Bracketology Trust Builder: Alabama, Minnesota trying to get right for NCAA Tournament

With conference play in full swing across the country, college basketball has kicked into full gear now that college football has wrapped up and the NFL is nearing the Super Bowl. That means the time is now to begin looking ahead to the 2019 NCAA Tournament, which teams are on the bubble to enter the field and how the projected bracket looks at this early juncture.

Though there are still a handful of weeks left in the regular season, the time is now for teams to start making a move toward that 68-team NCAA Tournament field, especially if they are teetering on the edge of relevancy this season. In this space, we aim to break down the teams rising (or falling) toward that goal.

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Like most teams teetering around the bottom of the bracket, Alabama has had some success and some failures. A win at home over Kentucky a couple of weeks ago followed by a win on Tuesday night over Mississippi has bolstered the Crimson Tide's chances of getting into the field. They are still trying to make up for three Quadrant Three losses, two of which came at home. If Alabama can simply play at a more consistent level, the results it needs to make the tournament should follow.

The Golden Gophers have scuffled through the beginning of conference play, losing three of their last five. The 27-point loss at Illinois, which has only four other wins so far this season, is particularly egregious. However, I would guess losing at the buzzer at Michigan on Tuesday night was more painful. The Big Ten is the most difficult league top-to-bottom, so there will be no easy nights for the Gophers, but plenty of resume building opportunities as well.

The Racers could be an interesting case if they need an at-large bid. They did not play an overly challenging nonconference schedule, but they did face two potential tournament teams in Auburn and Alabama. Murray State lost both games on the road by a combined 11 points. Unfortunately, the Ohio Valley Conference does not provide any chances for resume building wins. For Murray State to be an at-large team, the margin for error is very small. The Racers probably cannot afford a loss to anyone except Belmont or even Jacksonville State, and maybe only one or two losses even to those teams. They have a special talent in guard Ja Morant, but the NCAA is choosing teams, not marquee players.
CBS Sports Senior Writer

Jerry Palm started writing about sports on the Internet right after Al Gore invented it. He was the first to bring RPI out in the open and is one of the pioneers of predicting the March Madness bracket.... Full Bio

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