March Madness: Selection Sunday Preview
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March Madness is fast approaching, which means that Selection Sunday is coming up as well. And for the teams hoping to get into the Big Dance that haven't won their conference championships, this means that they will finally know their tournament fates soon enough. Whether it is a spot in the First Four or a berth in the round of 64, all any of the teams on the bubble want is a chance to dance, as anything can happen once the games start. Here is a look at the major subplots to keep an eye on come Selection Sunday.
Pac-12: One-Bid League?
There are plenty of conferences in college basketball that only get one bid into the NCAA Tournament. These are typically smaller conferences like the America East or Atlantic Sun. But this season, the Pac-12 might be one of the conferences that only gets one team into the tournament, as the league overall has had an abysmal season that falls well below its usual standards.
A huge reason for this is the struggles that some of the traditional powers in the conference have experienced. UCLA has gone from being a contender for the Final Four in recent years with Lonzo Ball to firing its coach midseason and struggling to find answers. Arizona was one of the best teams in the sport last year, but has fallen apart this season. And Oregon has gone from a ranked team before the start of the season to an also-ran. The Ducks started the season at +2500 to win the title, but are now as high as +66000 to win it all.
The Washington Huskies sit anywhere from +12500 to +8000 to win the national championship as the conference tournament approaches. If Washington wins the Pac-12 tournament the way they are expected to, the other teams in the conference would have to pick up some key wins in the postseason to improve their tournament hopes before Selection Sunday. Otherwise, the Pac-12 could indeed be a one-bid league this season.
The intrigue of Selection Sunday always exists on the bubble, rather than with the teams who are already likely to get into the tournament. And this season, the bubble once again has an array of teams from large and small conferences all attempting to be the last squads to get into the tournament as at-large teams. And while there is no definitive way to know who will be selected when all is said and done, there is usually a preference for power conference teams by the selection committee.
This year, that preference is likely to benefit teams like TCU, who are as high as +30000 to win the title, over teams like Furman and Murray State. Furman has had an excellent season this year, suffering just one loss all season to a team with under 20 wins for the year. Murray State, meanwhile, has a top-five draft prospect in Ja Morant, who would be great to see on the big stage. But bracket projections have those compelling teams out of the tournament so another team from the Big 12 or Big East can get in. Such is life on the bubble.
Of course, the best part of the bubble is the fact that it changes on an almost daily basis. If a team currently projected to be in the tournament suffers a loss, while the teams behind them win, they could find themselves on the outside looking in while other teams go from the outside to the field. And while there is no telling who will take the final spots in this year's tournament, it is a given that there will be drama leading up to and during Selection Sunday.