It happens every year. As Selection Sunday approaches, a bubble team sits on that "last four in" line, thinking that it has done just enough to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Then, in a conference tournament halfway across the country, a surprise team surges through its conference tournament and into the bracket. Suddenly, said conference will be getting two teams into the NCAA tournament instead of one, or three instead of two, and the bubble of that other oh-so-close squad is burst.
That's how bids are stolen. Want a more concrete example? Last season, the UTEP Miners entered the Conference USA tournament at 24-5 overall and 15-1 in their conference. The Miners had sewn up at least an at-large bid. Beyond UTEP, C-USA clubs such as the Memphis Tigers, UAB Blazers and Marshall Thundering Herd all had borderline bubble claims. But while all three of those teams lost their first games in the conference tourney, the seventh-ranked Houston Cougars -- which entered the postseason with a record of 15-15, 7-9 -- won four straight games, including a title game triumph over the Miners, to earn an automatic bid. Not only did the C-USA bubble trio miss the Big Dance, but so did even closer teams like the Rhode Island Rams and the Virginia Tech Hokies. The Cougars had swiped another team's bid.
Now that we've entered the 2011 conference tournament season, here are six teams that bubble squads like the Richmond Spiders, Boston College Eagles, Michigan Wolverines and Clemson Tigers -- Joe Lunardi's current "last four in" teams -- should be rooting against: