basketball Edit

Cassidy's Predictions: I've Got Five on It

Rick Pitino
Rick Pitino (AP Images)

Conference tournaments are nearing their crescendos, but there’s still plenty of intrigue to wade through before Selection Sunday. This week in I've Got Five on It, national analyst Rob Cassidy looks at five of the most interesting teams to monitor between now and the reveal of the NCAA Tournament bracket.

Some are bubble teams. Some are bid-stealers. Some are jostling for seeding. But all of them, for one reason or another, are worth watching.


More: In or Out? Handicapping bubble teams prior to Selection Sunday

2021 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2022 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2023 Rankings: Top 30




Why They're Interesting: Because a deep ACC Tournament run would create chaos.

How can you not root for plucky underdog Duke, an upstart program from the tiny ACC?

OK, that may be laying it on too thick, but Mike Krzyzewski’s bunch is an interesting story nevertheless. The Blue Devils entered the ACC Tournament needing to win five games in five days to overcome a rocky season and crash the Big Dance.

So far so good. Duke is 2-for-2 on the week and now has a Thursday matchup with Florida State to which to look forward. The NCAA Tournament won’t feel the same without the Internet irrationally hating the Blue Devils, and this round of hate would be spiced up by the fact that Krzyzewski’s program rose from the dead to steal a bid. Are they a long shot? Of course they are. Collecting three more wins is a tall task. Do they have a fighting chance to pull it off? Sure. I mean, the talent is certainly there.

I was the kid that rooted for bad-guy wrestlers because I adore an angry crowd. Old habits die hard, I guess.




Why They're Interesting: Because we know so little about them.

One of the country’s more intriguing teams, Iona was hit particularly hard by COVID-19 shutdowns this season. The Gales played just nine -- yes, nine -- regular season games. Alas, here they sit, fresh off an upset of No. 1 seed Siena and two wins away from both a MAAC title and an NCAA Tournament berth. The tiny sample size means Iona is a difficult team to scout, making it a nightmare draw for a high seed should Rick Pitino’s team manage to sneak into the bracket. This is a situation to monitor to say the least.



Why They're Interesting: Because things have become testy with Michigan.

I’m a sucker for a war of words. The prettier the better, so here we are. Illinois was already an intriguing team because of how much fun it is to watch and the fact that it may need to win a game or two to stay on that No. 1 line come Selection Sunday. The fact that the Illini tossed a few droplets of gasoline on the fire of a budding rivalry with fellow Big Ten heavyweight Michigan by claiming a share of the regular season conference title makes things even more intriguing.

If the universe cares about college basketball -- and it should -- it will give us a meeting between the Illini and Wolverines in the Big Ten Championship Game.




Why They're Interesting: Because Isaac Brown’s coaching job deserves a happy ending.

I’m of the opinion that the Shockers should be in the field regardless of what happens this week, but a first-year head coach leading the Shockers to the NCAA Tournament despite taking over a program with a patchwork roster and a lingering aura of scandal stemming from the dismissal of Gregg Marshall is one of the season’s best storylines. The Shockers captured the AAC regular-season crown with nine newcomers and, in the eyes of some, could use a win or two to cement their place in the bracket. Either way, there’s no shortage of intrigue sounding the program as we move closer to Selection Sunday. It’s easy to root for Brown and his Shockers to cut down the nets this week.



Why They're Interesting: Because they’ve been handed a platter of adversity.

This isn’t the flavor of intrigue anyone wanted, but here we are anyway. We’re about to find out What Villanova looks like without Co-Big East Player of the Year Collin Gillespie, whose season ended prematurely due to a knee injury. Now led by star Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, the No. 14 Wildcats are certainly a capable team even without Gillespie, but the week ahead will be a preview of what to expect from Jay Wright’s bunch without its marquee name. Villanova opens Big East Tournament play on Thursday, and how far it can go is really anyone’s guess.