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Evans Seven: Who could steal NCAA bid with league tourney run?

In this week’s Evans Seven, we assess the seven teams that, though they aren’t projected to make the tournament, could find magic in the days ahead and steal a bid by winning their conference tournament.

RIVAL VIEWS: Which conference tournament is most compelling?

MORE: The Deep Three | Bossi's All-American Teams

1. AAC

Shake Milton
Shake Milton (AP Images)

Wichita State and Cincinnati have carried the baton for the American Athletic Conference this year, though Houston has come on of late, as each should receive single-digit seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

Outside of those three, the AAC has been hit by a wrath of injuries, ones that have curtailed the seasons of SMU and UCF. However, if the Mustangs can regain the health of all-league guard Shake Milton, they could make some noise.

If Milton can return to the floor in Orlando, and Jamal McMurray and Jimmy Whitt can bring substance to the backcourt, the AAC Tournament is still ripe for a surprise team to make a run.


2. ACC

Tyus Battle
Tyus Battle (AP Images)

Needing to win its remaining two games, Syracuse put the nail in its own coffin on Wednesday by losing to Boston College. Now on the outside looking in, the Orange head to New York City hoping to make a run in the league tournament. But Syracuse has become known for putting together a string of games when March rolls around. Tyus Battle needs some help in the backcourt and if O’Shae Brissett and Marek Doležaj can bring consistent production in the frontcourt, Syracuse could steal a bid from another potential bubble team.

3. BIG 12

Kendall Smith
Kendall Smith (AP Images)

Texas and Kansas State are the programs on the bubble yet Oklahoma State, despite boasting a handful of impressive wins that makes its resume tournament worthy, remains on the outside looking in thanks to its slew of home defeats. However, the Cowboys could put together a run in Kansas City as they have already shown the chops to beat some of the college basketball's best.

Defeating Kansas, West Virginia, Florida State, Texas and Oklahoma this season, Oklahoma State is the type of team that, if it can get on a roll with the deep ball, finds success in March. Cal State Northridge transfer Kendall Smith has brought his best against the best and if Lindy Waters, Thomas Dziagwa and Jeffrey Carroll can provide consistent shooting, anything could happen in the Big 12 Tournament.


Shamorie Ponds
Shamorie Ponds (AP Images)

St. John’s lost 11 straight games before defeating national powers Duke and Villanova. While St. John's definitely has a few resume wins to its profile, including Marquette, the hill was too much to climb in reaching NCAA Tournament this year.

However, playing at Madison Square Garden, the same place where it had defeated Duke, the Red Storm could definitely make a run through the league’s tournament, as long as Shamorie Ponds is back on the floor as he is nursing an abdominal injury.



Tony Carr
Tony Carr (AP Images)

Whenever Penn State has been healthy, the Nittany Lions have been one of the tougher outs thanks to their super talented and disciplined starting lineup. The issue for concern has been when they have gone to their rather limited bench and when Josh Reaves or Mike Watkins have been straddled with injury, which has displayed their even greater lack of depth.

While Watkins has already been ruled out for the tournament's play, Tony Carr has solidified his standing as one of the top guards in college basketball. If Reaves can bring his ultimate utility skill set (he had 15 points and eight rebounds in Thursday's win over Northwestern), the frontcourt can pitch in where needed, Penn State could make a surprise run.

6. PAC-12

Troy Brown
Troy Brown (AP Images)

Oregon quickly became one of the flag bearers of the Pac-12 upon the hiring of Dana Altman but this season was more of a step backward thanks to last year’s departures of Dillon Brooks, Chris Boucher and Tyler Dorsey. While they were nowhere to be found just a month ago, a recent run has the Ducks just a few quality wins away from enhancing their profile as a worthy, double-digit-seed NCAA Tournament team.

In order to get there, the play of Payton Pritchard, Elijah Brown and MiKyle McIntosh remains at the utmost importance. Right along with the trio is the needed production of Troy Brown, Oregon’s top class of 2017 pledge, who can play across the floor but remains in a funk with his jumper. The Ducks came up a win short of the Pac-12 Tournament title last year; could revenge be on the horizon for Oregon this time around?

7. SEC

Collin Sexton
Collin Sexton (AP Images)

Alabama has fallen on hard times of late, losing five of its past seven, suffering from bouts of inefficiency on the offensive end and an inability to defend. There is still some time for Avery Johnson to coerce his team to make a run in St. Louis at the SEC Tournament. The key to it all is Collin Sexton, a McDonald’s All-American that brings a bulldog mentality to the floor and part of a very talented freshman class. Sexton has suffered of late with the freshman wall, but if he can come to trust John Petty and Dazon Ingram in the backcourt and Herb Jones can be a bit more consistent with his play, the Tide could be the surprising winner of a rather wide-open SEC Tournament.