Championship Week gives teams last chance at bid

Corey Marine

It’s that time of year again. March Madness is here. Conference championship tournaments are in full swing. Many teams are trying to secure their places in the Big Dance, while others are playing for pride. Then there are the bubble teams that are trying to make an impact before the season wraps up. Here is a look at some teams that are on the verge of making it into the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Some teams will find themselves with an opportunity to win it all, while others will be on the outside looking in.

Notre Dame: This is certainly not the season that the Fighting Irish were expecting to have. With talented players like senior guard Kyle McAlarney and junior forward Luke Harangody on the team, the Irish looked like they could PLAYwith many Big East teams at the start of the season. However, with an 8-10 conference record and 10th place in the Big East, the team has struggled through the high level of competition in what is arguably the strongest conference in the nation. The Fighting Irish will most likely have to win the conference tournament in order to receive a ticket to the Big Dance on Selection Sunday.

Maryland: The ACC is one of the stronger conferences in the nation. Although the Terrapins do not have a great conference record, they will be a team that will be looked at closely. Junior guard Greivis Vasquez has emerged as an offensive force to be reckoned with, averaging slightly over 17 points a game and 4.8 assists per game. Wins against the then-No. 6 Michigan State Spartans and the formerly No. 3 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels should be enough to propel the Terps into the National Tournament.

Providence: The Friars have emerged as a scrappy team in the Big East. Senior guard Weyinmi Efejuku has become a strong player who has the potential to score in bunches. Along with junior and sophomore guards Sharaud Curry and Marshon Brooks, the trio can pack an offensive punch to keep teams on their heels.

Providence has a 10-8 record in the Big East, an accomplishment in itself. With wins against Notre Dame, Syracuse, and No. 1 Pittsburgh, look for the Friars to make some noise at the Big East tournament in an attempt to keep their national title hopes alive. The combination of their conference record and wins against ranked teams may be enough to do just that.

Florida: The SEC was not a strong conference this year. With LSU being the only SEC team ranked in the top 25, teams in the conference could not afford to have multiple bad losses on their records. The Gators did not play a particularly strong schedule this season, which works against their tournament hopes. Their win against Kentucky was important in giving the team a shot at the tournament, but with a mediocre 9-7 conference record in one of the weaker conferences, Florida may have to win the SEC tournament in order to secure its place in the NCAA tournament.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions have not been the most consistent team in the Big Ten, but they certainly have the talent to beat some good teams. Led by sophomore guard Talor Battle, Penn State has wins against Purdue, Michigan State, Minnesota and two recent wins over the Fighting Illini, including one at Illinois, on their résumé this season. It looked as though they had locked up a bid before losing to Iowa this past weekend. Penn State has a strong chance of getting a nod for the Big Dance and may be a force to be reckoned with if given the chance.

Arizona: With wins against Gonzaga, Washington and UCLA, Arizona has some quality wins on its record. However, losing four of their last five has some people wondering if the Wildcats can hold up in the national tournament. The losses came against Arizona State, Washington State, Washington and California, so the damage done to their tournament chances may be minimal.

Junior forwards Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger are both averaging over 18 points a game, along with fellow junior guard Nic Wise, who is averaging 15 points per game. Although the Arizona Wildcats have a 9-9 Pac 10 record, their quality wins give them a fair shot at continuing their season. A win against Arizona State today will only improve their chances. A win against their rivals could be the only way they get into the NCAA tournament.

Michigan: The Wolverines have a relatively strong record against the Top 25, sitting at 3-4. Wins against UCLA and Duke early this season and more recent victories against Minnesota and Purdue show that Michigan can beat some of the better teams in the nation. However, the team in blue and maize also has a bad loss against Iowa. The inconsistency now has them on the tournament bubble.

Although they have a 19-12 record, the Wolverines have proven that they can hang with many national tournament contenders, including some teams which will receive high seeds. However, the fact that their major wins came early on in the season and their inconsistency as of late may raise some eyebrows. A win in their first game of the Big Ten Tournament could be enough to secure a bid in the NCCA Tournament.