clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NCAA Bubble Watch (3/4): A detailed look at seeding

New, 2 comments

We're safely in the dance, there's no doubt about that. Let's take a closer look at where we could end up on Selection Sunday.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Updated: Saturday, March 5

Next Update: Monday, March 7

Moving Up: St. Bonaventure, Butler, Vanderbilt

Moving Down: Florida, Arkansas- Little Rock, South Carolina

Locked Up: Wisconsin, Dayton

Eliminated: Georgia Tech, Stanford

Bubble Teams by Conference

American
The AAC is the conference with the most bubble drama this year. While SMU is ineligible as the only top 25 team, the 2nd tier of the conference has 4 teams that are all hovering within 10 spots of the bubble burst line. I have also added Houston as a very fringe bubble candidate.
Locks: None
Bubble: Tulsa, UConn, Cincinnati Temple, Houston

Atlantic 10
Dayton has added their name to the lock line even though they have been pretty shaky over the past few weeks, there just isn't enough basketball for them to fall far enough. There really isn't much separating any of the next 4 A10 teams and the tournament could decide a lot here.
Locks: Dayton
Bubble: George Washington, St. Joseph's, VCU, St. Bonaventure

ACC
The ACC has 4 easy locks but the next tier after that has really struggled to get that definitive win and punch the ticket. They should have up to 3 more locks in the next week going into Selection Sunday.
Locks: UNC, Virginia, Miami, Duke
Bubble: Notre Dame, Pitt, Syracuse, Florida St.

Big 12
Another great year for the Big 12, which is clearly the class of the country from top to bottom. 6 are in easily at this point and Texas Tech is really the only bubble team going into March.
Locks: Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Iowa State, Texas, Baylor
Bubble: Texas Tech

Big East
There isn't much to the Big East after Villanova and Xavier who both should be #1 or #2 seeds. The conference could add as many as 3 more teams from the 7th seed line on.
Locks: Villanova, Xavier
Bubble: Providence, Butler, Seton Hall

Big 10
Still plenty to figure out in terms of how many bids for the Big 10 in what most would describe as a down year for the league with a horrible bottom tier.
Locks: Iowa, Maryland, Michigan St., Purdue, Indiana
Bubble: Michigan, Ohio St., Wisconsin

Pac 12
Colorado is very close to a lock as the 5th team in from the PAC 12. USC which has really faded and OSU who has really come on will probably be the 6th and 7th but there is still a lot to be determined.
Locks: Oregon, Utah, Arizona, Cal
Bubble: USC, Oregon St., Colorado

SEC
A&M and Kentucky are still alone on the lock line and may be the only 2 locks going into the SEC Tournament. That being said 6 bids is still a decent possibility if the 2nd tier of the conference can pull it together over the next 2 weeks.
Locks: Kentucky, Texas A&M
Bubble: Florida, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Alabama, LSU

Non Power Conferences
There don't look to be too many bid thieves out there this year. There are a couple mid majors to keep an eye on (Monmouth, Wichita St., St. Mary's, Gonzaga, Arkansas-Little Rock). That said, none of them would be assured of an at large bid if they were to fail to win their conference's automatic bid.

Who's in? (Adjusted by seed lines)

Now that we are in March and the Aggies are a lock, lets rearrange our list a bit to more clearly show projected seeding.

1 Seeds
1. Kansas (Big 12)
2. Villanova (Big East)
3. Virginia (ACC)
4. Oklahoma

2 Seeds
5. Michigan St. (Big 10)
6. Miami
7. Xavier
8. Oregon (Pac 12)

3 Seeds
9. UNC
10. Utah
11. West Virginia
12. Duke

4 Seeds
13. Kentucky (SEC)
14. Maryland
15. Purdue
16. Texas A&M - After dominating Auburn on the road I still see Texas A&M holding onto the final #4 seed heading into the last regular season game. Teams 11 through 18 are pretty bunched together at the moment. A win against Vanderbilt could give the Aggies a little more breathing room on the 4 line heading into the conference tournament, while a loss would without a doubt slide them back to the 5 line going into the SEC Tournament. From there the floor is pretty clear, an 0-1 SEC Tournament could see A&M drop another seed line, but under no scenario do I see it possible to drop behind Dayton or any of the teams still in the at large hunt. Therefore I see a 6 seed as the floor at this point. Now it is important to remember just because the #24 (6 seed) slot is the worst possible scenario, we have seen the committee make interesting decisions to move a team a seed line (or 2) to get teams in the right location pods and avoid rematches. As far as a ceiling, again a win over Vanderbilt puts them as a very solid 4, a 3-0 SEC Tournament I think clearly moves Texas A&M to the 3 line with a very small chance (~5%) that if things break correctly that A&M could move all the way up to be the last #2 seed.

All that being said I would make the following predictions- 4 wins (3 seed), 3 wins (4 seed), 2 wins (5 seed), 1 win (5 seed) 0 wins (6 seed)

5 Seeds
17. Indiana
18. Iowa State
19. Cal
20. Texas

6 Seeds
21. Arizona
22. Wisconsin
23. Baylor
24. Iowa

7 Seeds
25. Dayton (Atlantic 10)

Auto Bid Placeholders
26. America East
27. Atlantic Sun
28. Big Sky
29. Big South
30. Big West
31. CAA
32. Conference USA
33. Horizon
34. Ivy
35. MAC
36. MEAC
37. MWC
38. NEC
39. OVC
40. Patriot
41. Southland
42. Southern
43. SWAC
44. Summit
45. Sun Belt
46. WAC

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

33 teams fighting for 22 spots

47. Notre Dame (RPI 35: 19-10, 10-7) Lost to Miami for their 3rd loss in 4 games. Only 6 wins over the top 100 but several really high quality wins over UNC, Louisville, @Duke, and on a NC vs. Iowa. No bad losses on the season. Still looking for that elusive 20th victory their next game will either provide that or provide them with their worst loss of the season. (Next Up: 3/5 NC State)

48. Seton Hall (RPI 34: 21-8, 11-6) Came up short at Butler in a game that could have punched their ticket. Still, they have won 7 of their last 9 games, including a massive win over Xavier last week and getting a season sweep of Providence, their next closest bubble competition in the Big East. They also and have a good OOC win over Wichita St. No losses outside of the top 100. Like Notre Dame, they can either punch their ticket with the next win or they will take their worst loss of the season. (Next Up: 3/5 @DePaul)

49. Colorado (RPI 30: 20-9, 10-7) It would take an absolute disaster for Colorado to not get into the NCAA tournament. They finish @Utah which would not damage their standing but then play Washington State in the first round of the Pac 12 tournament. If they can somehow find a way to lose that game AND the bubble improves significantly you could see them sweating it out a little bit, but there really isn't much to fear at this point. (Next Up: 3/5 @Utah)

50. Texas Tech (RPI 26: 18-11, 8-9) Losing @Kansas and @West Virginia are not bad losses by any stretch of the imagination and are not going to affect Texas Tech's standing on the bubble. That being said they missed valuable opportunities to clinch not only having a .500 record but a tournament spot. Now it may all come down to their final game of the season against Kansas State. It is a home game and there is no reason at all a tournament team should lose that one. If they do then it is a legitimate statement that they really only had a great 2 week stretch in Mid-February and other than that they really did nothing tournament worthy all year. If they are able to get the win however they should be able to put those questions behind them. They have 6 top 50 wins including one over Oklahoma. (Next Up: 3/5 Kansas State)

51. Providence (RPI 39: 21-9, 9-8) Got a really nice win over Creighton to get back above .500 in conference. They are still banking on their huge win @Villanova and on a neutral court vs. Arizona. Just like many teams around them one more win would completely seal their NCAA tournament bidor it would be their worst loss of the season. (Next Up: 3/5 @St. John's)

52. USC (RPI 36: 20-10, 9-8) USC got a huge win over Oregon State on Thursday night to secure at least a .500 conference record and get their 4th top 50 win of the year. They still have lost 5 of the last 7 and shouldn't feel completely secure about their position at all but 1 more win would punch their ticket for sure. They do have a handful of decent wins over Colorado, Arizona, Monmouth, winning on a NC vs. Wichita St. and sweeping UCLA but still zero top 25 wins. (Next Up: 3/5 Oregon)

53. (Missouri Valley)Wichita St. (RPI 43: 23-7, 16-2) With as poorly as the bubble has done over the last few weeks (and really all season) WSU should feel very comfortable going into their conference tournament. WSU only has 3 wins over the top 100 (Utah and Evansville twice). They did challenge themselves in OOC but lost 4 in a row to average competition vs. Tulsa, USC, Bama & Iowa). Any loss in the MVC is a bad loss but WSU should be feeling good on Selection Sunday no matter how the next few days go. (Next Up: 3/5 MVC Semis Northern Iowa)

54. St. Bonaventure (RPI 29: 21-7, 13-4) It is getting pretty difficult to distinguish between the St. Bonaventure, St. Joseph's and Dayton profiles. That is pretty amazing considering where the Bonnies were coming into January. But now here in early March they have beaten St. Joseph's twice and also won @Dayton. They have also won 9 of their last 10. They have only 6 top 100 wins but 2 sub 150 losses that are really hurting them. Assuming they win @Saint Louis to end the year they should be in. (Next Up: 3/5 @Saint Louis)

55. St. Joseph's (RPI 23: 24-6, 13-4) Lost at St. Bonaventure on Wednesday for the Bonnies to complete the season sweep. No losses outside of the top 60 so they are still in pretty decent shape although they are critically lacking in the quality wins category. Their only 2 top 50 wins are to Dayton and Princeton. Failing to get an NCAA tournament clinching win in their home game against Duquesne would be a massive upset and really throw their profile into question. (Next Up: 3/5 Duquesne)

56. Vanderbilt (RPI 47: 19-11, 11-7) Lots of analysts counted Vanderbilt out after losing to Mississippi State 2 weeks ago. 4 wins later and I think it is safe to say Vanderbilt is in the tournament if it started today and may even have an argument for being the 3rd team out of the SEC. They would be able to erase all doubt if they could get the biggest win of the year to win in College Station for the season sweep of Texas A&M to go along with the win over Kentucky last week and potentially finish as SEC Co Champs. That would be more than good enough despite their subpar OOC showing. If they can't win @A&M they probably need to win one in the SEC Tournament to feel safe. (Next Up: 3/5 @Texas A&M)

57. Pitt (RPI 44: 19-9, 9-8) It seems like no one on the bubble watch wanted to win this week and Pitt joined that trend. Pitt followed up their huge win over Duke by losing to ACC bottom feeder Virginia Tech. That Duke win was only their 2nd top 50 win and they now have 3 losses to teams just outside of the top 100. They also have a nice season sweep of Syracuse which could come in handy with a H2H comparison. The OOC slate was pretty uninteresting, lost to Purdue, won on a NC vs. Davidson. Depending on how the rest of the bubble does a win over Georgia Tech would probably lock them up. (Next Up: 3/5 @Georgia Tech)

58. South Carolina (RPI 52: 22-7, 10-7) Lost to Georgia on Thursday for their 2nd in a row and 4th in 6 games. Believe it or not these last 2 losses sent the RPI tumbling more than 20 spots. This profile has really trended downwards in terms of seeding but the SEC will get at least 3 in and right now they still make a pretty compelling case to be that 3rd. The #168 SOS with 3 losses to sub 100 RPI teams in conference and no OOC wins over tournament teams (except maybe Tulsa) will get a lot of conversation in the committee room, especially if they pick up a 4th sub 100 loss to end the year at Arkansas. (Next Up: 3/5 @Arkansas)

59. Syracuse (RPI 55, 19-11, 9-8) Lost 3 out of the last 4 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. 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. If they can get a really nice win at Florida State to end the year and end the Seminoles run I think they find a way to punch their ticket. (Next Up: 3/5 @Florida St.)

60. Butler (RPI 46: 20-9, 9-8) Butler was one of the few teams on the bubble that actually won this week so they would be in line for a boost into the field of 68 anyways, but to go out and beat Seton Hall who just beat Xavier (who just beat Villanova) was especially nice. That was their 3rd top 50 win to get the season sweep of Seton Hall to go along with a win over Purdue OOC. Only 1 sub 100 loss. If they can beat a decent Marquette squad this Saturday they should feel really good about their at large chances. (Next Up: 3/5 Marquette)

61. (WCC) St. Mary's (RPI 38: 24-4, 15-3) St. Mary's did what they had to do and won 6 straight to end the regular season and get the #1 seed in the WCC tournament after they swept Gonzaga. They only ended up playing one top 50 team this year (@Cal) and lost. I have a tough time seeing the Gaels not in the tournament at this point given how bad everyone around them has been. It will be real easy to point to ZERO top 50 wins but I think you have to reward the fact that they beat just about everyone they tipped off against. So long as the loss comes to Gonzaga or BYU in the WCC final I have St. Mary's IN. WCC got rid of the double byes to the Tournament Semis so it will take 3 wins to get an automatic bid. (Next Up: 3/5 WCC Semifinals Loyola Marymount/San Diego)

62. (American) UConn (RPI 50, 20-10, 11-7) UConn failed the eye test this week getting blown out by SMU for their 3rd loss in 4 games. Still SMU isn't tournament eligible and UConn still looks to be the best positioned American team to get an at large. UConn did win at Texas, and on a NC vs. Michigan and also beat SMU earlier in conference play in addition to sweeping Tulsa. On the other hand they got swept by Cincinnati and Temple and aren't too far ahead of either of them as it relates to getting an at large especially if they were to drop a 3rd game to one of them in the AAC tournament. Must win to end the year against bottom feeder UCF. (Next Up: 3/6 UCF)

63. Oregon St. (RPI 32: 16-11, 8-9) Couldn't get the win over USC which would have come pretty close to punching their ticket. Now they fall back to under .500 in conference and back to 7th in conference behind USC. They need to either win @UCLA or get 2 wins in the tournament to feel good about their chances. OSU has the #4 SOS in the country, 6 wins vs. the top 50 (5 vs. the top 30 all in conference). Only one good OOC win over Tulsa but no sub 100 losses (Next Up: 3/5 @UCLA)

64. Virginia Commonwealth (RPI 41: 22-8, 14-3) Got 2 really nice wins @GW and over Davidson to pretty firmly claim their spot as the #4 team in the A10. Problem is it may still be a 3 team league. Still only 2 top 50 wins and 2 losses to sub 150 RPI teams. If they can win this weekend it would be one of the biggest wins of the bubble watch and move VCU to either very near or into lock status. A loss there and they will have some work to do in the tournament. (Next Up: 3/5 @Dayton)

65. Cincinnati (RPI 49: 21-9, 11-6) Lost at Houston on Thursday and now it is very possible they either need to beat SMU or make a very deep run into the AAC tournament to get back in the top 50 of the RPI and be a serious at large player. 6-8 vs. the top 100, just about every metric you look at screams bubble team. Hard to see them NOT being one of the last 4 in or first 4 out. Still no top 30 wins although they do have 3 top 50 wins (Next Up: 3/6 SMU)

66. Tulsa (RPI 45: 19-10, 11-6) Lost to Memphis on Saturday to halt their 3 game winning streak and move them back to right smack on the bubble again. They do have a season split vs. Temple, Cincy, UConn and SMU as well as beating Wichita St. OOC so lots of data points to compare them against other similarly situated competition. Trouble is, all the data at this point shows that they are somewhere between the 32nd-36th best at large profile right now and things could still go either way on Selection Sunday. Absolutely must win game to finish the season and then they probably need a win or 2 in the conference tournament also. (Next Up: 3/5 USF)

67. (MAAC) Monmouth (RPI 56: 25-6, 15-3) Monmouth won their last 3 and 11 of their last 12 to still have an outside shot at an at large bid if they do fail to win their conference tournament. 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 result 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. Iona is now their 4th loss to a sub 100 team of the season and their previous 3 are all to RPI 200+ against Army, Canisius and Manhattan. Any loss in the MAAC tournament would be a 5th bad loss so they would be doing a lot of sweating and if I had to guess at this point, would probably land them in the NIT. (Next Up: 3/4 MAAC Quarterfinals Rider, 3/5 Semis, 3/6 Final)

68. Temple (RPI 57: 19-10, 13-5) Temple got another must win to keep hanging right around the bubble cut line. They finish the year with one more on the road against a bad Tulane team. If they can win that one, and they should, then they would finish 14-4 in conference after entering 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. (Next Up: 3/6 @Tulane)

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

69. Florida (RPI 54: 17-13, 8-9) Florida has lost 4 in a row and would most likely be out if the season ended today. They have to beat Missouri (is there a category above must win?) to even get to .500 in the SEC. Their best SEC regular season win will go down as a win over Georgia a team that will be lucky to make the NIT. They do have 2 good wins OOC (@St. Joseph's & West Virginia) and only 1 really bad loss on the year but if you can't beat good teams in conference what makes anyone think they deserve a shot to represent the SEC in the NCAA tournament? I think in addition to winning this weekend they need to notch at least 1 if not 2 high quality wins in the SEC Tournament. (Up: 3/5 @Missouri)

70. Michigan (RPI 58: 19-10, 10-7) Michigan has lost 3 of their last 4 and is fading fast at the wrong time. 3 top 25 wins this season over 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 3-10 vs. the RPI top 100 is a metric that is a huge red flag and suggests Michigan is not a tournament team as the bubble shrinks in March as it always does. If they can beat Iowa in the regular season finale they would move back into the field of 68 going into the Big 10 tournament where they may need another win there to keep their spot. (Next Up: 3/5 Iowa)

71. Alabama (RPI 63: 17-12, 8-9) Lost at home to Arkansas to put an exclamation point on the SEC bubble's horrible week. That's 3 losses out of 4 games following their 5 game winning streak. Winning @Georgia feels like an absolute must, as is winning at least 1 game in the SEC Tournament but more likely 2 will be needed. Alabama did decent in OOC with wins vs. Wichita St., Notre Dame and at Clemson, and also has a win over South Carolina but the overall record as well as conference record will raise a lot of questions in the committee room. (Next Up: 3/5 @Georgia)

72. George Washington (RPI 60: 22-8, 11-6) Pretty clearly the 5th team in the A10 which is a dangerous place to be in March. Only 3 wins vs. the top 50 and 4 vs. the top 100 with 2 losses outside the top 150. They need to at least get to the conference Semis and potentially to the Final to be in the conversation on Selection Sunday. (Next Up: 3/5 @ Davidson)

73. Florida St. (RPI 71: 17-12, 7-10) Florida State had looked terrible for most of February with 5 really bad losses in a row and then came the blowout win over Notre Dame to put them back into the at large discussion. They are still just 7-10 in conference so the last game against Syracuse and then making some noise in the conference tournament are still an absolute must. Their win against Florida has lost a lot of luster but the win over Virginia still looks good. Still only 5 top 00 wins. (Next Up: 3/5 Syracuse)

74. (Horizon) Valparaiso (RPI: 42: 24-5, 16-2) Won 15 out of 17 to end the regular season but it is probably too little, too late with both of their losses during that streak to Wright State who isn't terrible but at an RPI of 150+ still qualifies as 2 bad losses. They also have a horrible OOC loss to Ball St. and other than beating Oregon St. in OOC there probably is not enough meat to justify the bad losses and poor RPI. With the Horizon setup they will get a double bye all the way to the Conference semifinals so they only need to win 2 games to secure the automatic bid. (Next Up: 3/12 Horizon Semis TBD)

75. Gonzaga (RPI 62: 22-7, 15-3) A nice win @BYU to eliminate them but Gonzaga is still without a doubt behind St. Mary's who beat them twice. This hasn't been much of an interesting resume outside of the Battle4Atlantis where they lost to Texas A&M and won vs. Washington and UConn. If they win out and get to the WCC final it probably still is not enough but they would at least get into the discussion as one of the teams barely left out. Almost certainly needs the auto bid at this point. (Next Up: 3/5 Portland)

76. Houston (RPI 74: 22-8, 12-6) I don't like to add teams to the bubble watch after they have been dropped off but Houston after beating UConn and Cincinnati to win 6 of their final 7, Houston will get some level of conversation with a deep tournament run. I still don't see it but if they can get to the AAC finals we will re-evaluate. (Next Up: AAC Tournament)

77. (Mountain West) San Diego St. (RPI 48: 20-8, 15-2) After the Aztecs lost on their home floor to Boise St. they almost certainly need to win their conference tournament at this point. Only 1 win vs a top 80 RPI team (California). Bad losses to San Diego and Grand Canyon. (Next Up: 3/5 UNLV)

78. (Sun Belt) Arkansas Little Rock (RPI 51: 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 but I will still track them for another week and hopefully for their sake they take care of business in the conference tournament and get the auto bid. Lucky for them they still get a double bye all the way to the conference semis so really no excuse why they shouldn't be able to win the next 2. (Next Up: 3/12 Sun Belt Semis TBD)

79. Ohio St. (RPI 76: 19-11, 11-6) OSU beat Iowa on Sunday in order to stay in contention for an at large. That is their second really high quality win of the season and their first since December over Kentucky. Still only 3 top 100 wins so they still need to get their highest quality win of the season in their next and last game coming up @Michigan State. That may be asking a lot but with their RPI and lack of quality wins it is a must if they want to be in the conversation going into the conference tournament. Bad back to back losses to La Tech and Memphis and 11 losses already. (Next Up: 3/5 @Michigan State)

80. LSU (RPI 86: 18-12, 11-6) Beat Florida on Saturday to stop the 3 game losing streak and stay on this page. After the must win against Missouri on deck they have a big opportunity to rise up the RPI if they can knock off Kentucky on the road and potentially would be able to get a share of the SEC regular season crown by doing so. It is still a very outside shot but if they could do that and then make noise in the SEC tournament an at large is not entirely out of the question. LSU is just 11-12 vs. the RPI top 150 and has a stunning 6 losses to teams outside of the top 100. Their best OOC win is Oral Roberts. (Next Up: 3/1 Missouri)