that started 0-5 in conference play. 


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