Powerhouses scramble to make NCAA tourney

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim grimaces during the second half against Pittsburgh in a basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., on Saturday. Syracuse is one of several bubble teams heading into the final weeks of the regular season. Kevin Rivoli, The Associated Press

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim grimaces during the second half against Pittsburgh in a basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., on Saturday. Syracuse is one of several bubble teams heading into the final weeks of the regular season. Kevin Rivoli, The Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. – In many years, Arizona, Kentucky, Maryland and Syracuse would be a strong Final Four.

This year, it might be the NIT Final Four.

As the regular season winds down and conference tournaments tip off, the Terrapins, Orange and Wildcats – the Arizona and Kentucky varieties – are in bubble trouble.

If pedigree were all that matters, they’d have nothing to worry about on Selection Sunday. But while these powerhouses are long on tradition, at the moment they’re short on victories.

“We are in desperation mode now,” Arizona forward Chase Budinger said.

Arizona has reached the NCAA tournament 23 straight years, the nation’s longest active streak.

Kentucky has played in a record 48 NCAA tournaments, with seven titles and 13 Final Four appearances.

Maryland and Syracuse have each won national titles in this decade.

They aren’t the only big names sweating the stretch run. Florida (21-8, 8-6 SEC) has lost five of eight and has few notable victories.

Ohio State (17-12, 8-8 Big Ten), which reached the national final last spring, beat the Gators in Dec. but has lost five of its last six.

Big East bully Villanova (17-12, 7-9 Big East) also has work to do.

“We know we’ve got to win some games to get in the (NCAA) tournament,” Florida freshman forward Adam Allen said Monday. “Nobody wants to go to the NIT. It’s like the champion of the losers if you win that.”

Allen was talking about the Gators, but he could have been speaking for all the elite teams scrambling to improve their tourney resumes.

AP Sports Writers Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla., John Kekis in Syracuse, N.Y., and Will Graves in Lexington, Ky., contributed to this report