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Conference tourney predictions and 5 burning questions ahead of Selection Sunday

Conference tourney predictions and 5 burning questions ahead of Selection Sunday

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college basketball (dancing shoes sold separately for Sister Jean and Loyola Chicago, the best story from the weekend):


Where is the bubble debate hottest? The Atlantic Coast Conference (1), starting with Notre Dame but also including Louisville and Syracuse. The Fighting Irish are the single most intriguing and polarizing bubble team, given the return of star Bonzie Colson after missing 15 games with a broken foot. Notre Dame is 12-4 with Colson, 6-9 without him, and 1-4 without both Colson and guard Matt Farrell, who missed five games with an ankle injury. The Irish probably will need to win at least two games at the ACC tournament this week to have an argument for NCAA inclusion — but at full strength, that could happen.

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Louisville faces a must-win game against Florida State, then might need to win a quarterfinal against No. 1 seed and eternal nemesis Virginia. Syracuse must win a Tuesday game against Wake Forest and then might need to beat North Carolina as well on Wednesday. The catch for both the Cardinals and Orange: Neither has won an ACC tournament game since joining the league.

(Honorable mention goes to the Pac-12, which has USC, UCLA and Washington all clustered on or near the bubble.)

What team raised its stock most last week? That’s an easy one: Michigan (2) moved up in all mock brackets after storming through the Big Ten tournament (as predicted by The Minutes). This team is different from the classic John Beilein mold — better defensively and a bit more athletic, albeit less deadly shooting the ball. The Wolverines have positioned themselves for a top 16 seed, possibly top 12, and will be a very difficult matchup in the next tournament. Unless, of course, they develop a layer of rust sitting around for a week and a half waiting to play again.

What happened to the .500 conference record bellwether? There was a time when going .500 in a power conference was considered enough to make the NCAA tourney. Those days are gone, and at present there are teams finishing very high in power conferences who are on the bubble or out.

Start with USC (3), which went 12-6 and finished second in the Pac-12 but is assured of nothing at this point. Same with UCLA (11-7 and tied for third), Utah (11-7) and others in that league. Nebraska finished tied for fourth in the Big Ten at 13-5 but is almost certainly consigned to the NIT.

 e shift? Because of unbalanced league schedules

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