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Bubble Watch: 2/23/23

Projecting the NCAA Basketball Tournament field of 68

Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Next Update Sunday 2/26

What an unbelievable roll these Aggies are on. Texas A&M continues to play like one of the very best teams in the country over the last 2 months. The word gritty doesn’t even come close to being a good enough word to describe the character of this team. I for one am not getting at all tired of all this winning we have been doing lately and look forward to the roll continuing.

This will still be titled – “bubble watch” and will still be a focus on what teams in the national picture need to do to get in, but make no mistake about it – Texas A&M is a 100% lock into the tournament. Even if we were to lose the next 3 games in noncompetitive fashion and wash out in the SEC Tournament, it is not even a discussion on Selection Sunday. The team has earned the right to be in and is too far above the teams after the bubble cut line to be in any danger of missing the tournament. It is all about playing for seeding now. How much does seeding matter? Well, consider the last 35 years of data for how often seeds advance to the respective rounds:

Seed (% advancing to round of 32, % advancing to Sweet 16)

3 (85%, 52%)

4 (79%, 47%)

5 (64%, 34%)

6 (62%, 29%)

7 (61%,19%)

8 (49%, 10%)

9 (51%, 5%)

10 (39%, 16%)

This team is sort of a throw the percentages out the window type group but…yes seeding does matter in terms of matchups and avoiding unfavorable locations. (Avoiding Kansas in Des Moines and Purdue in Columbus, and instead getting Marquette in Albany). Given that, we will bring back the more detailed writeups of the teams that A&M is closely in range of after the next update.

So, what about the rest of the bubble? Well, you can probably say goodbye to teams like Oregon, Virginia Tech, Florida and a host of others. Also, A&M wasn’t the only bubble candidate to clinch their bid as there were almost 10 others that have now officially done enough to be considered locks. With that, the bubble picture comes into much clearer focus for how many teams are really in play for those precious last few spots. Let’s get into it the 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, 65) – will get some consideration for an at large but not likely.
  2. Atlantic Sun – (Liberty, 45) despite the NET – 0 Q1 wins, 1Q2 Win (Bradley) – no chance
  3. Big Sky (Montana State, 106)
  4. Big South (UNC Asheville, 147)
  5. Big West – (UC Irvine, 86)
  6. America East (Vermont, 128)
  7. Horizon (Youngstown State, 113)
  8. Ivy – (Yale, 69)
  9. MAC - (Kent State, 63)
  10. MAAC – (Iona, 68)
  11. MEAC (Norfolk State, 175)
  12. MVC (Bradley, 58) – another maybe .1% chance at an at large
  13. Northeast (Fairleigh Dickinson, 301)
  14. Ohio Valley (SIUE, 221)
  15. Patriot (Colgate, 99)
  16. Southland (Texas A&M – Corpus Christi, 180)
  17. Southern (Furman, 92)
  18. Sun Belt – (Marshall, 73)
  19. SWAC (Grambling State, 202)
  20. WAC - Sam Houston State (59)

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.

$ = Lock

1 seeds

21. $Alabama SEC auto bid

22. $Kansas Big 12 auto bid

23. $Houston AAC auto bid

24. $Purdue Big Ten auto bid

2 seeds

25. $Texas

26. $Arizona Pac 12 auto bid

27. $UCLA

28. $Kansas State

3 seeds

29. $Baylor

30. $Tennessee

31. $Marquette Big East auto bid

32. $Virginia ACC auto bid

4 seeds

33. $Indiana

34. $Iowa State

35. $Gonzaga WCC Auto bid

36. $UConn

5 seeds

37. $Xavier

38. $Miami

39. $St. Mary’s

40. $Northwestern

6 seeds

41. $San Diego State MWC auto bid

42. Creighton (14, 18-10, 12-5) I am still hesitant to move Creighton to lock territory after they took another loss. The reason why is mainly due to their schedule remaining. They have Villanova, Georgetown and DePaul left. If they were to somehow collapse and take on a Q2, Q3 and Q4 loss to finish with 14 losses, I think that 6 game losing streak comes back up in conversation and they may not be completely safe. That being said….no I don’t really think it’s realistic that they actually lose to all 3 (and potentially not any) of their remaining games. (2/25 @Villanova)

43. $Illinois

44. $TCU

7 seeds

45. $Michigan State

46. $Texas A&M (23, 21-7, 13-2) – After notching their biggest win of the season, Texas A&M is officially playing as one of the very best teams in the country over the last 2 months. With even an average OOC, a 3 or even a 2 seed would be very much in play. As stated in the opening to this article – Texas A&M is a 100% lock into the tournament. Even if A&M is noncompetitive in 3 losses the rest of the way and washes out in the SEC tournament, there is no scenario where it is a possibility that A&M misses the tournament. From this point on, the rest of the season is about improving seeding as much as possible. I still maintain that looking at the profiles of the teams on the top couple of seed lines, I think a 4 seed is the absolute ceiling of how high this resume can go. The math to get there: 3-0 (5 seed), 2-1 (7 seed), 1-2 (8 seed), 0-3 (10 seed). And then with the SEC tournament, winning the tournament may raise the seed by 1 entire line, taking a bad loss in the 1st game may drop the NCAA seed by 1 seed line. And anything in between those extremes likely keeps us as maintaining status quo through tournament week. The best part of this latest win? Texas A&M still controls its own destiny to win the SEC going into the last 3 games, here’s to hoping I can keep that fun little line in through the next update after the game at Mississippi State. (2/25 @Mississippi State)

47. $Maryland

48. $Duke

8 seeds

49. Providence (38, 20-8, 12-5) Blown out by Uconn on Wednesday but they are still in great shape with no bad losses and a handful of nice wins in conference. Just need 1 more win to secure their bid and several more good opportunities to get it. (2/26 @Georgetown)

50. 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)

51. Missouri (51, 20-8, 8-7) – Mizzou gutted out an overtime win against Mississippi State to breathe a little bit easier. They now have 3 of the worst teams in the SEC remaining (@Georgia, @LSU, Ole Miss). Given that schedule I think they need to win 2 out of 3 to really secure their place, these would be bad losses at this point in the season and I don’t think they can afford multiple. The wins over Tennessee in conference play and Illinois and Iowa State OOC are carrying them. (2/25 @Georgia)

52. $NC State – LOCKED in due to only 2 games left and neither would be a bad loss.

9 seeds

53. Arkansas (16, 19-9, 8-7) – 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 8-7 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 it may come down to needing to protect home court and knock off Kentucky to end the year. It will be an uncomfortable last week if they lose all the remaining 3 games. (2/25 @Alabama)

54. Kentucky (35, 19-9, 10-5) – The roll continues for Kentucky after being left for dead after the Georgia game. Won at Miss. State, then beat Tennessee and now finish off the Gators on the road. Still need 1 more to officially get in. Now 5 quad 1 wins to erase that bad quad 4 loss to South Carolina. (2/25 Auburn)

55. Iowa (41, 17-11, 9-8) I continually have been unimpressed with Iowa and their inability to win away from home. Just 3-7 on the road now with 2 more neutral curt losses. In OOC they lost to #339 Eastern Illinois on their home court. They did beat Iowa State, Seton Hall, and Clemson OOC but only 1 of those still looks like a tournament team. I think the Hawkeyes are in a bit more danger than many bracketologist do. They do have 6 quad 1 wins, but I think they need another victory to feel secure and wouldn’t be able to absorb a loss to Nebraska and still get in. (2/25 Michigan State)

56. Auburn (30, 19-9, 9-6) – Auburn avoided the major upset vs. Ole Miss but is still just 3-7 in the last 10. No bad losses is still the best thing going for this resume. But the good wins are seriously lacking. The best road win all year is over Washington. The schedule down the stretch @Kentucky, @Alabama, Tennessee is brutal, so its possible they could lose all 3 and still be in, but I think they are headed to Dayton if they do. (2/25 @Kentucky)

10 seeds

57. Boise State (24, 21-6, 12-3) – Boise State added probably their 2nd best win of the year (after the win over A&M). Broncos are on a roll now in the MWC and probably the 2nd safest team (after SDSU) in what might be a 4 bid league. The last 3 games won’t be easy, they really need to win at San Jose State because they will likely be underdogs in the last 2 against San Diego State and at Utah State. They have a quad 3 and a quad 4 loss OOC in November to South Dakota State and Charlotte. Probably need a 2-1 finish to feel safely in. (2/25 @San Jose State)

58. Pitt (53, 20-8, 13-4) – Won 7 of 8. Didn’t do much OOC outside of a win at Northwestern but in ACC play they have wins over Virginia, UNC (twice) and Miami. The loss on their home court to Florida State is a stinker. I would say Pitt is still 1 more win away from being completely comfortable, and with their schedule they have a couple of prime opportunities left. (Next: 2/25 Syracuse)

59. West Virginia (26, 16-12, 5-10) WVU protected home court vs. Oklahoma state to inch closer to feeling secure and move the conference record up to 5-10. Even with a productive OOC beating Pitt, Auburn, Florida and UAB, it feels like 5-13 in league play would be pushing it and asking for an NIT bid, so they probably need 1 more to feel like they are in. Where does that win come? Might be tough to get it (@Kansas, @Iowa State, Kansas State). (2/25 @Kansas)

60. Florida Atlantic CUSA auto bid (21, 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)

11 seeds

61. Nevada (32, 20-7, 11-4) 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 3 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. (2/24 @Fresno State)

62. Memphis (40, 20-7, 10-4) – Memphis was without star PG Kendric Davis when they travelled to Houston and couldn’t get it done. Still, they are clearly the 2nd best AAC team, have for the most part beaten the teams they should beat and even went 4-1 vs. the SEC OOC. They absolutely need to win all the rest of the can’t lose games the rest of the way and then they end the season at home with another shot vs. Memphis. Unknown if they actually need to win that game or not. (Next 2/23 @Witchita State)

63. *Oklahoma St (42, 16-12, 7-8) It has been a roller coaster season for the Pokes. They went from out of the field to a 5-game winning streak and firmly in as an 8/9 seed. Now after 3 straight losses (vs. quality competition) they are back very much in danger territory. Given that they really didn’t do much OOC (best win by far is against Sam Houston State) they probably need to go 8-10 in a difficult Big 12 to feel totally secure. So, which one of the last 3 can they get to get over the hump? That might be tricky (K State, Baylor, @Tech). Wouldn’t be surprised to see them ultimately lose their last 6 and be on the outside looking in when the Big 12 tournament starts. (2/25 Kansas State)

64. Oral Roberts – Summit League auto bid (44, 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 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. Charleston CAA auto bid (54, 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)

66. *USC (55, 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)

67. *Wisconsin (78, 16-11, 8-9) – Got the much needed win over Iowa to move back to the right side of the bubble…. for now… The wins OOC over USC and Marquette may be the saving grace at the end of the day but their NET ranking and analytics are a big issue for them. Really need to collect a road win coming up in Ann Arbor (2/26 @Michigan)

68. *Mississippi State (43, 18-10, 6-9) Bulldogs took the gutwrenching overtime loss at Missouri on Tuesday night. That loss drops them to 6-9 in the SEC. The resume looks okayish with 3 quad 1 wins (Marquette, @Arkansas, TCU) and no losses to Q3/Q4 but the 6-9 record in the SEC at least raises a few eyebrows. They may still be in for now, but if they drop another game to finish below .500 in the SEC (and below non tournament teams Vanderbilt and Florida…and maybe even Georgia) they are giving the committee all the reason in the world to keep them out. (2/25 Texas A&M)

*Play In game Participants

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

69. North Carolina (48, 17-11, 9-8) – UNC survived what would have been an at large hopes ender by squeaking by Notre Dame in a game they trailed throughout. Still 0-9 against Quad 1. At least they haven’t lost any really bad ones and have remained perfect against quad 3 and 4. If they win out that means adding 2 quad 1 wins to the resume by beating Duke and Virginia, and in my opinion would have them comfortably in. The questions will come if they just get 1 of them, can they play their way in with the ACC Tournament or not. (2/25 Virginia)

70. New Mexico (47, 19-8, 7-8) – New Mexico missed a golden opportunity for a quad 1 win at Boise State. They get another chance now with San Diego State. With 3 Quad 3 losses plus a quad 4 loss they are now in must win territory. Despite their great earlier season wins on the road @St. Mary’s and @San Diego State, I just can’t see New Mexico getting in unless they win each of their last 3. (2/25 San Diego State)

71. Texas Tech (49, 16-12, 5-10) – No team has improved their position as much as Texas Tech over the last 4 games beating Kansas State, Texas and going on the road to win at West Virginia and at Oklahoma. Now with 5 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 2 of the last 3 to do it considering the daunting schedule. (2/25 TCU)

72. Utah State (33, 21-7, 11-5) Won 3 in a row to stay alive. This is one that to me the NET ranking seems a bit odd for. After all they lost OOC to Weber State and SMU and are 0-4 vs. quad 1. They do have a lot of “nice” wins that are in that quad 2 range. If they can win each of their last 2 contest, and the last one is a quad 1 opportunity vs. Boise State, they will definitely be in the conversation for an at large. I do not think they get there without winning both. (3/1 @UNLV)

73. North Texas (45, 21-5, 14-3) – It is time to start taking a UNT at large bid seriously after they have won 8 straight, and their metrics are trending towards tournament team. If they can win out all the way until a loss in the championship to FAU, we are talking about a team with 26 wins on Selection Sunday. (2/23 @Charlotte)

74. Penn State (58, 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)

75. Clemson (82, 20-8, 12-5) – Beat Syracuse to stay in contention. They won’t be able to get away from the 3 terrible quad 4 losses on the resume vs. Louisville, South Carolina and Loyola Chicago. And then add in a loss to Boston College for good measure. When you have those kind of losses, the nice conference record gets a lot more scrutiny and wins over Duke, Pitt, NC State and Virginia Tech is just nowhere near good enough to erase those bad losses. Probably need to win out, which won’t be easy with games left at NC State and at Virginia. (2/25 @NC State)

76. Michigan (62, 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. Arizona State (69, 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)

78. Bradley MVC Auto Bid? (60, 21-8, 15-4) – 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 9 in a row to stay in very fringe contention. (2/26 Drake)

79. Dayton A10 Auto bid? (75, 19-9, 11-4) The only A10 team with any shot at an at large is Dayton. Won 4 in a row but the 2 quad 3 losses plus a quad 4 are probably too many to overcome. The win at VCU did just barely sneak into Quad 1 territory but there still isn’t much to this resume. (2/25 George Mason)

80. Drake (71, 23-6, 15-4) – 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 year. Won 10 straight. (2/26 @Bradley)

81. Seton Hall (70, 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)

82. Utah (56, 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)

83. Oregon (50, 15-13, 9-8) Count me in the camp that has no idea why Oregon is still getting the attention they are. At no time were they in the field of 68 and they have proceeded to lose their last 3 games to UCLA, Washington and Washington State. They are just 3-8 vs. Quad 1, went 6-5 non-conference, losing to UC Irvine and Utah Valley, and haven’t really done anything notable in conference play other than the win on their home court vs. Arizona. And all they have left on their schedule is 9-18 Oregon State, 3-24 Cal and 11-16 Stanford. In other words, 3 teams that even the worst NIT at large teams should not struggle with. I see absolutely no realistic path for them to work their way into the field. (2/25 @Oregon State)

84. Oklahoma (72, 13-15, 3-12) Keeping them on the list only because of the opportunity they still have in front of them. If they could find a way to win each of their last 3 @Iowa State, @Kansas State, and TCU, to get to 6 conference wins, plus the win over Alabama OOC, I still think they are in. Anything short of that miracle however and its auto bid or bust come Big 12 tournament time. (2/25 @Iowa State)

Eliminated Since Last Edition:

· Virginia Tech (2/21 Lost to Miami)

· Kent State (2/21 Lost to Ball State)

· Florida (2/22 Lost to Kentucky)

· Tulane (2/22 Lost to Houston)

· Wake Forest (2/22 Lost to NC State)


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