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Joe Boozell | | March 6, 2019

These 5 bubble teams need to play well down the stretch to make the NCAA tournament

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Selection Sunday is less than two weeks away, and we're in the last week of the regular season for many teams.

Here are five schools who need to play well down the stretch in order to earn NCAA tournament bids.

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Seton Hall

Seton Hall is 16-12, and seemed to be a tournament lock as recently as a few weeks ago. But after three straight losses to Xavier, St. John's and Georgetown, its status is in doubt.

The good news: the Pirates have two great opportunities remaining. They host Marquette and Villanova in their final two regular season games, the two best teams in the Big East by far.

The bad news: if they couldn't beat Xavier, St. John's or Georgetown, taking down Marquette or Villanova feels like a tall task. Splitting these two would help Seton Hall's resume, and if it sweeps, you'd have to feel good about its chances.

This was always a rebuilding year for the Pirates, but in a down Big East, it feels like they should be able to capitalize on this opportunity. Seton Hall is a team to keep an eye on this week and in the Big East tournament.


Clemson ranks 39th in the NET rankings and sports a 7-9 ACC record. The Tigers almost earned a signature win against North Carolina on Saturday, but fell two points short.

Clemson plays Notre Dame in South Bend on Wednesday and hosts Syracuse on Saturday. The Tigers could reasonably sweep those games, and if they do, they would feel good about their tournament chances.

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But the Tigers have been up and down all season. They have two three-game losing streaks and a four-game winning streak in ACC play alone.

Right now, their best win is a home victory over Virginia Tech. The resume falls off after that, and if Clemson can beat Syracuse, that might be its second-best win. So, Saturday is crucial. We'll see if Brad Brownell's crew can return to the dance.


Yes, both teams from this year's College Football Playoff national championship game find themselves on this list. The Crimson Tide are ranked 53rd in the NET and are 8-9 in the SEC.

They travel to Arkansas on Saturday. KenPom projects them to lose both, but they should be close. Alabama should be happy with a split, but after falling to Auburn, a win over Arkansas would be most beneficial.

No. 20 Ole Miss falls to Alabama 74-53

Alabama earned a huge win over Kentucky on Jan. 5, but beyond that, the resume doesn't contain anything that stands out. That's the case for a lot of these teams. The Crimson Tide are a fun group to watch — the Kira Jones-John Petty backcourt is explosive. Tuesday night's game is big.

Saint Mary's

It's a little surprising than an 11-loss WCC team is in the NCAA tournament mix, but here the Gaels are. Saint Mary's is ranked 38th in the NET.

The Gaels had won five straight before falling to Gonzaga on Saturday, and the next time we'll see them is in the WCC tournament. At the very least, it feels like St. Mary's needs to make it to the conference tournament title game in order to get a serious look. It's lost to Gonzaga by an average of 31 points in two games this season. The Bulldogs would almost certainly be their opponent in that game, and you'd like to at least see the Gaels make it interesting if that happens.

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To Saint Mary's credit, it's been smoking several other foes. In its last three wins, the opponent has failed to score 50 points. That's serious defensive work.

This is the team to watch in the WCC tournament.


Xavier just won't quit. On Feb. 9, the Musketeers were 11-13, 3-8 in the Big East and had just lost their sixth straight game. Needless to say, their NCAA tournament prospects were gloom. And that's an understatement.

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But Xavier had five straight wins after that including needle-movers in Villanova and St. John's. The Musketeers fell to Butler on Tuesday, but host St. John's on Saturday. The Musketeers may be in business if they can pick up another win before the conference tournament. 

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Xavier has made the NCAA tournament in all but one year since 2006. Its consistency has been remarkable. And there is ground to make up: the Musketeers rank 70th in the NET. But momentum is on their side, and they have a track record of thriving in these months. This is a fascinating school to watch down the stretch. 

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