It’s that time of the year again, which means that we are diving head first into our annual NCAA tournament bubble watch.
The way that it will work is simple: We’ll be looking at every team that our Dave Ommen, the best bracketologist in the business, considers in the mix for an at-large bid. In an effort to keep this somewhat manageable, we are going to assume that the top 36 teams in the field — every team that is a No. 9-seed or above — is “off the bubble”. This does not mean those teams are a lock to dance, it just means that they have given themselves enough room for error that we can take them out of the conversation until they do something dumb.
Dave’s latest bracket can be found here. The full NET rankings can be found here.
So with all that in mind, let’s get into the full NCAA tournament bubble watch:
ACC BUBBLE WATCH
TOP 9: Duke (NBC: 2), Florida State (NBC: 2), Louisville (NBC: 4)
VIRGINIA (NET: 55, NBC: 10): The Wahoos have now won three in a row and six of their last seven after picking off Boston College (143) at home. They have three Quad 1 wins and an 8-6 mark against the top two Quads with home dates left against Duke (6) and Louisville (10). They can’t afford slip-ups, and could really use four or five more wins before Selection Sunday. But Virginia is starting to make much better, and as of today they are in a pretty good spot.
N.C. STATE (NET: 52, NBC: 11): The Wolfpack are easily the biggest bubble winners of the week, as they blew out Duke (6) at home on Wednesday. It’s the fifth Quad 1 win for Kevin Keatts — they’ve also beaten Wisconsin (29) at home and three sub-50 teams on the road — to go along with an 8-6 record against the top two Quads. The biggest problem here is that they have three Quad 3 losses, two of which came at home. Before beating Duke, the Wolfpack lost at Boston College (143). It’s worth noting that Markell Johnson, N.C. State’s best player, did not play in two of the three Quad 3 losses — Georgia Tech (81) and North Carolina (94) at home.
AMERICAN BUBBLE WATCH
TOP 9: Houston (NBC: 8)
WICHITA STATE (NET: 42, NBC: 10): Wichita State is up to three straight wins after handling South Florida (113) at home on Thursday. They have beaten VCU (49) and Oklahoma (46) at home, and they don’t have any truly terrible losses, but with just three potential Quad 1 games left on their schedule — all of which are on the road — the Shockers need to get hot, and soon. I think they need to win two of at Cincinnati (56), at SMU (75) and at Memphis (63)
MEMPHIS (NET: 63, NBC: Next four out): Memphis is hanging on by a thread right now, but they are still alive after knocking off a bad East Carolina (208) team at home. Memphis has just one Quad 1 win and they don’t have a win over a team inside the top 50; their best win is Cincinnati (56) at home. Throw in a pair of Quad 3 losses, and the Tigers have plenty of work to do. The good news? They still get two games against Houston (26), a trip to SMU (75) and a home date with Wichita State (42), but playing without D.J. Jefferies, I don’t think that this ends well.
CINCINNATI (NET: 56, NBC: First four out): The Bearcats shot themselves in the foot on Wednesday, losing at home to UCF (125) in the fourth straight overtime game that they have played and their sixth one possession game in a row. The loss came after Jarron Cumberland hit a halfcourt shot that came just a split second after the buzzer in a second overtime. As of this very moment, Cincinnati has just two Quad 1 wins and four Quad 3 losses, all of which came to teams sitting outside the top 100. They’re in a bad spot right now, and with just one more potential Quad 1 win on their resume, I’m not sure just how much they’ll be able to do to fix it.
ATLANTIC 10 BUBBLE WATCH
TOP 9: Dayton (NBC: 2)
VCU (NET: 52, NBC: Off the bubble): VCU lost at home to Dayton (5) on Tuesday, which essentially eliminates them from being in bubble contention this season. This is the last time they’ll be listed in this space for the time being.
RHODE ISLAND (NET: 31, NBC: 11): URI did what they needed to do and picked off St. Joseph’s (237) at home on Saturday. They have not played since then. They’re 19-6 overall and they have just one Quad 1 win, but they are 6-5 against the top two Quads. The loss to Brown (218) is ugly, but as long as URI avoids the landmines on their schedule, I think they can get an at-large even with a loss to Dayton (5) at home in March.
RICHMOND (NET: 43, NBC: Play-in game): The Spiders are still in a good spot for an at-large bid after beating up on George Mason (167) at home. They’re sitting at 20-6 overall with a pair of Quad 1 wins — Wisconsin (29) on a neutral and at Rhode Island (31) — as well as two Quad 2 wins. The trouble with their resume is a pair of Quad 3 losses, but in a year where so many bubble teams look destined to amass 11 or 12 losses, Richmond will be in the mix. They cannot truly improve their resume until the A-10 tournament, but they are the best hope that the A-10 has at getting a third bid to the NCAA tournament.
BIG 12 BUBBLE WATCH
TOP 9: Baylor (NBC: 1), Kansas (NBC: 1), West Virginia (NBC: 4), Texas Tech (NBC: 8)
OKLAHOMA (NET:46 , NBC: 10): The Sooners have a weird resume. After losing to Kansas (4) and Baylor (2) in the last week, they are sitting at 16-10 overall and 6-7 in the Big 12. They don’t have a truly bad loss this season — nine of their ten losses are of the Quad 1 variety, and the 10th is a Quad 2 road loss to Kansas State (99) — but they also only have one Quad 1 win — West Virginia (10). Oklahoma is 1-9 against Quad 1 opponents but they are 8-1 against Quad 2 teams. Their next three games — at Oklahoma State (70), Texas Tech (20), at West Virginia (10) — are all of the Quad 1 variety. This is their chance.
BIG EAST BUBBLE WATCH
Top 9: Seton Hall (NBC: 3), Villanova (NBC: 3), Creighton (NBC: 3), Butler (NBC: 5), Marquette (NBC: 7), Xavier (NBC: 9)
GEORGETOWN (NET: 43, NBC: Play-in game): Georgetown is one of the biggest bubble winners last week after they landed their fifth Quad 1 of the season and by far their best win of the year by going into Indianapolis and knocking off Butler (17). And it’s fitting that the Hoyas followed that up by losing at home to Providence (51). They are now 15-11 on the season with road trips to DePaul (74), Marquette (23) and Creighton (11) and home dates with Xavier (41) and Villanova (14), Georgetown has a tough, tough schedule remaining. They do have five Quad 1 wins and a 9-11 mark against the top two Quads, so they are in a good spot, but those losses are adding up.
BIG TEN BUBBLE WATCH
TOP 9: Maryland (NBC: 2), Penn State (NBC: 4), Michigan State (NBC: 5), Iowa (NBC: 6), Ohio State (NBC: 6), Michigan (NBC: 6), Illinois (NBC: 7), Wisconsin (NBC: 7), Indiana (NBC: 9)
RUTGERS (NET: 35, NBC: 10): The Scarlet Knights have one of the weirder resumes on the bubble right now. They’re 17-9 overall and they are 9-7 in the Big Ten. They had three Quad 1 wins, just one Quad 3 loss and a 7-8 mark against the top two Quads. They played a tough non-conference schedule, and they have some really impressive home wins. The problem? They’re only one a single game outside of the RAC this year, and that came at Nebraska (183), who is more or less the worst team in the Big Ten. Their season finishes like this: at Wisconsin (29), at Penn State (25), Maryland (8), Purdue (32). Rutgers has some work left to do.
PURDUE (NET: 32, NBC: First four out): After the Boilermakers lost at Wisconsin (29) on Tuesday night they are sitting at 14-13 on the season. They do actually have a pretty strong resume in regards to the number of good wins that they have, but the biggest issue currently facing Purdue is the number of losses, including a pair of Quad 3 losses. The most losses and at-large team has ever had is 15. For context, Indiana last season was 17-15 with six Quad 1 wins and nine Quad 1 and 2 wins and they were left out. Purdue is 5-10 against Quad 1 opponents — three of those five wins vacillate between Quad 1 and Quad 2 — and 7-11 against the top two Quads with a 3-8 record on the road. Their best road win is at Indiana (58). They’re in a tough spot right now.
PAC-12 BUBBLE WATCH
TOP 9: Oregon (NBC: 4), Colorado (NBC: 5), Arizona (NBC: 6), Arizona State (NBC: 9)
USC (NET: 44, NBC: Play-in game): Even after losing at Colorado (18) on Thursday night, I think USC is in a decent shape after sweeping the Washington schools in LA last week. They only have two Quad 1 wins, but they are now 8-7 against the top two Quads with an 8-6 mark away from the Galen Center, including five road wins. The home loss to Temple (104) is not ideal, but it is survivable. The biggest issue may be how tough their remaining schedule is. The Trojans still play at Utah (92) and then get Arizona (7), Arizona State (40) and UCLA (90), who is a game out of first place in the Pac-12, at home.
STANFORD (NET: 34, NBC: First four out): The Cardinal finally snapped their losing streak by going into Seattle and knocking off Washington (71) to pick up their third Quad 1 win of the season. They are now 3-5 against Quad 1 opponents, 5-8 against the top two Quads and have just a single Quad 3 loss to their name. They still get Colorado (12) at home and Oregon (19) on the road, so there will be chances to improve their resume.
SEC BUBBLE WATCH
TOP 9: Kentucky (NBC: 4), Auburn (NBC: 5), LSU (NBC: 8), Florida (NBC: 9)
ARKANSAS (NET: 48, NBC: Off the bubble): The Razorbacks lost at Florida (36) on Tuesday night, meaning that they have now lost four straight games and are sitting with a 4-10 record against the top two Quadrants with just two Quad 1 wins — at Alabama (45) and at Indiana (58). They desperately need to get Isaiah Joe back, but it might be too little, too late by the time he returns.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 50, NBC: First four out): After beating South Carolina (62) at home on Wednesday night, the Bulldogs have now won two straight games and five of their last seven games. Those two Quad 3 losses are not going away, but with a pair of Quad 1 road wins and a 6-7 mark against the top two Quads, Mississippi State has themselves in a spot where they have a shot. They cannot afford to slip-up given that they have just a single Quad 1 opportunity left on their schedule.
ALABAMA (NET: 45, NBC: Off the bubble): Alabama fell to 14-12 overall with a loss to a bad Texas A&M (125) on Wednesday. They now have just one Quad 1 win compared to a pair of Quad 3 losses. Throw in their overall record and the fact that they don’t have a road win over a team ranked in the top 95, and they are in serious trouble.
SOUTH CAROLINA (NET: 62, NBC: Next four out): The Gamecocks had a chance to play themselves into a really good spot on Wednesday, but they lost a close game at Mississippi State (50). At 16-10 overall with a Quad 3 and a Quad 4 loss, the Gamecocks have plenty of work left to do and not all that many great chances left for wins.
BUBBLE WATCH FOR EVERYONE ELSE
TOP 9: Gonzaga (NBC: 1), San Diego State (NBC: 1), BYU (NBC: 7), Saint Mary’s (NBC: 8)
UTAH STATE (NET: 41, NBC: Play-in game): After beating Wyoming (301), the Aggies have won five in a row and eight of their last nine games, ensuring they are still in the NCAA tournament mix and fully turning around a season that looked like it was lost as recently as four weeks ago. Wins over LSU (30) and Florida (36) are nice, but with three road losses to sub-90 teams and no more chances to land marquee wins, how are they going to make up for those losses? They don’t play another top 100 team the rest of the season. I don’t see how they can get in without beating San Diego State (1) in the MWC tournament.
NORTHERN IOWA (NET: 47, NBC: 12): Northern Iowa has now lost back-to-back road games. Losing at Loyola-Chicago (95) might have been survivable. But losing at Indiana State (107), that might not be. UNI has a win at Colorado (12) and they beat South Carolina (62) on a neutral court, but they are 4-3 against the top two Quads and a pair of Quad 3 losses. I’m not sure they can get in.
EAST TENNESSEE STATE (NET: 41, NBC: 11): After beating Furman (76) on Wednesday night, the Buccaneers have gotten through the toughest part of their schedule. They have a win at UNCG (60) and a win at LSU (30). With a 21-4 record and a loss to Mercer (205) at home, the Buccaneers have to win out and lose to only UNCG or Furman in the SoCon tournament to have a chance, and even that might be a bit of a longshot.