Paying attention to how the NCAA Tournament bubble is setting up - which teams are in the field, which have little or no shot, and which ones have work left to do to dance - is always a productive way for college basketball bettors to spend their time in February. We can often find teams that will be particularly motivated to put out a big effort - and cover a spread as well - and others that could come out flat. In this season, when chaos has been the rule and the bubble watch is as clouded and confused as I ever remember, keeping an eye on the bubble is more important than ever. Here are four teams that are particularly interesting to bettors because of their bubble position right now.
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LSU: The more NBA teams there are that are looking to Draft for salvation this season, the more attention LSU is going to get. Superstud freshman Ben Simmons is all but a lock to be the first overall pick in this year's draft, and he shows up in the highlights pretty much every time he plays. That gets LSU more attention - a lot more - than they likely deserve because of their level of play. The fact is that despite having a transcendent talent, this is a very average team in a very average league. They got a win they needed on Saturday over Texas A&M, but the Aggies are on such a skid right now that that isn't worth what it once was. Now all they have left is five underwhelming conference games and a season-ending trip to Kentucky. They have some really bad losses to their credit, and those will be tough to overcome. They are still very much alive in the tournament race, but they have little margin for error. They need to keep winning, and they need to avoid an embarrassing loss. If they are a good team then they should be able to buckle down and get it done. They are 4-1 ATS in their last five after failing to cover the spread in their previous six, so they have clearly shifted gear. If they can keep it up they will produce some profits down the road.
Temple: This team has 10 wins in conference but had a lousy nonconference run - losses to North Carolina, Butler, Utah, Wisconsin, and St. Joe's - and a conference that is far from dominant this year has put them in a tough spot. They have won five in a row and eight of nine, though, and they beat UConn this week for the second time, so they are doing the right things. They have a massive opportunity this Wednesday when they host Villanova. A win there and a competent finish would make things easy for them. Even a strong showing in a loss would help. They just can't get blown out. How that game goes will determine what the last five games mean and what betting opportunities arise as a result. This is a team to keep a close eye on.
Butler: The Bulldogs really needed to beat Xavier at home on Saturday. Instead, they were humiliated by 17. That isn't a death blow, but it sure doesn't help. If there is one thing we know about Butler, though, it's that it is a tough team that doesn't quit. They have five games left, and they need to run the table - including a game at Villanova next weekend that would be massive for them. It's not likely to happen, and Butler is likely not dancing, but if they start to build momentum and capture their typical March magic a month early then there could be something to really watch - and profit from here. I'd feel a whole lot better overall if Brad Stevens were still in town.
Wisconsin: A month ago, the Badgers, after such a strong season last year, seemed destined to sit on the sidelines this year. Since then, though, they are like a whole new team. They have won seven straight and have three wins in that time over ranked teams - capped by a stunning 13-point win at Maryland on Saturday. Now they are back in the picture, and with road games remaining at a Michigan State team they have already beaten once, along with Purdue and Iowa, they have three more chances for signature wins. They also face Michigan at home - a team in a similar battle for their lives which could make for fun fireworks. This team can't afford to let off the gas pedal even a little, but if they play like they have been then they can get in comfortably. On the other hand, a bad loss could shake their confidence and break the spell that they are currently under. This is definitely another team to watch.
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