Shirk: March Madness is almost here, so who’s dancing?
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Selection Sunday is my second favorite day of the year, right behind Christmas.
The constant speculation of which teams will see their bubbles burst and which teams will earn the chance to be the next “Cinderella story” will finally come to an end.
Epic matchups. Upsets. Unforgettable endings. Moments that will go down in history litter the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and it’s often the teams that barely skirt into the tournament that make them happen. So which teams’ bubbles can we expect to burst? And which teams will earn their right to dance?
Illinois State: The Redbirds had a solid 2016-2017 campaign, compiling a 27-6 record while going 17-1 in conference play and making it to the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship. ISU holds an RPI rank of 36 and have been in the mid 30s all season long. Verdict: In
Northwestern: The Wildcats could be considered the Chicago Cubs of the NCAA basketball world. How they play in the Big Ten conference tournament will hugely affect their chances. If the selection committee deems them worthy, expect the Wildcats to make the most of their situation. Verdict: In
Kansas State: A brutal 4-8 stretch in the past few weeks have doomed K-State’s tournament chances. After seemingly locking up a bid by beating top 10 teams in West Virginia and Baylor, the Wildcats must now rely on finishing the season strong by performing well in the Big 12 tournament if they want to keep their NCAA tournament aspirations alive. Verdict: Out
Marquette: Like the previous two teams, the Golden Eagles need a deep run in the Big East tournament if they want to garner some respect from the selection committee. A deep run paired with a huge road win at Creighton could very well push them into the dance, but if they’re knocked out in the first round, Marquette should expect a trip to the NIT. Verdict: Out
Syracuse: The Orange have had quite the up-and-down season. An RPI of 80, and an away record of 2-11 are countered by solid wins over Florida State, Duke and Virginia. Their 18-14 overall record doesn’t make the decision any easier for the committee, especially with the Orange losing in the first round of the ACC Tournament. Whether the tournament staple makes it to the big dance this year or not, the decision will be a controversial one. Verdict: In
Clemson: Had it not been for a brutal six-game losing streak late in conference play, the Tigers would probably be a lock for the NCAA tournament. Clemson is going to need a few wins in the ACC tournament if they hope to go dancing—which seems unlikely considering they’d have to beat out Duke in a potential second-round matchup. Verdict: Out
Wake Forest: Danny Manning’s squad this year is poised to make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2010. Though with a less than stellar 9-9 record in conference play, the Demon Deacons’ losses have all been to opponents within the top 100 in RPI. The committee may favor Manning’s team this year, but a solid run in the ACC tournament would be a solid boost. Verdict: In
USC: It’s hard to imagine a team that started out the season 14-0 not making the NCAA tournament, especially if that team is from one of the power five conferences. The momentum halted for the Trojans, however, as they followed their 14-game win streak by going 9-8 over the last 17 games. I think USC has done enough to earn a trip to the dance, and they’ll likely land a spot in one of the play-in games. Verdict: In