March Madness: A half-dozen to watch on the bubble
The big bubble winner over the weekend: Nebraska. When the NCAA selection committee draws up the brackets next Sunday, it's hard to imagine the Cornhuskers will be on the outside looking in.
Led by 26 points each from Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway, Nebraska defeated ninth-ranked Wisconsin on Sunday in what may have been the most important regular-season game in the program's history.
Tim Miles' team has won 10 of 12 and finished in fourth place in the Big Ten, the second-strongest conference in the country. The Huskers (19-11, 11-7) look like a good bet to make their first appearance in March Madness since 1998.
Here's a Pick Six of other bubble teams, how they did over the weekend and what they need to accomplish in the upcoming conference tournaments.
PITTSBURGH (23-8, 11-7 ACC) The soft nonconference schedule, the lack of quality wins, the handful of last-second, heartbreaking losses all that was working very much against the Panthers. Then, they made up five points in the span of 4 seconds on the road against a tough, Clemson team, and went on to win in overtime. Yes, the Panthers and their late-season fades get old, but 23 is an impressive number, and suddenly this arrow is, well, at least not pointing straight down anymore.
OREGON (22-8, 10-8 Pac-12) A bubble team no longer, not after winning seven straight and capping that with a victory over No. 3 Arizona on Saturday. This was a team that started the season 13-0, but was 3-8 in the Pac-12 at one point. The committee loves teams that are playing well come March. The Ducks, and whatever neon uniforms they decide to bring with them to the Dance, will only be worrying about where, not if, come next Sunday.
ARKANSAS (21-10, 10-8 SEC) Yes, there were lots of good things going on here. Winners of eight of nine, including a stretch in which the Hogs backed up a win against Kentucky at Rupp Arena with impressive home victories against Georgia and Mississippi. Then came that 25-point loss at Alabama. Now, Arkansas, a near-lock 10 days ago, needs to perform as in, win one, maybe two, games at the SEC tournament to solidify its status.
FLORIDA STATE (18-12, 9-9 ACC) The Seminoles had a reeling Syracuse team on their home court. Perfect time to make a statement. Instead, they fell 74-58. A .500 record in the ACC is nothing to sneeze at. But it could be time to ... start spreading the news ... BCS and NIT trophies will reside in Tallahassee this year.
GONZAGA (26-6, 15-3 WCC) Gosh, is there any chance the Zags, with all their history and tradition and mid-major moxie, wouldn't make it? Well, was there any chance they might lose to Santa Clara on Saturday? The answer to both questions should have been a definitive 'No.' But that two-point squeaker over the ninth-seeded Broncos, thanks to David Stockton's layup with 1.4 seconds left, didn't prove much. Next up: St. Mary's on Monday. Time to impress. Just to show they can.
WICHITA STATE (34-0, 18-0 MVC) Just wanted to make sure you were still reading. The Shockers are the first team to head into March Madness undefeated since UNLV in 1991. Only question: Is this the top overall seed? Oh, certainly there are things to nitpick the mid-major resume, the No. 6 rating in the RPI, etc. Top-ranked Florida is out there and looking awfully good. But while the rest of the big boys are battling it out in conference tournaments, the Shockers will be back home practicing, their title already in hand. How will the layoff affect them, and the way the committee views them? Stay tuned.
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