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Bubble Watch: 2/26/23

Projecting the NCAA Basketball Tournament field of 68

Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Next Update Wednesday Morning 3/1 (Future Updates in the AM of: Saturday 3/4, Monday 3/6, Thursday 3/9, Saturday 3/10, Selection Sunday 3/11 – FULL BRACKET REVEAL with locations and matchups)

Only 14 days until Selection Sunday! Note – while the next full update won’t be until 3/1, going forward there will be a nightly mini update posted in the comments section each night after the basketball is done.

The winning streak has come to an end after probably the worst 10-minute stretch in conference play left A&M on the short end. So how much should you freak out about a potential drop back to the bubble? None. That was a quad 1 game, on the road vs. a team fighting for their lives. These things happen. Texas A&M is still very much a lock, and in fact several teams behind them in the pecking order are also locks. It does probably end the dreams of a 5 seed or higher. There is still a lot to play for with the realistic seeding possibilities anywhere from a 6-10 seed. Why am I so confident? Well lets compare our “body of work” / resume to those currently around where we are, in addition to where the bubble teams are.

Saturday was a wild day on the bubble with several teams reaching lock status (Iowa, Kentucky), some being eliminated (Seton Hall, Dayton) and several more solidifying their positions (Mississippi State, USC) or getting closer to playing their way in (UNC, Clemson, Arizona State). All in all it was a day that strengthened the bubble with most teams around the cut line notching big wins.

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

This will start to come into even greater focus very soon – conference tournaments actually start tomorrow with the Atlantic Sun up first. Once teams start getting locked in this column will begin to project the 12 through 16 seed lines.

Conference (Projected Champ, Current Net)

  1. A10 (VCU, 69)
  2. Atlantic Sun – (Liberty, 41) despite the NET – 0 Q1 wins, 1Q2 Win (Bradley) – no chance
  3. Big Sky (Montana State, 107)
  4. Big South (UNC Asheville, 140)
  5. Big West – (UC Irvine, 96)
  6. America East (Vermont, 120)
  7. Horizon (Youngstown State, 114)
  8. Ivy – (Yale, 63)
  9. MAC - (Kent State, 66)
  10. MAAC – (Iona, 67)
  11. MEAC (Norfolk State, 169)
  12. MVC (Bradley, 61) – maybe 1% chance at an at large
  13. Northeast (Wagner, 303)
  14. Ohio Valley (Morehead State, 221)
  15. Patriot (Colgate, 98)
  16. Southland (Texas A&M – Corpus Christi, 194)
  17. Southern (Furman, 88)
  18. Sun Belt – (Marshall, 76)
  19. SWAC (Grambling State, 195)
  20. WAC - Sam Houston State (60)

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. $UCLA Pac 12 auto bid

2 seeds

25. $Purdue Big Ten auto bid

26. $Texas

27. $Kansas State

28. $Baylor

3 seeds

29. $Arizona

30. $Tennessee

31. $Marquette Big East auto bid

32. Indiana

4 seeds

33. $Gonzaga WCC Auto bid

34. $UConn

35. $Xavier

36. $Iowa State

5 seeds

37. $Virginia ACC auto bid

38. $Miami

39. $St. Mary’s

40. $Northwestern

6 seeds

41. $San Diego State MWC auto bid

42. $TCU

43. $Illinois

44. $Duke

7 seeds

45. $Michigan State

46. Creighton (16, 18-11, 12-6) I am yet again refusing to move Creighton to a lock after they dropped their 3rd in the last 4 games. They are still solidly a middle of the pack seed, but based on their form and with 2 horrible teams left (Georgetown and Depaul) if they somehow dropped them both, then they would be in some trouble at 13 losses, including a 6-5 mark in the non conference. That being said….no I don’t really think it’s realistic that they actually lose both, but keeping them in this status just in case. (3/1 Georgetown)

47. $Maryland

48. $Texas A&M (26, 21-8, 13-3) – The winning streak had to end sometime, I guess. This one ends on the road to a quad 1 opponent playing for their tournament lives and ultimately doesn’t hurt much, other than missing a chance to continue to climb up the seed lines and of course, potentially costing the chance at an SEC Championship. In terms of the bubble though? These things happen, we will momentarily slide back a couple of spots, but hang on as the last 7 seed. With just 2 games left, A&M maintains a very firm lock status. @Ole Miss is still a game we absolutely should win against a reeling team, but should Ole Miss win, they will move back into a Quad 2 status, and of course Alabama to end the year, is as of right now projected to be the #1 overall seed. If we lost to Ole Miss we absolutely will fall back a couple of seed lines. A loss to Alabama doesn’t hurt. There just aren’t enough games left to be in any real danger. On the plus side – a win against Ole Miss doesn’t really do much, expect to stay a 7 seed. A win over Alabama on the other hand and you can expect a bump up of at least a full seed line. This is why I say in the intro to this article, the realistic seeding possibilities are anywhere from a 6 to a 10 seed. And yes, the conference tournament would potentially afford an opportunity to move up another entire seed line also – so MAYBE a 5 seed is still in play by winning the next 5 games but we now need a bit of help to get there. (2/28 @Ole Miss)

8 seeds

49. $Kentucky

50. Providence (39, 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 with Georgetown up next it’s the perfect opportunity to do so. (2/26 @Georgetown)

51. $Iowa

52. Missouri (49, 21-8, 9-7) – Great blow out win at Georgia to inch one step closer to locking up their bid. I almost feel comfortable moving them to a lock, but given the last 2 are @LSU and home against Ole Miss, I am going to wait until they get 1 more since taking a couple of quad 3 losses in March is never a good idea. The wins over Tennessee in conference play and Illinois and Iowa State OOC are carrying them. (3/1 @LSU)

9 seeds

53. $NC State – Blown out on their home court vs. a Clemson team that is still on the outside looking in was not a good look. Still, they only have 1 game left @Duke, and in my mind they do not have to win that to secure their bid, so they remain a LOCK for me.

54. Arkansas (14, 19-10, 8-8) – Blew a big opportunity to punch their ticket by losing at Alabama. Now at just 8-8 in the SEC it feels like they still need 1 more to get in. Assuming they lose @Tennessee, it sets up for a massive showdown to end the season vs. Kentucky. (2/28 @Tennessee)

55. Rutgers (35, 17-11, 9-8) – Rutgers has now lost 4 of their last 5. Their best OOC win is against a Wake Forest team that likely won’t make the tournament. Take away their win at Purdue and Rutgers is probably on the outside looking in right now….but that’s not how this works, they did win that game and in doing so they are still fairly safe. So long as they win just 1 more game they will be a lock. (2/26 @Penn State)

56. Pitt (52, 21-8, 14-4) – Won 8 of 9. I think Pitt has almost certainly done enough even if they don’t notch another win. The next game at Notre Dame makes me a little bit nervous of taking a quad 3 loss though. My gut is saying to lock them up, but if they do lose out they are probably headed to Dayton. (Next: 3/1 @Notre Dame)

10 seeds

57. Nevada (30, 21-7, 12-4) Bounced back with a 2-0 week when they needed it. 2 more games left to end the year that they should be big favorites for. Assuming they win both of those you can go ahead and put Nevada into your bracket. A loss to either could be devastating however. (2/27 @Wyoming)

58. Florida Atlantic CUSA auto bid (19, 24-3, 16-2) – FAU looked refocused and back to their winning ways this week after taking their worst loss of the season to Middle Tennessee State the week before. 2 blowout wins over UTSA and UTEP. They head on the road to take on 2 more can’t lose games @Rice and @La Tech, if they can win both of those it feels like they will be able to absorb any conference tournament loss. (3/2 @Rice)

59. Memphis (38, 21-7, 11-4) – Bounced back to score a road quad 2 win. They absolutely must win their next 2 against Cincinnati and at SMU. It feels like if they take care of business there, they won’t necessarily need to beat Houston in the finale (or in the conference tournament). Certainly, doing so would move them to lock territory though. 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. (Next 2/26 Cincinnati)

60. USC (45, 21-8, 13-5) Huge 2-0 week on the road, have now won 4 in a row and 8 of the last 10. They now return home for the last 2 games of the year vs. the Arizona schools. Just working a split would be more than enough to feel safely in. (3/2 Arizona)

11 seeds

61. West Virginia (27, 16-13, 5-11) Losers of 4 out of 5 to fall to 5-11 in conference. Even with a good OOC beating Pitt, Auburn, Florida and UAB it feels like 5-13 in the Big 12 (and potentially last place) is just asking for too much grace from the committee. That said, if they can just find a way to get one more, which will be their 5th quad 1, I think they are ok. (2/27 @IowaState)

62. Auburn (36, 19-11, 9-8) – Completely non competitive in their blow out loss at Kentucky on Saturday. I got a few eyebrow raises when I said in January that this team ranked #15 at the time was going to be sweating on Selection Sunday. Well they are just 3-7 since that time, and it is really difficult to pick out the top end quality wins. They did beat Arkansas and they beat Northwestern OOC but…..that’s it. Their best road win all year is at Washington. The last 2 games to end the year? @Alabama and vs. Tennessee. If they lose both they are in serious trouble. (3/1 @Alabama)

63. *Boise State (29, 21-7, 12-4) – Boise State follows up their big win over New Mexico with a flat performance and an overtime loss to San Jose State in overtime. Now they are getting dangerously close to the cut line and they will likely be underdogs in their final 2 regular season games against San Diego State and at Utah State. Feels like 2-0 is safely in, 0-2 is out and 1-1 probably in but leaves it in the hands of the conference tournament and ultimately the selection committee. (2/28 San Diego State)

64. Oral Roberts – Summit League auto bid (44, 23-4, 18-0) – Finished Summit League play a perfect 18-0. All 4 losses are respectable to quad 1 opponents on the road (@St. Mary’s, @Houston, @Utah State, @New Mexico). Not enough ink is being written about the possibility of a 2 bid Summit League. I think it is going to be extremely hard to keep ORU out if they take their 1st bad loss of the season in the conference tournament. Especially considering the tournament is being played on the home court of the conference #2 seed. All bubble teams should be watching the Summit League Tournament very closely and cheering for 3 more wins for Oral Roberts. (3/4 Summit League Quarterfinals Denver/North Dakota)

65. Charleston CAA auto bid (53, 27-3, 16-2) Charleston is in a similar position to Oral Roberts with the potential for a 2 bid CAA league. Charleston only had 1 quad 1 game, and they lost it at North Carolina. Their other 2 losses are @Hofstra and to Drexel, but they only have 3 losses to ORU’s 4. Hofstra is also a much more formidable 2nd team in the conference than South Dakota State for ORU. These 2 leagues are 2 and 2a in terms of bid stealing possibilities (with Florida Atlantic in the CUSA still representing the biggest threat). (3/5 CAA Quarterfinals NC A&T/Stony Brook)

66. *Wisconsin (70, 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)

67. *Mississippi State (40, 19-10, 7-9) With their backs against the wall and facing a must win, the Bulldogs did just enough to get the win over A&M, collect their 4th quad 1 win and stay on the right side of the bubble. Feels like given the level of competition they still need each of their last 2 against South Carolina and @Vanderbilt to get to .500 in conference. (2/28 South Carolina)

68. *Oklahoma St (46, 16-13, 7-9) The roller coaster continues for the Pokes. Didn’t do anything OOC other than beating Sam Houston State, and started Big 12 play 1-4. Then won 5 straight to get on the verge of lock status. Now riding a 4 game losing streak. It feels like they just need 1 more to get in, but they will likely be underdogs in each of their last 2 games. They may have work to do in the Big 12 tournament. (2/27 Baylor)

*Play In game Participants

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

69. North Carolina (47, 18-11, 10-8) – North Carolina got their biggest (and maybe only big) win of the season on Saturday by beating Virginia. That brings them to 1-9 vs. Quad 1 competition. The good news is that there really are not any bad losses here. They absolutely need to win out, including the regular season finale vs. Duke to have a chance. That is shaping up to be a monster game for the Heels. (2/27 @Florida State)

70. Penn State (56, 17-11, 8-9) – Penn State was on life support after the 4-game losing streak, but has won their last two, upsetting Illinois and now beating Ohio State. PSU did sweep Illinois, in addition to beating Indiana and Iowa on their home court but didn’t really do much OOC. They need to be .500 in conference to have a realistic chance, which means winning 2 of their last 3. (2/26 Rutgers)

71. Utah State (32, 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)

72. Clemson (58, 21-8, 13-5) – I had 2/25 circled as the date to eliminate Clemson. The Tigers had other plans, blowing out NC State on the road for their 4th quad 1 win. The issue for the Tigers is 4 just terrible losses to Louisville, South Carolina, Loyola Chicago and Boston College. Wins over Duke, Pitt, NC State (x2) and Virginia Tech are nice but they don’t balance out those losses yet. Another very difficult road game coming up at Virginia. (2/28 @Virginia)

73. Arizona State (59, 20-9, 11-7) Miracle 3/4 length buzzer beater to win at Arizona on Saturday and keep their season alive. 2 more brutally hard games left @UCLA and @USC to finish the year and given it seems everyone else around them won this week, they may still need to win both of them to get in. The loss to Texas Southern is a killer in OOC. (3/2 @UCLA)

74. Michigan (55, 16-12, 10-7)- In their last 2 games beating Michigan State and winning at Rutgers they have picked up a quad 1 win and a high quad 2. Feels like another must win game against Wisconsin and then from there would a split on the road against Illinois and Indiana be enough? I think so, but it will be close. They are just 3-10 vs. Quad 1 and have a quad 4 loss OOC to Central Michigan (2/26 Wisconsin)

75. Bradley MVC Auto Bid? (61, 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)

76. Drake (62, 23-6, 15-4) – if you are going to have Bradley 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)

77. Texas Tech (54, 16-13, 5-11) – The Red Raiders lost a heart breaker to TCU to end their miraculous 4 game winning streak over really good competition. They still don’t have any bad losses, although they didn’t play anyone OOC and their best win was Eastern Washington. That may ultimately be their downfall (well that and starting Big 12 play 0-8). I still think they have an opportunity to play their way in by winning each of the next 2, but having a must win @Kansas is not an enviable position to be in. (2/28 @Kansas)

78. Oregon (50, 16-13, 10-8) 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 3-24 Cal and 11-16 Stanford. In other words, 2 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 but I will keep them here in case the bubble just collapses. (3/2 Cal)

79. Oklahoma (65, 14-15, 4-12) Blowing out a 4/5 seed on the road is a heck of a statement, especially when it is your 5th quad 1 win. Yes they are last place in the Big 12, yes the record is atrocious…but show me where the bad losses are. To Villanova on a neutral court? Vs. Oklahoma State? They still need to get over .500 overall, which means winning each of the last 2 – but if they can do it this is a team that could come out of nowhere to play their way in. (3/1 @Kansas State)

80. New Mexico (48, 19-9, 7-9) – It looks like the lobos have finally played their way all the way out of contention. Losers of 6 of their last 7 and sitting at just 7-9 in the MWC it doesn’t really look like there is a path to an at large, despite the 2 great earlier wins @St. Mary’s and @San Diego State. Just way too many bad losses here. Keeping them on the list for now, but they need to win their last 2, plus make a deep tournament run plus hope for a lot of help to even get back in the conversation. (2/28 Fresno State)

Eliminated Since Last Edition:

  • North Texas (2/23 Lost to Charlotte)
  • Utah (2/23 Lost to UCLA)
  • Seton Hall (2/24 Lost to Xavier)
  • Dayton (2/25 Lost to George Mason)

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