As the Bracketology world puts together their brackets this time of year, we all talk about the soft bubble and compare the mediocre resumes of the teams vying for those last at-large spots. All brackets right now are completed assuming the maximum number of at-large spots are available, which could very-well hold true, but there is always the chance for "Bid Stealers" or "Bubble Shrinkers". They are the worst nightmare for teams on the Bubble, teams who may have only done almost enough to earn a bid. So where might those potential bid stealers come from this year? Who are the most likely bubble shrinkers? For teams like Ole Miss, Virginia, Arizona State, Charlotte, etc...do your part, but root against these guys as well!!
A team other than Gonzaga from the West Coast Conference
With St. Mary's squarely on the Bubble pending games against BYU and Creighton, any team other than Gonzaga that wins the West Coast Conference Tourney would be in theory stealing a bid. St. Mary's and BYU would be the most likely candidates.
A team other than Memphis from Conference-USA
Memphis is doing enough to lock down an at-large berth, so barring a late February/early March swoon, the Tigers will be in the Field of 68. Southern Miss and UTEP might be candidates to upend Memphis in the C-USA Tourney.
A 3rd team from the Missouri Valley
While Creighton and Wichita State are closer to the Bubble than they were a month ago, both would appear safe at this time. The Missouri Valley has provided some bubble shrinking in the past, and Indiana State, Northern Iowa, Illinois State and Evansville have proven they can beat the Blue Jays and Shockers.
An SEC team on the outside-looking-in
As of today, Jabesblog has the SEC as a two-bid league. Kentucky or Ole Miss can earn their way onto the Bubble, but will be nervous come Selection Sunday unless they win the SEC Tourney. If Florida is knocked off, Missouri is hardly unbeatable away from home. Tennessee would be a great darkhorse here.
An Atlantic 10 team from out-of-nowhere
Think St. Bonaventure last season. The Atlantic 10 is deep and while a team would have to carve their way through 2 or maybe 3 NCAA Tourney teams, it does not seem unfathomable in this league. When Xavier gets hot, they can beat anyone. Same goes for St. Joseph's. Or Massachusetts. Richmond or George Washington. And don't forget Charlotte or Temple might need it by that time too.
A 2nd team from the Ohio Valley
It all depends on how Belmont is perceived by the committee, but if they can win-out to the OVC Final from this point, it might be tough to keep them out of the dance, leaving Murray State or Eastern Kentucky in position to burst someones bubble.
Stanford, Washington or USC
The separation between the PAC-12 leaders and these two is not that great. Any of the 3 could rip through the PAC-12 Tourney without much notice.