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Bubble Watch: 2/19/23

Projecting the NCAA Basketball Tournament field of 68

Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Next Update Thursday 2/23

A&M continues to play like one of the best teams in America over the last 2 months and took another huge step towards not just an NCAA bid, but also a decent seed with a gritty Quad 1 win at Mizzou. It is possible that this win represents doing enough to earn an at large by locking up their 20th overall win, and 12th in conference. That being said, after last year I don’t think anyone will feel 100% comfortable unless we win 1 more game. No doubt A&M has played their way into a relatively comfortable position with 4 games to play.

On Saturday we also found out the top 16 seeds as of the morning of 2/18. This is important because it gives us an insight into what the selection committee values this year and to bounce it against what the projection was. I had going in the correct 1 seeds, in order, each of the 2 seeds correct except flipped Tenn/UCLA for the last 2/1st 3, and overall I missed on 2 of the 16, my teams 15 and 16 (UConn and Miami) were not listed in favor of Kansas State and Xavier who I had as my top 2 5 seeds.

As far as the rest of the bubble picture? The Pac 12 continues to cannibalize itself and looks very much like a 2 to maybe 3 bid league. FAU took a damaging loss but was nowhere near as bad as the devastating loss by Clemson at Louisville. WVU slides back into big time danger territory and tech stays alive in the Big 12.

For the complete national picture of who is already locked in, what teams are in danger and who are the teams that we can possibly leap the next 3 weeks, that is the true purpose of this column. We start tracking by considering the automatic bids that are taken out of the equation, starting with the “Likely one-bid leagues”. These are the leagues that as of right now appear to be headed for only 1 bid going to the conference tournament winner, regardless of who that winner is. After accounting for these we have a better picture of how many bids are truly up for grabs.

Likely One-bid leagues

Conference (Projected Champ, Current Net)

  1. A10 (Dayton, 74) - maybe a .1% chance at an at large that you can read about after the bubble burst line.
  2. Atlantic Sun – (Liberty, 47) despite the NET – 0 Q1 wins, 1Q2 Win (Bradley) – no chance
  3. Big Sky (Montana State, 109)
  4. Big South (UNC Asheville, 147)
  5. Big West – (UC Irvine, 86)
  6. America East (Vermont, 124)
  7. Horizon (Youngstown State, 104)
  8. Ivy – (Yale, 68)
  9. MAC - (Kent State, 55) – maybe a .1% chance at an at large – writeup below
  10. MAAC – (Iona, 71)
  11. MEAC (Norfolk State, 151)
  12. MVC (Bradley, 66) – another maybe .1% chance at an at large
  13. Northeast (Fairleigh Dickinson, 302)
  14. Ohio Valley (SIUE, 221)
  15. Patriot (Colgate, 100)
  16. Southland (Texas A&M – Corpus Christi, 179)
  17. Southern (Furman, 87)
  18. Sun Belt – (Marshall, 77)
  19. SWAC (Grambling State, 198)
  20. WAC - Sam Houston State (61)

And just like that we are down to 12 conferences battling for 48 spots.

3 conferences (CUSA – FAU, Summit – Oral Roberts, CAA – Charleston) will likely be one bid leagues also but for now all 3 teams are in the field and their auto bid placeholder is counted when we get to their at large profile.

Multi-bid conference/at-large seeds

For the other 8 conferences, they each have multiple teams that as of right now would make the field and get an at large. Their conference leader (in NET) will be counted as their auto bid and will be bolded. Those 8 leagues are (ACC, AAC Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, Big East, MWC, Pac 12, and WCC). Only the AAC is in danger of being a 1 bid league if Houston wins the tournament and Memphis drops a few more games.

So, what about the 48 bids remaining? Let the counting begin…

Teams without any detail after their team’s name are considered locks. Net ranking listed by each bubble team name. Bold teams count as the auto bid placeholder for their respective conference

1 seeds

21. Alabama SEC auto bid

22. Houston AAC auto bid

23. Kansas Big 12 auto bid

24. Purdue Big Ten auto bid

2 seeds

25. Texas

26. Arizona Pac 12 auto bid

27. UCLA

28. Baylor

3 seeds

29. Virginia ACC auto bid

30. Kansas State

31. Tennessee

32. Indiana

4 seeds

33. Iowa State

34. Marquette Big East auto bid

35. Gonzaga WCC Auto bid

36. Xavier

5 seeds

37. UConn

38. Miami

39. St. Mary’s

40. Creighton (13, 18-9, 12-4) The 6-game losing streak way back in December is now a distant memory, offset by now winning 9 of their last 10. Given they have 2 terrible teams left on the schedule with Georgetown and DePaul, I am hesitant to move them to lock territory yet, but it would be a shocker for them to not get a bid. (2/21 Marquette)

6 seeds

41. Northwestern (43, 19-7, 10-5) – Wow – 4 games ago and coming off 2 straight losses, I thought NW might be on the verge of a long losing streak. Well 4 massive wins later including knocking off Purdue and Indiana back-to-back for now 7 quad 1 wins, Northwestern feels like a lock. Going to hold off for 1 more win just to be certain since their only win of note OOC was Liberty but they may have done enough already (2/19 Iowa)

42. Maryland (21, 18-8, 9-6) Upset Purdue on Friday night to move into very safe territory. No losses outside of Quad 1 and wins against Purdue, Indiana, Illinois, and beat Miami OOC. 1 win away from officially reaching lock status. (Next: 2/19 @Nebraska)

43. TCU – LOCK, due to schedule remaining.

44. San Diego State MWC auto bid (17, 20-5, 12-2) Winners of 14 of 16. Now dominating the MWC which is exactly what they need to do given their only good win OOC is over Ohio State which has lost a lot of luster. #10 SOS and no bad losses. Assuming they win their next can’t lose game vs. Colorado State they will be a lock. (2/21 Colorado State)

7 seeds

45. Illinois (27, 17-9, 8-7) – Went 0-2 on the road this week. The loss to Indiana is forgivable but the loss to Penn State means they got swept by a non-tournament team. They do have OOC wins over UCLA and Texas OOC but the losses are piling up and they are just 3-8 vs. Quad 1. Still solidly in the tournament and just 1 more win makes it official. (2/20 Minnesota - Makeup from postponed 2/7 game)

46. Duke (25, 19-8, 10-6) – The blowout win at Syracuse should put to rest any whispers about a late season collapse and potentially falling to Dayton for the first four. They still need to get through a terrible Louisville team for win #20, assuming they do that each of the last 3 games wouldn’t kill them to lose so it’s safe to say they are 1 win away from lock status (2/20 Louisville)

47. Providence (38, 20-7, 12-4) Big 2-0 week including the win over Creighton. The Friars are amongst a group of about 10 teams that are just 1 win away from securing their bid. (2/22 @UConn)

48. Iowa (36, 17-9, 9-6) The worst loss of a potential tournament team goes to the Hawkeyes losing to #345 Eastern Illinois on their home court, but it’s the only bad loss. The loss to Wisconsin did just drop to a Q3 loss, however. 7-6 in Quad 1, 4-2 in Quad 2. If they can just get 1 more win to clinch .500 in conference, they are a lock. Looking at the remaining schedule it wouldn’t be a shocker if they aren’t able to secure that until the last game of the season vs. Nebraska. (2/19 @Northwestern)

8 seeds

49. Rutgers (28, 17-10, 9-7) – Rutgers got the needed road win at Wisconsin on Saturday to stop the 3-game skid. Their best OOC win is against a Wake Forest team that likely won’t make the tournament, but they have done enough in conference including winning @Purdue that winning just 1 more will be enough to lock them up. (2/23 Michigan)

50. Michigan State (40, 16-10, 8-7) Lost at Michigan on Saturday for their 10th loss. No bad losses and 5 quad 1 wins have them still in great shape. If they can just win 1 more they will be fine. (2/21 Indiana)

51. Texas A&M (29, 20-7, 12-2) – The incredible run continues, adding a sweep of Mizzou to the sweeps of Auburn, LSU and Florida. Yet another big time quad 1 win, that’s now 5 on the year. It is certainly possible that A&M has done enough, getting to 20 wins and 12 wins in conference. Possible now that A&M would be in the field even if they don’t add to the win column for the remainder of the year. That being said, given what happened last year I don’t think anyone will feel comfortable until we get 1 more. The 2 quad 4 losses still hurt and will continue to do so all the way until selection Sunday, however they hurt more from a seeding standpoint than a selection at this point. There has been a lot of talk about just how high can this resume go? It is hard to know, given everyone else will still be racking up wins too but a rough guideline would be: 4-0 (5 seed), 3-1 (7 seed), 2-2 (8 seed), 1-3 (10 seed), 0-4 last 4 in/NIT 1 seed. And then of course the conference tournament may play into it a bit also, although I wouldn’t count on that playing a major factor. Winning the SECT may raise the seed by 1 from what I have listed, while taking a bad loss in the 1st game may drop the NCAA seed by 1 seed line. The best part of this latest win? Texas A&M still controls its own destiny to win the SEC going into the last 4 games, that’s remarkable considering this conference has the #1 overall seed (Alabama) that plays in it. It sure would be something to emphatically punch our ticket by PACKING REED ARENA and knocking off Tennessee on Tuesday. (2/21 Tennessee)

52. NC State (39, 20-7, 10-6) Took what might be their worst loss of the season on Tuesday night at Syracuse. That’s the end of a tough 3 game road stretch for them and now they return home for 3 quad 2 opportunities. NC State is the definition of a typical 8/9 seed just kinda treading water, no real bad losses, no wins that are going to jump out at you, winning the games they are supposed to, best win OOC is over Dayton. A 2-2 finish and they are fine, anything worse than that potentially gets a bit dicey. (2/19 North Carolina)

9 seeds

53. Missouri (50, 19-8, 7-7) – An ugly 0-2 week and a troubling NET has Mizzou on the brink of danger territory. The wins over Tennessee in conference play and Illinois and Iowa State OOC are carrying them. Given their schedule over the last 4 games (Miss State, @Georgia, @LSU, Ole Miss) they will be sweating if they do anything less than a 3-1 finish down the stretch. (2/21 Mississippi State)

54. Pitt (51, 19-8, 12-4) – Lost at Virginia Tech to end their 6 game winning streak. Still a great conference record. Didn’t do much OOC outside of a win at Northwestern but in ACC play they have wins over Virginia, UNC (twice) and Miami. If they can just keep beating the ACC cellar dwellers Pitt should be fine. (Next: 2/21 Georgia Tech)

55. Oklahoma St (37, 16-11, 7-7) Blown out at TCU on Saturday doesn’t hurt the resume too much. They didn’t do much OOC so they probably need 1 more win to feel safe… not sure which of the last 4 they will be favored in so it may get dicey. (2/20 @West Virginia)

56. Arkansas (19, 18-9, 7-7) – The win over San Diego State and avoiding any bad losses gave Arkansas a bit of breathing room going into SEC play. They have used up just about all that room by going 7-7 in SEC play. If they can just finish .500, they should still get in but that may be easier said than done given they have road games left at Alabama and Tennessee. Assuming they lose both of those that means they have zero margin for error and need to win both remaining home games vs. Georgia, and Kentucky. (2/21 Georgia)

10 seeds

57. Kentucky (33, 18-9, 9-5) – Massive week for Kentucky after being left for dead against Georgia. Won at Miss. State and then cruised to a victory at Tennessee to finish the season sweep of the Vols. Kentucky for the first time this season has a little bit of breathing room and given their schedule can start thinking about playing their way clear of Dayton. Still need to go 2-2 over the last 4 to get into the tournament. (2/22 @Florida)

58. Boise State (23, 19-6, 10-3) – Just 1-3 vs. Quad 1 (vs. Texas A&M) with a quad 3 and a quad 4 loss mixed in to South Dakota State and Charlotte. Coming home now against UNLV and a reeling New Mexico for some good chances for resume building wins to get into safer territory before ending the year with 2 tough ones against SDSU and at Utah State. (2/19 UNLV)

59. Auburn (30, 18-9, 8-6) – It looked like with the 33-point win over Mizzou on Tuesday that Auburn had stopped the meltdown. Then the loss to Vandy came. That’s now a 2-7 record over the last 9. No bad losses may still be the best thing going for this resume. With the final 3 games @Kentucky, @Alabama and against Tennessee, Auburn is in serious trouble of not making the tournament if they can’t score an upset vs. one of those 3. (2/22 Ole Miss)

60. West Virginia (32, 15-11, 4-9) The loss at home to maybe the worst team in the Big 12 (Tech) drops the conference record to 4-10. While conference record isn’t officially considered by the committee it’s hard to see a team getting an at large bid with a 5-13 conference record or worse. OOC wins vs. Pitt, Auburn, Florida and UAB gave WVU some considerable margin for error, but that safety net is gone now and they need to start winning more games. I think they are still 2 wins away. If they don’t get one of them on their home court against Oklahoma State, they are in a world of trouble with a tough final 3 games. (2/20 Oklahoma State)

11 seeds

61. Florida Atlantic CUSA auto bid (24, 22-3, 14-2) – Took their worst loss of the season on Thursday night dropping one at Middle Tennessee State. The record is still very good, as are the analytics, the owls do have 2 quad 1 wins against Florida and North Texas. They can still afford a CUSA tournament loss for now – but if they lose one more in the regular season, they very likely will need the auto bid. No teams in the top 140 left on the schedule. (2/23 UTSA)

62. Nevada (34, 19-7, 10-4) Lost at Utah State on Saturday. While the Aggies are not in the field right now, that’s still a forgivable loss. Nevada is still 3-5 vs. Quad 1 and really doesn’t have a bad loss. All the remaining 4 would qualify as a bad loss if they were to drop one so it feels like they do need to win out to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday. (2/21 San Jose State)

*63. Memphis (41, 20-6, 10-3) – Memphis has survived all the must win games lately winning 8 of 9 to now get their cracks at Houston to move off the bubble. 2 of the last 5 are against Houston. If they lose both they absolutely must win the other 3. If they can just split against Houston, they have much more margin for error. The 4-1 record OOC vs. the SEC will certainly be a talking point if it comes down to Memphis vs. A&M, Auburn, Mississippi State, Florida, or Kentucky. The biggest issue may be that they just lost their star, Kendric Davis to injury. Unknown how long he will be out but without him it is unlikely they can beat Houston. (Next 2/19 @Houston)

64. Oral Roberts – Summit League auto bid (45, 21-4, 16-0) – ORU has won 12 straight games (22 out of 23) and they don’t have a loss outside of Quad 1. All 4 losses are respectable (St. Mary’s, Houston, Utah State, New Mexico). Just 2 more opportunities in league play to slip up before they clinch a perfect conference record. If they do that, I think there is a really good chance it is enough for an at large and we will be on bid steal watch for each of their Summit League games. (2/23 @South Dakota)

*65. North Carolina (44, 16-10, 8-7) – Tar Heels fall to 0-9 against Quad 1. They have 3 more quad 1 games left @NC State, and home against Virginia and Duke. They are going to have to win at least 1 of them to show they can beat a good team (in addition to winning their can’t lose games @Notre Dame and @ Florida State.) Even with their worst loss being a 1-point loss on their home court to Pitt, at a certain point the losses pile up and if you play in a major conference you have to prove you can do it at least once. The question is…is once good enough? Probably but it will have them as a last 4 in. They need to win 4 out of the last 5 to feel comfortable. (2/19 @NC State)

66. Charleston CAA auto bid (52, 25-3, 14-2) They have taken advantage of lots of losses from other bubble teams to work their way back to the cut line but there is still zero margin for error here. Any tournament loss would be a bad one they need to win out in the regular season to even be in the conversation. Best wins are against Virginia Tech and Kent State. (2/23 Towson)

12 Seeds

*67. Mississippi State (42, 18-9, 6-8) Survived a scare at Ole Miss to hang on to IN status and get to 6-8 in the SEC. The resume looks decent on paper with 3 quad 1 wins (Marquette, @Arkansas, TCU) and no losses to Q3/Q4 but the 6-8 record in the SEC at least raises a few eyebrows. Probably need to win 3 of 4 down the stretch. (2/21 @Mizzou)

*68. USC (57, 19-8, 11-5) Won both the must win games against bad teams on their home floor. They do have 2 quad 3 losses but as of now they have done just enough to sneak in. May need to win 3 of the last 4 to stay in this position however. (2/23 @Colorado)

*Play-in game participants

------------------THE BUBBLE BURSTS HERE------------------

69. New Mexico (48, 19-7, 7-7) – New Mexico looks like they have finally righted the ship winning by 28 at San Jose State. If so it will have come just in time with a trip to Boise State coming and then San Jose State coming to town after that. Before the SJSU win UNM recorded 4 straight losses, including to Air Force, and Wyoming. 4 Quad 3/quad 4 losses on the season. If they get in it will be 2 gem wins on the road @St. Mary’s and @San Diego State. They probably need to add a 3rd gem to their resume by winning one of these next 2, and then win the final 2 games of the season to get an at large. (2/22 @Boise State)

70. Wisconsin (76, 15-11, 7-9) – 3rd straight 1-1 week, the Badgers are doing just enough to stay in the 1st 4 out. They do have 5 quad 1 wins including over USC and Marquette OOC. The NET ranking and analytics are a big issue for them though as is the sheer number of losses if they don’t start having some 2-0 weeks right now. (2/22 Iowa)

71. Oregon (49, 15-12, 9-7) Washington drives a big nail into the duck coffin. I am not as high as others to begin with on this Oregon resume, OOC losses to UC Irvine, and Utah Valley. Just 3-7 vs. quad 1 and the win on their home court vs. Arizona is really the only especially noteworthy win. The biggest issue for Oregon is that there really isn’t an opportunity to move up the rest of the way. The final 4 games come against 11-15 Washington State, 9-16 Oregon State, 3-22 Cal and 11-14 Stanford. Best case scenario is just treading water and hope the rest of the bubble comes back to them a bit. (2/19 @Washington State)

72. Penn State (60, 16-11, 7-9) – Penn State was on life support after the 4-game losing streak, but the upset of Illinois to give them the season streak has given them new life. There still isn’t too much to this resume other than the wins over Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa, they did nothing OOC, so they really need to get to .500 in conference to have a chance. That means winning 3 of their last 4. (2/23 @Ohio State)

73. Clemson (80, 19-8, 11-5) – Clemson took a straight up embarrassing loss which a bubble team just cannot afford to do this time of year. A loss to #324 Louisville, just their 4th win this year and a team that lost to Bellarmine, Wright State, App State & Lipscomb out of conference is just inexcusable. That’s also their 4th loss in 5 games, they have a terrible NET and that’s now their 3rd just horrible loss on the year (also lost to South Carolina and Loyola Chicago. I think its hard to overestimate just how impactful this loss was. They absolutely need to win 3 of their last 4 including a win at NC State. I don’t know if they also need to win at Virginia but they need to do something big now. (2/22 Syracuse)

74. Wake Forest (75, 17-10, 9-7) – Lost at Miami and now the backs are firmly against the wall. The schedule is very manageable down the stretch so if they can get past NC State they do have a pretty decent chance to win out, which is exactly what is needed. (2/22 @NC State)

75. Utah State (35, 20-7, 10-5) Stay alive with a 2-0 week including a win against Nevada, their best of the year. Lost to Weber State and SMU OOC and no quad 1 wins so there is still work to do here despite getting to the magic 20 win mark. Needs to win out, including the finale vs. Boise State and then we will see where they stand. (2/21 @Wyoming)

76. Michigan (65, 15-12, 9-7)- Picked up a critical win over Michigan State on Saturday to stay alive. They do still have 3 quad 1 opportunities left. They are just 3-9 vs. Quad 1 and have a quad 4 loss OOC to Central Michigan. Probably still need to win 3 of the last 4 to get in. 2/23 @Rutgers)

77. North Texas (46, 21-5, 14-3) – Survived an overtime scare and have now won 8 straight. If they can win out all the way until a loss in the championship to FAU, we are talking about a 26-win team…. maybe (2/23 @Charlotte)

78. Oklahoma (63, 13-14, 3-11) Blew a 7 pt lead with 10 minutes to go in Austin and that likely

will be the game they look back on as costing them a chance to be in the mainstream bubble conversation. The win over Alabama in non conference is the gem of this resume that if they can just get to 6 big 12 wins will keep them in the conversation. Can they win 3 of the last 4 to get there? It has to start with a defacto elimination game on their home floor vs. Tech. (2/21 Texas Tech)

79. Texas Tech (54, 15-12, 4-10) – No team has improved their position as much as Texas Tech over the last 3 games beating Kansas State, Texas and going on the road to win at West Virginia. Now with 4 wins in conference after starting 0-8. No bad losses OOC, although the best win was Eastern Washington. Tech still controls their own destiny to play their way in, and they may only need to win 3 of the last 4 to do it. (2/21 @Oklahoma)

80. Arizona State (70, 19-9, 10-7) Took a really bad loss to Colorado but rebounded by beating Utah. Now they have maybe the most challenging finishing stretches in the country with all 3 of their final games on the road @Arizona, @UCLA and @USC and they may need to win all 3. The loss to Texas Southern is a killer in OOC considering they haven’t really done much in conference other than a win at Oregon. They did beat Creighton. (2/25 @Arizona)

81. Virginia Tech (62, 16-11, 6-10) Beat Pitt on Saturday to stay alive. They still need to win out to get into consideration since they have 4 total losses vs. quad 3/4 and still only 2 quad 1 wins. (2/21 Miami)

82. Bradley (66, 19-8, 13-4) – The problem here is that they are 0-4 in Quad 1 and have no more chances. Very unlikely even if they win out. They have won 7 in a row to stay in very fringe contention. (2/19 @Southern Illinois)

83. Kent State MAC auto bid? (55, 20-5, 12-2) Needs to win out to be in the conversation and even then, it’s a conversation that probably starts and ends with zero quad 1 wins. Won their last 4 to stay somewhat relevant. (Next 2/21 @Ball State)

84. Dayton A10 Auto bid? (74, 18-9, 10-4) The only A10 team with any shot at an at large is Dayton. Won 3 in a row and 5 of 6 but the 4 quad 3 losses are probably too many to overcome given they have 0 quad 1 wins. If they can win out they may be in the conversation but there is likely not a good win left that will boost this profile up to serious consideration territory. (2/22 @UMass)

85. Drake (72, 21-6, 13-4) – if you are going to have Bradley and Dayton here you might as well have Drake, the 2nd team from the MVC. They at least have a Q1 win beating Mississippi State on a neutral court and may have a chance to add a 2nd one by winning on the road at Bradley at the end of the yar. Won 8 straight. (2/19 Belmont)

86. Florida (53, 14-13, 7-7) Lost 4 of their last 5 and were not competitive against Arkansas with Castleton out of the lineup. Absolutely must win each of the last 4 to be in the conversation. (2/22 Kentucky)

87. Tulane (85, 17-7, 10-3) - Winners of 5 straight including at Memphis. 5-3 in Q1 and Q2. The 3 Q3 losses are a killer. Now they have earned a chance to play a meaningful game at Houston. If they can pull that upset obviously they shoot up this board. Any more losses obviously eliminates them. (2/22 @Houston)

88. Seton Hall (69, 15-12, 9-8) Lost 3 of their last 4 and absolutely running out of chances. 3 good quad 1 wins over UConn, Rutgers, and Memphis but the loss to Siena is a black mark on the resume and the record just flat out isn’t good enough when playing in the 2023 version of the Big East. If they win out they may get back into the conversation but looks like they will need the auto bid. (2/24 Xavier)

89. Utah (59, 17-11, 10-7). The 0-2 week during their trip to the state of Arizona probably dooms the Utes to the NIT. Just 1-7 against quad 1 and lost to Sam Houston OOC and their best win OOC was against Saint Thomas. Needs to win out and then do a lot of scoreboard watching (2/23 UCLA)

Eliminated Since Last Edition:

· Southern Miss (2/16 Lost to South Alabama)

· UCF (2/16 Lost to Memphis)

· Ohio State (2/16 Lost to Iowa)

· Saint John’s (2/18 Lost to Creighton)

· Colorado (2/18 Lost to Arizona)


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