- Dick Vitale, College Basketball analyst
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With Selection Sunday right around the corner, you hear a lot of talk about teams on the bubble.
The goal of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee is to place the best 34 at-large teams into the field of 65. You know the 31 conference champions who punch a ticket to the big dance, so the task of putting the rest of the tourney together is not easy.
How many teams are really on the bubble? Not as many as you think. Sit down and try to figure out the creme de la creme of those battling to get invited and you realize there are a lot of spots open. Most of the so-called bubble teams will make it thanks to 20 wins or an above .500 league mark.
Every team has something on the resume to be proud of. The question is, when it comes down to those last few precious spots, have you done enough to bump someone else off?
There are a number of big names sweating it out a bit.
Look at a school like Kentucky. The Wildcats enter Wednesday with an 8-6 SEC mark and a 19-10 overall record. Billy Gillispie's squad has non-conference wins over West Virginia and Kansas State but has limped home 3-6 in its last nine outings. Kentucky should beat Georgia on Wednesday, leaving this weekend's game against Florida as a big one.
Speaking of the Gators, Billy Donovan's club is also 8-6 in league action, 21-8 overall entering a key contest at Mississippi State. The Gators don't have many quality non-league Ws and lost four of its last six entering the test at Starkville. It is danger time for Florida unless it closes well. Many bracketologists will have an eye on that Wildcats-Gators showdown this weekend. The SEC is considered to be down a bit this season.
Out west, Arizona has been to the big dance 24 straight seasons. That mark may be in peril as the Wildcats are .500 in conference (8-8) and 18-11 overall. The resume includes non-league wins over Kansas and Gonzaga. On the negative side is a three-game losing skid entering the final week, which includes home games against California and Stanford. Wins in those games could put interim coach Russ Pennell's club over the hump.
Down at Maryland, the Terps lost a heartbreaker to a ranked Wake Forest squad on Tuesday. At 18-11 overall and 7-8 in ACC play, this weekend's game at Virginia is almost a must-win situation for Gary Williams and company. With wins over North Carolina and Michigan State, the Terps are still very much alive in the discussion for a bid to go dancing.
My friends, this is crunch time for those "on the bubble." I will go to my VBDI (Vitale Bald Dome Index) often in the next week and a half. This is a great time of the year as March Madness rolls into full swing!
Maryland, Kentucky, Florida and Arizona all will be feeling the heat during the final days of the season.