Call it a make-or-break week

Some bubbles will burst, others will gain momentum

March 08, 2011|By Shannon Ryan

As coaches like to say, the conference tournaments offer clean slates. For others, they offer a pitfall.

While some teams' bubbles will burst, others will lock up No. 1 seeds.

Here's a conference tournament primer:

Atlantic Coast

Most to gain/lose: Virginia Tech. Its NCAA hopes are fading after losses to Boston College and Clemson — two other bubble teams — to end the regular season. The Hokies need to beat Georgia Tech and maybe Florida State to earn a bid.

Winner: North Carolina. The Tar Heels are strutting into the ACC tournament with a regular-season championship after beating Duke. The teams might meet again in the tournament, and with Harrison Barnes excelling, the Tar Heels could earn another trophy.

Who's in: Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, Florida State, Boston College.

Big East

Most to gain/lose: Marquette. The Golden Eagles looked like they were on the right path with a win at Connecticut, then — oops! — they lost to Cincinnati and Seton Hall. They probably need to beat Providence in the first round to earn a bid.

Winner: Pittsburgh. The Panthers call Madison Square Garden their home away from home. They have a ton of scoring options, rebound like it's a cash grab and play as a team.

Who's in: Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Syracuse, St.John's, Louisville, Connecticut, Georgetown, Villanova, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Marquette.

Big Ten

Most to gain/lose: Michigan State. The Spartans aren't accustomed to this bubble talk, but they'll have to play like previous Tom Izzo teams often do in March. If Draymond Green regains his shot, Kalin Lucas continues his fiery play and other starters come to life, Michigan State has a chance.

Winner: Ohio State. Jared Sullinger has proved an impossible matchup all season, and nobody is launching 3-pointers like Jon Diebler.

Who's in: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan.

Big 12

Most to gain/lose: Texas. The Longhorns could have a shot at a top NCAA tournament seed with a title, especially if a favorite in another conference drops. They appeared to be a lock for a top seed, lost their footing with three losses in four games and regained some balance with a win against Baylor.

Winner: Kansas. The Jayhawks are one of the nation's hottest teams as winners of five straight. Repeating as Big 12 tournament champs won't be easy with possibly rival Kansas State and Texas standing in the way.

Who's in: Kansas, Texas, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Missouri.

Southeastern

Most to gain/lose: Alabama. The Crimson Tide could pair off against another bubble team in Georgia in the quarterfinals. Alabama needs a few wins to feel comfortable with its chances.

Winner: Florida. The Gators could work themselves into a No. 2 seed for the NCAAs with a title here. Guard Chandler Parsons has praised the team's chemistry.

Who's in: Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee.

Pacific-10

Most to gain/lose: USC. The Trojans turned themselves into a bubble team without many noticing. They need to get by Cal in the quarterfinals, but an upset against potential semifinal opponent Arizona certainly would turn the committee's head.

Winner: Arizona. The Wildcats stumbled a bit at the end of the regular season, but they looked like the class of the conference almost all season. Few teams can contain forward Derrick Williams.

Who's in: Arizona, UCLA, Washington.

Top 4 NCAA seeds

The argument will continue until Sunday, but three of the four top seeds seem set.

Ohio State, Kansas and Pittsburgh look like solid No. 1s. But some experts differ on whether Duke or Notre Dame will earn the remaining top seed.

ESPN's Joe Lunardi still lists Duke as a No. 1 seed. But plenty of others — Jerry Palm at collegerpi.com, USA Today and the Columbus Dispatch — have Notre Dame as the final No.1.

sryan@tribune.com

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