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NCAA Bubble Watch (3/8): SEC Championship Edition

We're safely among the #4 seeds at this point. What do we need this weekend to climb even higher?

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Updated: Monday March 7

Next Update: Friday March 11

Moving Up: Butler, South Carolina, St. Bonaventure

Moving Down: Michigan, Alabama, Pitt

Locked Up: Notre Dame, Seton Hall, Providence, Texas Tech

Eliminated: LSU

Bubble Teams by Conference

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
The A10 looks like a pretty safe bet to get 4 in with SJU, VCU and SBU somewhere from 7-11 seeds each along with Dayton in the 6-8 range. GWU is a pretty fringe bubble candidate and VCU may be headed to Dayton again.
Locks: Dayton
Bubble: George Washington, St. Joseph's, VCU, St. Bonaventure

The ACC has 5 locks but the next tier after that has really struggled to get that definitive win and punch the ticket. The Pitt/Syracuse game in the tournament is probably a play in game (but may not be an elimination game)
Locks: UNC, Virginia, Miami, Duke, Notre Dame
Bubble: Pitt, Syracuse, Florida St., Virginia Tech

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 still has a little bit of work to do but the Big East should have 5 in.
Locks: Villanova, Xavier, Seton Hall, Providence
Bubble: Butler

Big 10
Unless Michigan or Ohio State can make some noise in the Big 10 tournament looks like only 6 in the Big 10 this year.
Locks: Iowa, Maryland, Michigan St., Purdue, Indiana, Wisconsin
Bubble: Michigan, Ohio State

Pac 12
Colorado, USC and OSU all look solid to be dancing, Washington not so much.
Locks: Oregon, Utah, Arizona, Cal
Bubble: USC, Oregon St., Colorado, Washington

A&M and Kentucky are still alone on the lock line and may be the only 2 locks going into the SEC Tournament. USC and Vandy are the next tier and should be ok, Florida and Alabama have a lot of work to do.
Locks: Kentucky, Texas A&M
Bubble: Florida, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Alabama

Non Power Conferences
Wichita St. lost in the MVC tournament so likely have a bid thief there. Other than maybe the WCC which could get 2 in (St. Mary's & Gonzaga). Everyone else looks like a 1 bid league.

Who's in? (Grouped by seed line)

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. Michigan St. (Big 10)

2 Seeds

5. Oklahoma
6. Xavier
7. Oregon (Pac 12)
8. Miami

3 Seeds
9. UNC
10. Utah
11. West Virginia
12. Kentucky (SEC)

4 Seeds
13. Purdue
14. Indiana

15. Texas A&M - Won 6 in a row to end the year to be in a solid position most likely looking at a 4 or 5 seed in the NCAA tournament. Teams 11 through 19 are pretty bunched together so sliding a seed line or 2 is still very much in play. While we can talk about a weak bubble (the 11 seed line and a lack of really top tier teams (seeds 2 and 3) there are a bulk of "pretty good" next tier teams in seed lines 3-6 that have just kept winning themselves the last few weeks that have kept A&M from moving up. The good news is they will all knock each other off in the next week, the bad news is their floor is pretty high as all of them are pretty well positioned that taking a bad loss is pretty much off the table. That being said, a 3-0 trip to Nashville knocking off Ark/Fla then LSU/Vandy then Kentucky/USC would still move A&M up several spots and most likely end up with a #3 seed if they can get to 3-0. A rough swag at SEC tournament finish to seed projection would go something like this:

3-0 = 4% 2 seed, 80% 3 seed, 15% 4 seed, 1% 5 seed
2-1 = 10% 3 seed, 50% 4 seed, 35% 5 seed, 5% 6 seed
1-1= 35% 4 seed, 55% 5 seed, 10% 6 seed
0-1= 10% 4 seed, 60% 5 seed, 29% 6 seed 10%, 1% 7 seed

16. Maryland

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

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

7 Seeds
25. Notre Dame
26. Seton Hall
27. Dayton (Atlantic 10)
28. Texas Tech

8 Seeds
29. Providence

Auto Bid Placeholders
30. America East
31. FGCU (Atlantic Sun)
32. Big Sky
33. UNC Asheville (Big South)
34. Big West
35. CAA
36. Conference USA
37. Horizon
38. Yale (Ivy)
39. MAC
40. MEAC
41. MWC
42. Northern Iowa(MVC)
43. NEC
44. Austin Peay (OVC)
45. Patriot
46. Southland
47. Southern
48. SWAC
49. Summit
50. Sun Belt
51. WAC

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

30 teams fighting for 16 spots

52. Colorado (RPI 30: 20-10, 10-8) It would take an absolute disaster for Colorado to not get into the NCAA tournament. If their Pac 12 tournament opponent was anyone other than Washington State they would already be a lock, but because a loss there would be so horrible, we can't completely take the NIT off the table yet for the Buffalos. However even an embarrassing loss there and it would still call for lots of bid thieves for CU to be in any real danger. (Next Up: 3/9 Pac 12 First Round Washington State)

53. South Carolina (RPI 46: 23-7, 11-7) South Carolina went 12-0 OOC then went and finished 3rd in the SEC with 23 D1 wins. So it is really hard to see the committee punishing their horrible SOS (Non Conf SOS #296) enough that they wouldn't actually be included in the tournament. The 3 losses to sub 100 RPI teams in conference and no OOC wins over tournament teams (except maybe Tulsa) will hurt them in seeding quite a bit but even if they have a bad loss in their first SEC Tournament game they should feel somewhat secure about still sneaking in. (Next Up: 3/11 Georgia/Mississippi St.)

54. USC (RPI 42: 20-11, 9-9) USC couldn't punch their ticket by beating Oregon in the regular season finale but should still feel pretty secure heading into the Pac 12 Tournament with a .500 conference record, 20 wins a handful of decent wins over Colorado, Arizona, Monmouth, winning on a NC vs. Wichita St. and sweeping UCLA, for zero top 25 wins but also zero losses outside of the top 100. A win on Wednesday will clinch their spot, but like Colorado even if they lose they still should be ok but a trip to Dayton wouldn't be shocking. (Next Up: 3/9 Pac 12 First Round UCLA)

55. Oregon St. (RPI 29: 17-11, 9-9) After winning on the road @UCLA to finish .500 in conference OSU should be breathing a lot easier heading into next week. With the #3 SOS in the country, 6 wins vs. the top 50 (5 vs. the top 30 all in conference) the Beavers have been afforded a little bit of a margin of error. Avoiding a bad first round loss to Arizona State would make things official. Only one good OOC win over Tulsa but no sub 100 losses (Next Up: 3/9 Pac 12 First Round Arizona State)

56. St. Bonaventure (RPI 27: 22-7, 14-4) I don't really see a realistic scenario where St. Bonaventure doesn't get in at this point after they won their 5th straight and 10th out of 11 games to end the year and tie for conference championship with Dayton and VCU. 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 only 6 top 100 wins and 2 sub 150 losses but they have likely done enough even though they would be sweating a bit with an 0-1 A10 tournament appearance. They do get a double Bye to the A10 quarterfinals and will almost certainly be playing Davidson in that game to officially punch their ticket. (Next Up: 3/11 A10 Quarterfinals TBD)

57. Butler (RPI 44: 21-9, 10-8) Butler may have improved their stock more than any other team on the bubble this last week or so by beating Seton Hall and Marquette. They can't relax too much yet though, they are still 5th in the Big East pecking order, only 5-7 vs. the top 100 and 9-9 vs. the top 150 and they get a tough matchup in the Big East Quarterfinals vs. Providence who has already beaten Butler twice this year. A win their punches their ticket, they should still be ok with a loss but it will make for a nervous Sunday. (Next Up: 3/10 Big East Quarterfinals Providence)

58. Vanderbilt (RPI 47: 19-12, 11-8) Vandy was not able to get that elusive big road win in College Station which would have made this resume feel a lot closer to the lock line. Vandy is still in pretty decent shape but has some work to do next week if they want to be dancing. With the #5 seed, a win in the 2nd round over Tennessee/ Auburn is an absolute must on Thursday. Beyond that they would have a very intriguing matchup with LSU after that. A win there would probably punch their ticket. If they are not able to get it they will have a long wait on Selection Sunday and could get left out. (Next Up: 3/10 SEC 2nd Round Tennessee/Auburn)

59. Wichita St. (RPI 50: 23-8, 16-2) You have never seen me talk about Wichita State and lock in the same sentence this entire bubble season and it so for good reason. That is because Wichita State really only has 1 good win on the year (over Utah). They did beat Evansville twice but they went 1-2 vs. Northern Iowa, the latest of the losses knocking them out of the MVC Semis and into this perilous position of waiting for Selection Sunday on the bubble. They did challenge themselves in OOC but lost 4 in a row to average competition vs. Tulsa, USC, Bama & Iowa and then later to Seton Hall). I still think they get in but it wouldn't really be all that shocking or undeserving if they do get left out when the brackets are revealed. (Next Up: Regular Season Over)

60. (WCC) St. Mary's (RPI 36: 25-4, 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. They now play the team that has singlehandedly moved St. Mary's from a 5-6 seed to the bubble Pepperdine who swept St. Mary's in the regular season. A win there would come really close to securing at least an at large. With a loss it would be a long wait but I think they would be ok. (Next Up: 3/7 WCC Semifinals Pepperdine)

61. St. Joseph's (RPI 32: 24-7, 13-5) St. Joseph's is really limping into tournament time now after taking a really bad loss to Duquesne to end the year. That loss is by far their worst of the year and you really have to take a step back and ask, is there really anything in this profile that would demand inclusion into the NCAA Tournament? There is a win over Dayton sure, but 0-3 vs. St. Bonaventure and VCU and a couple fairly blah OOC wins over Princeton, Temple and Virginia Tech. Not much to get excited about. They get the #4 seed in the A10 tournament and I think they need to win their first game after the double bye against what will almost certainly be George Washington. A win there should be enough and I don't think would be expected to beat Dayton in the Semis to get in. (Next Up: 3/11 A10 Quarterfinals TBD)

62. (American) UConn (RPI 53, 21-10, 11-7) UConn despite having the #5 seed in the AAC Tournament may have the best chance of securing 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. Their first 2 games will be against those 2 opponents so it will be an interesting AAC Tournament to watch. (Next Up: 3/11 AAC Quarterfinal Cincinnati)

63. Pitt (RPI 49: 19-10, 9-9) Pitt didn't seem look like an NCAA tournament team this last week in going 0-2 on the road at Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. Still only 2 top 50 wins this year over Notre Dame and Duke with 2 sub 100 losses. They did sweep fellow ACC bubbler Syracuse in the season and it very well may come down to a play in game and needing a 3rd win to feel really good about their fate going into Selection Sunday. The OOC slate was pretty uninteresting, lost to Purdue, won on a NC vs. Davidson. (Next Up: 3/9 ACC 2nd Round Syracuse)

64. Cincinnati (RPI 52: 22-9, 12-6) Huge win against SMU to end the year. That's their 2nd big win of the year to go along with their win @VCU. Still just 7-8 vs. the top 150 Huge sweep over UConn will help but getting swept by Temple may hurt. They play UConn again in their first AAC game. While it may be possible to get in even with a loss there this feels a lot like a play in game. (Next Up: 3/11 AAC Quarterfinals UConn)

65. Virginia Commonwealth (RPI 39: 22-9, 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. Now they will be faced with at least 1 must win against the winner of Rhode Island/Duquesne and then may very well need a 2nd win to really feel good about their chances. (Next Up: 3/10 A10 2nd Round Rhode Island/Duquesne)

66. Syracuse (RPI 57, 19-12, 9-9) Lost 4 out of the last 5 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. They do have 5 top 50 wins which is more than most still on the bubble watch but if they go 0-3 to Pitt this year to pick up their 13th loss and finish with a losing record vs. the top 100 and top 150 I think they are likely NIT bound. (Next Up: 3/9 ACC 2nd Round Pitt)

67. Tulsa (RPI 51: 20-10, 12-6)A really interesting bubble profile here with 20 wins, a season split vs. Temple, Cincy, UConn and SMU as well and an OOC win over Wichita State. They have an absolute must win against Memphis in the AAC Quarterfinals and then probably another one against what will likely be Houston in the Semis. I would think a trip to the finals should be sufficient. (Next Up: 3/11 AAC Quarterfinals Memphis)

68. (MAAC) Monmouth (RPI 55: 26-6, 15-3) Monmouth won their last 5 and 13 of their last 14 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. They do have a few really bad losses to RPI 200+ Army, Canisius and Manhattan. A loss to Iona and they most likely are NIT bound. (Next Up: 3/7 MAAC Final Iona)

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

69. Temple (RPI 56: 20-10, 13-5) Temple got several must wins to end the year to keep them hanging right around the bubble cut line and also finish 14-4 in conference and nab the #1 seed in the AAC. That is important because they had 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. A quarterfinals win may won't do anything for their resume so it may come down to a play in game in the Semis vs. the Cincy/UConn winner. (Next Up: 3/11 AAC Quarterfinals ECU/USF)

70. Florida (RPI 54: 18-13, 9-9) Florida finally stopped their awful 4 game losing streak by beating Missouri on Saturday. That win doesn't do much for the profile other than getting them back to. .500 in conference which was an absolute must bare minimum for the SEC. Their best SEC regular season win was 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 to Tennessee. Florida enters the SEC Tournament needing at least 2 wins to even be in the conversation but it will likely take a trip to the finals to punch their ticket. That is not good news to A&M as they will be playing a desperate Gators team if they can manage to get by Arkansas. (Up: 3/10 SEC 2nd Round Arkansas)

71. Michigan (RPI 67: 19-11, 10-8) Michigan has lost 4 of their last 5 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 3-11 vs. the RPI top 100 is a metric that is a huge red flag and suggests Michigan is not a tournament team. Michigan will be the 8 seed in the Big 10 tournament and without any doubt need a 1st round victory and then almost certainly a win over Indiana in the Quarterfinals. Beyond that they probably need a semifinal victory too to feel really good about their chances. (Next Up: 3/10 Big 10 2nd Round Northwestern)

72. George Washington (RPI 62: 22-9, 11-7) 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 probably need to get to the A10 finals to have any chance at all. (Next Up: 3/10 A10 2nd Round George Mason/Saint Louis)

73. Gonzaga (RPI 66: 23-7, 15-3) Gonzaga is through to the WCC Semifinals but after an un-Gonzaga like season that is not good enough for an at large. It feels like beating BYU in the Semis is an absolute must, after that if it is a close loss to St. Mary's in the Final that MIGHT be good enough but they won't feel great about their chances unless they get the automatic bid. 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. (Next Up: 3/7 WCC Semis BYU)

74. Florida St. (RPI 69: 18-12, 8-10) FSU did what they needed to at the end of the year blowing out Notre Dame and then beating Syracuse to at least finish 8-10 in the ACC which is the bare minimum to be in the conversation. Their win against Florida has lost a lot of luster but the win over Virginia still looks good. Still only 5 top 100 wins. They are the #11 seed in the ACC tournament so an auto bid would take 5 wins in 5 days. An at large will require at least 3, potentially 4. (Next Up: 3/8 ACC 1st Round Boston College)

***Teams that do not control their own destiny for an at large*** These teams in my estimation even if they got to the finals of their conference tournament would not get in, but they would get some level of conversation leading up to Selection Sunday.

75. (Horizon) Valparaiso (RPI: 41: 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: 3/7 Horizon Semis Green Bay)

76. Houston (RPI 74: 22-8, 12-6) They have the #2 seed in the AAC tournament so you have to at least consider them however in my estimation they would almost certainly need the auto bid to get into the NCAA tournament. Only 1 top 50 win over SMU and split against Cincy, Temple, Tulsa and UConn. If they do get to the Final they will be in the conversation but I just don't see an at large in their future. (Next Up: 3/11 AAC Quarterfinals UCF/Tulane)

77. (Mountain West) San Diego St. (RPI 45: 20-8, 15-2) Only 1 win vs a top 80 RPI team (California). Bad losses to San Diego and Grand Canyon. Almost certainly need the auto bid. (Next Up: 3/10 MWC Quarterfinals Wyoming/Utah State)

78. (Sun Belt) Arkansas Little Rock (RPI 48: 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. 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. Washington (RPI 82: 17-13, 8-4) Other than beating Texas in the first game of the year their next best OOC win was over Montana. Then they went .500 in conference. Sorry I am not buying their at large chances. They get a shot at Oregon in the 2nd round if they can get past Stanford. (Next Up: 3/9 Pac 12 1st Round Stanford)

80. Alabama (RPI 71: 17-13, 8-10) After losing to Georgia in the last regular season game they will need a trip to the SEC Finals and then a lot of prayer. 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: 3/10 SEC 2nd Round Ole Miss)

81. Ohio State (RPI 75: 19-12, 11-7) Almost certainly done after they lost to Michigan State twice in their last 3 games. Other than beating Kentucky they were terrible OOC going 7-5 in their other games with a next best win over Northern Illinois and losses to UTA, Memphis and La Tech. They will need to win 4 games in 4 days for the auto bid. (Next Up" 3/10 Big 10 2nd Round

82. Virginia Tech (RPI 86: 18-13, 10-8) Surprised everyone by beating Pitt and then Miami to cap off winning their last 5 regular season games. They also beat Virginia in January. That being said they were terrible OOC with a best win against UAB and an 8-5 record. So most likely too little, too late. (Next Up 3/9 ACC 2nd Round Florida State/Boston College)