Bubble Popping: A Final Case for Potential Tournament Teams
Brackets, bubbles, Billikens, oh my! Selection Sunday is upon us, faithful readers, and with just a few more hours until the 2021 NCAA Tournament Bubble is as volatile as ever. Given some unexpected conference champions emerging on Saturday, including Georgetown and Georgia Tech, the window for bubble teams has grown a few spots narrower. Here are three teams that I think should get a second look from the selection committee.
Saint Louis Billikens (Current Projections: Lunardi-First Four Out, DRatings-First Four Out)
Record: 14-6 (6-4 A-10)
NET Ranking: 45
Q1 Wins: 2
Best Wins: LSU, NC State, St. Bonaventure
Worst Losses: Dayton, La Salle
Following an A-10 Semifinal loss to St. Bonaventure last week, head coach Travis Ford had some pretty interesting reasons as to why his team had been struggling as of late. Along with mentioning how his team went on a month-long Covid pause after entering the Top 25, Ford instead focused on...home court advantage in a neutral site game?
A strange argument for sure, especially considering there are plenty of reasons for SLU to get into the tournament aside from what arena they're playing in. As mentioned earlier, the Billikens were a Top 25 team before Covid pulled the handbrake on their momentum. An elite defense in the Atlantic 10, SLU has one of the most solid duos in the country is Jordan Goodwin and Hasahn French. Both in their fourth season at the school, Goodwin and French have set the standard for SLU's solid, deep rotation. Every time it seemed like the Billikens got the ball rolling, they were forced to cancel or postpone a game. Should SLU miss the cut tonight, we'll be looking at one of the biggest what-if stories of the 2020-21 season.
St. John's Red Storm (Current Projections: L-Out, DR-Next Four Out)
Record: 16-11 (10-9 Big East)
NET Ranking: 69
Q1 Wins: 2
Best Wins: Georgetown, UConn, Villanova
Worst Losses: Butler, DePaul, Marquette
I've never been too biased towards classic NCAAM programs, but when the Johnnies go dancing, the tournament is usually the better for it. In his second season in Queens, Mike Anderson is looking to turn this team into a perennial contender, snagging the 2021 Big East Coach of the Year while he's at it.
Given the way they've played all year, St. John's has the potential to be a serious bracket buster if they can get a seed as high as 12. Despite lacking in the size department, the Red Storm have developed a patented style of defense focused on frustrating their opponents, resulting in turnovers and drawn charges, while offensively, guys like Posh Alexander and Julian Champagnie are building the foundation of a solid St. John's program for years to come. Should they head to the NIT, the Johnnies will be poised for a great run. However, I think the best way to celebrate this new era in Queens would be to see this team in Indianapolis.
Xavier Musketeers (Current Projections: L-Out, DR-Next Four Out)
Record: 13-8 (6-7 Big East)
NET Ranking: 59
Q1 Wins: 1
Best Wins: Cincy, Oklahoma, Creighton
Worst Losses: Providence, Butler, Marquette
I'm going to admit that this one is a stretch. After a very strong start that saw the Musketeers win their first eight games of the season, entering conference play turned a dream season into a nightmare. 11 of Xavier's 24 conference games were cancelled due to the pandemic, giving them barely any time to find their footing in a solid Big East conference, leading to a quick Big East Tournament exit against Butler on Wednesday.
Despite these late season woes, however, I think the Musketeers still have some life in them. In a season where nothing is set in stone, I'd consider Xavier as a top team to receive a potential bid to replace a team that encounters Covid issues. Of course, I'm not asking for that to happen, but I'm not ruling it out as a possibility. This is a team carried by underclassmen, so to see how this young roster responds to a big call-up like the tournament would be an interesting experiment in bracketology.