Dribble Handoff: Bubble teams that can finish robust, play their way into the 2023 NCAA Tournament

With fewer than seven weeks to go till Selection Sunday for the 2023 NCAA Tournament, the midpoint of school basketball’s common season has flown by. Résumés are being cemented, however there may be nonetheless time for some teams outdoors the NCAA Tournament image to show issues round and attain the Big Dance.

Every workforce that qualifies for its convention match can have an opportunity to safe an computerized bid, and people with a robust regular-season finish can play their way in to at-large candidacy. This time final 12 months, Virginia Tech was simply 10-10 (2-7 ACC) and clearly on the unsuitable facet of the bubble. But the Hokies gained 9 of their final 11 regular-season video games, after which gained 4 video games in 4 days at the ACC Tournament to succeed in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 11 seeds

As it so occurs, the Hokies discover themselves in an analogous scenario this season by needing a giant finish to make the 68-team area. Plenty of different teams with lofty preseason aspirations additionally discover themselves firmly on the unsuitable facet of the bubble as February inches nearer.

For this week’s version of the Dribble Handoff, our writers are selecting the teams at the moment outdoors of CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm’s projected NCAA Tournament area who they consider will wind up taking part in in the Big Dance.

Texas A&M is not even certainly one of Jerry Palm’s First Four Out, which is completely comprehensible. I did not write that to focus on a perceived error as a lot as I wrote it as an instance simply how a lot work the Aggies have to do.

They’re clearly headed in the proper path, although. After a 6-5 begin that includes a number of troubling losses, Texas A&M has gone 7-1 in its previous eight video games with the lone loss coming at Kentucky. The Aggies carried out like a top-10 workforce in that eight-game stretch, based on BartTorvik.com. So they’re now 3-4 in the first two quadrants, with one further loss falling in Quadrant 3 (Murray State) and one other falling in Quadrant 4 (Wofford).

That’s not nice; nonetheless, eight of Texas A&M’s remaining 12 regular-season video games might be Quadrant 1 contests primarily based on the present NET rankings. If the Aggies proceed their high-level play from current weeks, they need to win sufficient of these Quad-1 video games to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time underneath Buzz Williams. — Gary Parrish

Here’s what I’ve confidence in: The energy of the Big 12. The league charges streets forward of all different conferences in each metric; it’s inarguable that this league is No. 1. There is a chasm between the high six (choose your order) of Iowa State, Texas, Kansas State, Kansas, TCU and Baylor. Any of these teams may win the league, and the different 4 are a stage or two under.

That mentioned, I determine certainly one of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Texas Tech goes to seek out an at-large profile. TTU continues to be winless in the league; it isn’t dancing this season. West Virginia is 1-6 in the Big 12 and 11-8 total. Not significantly better. The Oklahoma colleges are each 11-9 and shaky. The Cowboys do have a top-10 protection in the nation, nonetheless. They personal a win over Iowa State and have extra dwelling video games than street video games remaining. The Quad 1 victories are there. Even if barely, even when it means going to Dayton for the First Four, I’ll journey with the Pokes. — Matt Norlander

Virginia Tech

No workforce underneath the ACC’s present configuration has began 1-7 in league play and gone on to earn an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. That’s almost a decade of outcomes post-realignment suggesting such sluggish begins are dying knells for March Madness hopes. Virginia Tech getting into the 68-team area would, by fashionable requirements, be unprecedented. But in the Hokies I consider.

They ended a seven-game skid in league play with a win over Duke at dwelling, however dig just a little deeper and the shedding streak is not as unhealthy because it appears. One loss got here in additional time, three had been by one possession, one was by a single level, and all of them had been by 10 factors or fewer.

This workforce is near turning a nook. It’s forty ninth in the NET, forty sixth at KenPom and forty sixth at BartTorvik — in the identical neighborhood as projected NCAA Tournament teams. With a 2-7 ACC document and the losses already amassed, Virginia Tech’s margin for error is slim. In a 12 months when the league is traditionally down unhealthy, nonetheless, this workforce may do wonders if it is even marginally higher shifting ahead.

The schedule units up effectively down the stretch, and given the way Mike Young’s membership has dealt with adversity, I’m shopping for low whereas I can. Keep in thoughts: Virginia Tech opened up ACC play 2-7 final 12 months earlier than ending 11-9 in the common season and successful the ACC Tournament outright to ultimately earn an 11-seed. Don’t write this program off too quickly. — Kyle Boone

At 14-7 (7-3 Pac-12), Utah is rounding into type after sweeping the Washington colleges in convincing trend. The Utes are simply 4-7 vs. Quads 1 and a couple of however an ideal 10-0 vs. Quads 3 and 4. Five of their remaining 10 video games are of the Quad 1 selection, giving them ample alternative to shine their résumé. Senior huge man Branden Carlson is taking part in the greatest basketball of his profession, averaging 17 factors and seven.6 rebounds on 56.8% taking pictures from the flooring. He’s additionally blocking 2.3 photographs per recreation and taking pictures 43.8% from past the arc on 3.2 makes an attempt per recreation, which is a superb determine for a 7-footer.

Carlson’s rim safety is certainly one of the the explanation why Utah’s protection is amongst the greatest in the nation. Opponents shoot simply 37.4% from the flooring in opposition to the Utes and solely 28% from past the arc. Both marks are amongst the high 10 nationally, and Utah holds foes to simply 62.3 factors per recreation, which is twenty eighth in the nation.

Utah’s offense will not be elite, however the Utes shot higher than 50% from the flooring in their blowout wins over Washington State and Washington final week. If these performances marked a turning level for the offense, then this workforce will discover itself on the proper facet of the projected bubble in brief order. — David Cobb

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