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Bubble Busting: Who to root for and against

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Kentucky finds itself in a position it hasn't seen since Billy Gillispie roamed the sidelines - the very real possibility of a trip to the NIT. The final week of the regular season is drawing to a close for many teams while others have already started their conference tournaments. Here's a look at the bubble teams and to whom UK fans should be paying attention.

It's an agonizing time to be a Kentucky Fan
It's an agonizing time to be a Kentucky Fan

First off, lets get the obvious stuff out of the way: If Kentucky wants to make the NCAA Tournament this year they need to win games. Alex has already done a fine job covering that term of the equation and if you want to read about what the Cats need to do you should click over and read his piece.

This is the other side. Kentucky isn't trying to meet set criteria - they are competing against all the other bubble teams out there. As Cal said, bids are handed out on a curve. SOMEONE has to fill the 37 At-Large slots available so other teams losing can be just as helpful as Kentucky winning.

Using Bracket Matrix, here are the teams competing for at-large spots. I started with the last at-large selection indicated and took the next 16 teams listed ahead of them. Their remaining regular season games are listed if applicable, otherwise their seed in the conference tournament is given. Obviously teams with regular season games also have conference tournaments next week.

Bracket Matrix Remaining Games
Oklahoma @TCU
Creighton MVC Tournament: 1 Seed
California PAC 12 Tournament
Colorado Oregon, Oregon St
Cincinnatti South Florida
Wichita St SMVC Tournament: 2 seed
St. Mary's WCC Tournament: 2 Seed
Temple VCU
La Salle @St. Louis
Middle Tennessee Sun Belt Tournament: 1 Seed
Virginia @Florida St; Maryland
Boise St San Diego St
Last 4 In
Belmont OVC Tournament: 1 Seed
Iowa St @West Virginia
Kentucky @Georgia; Florida
Villanova Big East Tournament

An argument can be made that Akron and Louisiana Tech should also be included here in the event that they don't win their conference tournaments, but I didn't include them. You should be rooting for them to win the automatic bid though.

Here's the next 8 out:

First 4 Out Remaining Games
Tennessee Missouri
Mississippi @LSU
Southern Miss Central Florida
Massachusetts Butler, @Rhode Island
Next 4 Out
Alabama Georgia
Iowa Nebraska
Baylor Kansas
Maryland @Virginia

So now you know who to watch for, here's some advice on rooting interests:

Root to Win their Conference Tournament: Belmont, Middle Tennessee, and either Creighton or Wichita St. These are teams that would get strong consideration for at-large selection from leagues that will otherwise not get anyone else in (probably). Creighton and WSU are probably both in regardless, so root for one of them to get the auto-bid.

You can root against them, but they're probably in: Oklahoma, Cal, Colorado, and Cincinnati are all high enough that they likely are in regardless of what happens the rest of the season. St. Mary's gets a bye to the semifinals of their tournament which limits the damage they can do to themselves. They'll most likely make the WCC Finals and that will be enough.

Lose! Lose like its going out of style! Virginia, La Salle, Temple, Boise St, Iowa St, Villanova, and everyone in the next 8 out. These are the teams Kentucky is in competition with the most. All of these teams have losable games remaining and if things really break Kentucky's way the Cats could move up simply because everyone else falls back. These are the teams you most want to see lose their remaining games and then go out early in their conference tournaments.

Obviously we all want UK to finish with a flourish and make it on their own merits. But it's okay to root against other teams - you don't have to be embarrassed! Everyone needs a little extra help now and then - it's the great ones who know how to accept it.