Entering March is an exciting time for College Basketball fans. Coaches, players, and fans alike are buzzing about the March Madness tournament, with some teams more confident than others that they will be playing in the postseason; however, for teams on the bubble, all remaining season games and conference tournaments have added pressure. Bubble teams know they have a chance of getting into the tournament depending on who they play, and beat, in all games between now and March 13, Selection Sunday.
According to yesterday’s NCAA Bracketology report, the first four bubble teams out are Oregon, Loyola Chicago, Rutgers, and VCU. Let’s take a look at the challenge ahead of them.
Oregon Ducks (18-11): Pac-12
The Oregon Ducks have made it into 17 March Madness tournaments. In the last 10 seasons, Oregon, coached by Dana Altman, has played in the tournament six times. During their time in the tournament, they’ve ranged from a #1 seed to a #12 seed. As a #7 and #8 seed, they won the first round but didn’t make it past the second round. Every time they entered the tournament as a #12 seed, they made it to the Sweet 16. The furthest the Ducks have made it in the tournament was to the Elite Eight as a #1 seed and the Final Four as a #3 seed. Oregon last won the National Championship in 1939, 83 years ago.
Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (22-7): Missouri Valley
In their history, the Ramblers have made it into seven tournaments previously. In the last 10 seasons, Loyola, coached by Porter Moser, has played in the tournament just twice. The 2021-22 season sees a new head coach directing the Ramblers, Drew Valentine. The two appearances under Moser saw the Ramblers as a #8 seed and #11 seed, with the later being the most memorable and record-setting of them. Many remember watching Sister Jean, the Ramblers’ team chaplain, watch her team make it all the way to the Final Four, beating #6 Miami, #3 Florida, #7 Nevada, and #9 Kansas State, before #3 Michigan put a stop to their Cinderella story run. Had Loyola won it all in 2018, it would have been their first National Championship since 1963.
In Lucas Williamson, the Ramblers have a guard with a 14.1 ppg average and 4.8 rpg average: something they hope can propel them into the bracket with a strong showing at the Missouri Valley tournament.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (16-12): Big Ten
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights, of the Big Ten Conference, have made it into seven March Madness tournaments. In the previous 10 seasons, Rutgers, coached by Steve Pikiell, has played in the tournament only once, so breaking through this year stacks up as a tall order for the Scarlet Knights. Their most recent appearance came in the 2020-21 season and the team entered as a #10 seed. They won their first match-up against #7 Clemson but that was as far as they ventured in the competition. Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, they’ve only gotten as far as the Final Four (1976), so they have never won the National Championship.
Clifford Omoruyi’s FG% (61.6) and rebounds per game (7.9) place him in the top 95th and 98th percentiles of all eligible Division I players.
VCU Rams (21-7): Atlantic 10
On 18 separate occasions, the VCU Rams have made it into the March Madness tournament. In the previous 10 seasons, VCU, coached by Mike Rhoades since 2017, has played in the tournament eight times – a highly respectable record. During their time in the tournament, they’ve ranged from a #5 seed to a #12 seed. As a #8 and #10 seed (twice), they lost in the first round. They made it as far as the second round as a #5, #7, and #10 seed. VCU made it as far as the third round as both a #5 and #12 seed. Interestingly, the Rams have spent less time in the tournament as of late compared to ten years ago. Unfortunately for the Rams, they’ve only gotten as far as the Final Four (2011), so they’ll be up against it to make history this time around.
The remaining games for each of these four teams will decide their tournament fate and many are on the road. Oregon finishes off the regular season at Washington (3/3) and at Washington St (3/5). Rutgers get to split their remaining regular season games, first at Indiana (3/2), then home against Penn State (3/6). VCU only has one regular season game remaining, at Saint Louis (3/5). All three of these teams will then prepare for their respective conference tournaments, beginning on 3/9. The only team finished with their regular season and is already preparing for the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament (3/3) is Loyola-Chicago.