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NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch & Texas A&M Seed Outlook

The bubble watch is updated after a wild Friday afternoon of conference tournament action.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Updated Saturday afternoon March 12 (Right after A&M/LSU game 2:00 PM). Next/Final Update: Selection Sunday March 13

Moving Up: UConn, VCU
Moving Down: Cincinnati, St. Bonaventure, South Carolina
Locked Up: St. Joseph's, Butler, Wichita St.
Eliminated: George Washington, Ohio State, Alabama, Houston, Tulsa


Just when you didn't think it could get any crazier than what happened on Friday afternoon with the UConn game, Friday night happened which gave us a lot more clarity for both the A&M seeding projection as well as the bubble picture. That was because pretty much everyone chasing A&M on the 5 and 6 seed lines lost to end their tournament runs. And then the massacre in Nashville happened which basically locked A&M in with a 4 seed being the lowest possible point to fall to with a 3 seed very much still in play for more information see the specific seeding section below.

As far as the bubble is concerned there have been enough eliminations of bid thieves and power conference teams that have failed to make runs that we can lock in the top tier of bubble teams into the 9 seed line even though they had short trips to their conference tournament, there is just no chance a team like Syracuse, Monmouth or St. Mary's would get in ahead of them. You are welcome Butler, & Wichita St. 

Bubble Teams by Conference

I have been saying the last month that the AAC was the conference with the most bubble drama and they delivered on Friday afternoon. With the Quarterfinal Cincinnati/UConn with the winner likely IN and the loser likely sweating it out a bit if not outright OUT, 4 of the best overtimes you will ever see happened with both teams refusing to lose, including a length shot by UConn at the end of the 3rd overtime to save their season. That most likely puts UConn in for now but their work is not done yet. Temple still has their fate in their own hands in the semifinals, for Cincinnati they are in now but will be sweating bid thieves down the stretch. One of those could actually come from the AAC where we are guaranteed to have either Memphis or Tulane in the final. Tulsa and Houston are both out after taking really bad losses in the Quarterfinals.
Locks: None
Bubble: UConn, Cincinnati Temple

Atlantic 10
St. Joe's defeated George Washington in the quarterfinals which really starts to clear the A10 picture up. First of all that locks up St. Joseph's and it also officially eliminates GW. That leaves just St. Bonaventure and VCU on the bubble, with in my estimation St. Bonaventure just slightly in better shape than VCU although both teams are in for now. 
Locks: Dayton, St. Joseph's 
Bubble: VCU, St. Bonaventure

The ACC has 5 locks with Pitt and Syracuse on the bubble. Pitt should be in and Syracuse would need a miracle so this looks like a pretty safe bet for 6 bids. 
Locks: UNC, Virginia, Miami, Duke, Notre Dame
Bubble: Pitt, Syracuse

Big 12
No bubble drama here Tech makes it 7 locks from the Big 12 with no other bubble candidates.
Locks: Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Iowa State, Texas, Baylor, Texas Tech
Bubble: None

Big East
There isn't much bubble drama here either. Butler is a pretty weak lock but a lock nonetheless as the 5th team in from the Big East
Locks: Villanova, Xavier, Seton Hall, Providence, Butler
Bubble: None

Big 10
Michigan defeated Big 10 regular season champ Indiana in the Quarterfinals but was unable to really punch their ticket by beating Purdue in the Semis. That probably pushes them to just out of the tournament as one of the first 1 or 2 teams out. 
Locks: Iowa, Maryland, Michigan St., Purdue, Indiana, Wisconsin
Bubble: Michigan

Pac 12
Colorado, USC and OSU all got 1st round wins and that is good enough. Washington hasn't done enough to get consideration and wasn't able to do much in the tournament. 
Locks: Oregon, Utah, Arizona, Cal, Colorado, USC, Oregon St.
Bubble: None

South Carolina went 0-1 in the SEC Tournament, but with the happenings around the rest of the bubble on Friday they are still fairly safe. Vanderbilt is also now really sweating it out after their disappointing tournament performance. Georgia probably needs to get the auto bid and Florida is almost certainly NIT bound. 
Locks: Kentucky, Texas A&M
Bubble: South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Florida

Non Power Conferences
Chattanooga was about the only small conference #1 seed to win their conference tournament. That has put quite a few mid majors with decent regular seasons on the bubble and potentially sucked up some bids that the power conferences were poised to suck up. Of those only 4 have any threat at all really at an at large, I would rank them as:

-Wichita St. (99% in)
-St. Mary's (55% in)
-Monmouth (45% in)
-Valparaiso (less than 1% in)

Every other conference looks to be a 1 bid league. 

Who's in? (Conference listed indicates projected auto bid, bold has already clinched auto bid)

1 Seeds
1. Kansas (Big 12)
2. Virginia (ACC)
3. Villanova (Big East)
4. Michigan St. (Big 10)

2 Seeds

5. UNC
6. Oregon (Pac 12) 
7. Oklahoma
8. West Virginia

3 Seeds
9. Utah
10. Xavier
11. Miami
12. Kentucky (SEC)

4 Seeds
13. Purdue (Final Maryland/Michigan St.)
14. Texas A&M Nice 2 wins to get the final, as said in the into, that combined with teams like Cal, Arizona, Duke and Indiana all failing to do much in their tournaments clinches in my mind a 4 as the absolute minimum heading into Selection Sunday. One more win and a 3 seed is still very much in play, however if either Purdue or Maryland were to win the Big 10 then they would be a threat to take the last 3 as well. If Texas A&M does lose in the final in my opinion they SHOULD BE locked into a 4 seed, however the committee does sometimes make some interesting seeding decisions to move teams up or down a seed line, sometimes to avoid conference rematches, sometimes with no logical rationale at all. That being said here is my guess at seeding scenarios:

Win Sunday over Kentucky, Purdue/Maryland do not win Big 10: 90% 3 seed, 10% 4 seed
Win Sunday over Georgia, Purdue/Maryland do not win Big 10: 75% 3 seed, 25% 4 seed
Win Sunday over Kentucky, Purdue/Maryland do win Big 10: 50% 3 seed, 50% 4 seed
Win Sunday over Georgia, Purdue/Maryland do win Big 10: 35% 3 seed, 65% 4 seed
Lose Sunday to Kentucky: 100% 4 seed (unless the Committee does something with no explanation)
Lose Sunday to Georgia: 85% 4 seed, 15% 5 seed 

15. Maryland (Semis Michigan St.)
16. Indiana 

5 Seeds
17. Cal 
18. Duke 
19. Arizona 
20. Iowa State 

6 Seeds 
21. Baylor 
22. Seton Hall
23. Texas
24. Notre Dame

7 Seeds 
25. Dayton (Atlantic 10)
26. Iowa
27. Wisconsin
28. Colorado

8 Seeds
29. Providence
30. Texas Tech
31. USC
32. Oregon St.

9 Seeds
33. St. Joseph's 
34. Butler
35. Wichita St.
36. Bubble Place Holder

10 Seeds
37. Bubble Place Holder
38. Bubble Place Holder
39. Bubble Place Holder
40. American conference auto bid Place Holder

11 Seeds
41. Bubble Place Holder/Play in game
42. Bubble Place Holder/Play in game
43. Bubble Place Holder/Play in game
44. Bubble Place Holder/Play in game
45. Gonzaga (WCC
46. Arkansas Little-Rock (Sun Belt)

12 Seeds 
47. San Diego St. (MWC)
48. Akron (MAC)
49. Yale (Ivy)
50. Northern Iowa(MVC)

13 Seeds Projected Texas A&M 1st Round Opponent
51. South Dakota St. (Summit)
52. UNC-Wilmington (CAA)
53. Chattanooga (Southern)
54. Stony Brook (America East)

14 Seeds 
55. Stephen F. Austin (Southland)
56. Iona (MAAC)
57. Hawaii (Big West)
58. Middle Tennessee State (CUSA)

15 Seeds
59. Green-Bay (Horizon)
60. New Mexico St. (WAC)
61. Weber St. (Big Sky)
62. UNC Asheville (Big South)

16 Seeds
63. Hampton (MEAC)
64. Austin Peay (OVC)
65. Southern/Jackson St. (SWAC)
66. Fairleigh ****inson (NEC)
67. FGCU (Atlantic Sun)
68. Holy Cross (Patriot)

At large teams if listed with an italic conference this is the conferences auto bid projection.

17 teams fighting for the 9 (8 at large plus American auto bid) spots listed above are ranked below

1. South Carolina (RPI 58: 23-8, 11-7) South Carolina is really going to test the committee's theory of conference affiliation does not matter, it is who you play and who you beat. That is because with an RPI of nearly 60 and a non-conference SOS of #296 with zero wins OOC against tournament teams this is a profile that gets left out every single time. Problem is, they are still pretty clearly the 3rd best team in the SEC with wins over Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Florida, LSU and Alabama. It's not like they dominated in conference though as they still took 3 losses outside the RPI top 100 and also dropped 3 games to Georgia including in the SEC Quarterfinals. If I had to guess I would say this is a Dayton bound team. (Next Up: Regular Season Over)

2. Virginia Commonwealth (RPI 39: 23-9, 14-4) Lost a heartbreaker @Dayton in overtime in the last game of the regular season, a win there would have given them the outright conference championship and would probably have punched their ticket. They are still probably in however after surviving a must win against UMass in the quarterfinals. They play another should win in Davidson in the Semis to officially punch their ticket, but I think they are in even with a loss. (Next Up: 3/11 A10 Semis Davidson)

3. St. Bonaventure (RPI 30: 22-8, 14-4) St. Bonaventure lost on Friday in overtime to Davidson was only one game away from officially punching their ticket after a really rough start to the season with them really nowhere near the bubble radar in mid-January. They ended the regular season winning 10 of their last 11 games including over St. Joseph's twice and also winning @Dayton to end the year and tie for conference championship with Dayton and VCU. They have only 6 top 100 wins and 2 sub 150 losses and that 0-1 trip in the conference tournament may have them sweating just a bit. (Next Up: Regular Season Over)

4. Pitt (RPI 48: 20-11, 9-9) Pitt got the must win over Syracuse for their 3rd win of the year over the Orange, that is probably good enough as the loss to UNC in the quarterfinals doesn't hurt them at all. Still only 2 top 50 wins this year over Notre Dame and Duke with 2 sub 100 losses. The OOC slate was pretty uninteresting, lost to Purdue, won on a NC vs. Davidson. (Next Up: Regular Season Over)

5. (American auto bid placeholder) UConn (RPI 42, 21-10, 11-7) UConn gave us the most entertaining game of the season vs. Cincinnati on Friday afternoon, but more importantly for them they dramatically increased their chances for an NCAA bid and now all of a sudden again look to be the best positioned AAC team to get an NCAA at large bid if they need it. They would be able to erase all doubt if they can knock off Temple in the Semis. If they do run out of gas and lose that one I think they are still in but may be headed to Dayton. UConn did win at Texas, and on a NC vs. Michigan and also beat SMU earlier in conference play in addition to sweeping Tulsa. (Next Up: 3/12 AAC Semis Temple)

6. Cincinnati (RPI 44: 22-9, 12-6) A really tough loss vs. UConn in the Quarterfinals in what would have officially punched their ticket. However I am not sure how anyone can watch that game and not conclude that Cincy is a tournament team, especially since they had already beaten UConn twice this year. Cincy also beat SMU in their last regular season game and won @VCU earlier in the season. Still they are just 7-9 vs. the top 150 so they outta be very nervous between now and when the brackets are revealed. (Next Up: Regular Season Over)

7. St. Mary's (RPI 41: 26-5, 15-3) St. Mary's lost a really tough one to Gonzaga in the finals. That is a pretty forgivable loss, especially considering it is only their 5th of the season and they did beat Gonzaga twice in the regular season. Gonzaga at an RPI of 51 and just outside of the top 50 represents their 2 best wins of the year, as their only top 50 game this year was @Cal where they lost another heartbreaker. I think at the end of the day St. Mary's is in, but they will be the only at large with ZERO top 50 wins to do so in quite some time. (Next Up: Regular Season Over)

8. Temple (RPI 60: 21-10, 14-4) Temple got the must win against South Florida to move into the semis. 14-4 in conference but didn't do anything OOC with a non-conference RPI of 136. 4 top 50 wins, but they are only 7-8 vs. the top 150 with 2 really bad losses outside of the top 150. They are really hanging their hat on what they have done against the top tier of the conference beating SMU and sweeping both UConn and Cincinnati. The competition level steps up from here with what may be a worn out UConn team in the Semis. I think they need to win to get in to the NCAA tournament. (Next Up: 3/12 AAC Semis UConn)

9. Monmouth (RPI 57: 26-6, 15-3) Monmouth couldn't quite finish off their season with an automatic bid and will be one of the more interesting cases in the committee room in a long time. Monmouth only played 1 home game before January and went on the road to win some tough games at UCLA and Georgetown as well as on a NC vs. USC and Notre Dame. That kind of scheduling and then getting the win is going to go a long way in that committee room but at the same time several of those wins have lost a lot of luster and Monmouth just hasn't taken care of business in conference. Also, even with their tough scheduling their SOS metric is pretty poor even for a non power 5 team. They have a few really bad losses to RPI 200+ Army, Canisius and Manhattan. As of right now they are OUT, but with several teams immediately ahead of them likely to lose today or tomorrow, they could sneak back in. (Next Up: Regular Season Over)

-------The Bubble Bursts Here------------

10. Vanderbilt (RPI 62: 19-13, 11-8) Yikes - Vandy was looking for a coronation on Thursday and only needed to beat a lowly Tennessee team in their hometown in order to pretty much punch their ticket and they couldn't get it done. That is a devastating loss and very possibly could cost them a trip to the NCAA Tournament. I still like their chances to get in if the cards fall right over the next 24 hours but it may be a long wait on selection Sunday. (Next Up: Regular Season Over)

11. Michigan (RPI 55: 20-11, 10-8) Michigan got an enormous win over Indiana but failed to keep the magic going against Purdue. In my estimation they will come up just 1 win short of the NCAA Tournament with a cut line that has gotten more competitive over the last couple of days. 4 top 25 wins this season over Indiana, Purdue, Maryland and against Texas on a NC. The problem is they don't have any other top 100 wins after that. No bad losses but being 4-12 vs. the RPI top 100 is a metric that is a huge red flag and suggests Michigan is not a tournament team. (Next Up: Regular Season Over)

12. (Sun Belt) Arkansas Little Rock (RPI 50: 25-4, 17-3) UA-LR took a devastating loss in their last game the regular season losing to 250+ Appalachian State. That is the 2nd loss to a 250+ RPI team and sent the RPI tumbling about 15 spots. They do have 2 top 50 wins @SDSU and @Tulsa but the 3rd best win is @UTA. So in other wordsthey may not have beaten any tournament teams when it is all said and done. This latest loss almost certainly ends any discussion of an at large bid. They are up big now in the semifinals as I type this, so as long as they hold on there they will be 40 minutes away from the auto bid. (Next Up: 3/12 Sun Belt Semis vs. La Lafayette then 3/13 Final vs. UTA/UL Monroe)

13. (Mountain West) San Diego St. (RPI 36: 20-8, 15-2) Has advanced to the finals vs. Fresno State so only one more win is needed to wrap up an automatic bid. With only 1 win vs a top 80 RPI team (California) they almost certainly need the auto bid. Bad losses to San Diego and Grand Canyon. (Next Up: 3/11 MWC Final Fresno St.)

14. Georgia (RPI 61: 17-12, 10-8) Georgia had a nice comeback over South Carolina for their 3rd win over the Gamecocks this year and their 5th straight win. If they can do on Saturday what Kentucky could not then they will be in the at large conversation going into the final. I still think they need the automatic bid to get in (Next Up: 3/12 SEC Semis Kentucky)

15. Syracuse (RPI 68: 19-12, 9-9) Lost 5 out of the last 6 after winning 9 of their previous 10. A handful of good really good wins @Duke, over Texas A&M on a NC, Notre Dame, St. Bonaventure, and over UConn on a NC. Ultimately it may come down to losing to Pitt 3 times and their 3 losses outside of the top 100 and one of them to one loss to St. John's (RPI 200+) which is really hurting them. (Next Up: Regular Season Over)

16. Florida (RPI 52: 19-14, 9-9) After losing to A&M in the Quarterfinals that is almost certainly the last nail in the Gator coffin. The West Virginia and the St. Joeseph's OOC wins got a little better this weekend but I just don't think you can get into the NCAA tournament when your best in conference win was against Georgia and there are 7 losses outside of the top 50, you really should not even be in the conversation.

17. Valparaiso (RPI: 51: 24-6, 16-2) Won 15 out of 17 to end the regular season but went 0-1 in the Horizon tournament losing to Green Bay the eventual tournament champion in overtime. 2 bad losses to Wright St. as well as OOC to Ball St. will probably do them in with only a good OOC win over Oregon St. to balance it all out. (Next Up: Regular Season Over)

Potential Bid Thief Tracker: These teams could potentially make life even harder on these 25 teams:

AAC Semis: Memphis, Tulane playing each other so guaranteed to have one of them in the final for a chance to steal a bid

A10 Semis: Davidson

MWC Final: Fresno St. If Fresno State wins here SDSU is probably out and the MWC stays a 1 bid league, but other bubble teams would rather the Aztecs win and just make it official that the MWC only sends 1 to the NCAA tournament.

SEC Semis: Georgia Georgia is the only bid thief that is also a bubble team, they would be in the at large conversation if they do lose in the final but almost certainly need the automatic bid to increase the number of bids that the SEC gets this year.