Imagine your favorite team is on the NCAA Tournament bubble. You are counting resumes, looking at different Bracketology sites to see where your team is at. You think your team is in. Everything is sunshine and rainbows… then a couple of non-tourney teams go out and win their conference tournament.
All of a sudden your team goes from in to out of the NCAA Tournament. This happens all the time, most recently last year when Davidson and San Diego State won their conference tournaments and basically stole a bid from Notre Dame and USC.
A bid-stealer can be defined as a team that steals a bid by winning their conference tournament from another that would have been in the NCAA Tournament had that former squad not won their conference tournament. Heading into Championship Week, it is time to look at some teams that could potentially win their conference tournament and essentially steal a bid from a team that might have been in the NCAA Tournament this year.
This will be taken one league at a time, listing out the teams that reasonably could win their conference tournaments.
Big East: Xavier, Seton Hall, Creighton, Georgetown, and Providence
The Big East has been pretty bad this year. Only three teams from the league are not currently on bubble and likely in the NCAA Tournament. This means if the trio of Marquette, Villanova, and St. John’s don’t win the Big East Tournament, this league could have a bid-stealer.
Xavier is the first team I think could reasonably win the Big East Tournament, as they are red hot at the moment. Seton Hall has won the Big East Tournament in the past and it wouldn’t be out of line for Myles Powell and the Pirates to go on a run and win the Big East Tournament, as they have done so previously.
Georgetown, Creighton, and Providence all stand out as teams that have an outside chance at winning the Big East Tournament as well. The Big East Tournament is consistently one of the best conference tournaments in the sport, and with the massive bubble implications, it could add an extra dimension to this year’s edition.
Pac-12: Anyone but Washington
The Pac-12 has been terrible this year and it will show, as the league appears to be only worth one bid. One of those will come from Washington, who has essentially already clinched an at-large bid already. Arizona State is on the bubble, but they are definitely not a lock to make the NCAA Tournament by any means. Everyone else in this conference has no shot at an at-large bid. If someone besides Washington wins the Pac-12 Tournament, I would consider that team a bid-stealer.
American Athletic Conference: Temple and Memphis
The AAC is in a position where it will get at least three or four teams, depending upon how Temple finishes the regular season. If the Owls are not able to do end strong, then they could enter the AAC tournament needing to win the AAC conference tournament to get in, which is reasonable and would also in my books be considered stealing a bid.
As for Memphis, they obviously aren’t going to make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team, but with the AAC Tournament being in Memphis this year, they will have a decent shot to win the AAC Tournament, as they will playing with a big home-court advantage.
Mid-American Conference: Anyone but Buffalo
The Bulls are going to the NCAA Tournament once again, as they have already done enough to warrant an at-large bid even if they don’t win the MAC Tournament. The rest of the teams in this league have no chance at getting an at-large bid. In turn, if anyone not named Buffalo wins the MAC Tournament, they would be considered a bid-stealer.
West Coast Conference: Anyone but Gonzaga
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are obviously a lock to be in the NCAA Tournament, as at this point they are being considered for a one seed. The rest of the WCC has been pretty good this year, but because no other team has put together a decent resume, it appears no other team in the conference will get an at-large. That being said, if someone else in the league can somehow win the league title, that team will be a bid-stealer.
Atlantic 10: Anyone but VCU
The Atlantic 10 has been really bad this year when comparing it to most seasons, with the only team having a legitimate shot at an at-large bid being VCU. The Rams are not yet a lock to make the NCAA Tournament, but if they are able to win a couple of games coming in, they will become a lock to make the NCAA Tournament.
Assuming VCU finishes the regular season well, then they will be a lock. After that, if someone else can win the Atlantic 10 Tournament, we will have a bid-stealer from the Atlantic 10.
Southern Conference: Anyone but Wofford
The Southern Conference has been great this year, as four teams rank in the Top-70 of the NET rankings, which is great for this league. Wofford was the best team in SoCon play, going 18-0 in league play to win the league title and in the process have basically clinched an at-large bid.
While the trio of UNC Greensboro, Furman, and East Tennessee State have all been good as well, none of those teams have a realistic shot at an at-large bid. If the Southern Conference wants two bids, they will need someone not named Wofford to win the league tournament. If a team not named Wofford can win the league tournament, they will give the SoCon two bids, while that team will steal a bid from another team that was on the bubble.
Mountain West: San Diego State, Fresno State, and New Mexico
When Utah State beat Nevada it moved off the bubble for now. Assuming they don’t lose at Colorado State, they will be in the NCAA Tournament field, alongside Nevada who already is safely in the NCAA Tournament field.
Other than those two teams, there are three teams with the talent needed to win the conference tournament. Those teams are San Diego State, Fresno State, and New Mexico. None of those squads have been great this year, but each could go on a three or four day run and win the league tournament. If that happens it would likely mean the Mountain West would receive three bids, with one of those bids going to a team that wouldn’t be in otherwise.
Your bubble team may be in for now. However, the one thing to hope for if your team is on the bubble, is that there are not a lot of bid-stealing teams that win their conference tournaments. With this season’s bubble being historically bad, it would be good for us to get around four or five bid-stealers to help improve the bubble just a little bit. Reasonably though, only expect two or three of these scenarios listed above to happen.
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