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You’re Nuts: Which bubble teams do we think can make a run in the NCAA Tournament?

Ohio State notwithstanding... for now.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

It is officially conference tournament week, and we are in the heat of it right now.

The Ohio State Buckeyes (15-18, 5-15) are the No. 13 seed and are taking on the No. 4 seed Michigan State Spartans (19-11, 11-8) this afternoon. We are going to completely ignore that, however, and do some general NCAA Tournament talk.

Last week, we discussed how far we thought Ohio State would advance in the Big Ten Tournament.

The results were varied, but ultimately Connor's choice of winning one game and Justin’s choose of winning three games (which remains an option) both lost. So “other” takes the cake in this one. The most popular choice was winning two games, which has officially happened after Thursday’s win over Iowa.

Here are the updated standings as we approach 100 weeks of doing this.

After 91 weeks:

Justin- 40
Connor- 36
Other- 11

(There have been four ties)

This week, we are talking about which bubble team we think can make a run in the big dance. But first, they have to make it.

Today’s Question: Which bubble team do we think can make a run in the NCAA tournament?

Connor: NC State

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at N.C. State Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina State (23-10, 12-8) wasn’t really a “bubble team” when the week began, but following a 26-point loss to Clemson Thursday night in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals, their spot in the tournament has become considerably less firm. According to Bracket Matrix, the Wolfpack were the lowest 10-seed before losing to Clemson on Thursday, meaning it will probably find itself somewhere on the 11-line on Selection Sunday.

But despite losing three of their last four games to end the season, I think NC State is a team that could string several wins together in the NCAA Tournament.

The most important characterisitc successful tournament teams have is great guard play. Teams that don’t have a quality backcourt don’t typically advance very far in the big dance. Coincidentally, NC State’s foundation is their guard trio of Terquavion Smith, Jarkel Joiner, and Casey Morsell.

Smith leads the group with 17.7 points per game, although that is on just 38% shooting and 34.2% from three-point land. Joiner is right behind him at 17.3 points per game, but the other statistics are a bit better than Smith — he shoots 43.9% overall and 36.4% from beyond the arc. The 6-foot-1 Joiner is also averaging just under five rebounds per game. Morsell rounds out the trio averaging 12 points per game on a super efficient 46.4% overall and 41.1% from beyond the arc.

The pack is anchored down low by 6-foot-9, 280-pound center D.J. Burns, who shot 56.7% overall this season, leading to 12.8 points per game over just 23 minutes per contest. There are very few teams in the country who can throw one defender at this hulking mass of a man and stop him, which then opens up shots for the All-Conference duo of Smith and Joiner, as well as Morsell.

NC State is currently No. 46 in KenPom and is likely headed for the 11-line on Selection Sunday. They could avoid Dayton potentially, but an extra win could also be exactly what this Wolfpack team needs to heat up. If they were to avoid Dayton and move right on to a 6-11 game, they’re currently projected to face TCU. An Eddie Lampkin vs Burns matchup would be more than worth the cost of admission.

Justin: Penn State

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament Second Round - Illinois vs Penn State Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

This one may be a bit of a cheating pick, because with the Nittany Lions defeating Illinois in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, Penn State will be heading to the NCAA Tournament this season. However, they are still technically on the bubble and in my mind they count in this criteria.

Penn State has done something not many teams have done and had success with. They have played incredibly small ball and have relied on Jalen Pickett, Seth Lundy, and Myles Dread to play the five for a lot of the season while sharing the floor with Cam Wynter and Andrew Funk.

They shoot the absolute leather off of the ball, which is always going to be a good thing. The Nittany Lions rank 11th in the nation in three-point percentage this season, and second in the Big Ten behind Michigan State. When they are hot, they can truly beat anyone in the country because they can answer any two-pointer with a three-pointer and the math is in their favor with that one.

Plus, they have an All-American guard. Guard play and experience wins you games in March, and Penn State has plenty of both of those things. Jalen Pickett has been as good as anyone this season and he can win you games in a sudden death tournament. Seth Lundy and Myles Dread are Penn State guys who have been waiting for this moment since they got to Happy Valley, and Andrew Funk and Cam Wynter are both very impactful as transfers who can make a difference in close games.


Which bubble team do you think is more likely to make a run in the tournament?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Connor: North Carolina State
    (5 votes)
  • 73%
    Justin: Penn State
    (14 votes)
19 votes total Vote Now