Starting Five: Five teams with a lot on the line as Selection Sunday nears
We are merely days from Selection Sunday, but first the power conferences will all host their conference tournaments this week. Which programs have the most on the line? Eric Bossi takes a look in this week's Starting Five.
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Archie Miller is starting to do some very nice things at Indiana. He and his staff have recruited the state of Indiana and neighboring states very well. The product on the floor is looking better and better and as I wrote last week, the Hoosiers are on a verge taking a big step forward in the Big Ten.
But, it's been since 2016 that Indiana made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament and the Hoosiers fanbase isn't too keen on waiting until 2021 to get back. They want in now and I'm quite sure that Miller and his team want in now a well.
You have to think beating Nebraska in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament is an absolute must for their chances. A win in the second round over Penn State would likely give them some breathing room and have them feeling good about their chances for an at-large bid.
This season began with a lot of promise in the Bluff City. Penny Hardaway and Memphis had a great recruiting class and the city was buzzing about the program. Drama with James Wiseman, injuries, fewer wins than expected and now troubles with the NCAA have turned the season into a disappointment.
After a regular season-ending loss to Houston, getting an at-large bid seems like it could be a bit of a stretch. However, if the Tigers could make the finals of the AAC then they might be able to make a case.
Of course, the one sure way to get in and to end the season feeling a bit better would be to win the tournament, the Tigers have the talent to do so. Freshman Precious Achiuwa can shoulder a pretty big load and if their guards get hot, it's not unthinkable.
NC State doesn't need to get into the NCAA Tournament to save anybody's job or anything like that.
Kevin Keatts led the Pack to the Big Dance during his first year before they missed out in 2019. Not making it this year wouldn't be a killer. But, I don't believe Keatts thinks like that and he's hungry to prove that his program can play with anybody. Winning at Virginia and against Duke already shows that they can do that. Making the field of 68 only gives Keatts more of a chance to showcase what he's been building.
They'll get the winner of Pitt/Wake in the ACC Tournament and taking care of business in that game should have them in the clear. They have guards who can get hot like Markell Johnson and play a fun style that could allow them to do some March damage.
There were a lot of Pac-12 teams that could have made this list of five, but I think you have to go with Stanford here. This next week is pretty important for UCLA too, but given the way they've finished I don't think people are going to giving Mick Cronin too hard of a time about the Bruins.
Up in Palo Alto, though, the Cardinal have only made the Tournament once (2014) since 2008 and that's simply not going to fly much longer.
The Cardinal have lots of talent that will be coming back next season and freshman Tyrell Terry is a budding star. But, considering they started off the season 15-2, they shouldn't even be in a position where they may have to wait another year before dancing again.
Beating California in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas is a must. Do that and it sets up one of the most intriguing matchups of the week with UCLA. A bid could potentially be on the line in that one.
Just when Texas and Shaka Smart were generating a lot of positive buzz and headlines thanks to a five-game winning streak during Big 12 play, they dropped the ball at home against Oklahoma State on Saturday.
I don't know that beating the Cowboys would have made them an absolute lock to make the Tournament, but they would have been in pretty good shape.
Now, they'll be facing Texas Tech. I mentioned a potential Stanford/UCLA matchup as one of the most intriguing of the week. Texas v. Tech is THE most intriguing of the week. A loss by Texas Tech could lead to some hand-wringing in Lubbock on selection Sunday but most think they'll be ok. But if the Longhorns lose, their Tourney hopes may go down the drain and talk will immediately move to Smart and his future with the program.