Bubble Banter: 29 teams vying for roughly 12 spots

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Conference tournament action on Thursday and Friday could have a huge impact on who’s in and who’s out when the brackets are revealed this Sunday.  New teams involved in the anxious waiting game include Seton Hall and West Virginia.  Both lost second round tourney games on Wednesday.  For teams like South Florida, Northwestern, Dayton, Xavier, St. Joseph’s, Texas, and Tennessee, games continue. 

Here’s an updated look at the bubble through Wednesday night’s games.

Bubble Banter highlights the teams we believe are on the NCAA Bubble. If a team isn’t listed, they aren’t a bubble team at the time of the update. RPI and SOS data is credited to CollegeRPI.comRPI data is for games played through Wednesday, March 7 (10 p.m ET). Records reflect games through Wednesday, March 7.

Total Spots (68): Number of teams in the Field.

Automatic Bids (31): Murray State (OVC), Belmont (A-SUN), UNC-Asheville (Big South), VCU (Colonial), Loyola-Md (MAAC), Creighton (MVC), Harvard (IVY), Western Kentucky (Sun Belt), South Dakota State (Summit), Detroit (Horizon), LIU-Brooklyn (NEC), Lehigh (Patriot)

  • Projected Locks (28): Teams who project to have secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Should Be In (6): These teams are in solid position to receive an at-large bid.
  • Bubble: (29): Teams projected to be under consideration for at-large selection.
  • Spots Available (12): Estimated number of openings after Automatic Bids, Locks, and Should Be Ins are considered.
  • RPI and SOS: RPI and SOS data are updated through games completed at 10:00 p.m. (ET) on Wednesday, March 7.
  • Teams Leaving the Bubble: Cincinnati, Iowa State, Alabama (Should Be In)
  • Teams Joining the Bubble: TBA
Atlantic 10
Locks: Temple | Should Be In: None | Bubble: St. Louis, Dayton, St. Joe’s, Xavier
  • Dayton (20-11 | 9-7) | RPI: 73 | SOS: 69 | – The Flyers have eight Top 100 RPI wins, including victories over Temple, Alabama, and Xavier. The Flyers have also beaten Ole Miss and Minnesota. What Dayton also has is a few troubling losses – particularly defeats to sub-200 RPI teams Miami-OH and Rhode Island. The Flyers face rival Xavier next. That could very well be an elimination game.
  • St. Joe’s (20-12 | 9-7) | RPI: 56 | SOS: 48 | – Like a lot of bubble teams, St. Joe’s entered conference tournament play in need of two or three wins. What St. Joe’s has are good non-conference wins over Creighton and Drexel. They’ve also beaten Temple. St. Joe’s beat Charlotte in its A10 opener and plays St. Bonaventure next. The Hawks need to win that one, too. Then it will depend on what happens around them. It might take another victory over Temple in the semifinals to stay in the Field.
  • St. Louis (23-6 | 12-4) | RPI: 30 | SOS: 95 | – A couple of wins by Xavier, Washington and St. Joe’s would make the Billkens’ profile even better. But it’s hard to consider SLU a lock with an 0-2 mark vs. Top 50 teams. The rest of the A10 bubble teams listed here have at least two. St. Louis also has a loss at Rhode Island (much like Dayton). St. Louis plays the Richmond/La Salle winner in its A-10 opener. It would be a good idea for the Billikens to win that one.
  • Xavier (19-11 | 10-6) | RPI: 58 | SOS: 52 | – Non-conference wins over Vanderbilt, Purdue, and Cincinnati continue to help the Muskies. The Musketeers are 6-10 vs. Top 100 but just 2-7 vs. the RPI Top 50. XU will likely face Dayton in its A-10 tournament opener (see above). The loser could be in trouble.
ACC
Locks: Duke, North Carolina, Florida State | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Miami-FL, NC State, Virginia
  • Miami-FL (18-11 | 9-7) | RPI: 55 | SOS: 42 | – Miami has a huge win at Duke and a victory over Florida State at home. But they are just 3-10 vs. Top 100 teams. The Canes open ACC tourney play against Georgia Tech. That’s a must win. After that, it would be Florida State. Beating the Seminoles again could be enough to push Miami into the NCAAs.
  • NC State (20-11 | 9-7) | RPI: 53 | SOS: 28 | – The Wolfpack have a season sweep of Miami and a neutral court win over Texas. Decent wins. But an 0-8 mark vs. the Top 50 is troubling – although UT and Miami are in the 50-60 range. NC State has to beat Boston College in its ACC opener. Then it’s a matchup with Virginia. The Wolfpack need at least those two. We’ll re-evaluate the landscape if that happens.
  • Virginia (22-8 | 9-7) | RPI: 42 | SOS: 84 | – Virginia was able to hold off a Maryland rally to avoid a more desperate situation. The Cavaliers will play either NC State or Boston College in their ACC tournament opener. If it’s NC State, one more win should seal it. UVA can probably survive a loss (if it’s not to BC) but it would leave open the possibility for concern if Championship Week gets a little crazy. UVA is 2-5 vs. Top 50 teams and 7-6 vs. the Top 100. Good wins include Michigan and Drexel. The win at Oregon helps too.
BIG EAST
Locks: Syracuse, Georgetown, Marquette, Louisville, Notre Dame | Should Be In: Cincinnati | Bubble: Connecticut, Seton Hall, South Florida, West Virginia
  • Connecticut (20-12 | 8-10) | RPI: 33 | SOS: 3 | – Connecticut opened Big East tournament play by beating DePaul and West Virginia. The victory over WVU was the Huskies’ 10th Top 100 RPI victory. That could very well be enough. A victory over Syracuse would clinch it. Non-conference wins include Florida State and Harvard.
  • Seton Hall (20-12 | 8-10) | RPI: 62 | SOS: 44 | – The Pirates ended their season with a loss to Louisville in the second round of the Big East tournament Wednesday night. That’s 3 losses in 4 games – including dropped games to Rutgers and DePaul. Victories over VCU, St. Joe’s and Dayton will help, along with wins over Georgetown, Connecticut, and West Virginia. SHU finished 7-9 vs. the Top 100. That may still keep SHU as one of the 37 best at-large teams, but it will be a long wait until Selection Sunday.
  • South Florida (19-12 | 12-6) | RPI: 44 | SOS: 24 | – USF took care of Villanova late Thursday in a low-scoring game at Madison Square Garden. That keeps the Bulls right on the cutline for an NCAA bid. Despite 12 regular-season Big East wins, only the victory at Louisville was a Top 50 RPI opponent, and USF is 1-8 against that mark. They do have 6 Top 100 wins including Seton Hall and Cincinnati at home. Tonight’s matchup with Notre Dame could be very important to USF’s at-large chances.
  • West Virginia (19-13 | 9-9) | RPI: 51 | SOS: 14 | – The Mountaineers fell in overtime Wednesday to Connecticut. Now the wait begins. With victories over Kansas State and Miami-Fla outside the conference, the Mountaineers may still have an inside track to a bid. They finised 9-11 vs. Top 100 teams and beat Georgetown, Cincinnati and South Florida in the Big East. They could still be vulnerable if bids get squeezed, however. WVU was beaten twice by Connecticut and lost its only game with Seton Hall (away). A top 20 SOS will help. WVU had five losses to Top 35 RPI teams by a total of 11 points.
BIG 10
Locks: Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin | Should Be In: Purdue | Bubble: Northwestern
  • Northwestern (18-12 | 8-10) | RPI: 47 | SOS: 13 | – The Wildcats did everything right to close the season except for a 2-point loss to Ohio State. Those types of close losses will help the Wildcats, but at some point, winning games still counts, and a 1-10 mark vs. Top 50 teams stands out in the wrong way – same as a 5-12 mark vs. Top 100 teams. NW has a marquee win over Michigan State and a bubble win over Seton Hall. The Wildcats open with play in Indianapolis against Minnesota. Win, and it’s a matchup with Michigan. Northwestern probably needs both.
BIG 12
Locks: Baylor, Kansas, Missouri | Should Be In: Kansas State, Iowa State | Bubble: Texas
  • Texas (19-12 | 9-9) | RPI: 52 | SOS: 21 | – The Longhorns enter Big 12 tournament play squarely on the bubble. Good wins include Temple, Iowa State, and Kansas State at home. Texas is just 4-7 on the road and 4-10 vs. Top 100 teams (3-9 vs. Top 50). A loss at Oregon State is the low mark. Texas opens with Iowa State and needs to beat the Cyclones. A win would set up a likely matchup with Missouri.
CONFERENCE USA
Locks: Memphis | Should Be In: Southern Mississippi | Bubble: Central Florida
  • Central Florida (19-9 |10-6) | RPI: 61 | SOS: 89 | – The Knights open C-USA tournament play against UAB. UCF has to win that one as it would set up a game with Memphis. The Knights need to beat the Tigers a second time. UCF is just 2-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 3-6 vs the Top 100. Those numbers are considerably lower than some other bubble teams. Bad losses include Rice and UL-Lafayette.
MISSOURI VALLEY
Locks: Wichita State, Creighton | Should Be In: None | Bubble: None
  • Creighton won the automatic bid and ensured that the MVC will be a two-bid league.
MOUNTAIN WEST
Locks: UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Colorado State
  • Colorado State (18-10 | 8-6) | RPI: 21 | SOS: 8 | – The Rams have beaten UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico at home, and their power numbers are very strong, if not slightly inflated. The concerns are a 3-9 road record – CSU’s best road win is UTEP (No. 158) – and nothing out of conference other than a win over Montana. Overall, the Rams have 8 top 100 wins. CSU opens Mountain West tournament play against TCU. That win might be enough. Assuming they play SDSU in the semis, two wins would lock up a bid. A quick loss could leave the door open for trouble if bids get squeezed.
PAC 12
Locks: None | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington
  • Arizona (21-10 | 12-6) | RPI: 80 | SOS: 119 | – The Wildcats ended their season with a horrible loss at Arizona State. Their at-large hopes were shaky before (1-4 vs. Top 50), and Arizona accomplished little outside the Pac-10. UA has to reach the Pac-12 title game to have any serious consideration.
  • California (23-8 | 13-5) | RPI: 37 | SOS: 93 | – Cal continues to have the best at-large resume of the Pac-12 group thanks to a sweep of Oregon and a win at Washington in the only meeting between the two. But a loss to Stanford kept the Bears behind Washington in the final standings. Cal is 7-6 vs the Top 100. The Bears will likely see Stanford again in their first Pac-12 tournament game. They probably can’t afford another loss to the Cardinal.
  • Oregon (22-8 | 13-5) | RPI: 49 | SOS: 91 | – The Ducks have won 6 of 7 games but failed to win a game against a Top 50 RPI opponent. About all Oregon has to offer is a split with Washington, as the Ducks were swept by Cal. A victory at Nebraska is Oregon’s top out-of-conference victory. The Ducks will likely open Pac-12 tournament play against Colorado, but they need to reach the title game to stay in the discussion.
  • Washington (21-9 | 14-4) | RPI: 54 | SOS: 83 | – After a loss at UCLA, Washington backed into a Pac-12 regular season title when Cal lost at Stanford. If the Huskies don’t win the league’s automatic bid we’ll learn soon enough how the Committee values a Pac-12 title. Washington is 1-6 vs. Top 50 teams and just 4-8 vs the Top 100. They split with Oregon, swept Arizona and lost their only game with Cal. The Huskies will open Pac-12 play with either Washington State or Oregon State. A loss could really hurt. Reaching the title game would be advised.
SEC
Locks: Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt | Should Be In: Alabama | Bubble: Mississippi State, Tennessee
  • Mississippi State (21-10 | 8-8) | RPI: 65 | SOS: 66 | – The Bulldogs escaped South Carolina and beat Arkansas to close the regular season with two important wins. With 8 Top 100 wins (8-8), and a non-conference win over West Virginia, MSU survived a five-game swoon in February. The Bulldogs open SEC tournament play against Georgia. It would be a good idea to win that one. It might take a win over Vandy to feel safe.
  • Tennessee (17-13 | 10-6) | RPI: 75 | SOS: 32 | – The Volunteers actually earned the two-seed at the SEC tournament this week in New Orleans. How the Committee evaluates the arrival of Jarnell Stokes in early January will be a major factor for the Vols. They are clearly a better team with him, and three of their bad losses came before he arrived. UT is 10-5 with Stokes and has beaten Florida twice, Vanderbilt, and Connecticut. Those are four wins few bubble teams have. Tennessee gets the Auburn/Ole Miss winner in Game 1. Two more wins could be enough depending on what else happens.
WEST COAST
Locks: St. Mary’s, Gonzaga | Should Be In: None | Bubble: BYU
  • BYU (23-8 | 12-4) | RPI: 46 | SOS: 94 | – BYU failed in its attempt to beat Gonzaga a second time and finished 1-4 vs the Zags and St. Mary’s. If the Cougars miss the NCAAs that will be one reason why. Their best non-conference victories are Nevada and Oregon. Good wins, but perhaps not enough to make an NCAA bid hold up. BYU is a team that could easily be squeezed if bids get tight. Their resume is complete. It will be a long wait until Selection Sunday.
BEST OF THE REST
Locks: None | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Drexel, Harvard, Iona, Long Beach State, Middle Tennessee State, Nevada, Oral Roberts
  • Drexel (27-6 | 16-2) | RPI: 67 | SOS: 209 |The Dragons may prove to be the ultimate “eye test” team for this year’s Selection Committee. Drexel had won 19 straight games before losing in the CAA championship to VCU. They were also the outright regular-season champions of the Colonial. Strictly by the numbers, Drexel finished 1-2 vs. Top 50 teams and just 4-3 against the Top 100. While they lost to St. Joseph’s and Virginia, Drexel beat Cleveland State by 20 on the road. All the Dragons can do now is wait and hope a few other things fall their way.
  • Iona (25-7 | 15-3) | RPI: 40 | SOS: 144 | – The Gaels ended their season by losing to Fairfield in the MAAC semifinals. Now, it’s a long wait until Selection Sunday. Iona has to hope that wins over Nevada and St. Joseph’s hold up and that a few things go their way. The Gaels finished 1-1 vs. the Top 50 and 5-3 vs. the Top 100. Losses to sub-200 teams Siena and Hofstra may ultimately doom Iona to the NIT.
  • Long Beach State (20-8 | 15-1) | RPI: 35 | SOS: 103 | – The 49ers nearly completed a perfect Big West season. And while early wins over Pittsburgh and Xavier help, they aren’t as strong as once thought. LBSU played the No. 1 non-conference schedule but went 0-6 vs. Top 50 teams and just 2-7 vs. the Top 100. Several close losses will help, but how much? Long Beach opens Big West tournament play against UC Davis.
  • Middle Tennesse State (24-6 | 14-2) | RPI: 57 | SOS: 183 | – The Blue Raiders’ chances are very slim after losing in the Quarterfinals of the Sun Belt tournament. Their best wins are Ole Miss, Akron and Belmont. But they ended the season with back-to-back losses to Western Kentucky and Arkansas State (both sub-200 teams). MTSU ended 0-1 vs. Top 50 teams.
  • Nevada (23-5 | 13-1) | RPI: 45 | SOS: 146 | – Having lost its BracketBusters game at Iona and then watching Iona fall early in the MAAC tournament, Nevada’s at-large chances are growing slim. What the Wolfpack do have is a win over Washington. Nevada has to reach the WAC title game to have any chance to stay in the at-large picture.
  • Oral Roberts (27-6 | 17-1) | RPI: 50 | SOS: 189 | – ORU beat Xavier, Missouri State, and Akron (BracketBusters) in non-conference play, although XU was without several players. But a loss to Western Illinois in the league tournament semis puts a damper on the Eagles’ at-large hopes. They finished 0-2 vs. Top 50 teams and just 3-3 against the Top 100. ORU has to hope a dominate season in the Summit is enough.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.