It's Championship Week, and it's a bad time for Cinderella to appear. No, not Cinderella. You know, those previously unheralded teams that go on unexpected runs.
Those are fun, of course, but this is the week when they can steal tournament bids from (in all likelihood, major conference) teams who probably shouldn't be in anyway because they're not actually national title contenders but hey, look at this long list of excuses, please, because we'd love to increase our payout from the tournament proceedings if we could, thanks.
So, let's run down the tournaments where bubble teams and bid thieves can be hiding.
AAC Tournament: Thursday through Sunday
1-seed SMU is the only for sure lock, though 3-seed Cincinnati is pretty close to a lock if it isn't already. The 2-seed Tulsa and 4-seed Temple are bubble teams, the former currently out and the latter currently in.
The best outcome here would be for SMU to win this thing, or Cincy failing that. Tulsa can only hurt itself on Friday win a game against the winner of Tulane and Houston, and the same goes for Temple with Memphis that same day. Should they both win, Temple will likely get SMU and Tulsa will probably get Cincinnati on Saturday.
Root for: SMU, then Cincinnati
Atlantic 10 Tournament: Wednesday through Sunday
Yep, it's a five-day tournament because like the Big Ten, the A-10 has 14 teams.
Anyway, 2-seed Dayton and 5-seed VCU are tournament locks, while 1-seed Davidson is a team that's currently on the right side of the bubble. The 4-seed Richmond is on the wrong side of the bubble, but it has chances to pick up some good wins thanks to its draw. Davidson won't get a chance to pad its resume until Saturday, when it has the potential to face VCU. It also can't possibly face Dayton until the final, and winning that game would give the team an auto-bid anyway.
Root for the winner of UMass-LaSalle to take the Wildcats out on Friday, but just know that neither of them beat Davidson in the regular season. Both Richmond and VCU did—though the VCU series was a split—and one of them would be the Wildcats' Friday opponent. Davidson winning the whole thing wouldn't be a real disaster, but anyone besides them, VCU, or Dayton would be. Richmond is a fringe bubble team that could make some noise with back-to-back wins over VCU and Davidson, so keep an eye on the Spiders.
Both Ole Miss (who lost) and Arkansas (who won) played Dayton in the regular season, so for minor boosting of RPI purposes, go with the Flyers.
Root for: Dayton, then VCU, then Davidson in that order
ACC Tournament: Tuesday through Saturday
Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, NC State, Notre Dame, and Virginia are the locks in this league. Any of them winning would be fine. NC State is on the shakiest ground of any, but the Wolfpack is probably in.
You can find Miami (FL) on some bubble lists, but the team is a pretty big long shot. The Wake-VT winner probably won't knock off the Hurricanes on Wednesday, but root for Notre Dame to close out Miami's season on Thursday. NCSU plays Pittsburgh on Wednesday, and a Pitt win might add some confusion to the bubble situation. Duke will likely wallop the winner of that game on Friday, though, so you can put any thoughts of the Panthers playing their way into the bracket to rest.
Root for: any of the six locks
Big 12 Tournament: Wednesday through Saturday
Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia are the locks, while Oklahoma State is in the NC State-like zone of probably being in. Any of those five locks winning is preferable, though OSU wouldn't be terrible.
Texas is the bubble team to watch. The Longhorns will probably have no trouble with Texas Tech on Wednesday, but they would face a team that swept them in Iowa State on Thursday. Neither time was a blowout, so the Horns could punch their ticket by finally getting a win over the Cyclones.
If you need a rooting interest among the locks, go with the Mountaineers. LSU beat WVU back in December, so a championship for them would boost the Tigers' fortunes a little.
Root for: West Virginia, then any of the other locks
Big East Tournament: Wednesday through Saturday
Your locks are Butler, Georgetown, Providence, St. John's, and Villanova. Xavier is probably in as well.
There's not much else to say here. There aren't any real bubble teams, so just root against disorder.
Root for: any of the five locks
Big Ten Tournament: Wednesday through Sunday
This league's locks are Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin.
Indiana, Purdue, and Illinois are bubble teams, with the Hoosiers and Boilers barely in and the Illini out right now. This tournament is one that can really help the SEC teams because none of those bubble teams are slotted to play each other early. Therefore, all have a chance to lose quickly.
Indiana starts with Northwestern, which just beat the Hoosiers two weeks ago. Illinois starts with Michigan, and the teams split a pair of overtime games during the regular season. Purdue gets a double bye as the 4-seed, but its likely first opponent is an Iowa team that it barely beat by four in the regular season. All three of those teams can plausibly lose their first games. Excellent.
Root for: any of the five locks, but especially Iowa (because of its potential Purdue game)
Conference USA Tournament: Wednesday through Saturday
CUSA doesn't have any locks, and it really only has one bubble team in Old Dominion. The Monarchs are lurking outside the bracket, but no one else from this conference has a chance at an at-large bid.
It's unclear whether ODU could make it into the Big Dance without winning the tournament. If it, say, goes to the final but loses close to (as of publishing) RPI No. 53 Louisiana Tech, that could be enough depending on how the rest of the country's tournaments shake out.
Normally I'd advise rooting against non-SEC bubble teams as a matter of policy, but this is a tournament that maybe, just maybe, could produce a bid thief if ODU loses in the final. Should the Monarchs make it past their first game against either Middle Tennessee or Charlotte, they likely won't face another team outside the RPI top 100. If they win on Thursday, just pull for them to win the whole thing.
Root for: Old Dominion (probably)
Mountain West Tournament: Wednesday through Saturday
San Diego State is the lone lock, though Colorado State is pretty close to being one.
Boise State is the real bubble team here. It's also the 1-seed, with SDSU the 2-seed and CSU the 3-seed living on the other side of the bracket. That draw means the Broncos can't get a quality win to pad their resume until the final on Saturday, where a win means the resume doesn't matter anymore anyway.
BSU will want to avoid bad losses on Thursday and Friday, of course. That said, the only real way for the team to lock in its tournament status without some help nationally is to, well, lock in its tournament status with an auto-bid.
Root for: San Diego State, then Colorado State
Pac-12 Tournament: Wednesday through Saturday
Arizona and Utah are the two locks, and we don't really have a preference among them. UA played Mizzou, so there would be an infinitesimal boost to SEC teams' RPI figures with a Wildcats win, so I guess go for them.
Oregon is a bubble team above the cut line with UCLA and Stanford bubble teams below the cut line. All three of them have the potential to go out early. The Ducks are most likely to get Oregon State on Thursday, and they barely beat OSU last week. UCLA's first opponent on Thursday is most likely Arizona State, which beat the Bruins in the regular season. Stanford will probably get past Washington on Wednesday, but the Cardinal didn't come close to beating who the next opponent would be in Utah.
Root for: Arizona, then Utah
SEC Tournament: Wednesday through Sunday
Y'all know who you're rooting for, but let's look at this from the standpoint of maximizing the league's number of bids.
Kentucky, Arkansas, and even Georgia belong in the lock category right now. Ole Miss will probably lock itself in if it beats the South Carolina-Missouri winner on Thursday. LSU might have punched its dance ticket in beating Arkansas on Saturday, but that's not certain just yet.
Texas A&M has fallen out of most bracket projections, but the Aggies tend to be the first team out. If they lose to the winner of Mississippi State-Auburn, they're done. Win that one and they get a chance at a third win over LSU. If the Tigers take that game, they're almost certainly in. If they lose it, they might still be in anyway. A&M absolutely must win that game to try to push its way into the bracket and not hope for good luck from elsewhere. I'm not going to pretend that TAMU has any kind of a good chance to beat Kentucky in what'll end up being Catsville, but a good showing there on top of their double overtime game with UK in January can only help their optics.
It's hard to see the conference having fewer than five teams in the Field of 68. Getting six in will take some work and some luck, but it's doable.
Root for: your school, of course
West Coast Tournament: Last Friday through Tuesday
Yes, this tournament has been going on for a few days. Today is the semifinal round with Gonzaga facing Pepperdine and BYU taking on Portland.
Gonzaga has long been a tournament lock, while BYU has been tightroping the cut line of late. The Cougars nearly fell off it on Saturday in only beating Santa Clara by two points. They could knock themselves out today with a loss to Portland. Let's hope the Pilots will get it done today.
Root for: Portland and Gonzaga, and then just Gonzaga