This is the last weekend of the regular season for many Mid-Major schools, and the second to last weekend for the power 5 schools. The clock is ticking on the teams trying to improve their tournament resumes so this weekend could go a long way in determining NCAA Tournament seeding.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Seton Hall, Illinois State, Georgia Tech, and TCU barely sneaking into the tournament while Kansas State, Wake Forest, Clemson, and Tennessee are on the outside looking in.
Seton Hall topped Xavier by the score of 71-64, and they go on the road Saturday to face DePaul. Seton Hall should be able to take care of the struggling Blue Demons, but winning a conference game on the road is never easy, especially when your NCAA Tournament life os on the line.
Illinois State is currently tied with Wichita State at the top of the Missouri Valley standings. The Redbirds closeout their regular season Saturday afternoon at Northern Iowa. The Panthers were obliterated by the Shockers last weekend in Wichita so now it’s Illinois State’s turn to prove to the committee that they belong in the tournament even if they fail to get the Missouri Valley Conference auto-bid.
Josh Pastner is trying to take Georgia Tech dancing in his first season as head coach. The loss against NC State this week really hurt, but they still have time to recover with a huge road game at Notre Dame this weekend. The Yellow Jackets have more opportunities to win their way into the tournament than a lot of the other bubble teams just because of how strong the ACC is. Tech faces Pitt and Syracuse next week, and a mini-run in the ACC Tournament could be enough to lift the Jackets into the big dance.
TCU lossed at Kansas last night, but the Horned Frogs still have a chance to make tournament. Joe Lunardi has TCU as the very last at-large team in the field of 68. TCU has a huge home game this weekend as they host number 12 West Virginia. Next week TCU closes out the season with a game against fellow bubble team K-State, and Oklahoma. The Horned Frogs, like Georgia Tech, still have opportunities for resume building wins with a tough conference tournament ahead. A mini-run in the Big 12 Tournament could propel TCU ahead of other bubble teams.
Kansas State is trying win its way into the tournament, but they do not really have another chance for a big win until the Big 12 Tournament. K-State does have a big game next week against TCU, who is also squarely on the bubble. The key for the Wildcats is to just keep winning because an unexpected loss to Oklahoma or Texas Tech could probably be enough to kill their chances of dancing.
Wake Forest has struggled since Chris Paul left for the NBA, but the Demon Decons have a chance to get back to the NCAA Tournament. The Decs have a massive game against number 7 Louisville next week, and a win against the Cardinals might be enough to get them in the tournament. Wake also will have the chance to play their way into the big dance by having a strong showing in the extremely deep ACC Tournament.
Clemson is the third team out according to Joey Brackets. Brad Brownell and the Tigers have had a season full of nightmare last second losses, but they still have a chance to dance. Clemson hosts number 19 Florida State, NC State, and Boston College to closeout the season. The three home games could prove to be a big help in the Tigers regaining their confidence before the ACC Tournament. If Clemson could find a way to win a game that they shouldn’t in the ACC Tournament, their resume would be greatly improved.
Joe Lunardi’s last team on the “First Four Out” list is Tennessee. The Vols are coming off a really bad home loss against Vanderbilt, but they still have a big game left on the road against South Carolina this afternoon. Beating the Gamecocks in Columbia has now become necessary for the Vols to keep pace with the other teams. Tennessee’s biggest problem is that they do not have as many opportunities left to get resume building wins as many of the other bubble teams. Teams like Clemson, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, TCU, and K-State have the ability to play their way in with an impressive showing in their conference tournaments because of the strength of the ACC and Big 12. Tennessee does not have that luxury because the SEC is down this season.