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Bubble Watch: 2/5/23

Projecting the NCAA Basketball Tournament field of 68

Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Next Update Sunday 2/12

Texas A&M held serve this week by winning their must-win game on Saturday against Georgia but missing their opportunity to significantly change their resume with a midweek loss at Arkansas. So, what does that mean for where they stand? Well, we always say that the formula for “how many wins is needed” is not determined in a vacuum and the shift in the Aggies standing had more to do with how teams around them fared this week than anything.

The good news? The chance for those typical mid major “bid stealers” that shrink the bubble by a couple spots each year look less and less likely to occur in 2023. Charleston, once 21-1 and cruising, lost 2 in a row and has a NET of 69, Kent State, with a NET in the mid-30s 2 weeks ago took their 2nd conference loss and now sits at 65. Florida Atlantic took a 2nd loss and while they are still in for now, factoring in a conference tournament loss would fall dangerously close to being left out. Even the A10 which is traditionally good for a couple of bids each year doesn’t have any contenders in the top 70.

So, what’s the bad news? Well, the benefits of playing in a major conference is teams can very quickly improve their resume, and we saw a whole lot of that over the last couple games with teams like Pitt, West Virginia, and Oklahoma State (along with mid major Nevada) drastically improve their resume notching multiple high-quality wins.

This is why we say it will all work itself out, teams that we think are tightly bunched with A&M around #68 now, may be well in or well out by the time Selection Sunday rolls around. That’s why it is best to not get too hung up on trying to compare where our resume stands against Oklahoma State for example (over the next eight weeks it will probably be clear who is in and who is not), but instead take this as a general guide for around where teams stand and how much work is needed with a month of the regular season still to go.

As always, let’s 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 (VCU, 78) - maybe a .1% chance at an at large that you can read about after the bubble burst line.
  2. Atlantic Sun – (Liberty, 49) –Took a 2nd damaging conference loss on Saturday losing to #186 Lipscomb and that will take them out of consideration for an at large should they lose again in the conference tournament.
  3. Big Sky (Montana State, 100)
  4. Big South (Radford, 151)
  5. Big West – UC Irvine (90)
  6. Colonial (Charleston, 62) - Charleston possibly has a chance to work their way back into at large contention (tracked after the bubble burst line) but they now have ZERO margin for error.
  7. America East (Vermont, 136)
  8. Horizon (Youngstown State, 113)
  9. Ivy – (Yale, 65)
  10. MAC - (Kent State, 63) - Once a legit at large threat, Kent State taking their 2nd conference loss will eliminate them with no quad 1 OR quad 2 wins (and no more chances at a Quad 1 win
  11. MAAC – (Iona, 76)
  12. MEAC (Norfolk State, 180)
  13. MVC (Bradley, 72) maybe a .1% chance at an at large that you can read about after the bubble burst line.
  14. Northeast (Fairleigh Dickinson, 301)
  15. Ohio Valley (SIUE, 191)
  16. Patriot (Colgate, 111)
  17. Southland (Northwestern State, 175)
  18. Southern (Furman, 88)
  19. Summit – Oral Roberts (38) - Represents the biggest bid stolen threat. If ORU wins out, the bubble really needs them to win the conference tournament, or this absolutely could be a 2-bid league. For now, Oral Roberts is tracked just outside the bubble burst line.
  20. Sun Belt – (Southern Miss, 59) maybe a .1% chance at an at large that you can read about after the bubble burst line.
  21. SWAC (Grambling State, 215)
  22. WAC - Sam Houston State (60) – Finally took the really damaging loss we all knew was coming against #291 UTA on Saturday which eliminates them from any at large consideration.

And just like that we are down to 10 conferences battling for 46 spots.

Multi-bid conference/at-large seeds

For the other 10 conferences, they each have a team that as of right now would make the field and get an at large if necessary. Their conference leader (in NET, for now) will be counted as their auto bid and will be bolded. Eight leagues are almost certainly multi-bid no matter what (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, Big East, MWC, Pac 12, and WCC)

The last 2 conferences (AC – Houston, CUSA – FAU) as of right now have one team solidly IN – if they win their conference tournament, they could be one bid leagues. But things need to shake out right over the last month of the season and in the conference tournament for that to come to fruition.

So, what about the 46 bids remaining? Let the counting begin…

Net ranking listed by each team name. Bold teams count as the auto bid placeholder.

1 seeds

23. Purdue Big Ten auto bid (4, 22-2) –Retains the top overall spot even after the loss @Indiana due to their 8 quad 1 wins.

24. Alabama SEC auto bid (3, 20-3) - Good bounce back week with a 57 pt win and then a 10 pt win @LSU.

25. Houston AAC auto bid (1, 21-2) – As long as they keep winning the games, they should they are in great shape for a 1 seed.

26. Arizona Pac 12 auto bid (9, 21-3) – Welcome to the top line with 6 straight wins. Their work OOC (wins against San Diego State, Creighton, Cincy, Indiana, and Tennessee) will be a big selling point on Selection Sunday.

2 seeds

27. Tennessee SEC auto bid (2, 19-4)Good bounce back win over Auburn after losing to Florida midweek. The 2 Quad 2 losses is enough to move them just off the 1 line for now but the wins over Texas and Kansas OOC will be huge in head-to-head comparisons on Selection Sunday.

28. Texas Big 12 auto bid (8, 19-4) Great week for the horns beating Baylor and winning at Kansas State. Sit alone atop the Big 12 standings going into a monster game at Allen Fieldhouse on Monday. If they win that one, they have a great shot to be a 1 seed at the next update.

29. UCLA (5, 17-4) Good 2-0 bounce back week after 0-2 last week. Really good efficiency metrics but they lack the top end quad 1 wins of everyone above them.

30. Kansas (10, 18-5) – Lost their 3rd conference road game in a row on Saturday. This is the #1 SOS in the country but that is the 5th loss of the season and unless they start winning more games, I am not sure why some “experts” refuse to move them off the 1 line, if anything they are closer to a 3 seed right now.

3 seeds

31. Virginia ACC auto bid (15, 17-4) Lost @Virginia Tech on Saturday to end their 7-game winning streak. OOC wins over Baylor and Illinois have them as the top 3 seed.

32. Baylor (13, 17-6) – Lunardi is off on this one by being far too low. 6 game winning streak is over after the trip to Austin but the wins over Kansas, Arkansas, UCLA and Gonzaga keep this resume as a solid top 3 seed.

33. Marquette Big East Auto bid (14, 19-5) – Quietly putting together the best resume in the Big East. Wins over Baylor, Creighton, Providence, and no bad losses.

34. Gonzaga WCC Auto bid (11, 18-4) Gonzaga losing to St. Mary’s means they are now 2 games back of St. Mary’s in the conference. It will be very difficult to get a top 2 seed if you can’t win the WCC. They do still have great wins over Xavier and Alabama.

4 seeds

35. Xavier (24, 19-5) – 6 quad 1 wins (UConn x2, Marquette, Creighton, West Virginia, Providence) and 11-2 in the Big East.

36. UConn (7, 18-6)- The good thing about the Big East is that it provides opportunities for a get right week which is exactly what UConn needed after losing 6 of 8. They easily beat DePaul and Georgetown to hold on to a top 4 seed (due to OOC wins over Alabama and Iowa State)

37. Kansas State (22, 18-5) 0-2 week but it was @Kansas and against Texas. 3 straight Big 12 losses will drop them to a 4 seed for now.

38. Iowa State (12, 16-6) What a weird last 2 weeks for the cyclones but it highlights the importance of home court in college basketball. Losses to Missouri and Texas Tech but wins over Kansas State and Kansas for their last 4 outings. I am not as high on the Cyclones as many “experts” given their less than impressive OOC performance.

5 seeds

39. TCU (17, 17-6) – Lost at Stillwater to drop to 6-4 in the Big 12. They have great top tier wins at Kansas, at Baylor, and over Providence and Iowa, but a middling conference record and a November loss to Northwestern State at home to me keep this resume off the top 4 seed lines for now with a REALLY tough upcoming schedule that could put them in further danger.

40. Indiana (21, 16-7) Huge win on Saturday knocking off Purdue. Continue to be one of the fastest risers on the bubble watch and have a chance to lock in their bid if they can have another 2-0 week this week.

41. St. Mary’s (6, 20-4) Beat Gonzaga to stay undefeated in conference. Still hard to put them too much higher than this despite their fantastic NET ranking given that is just their 2nd quad 1 win, they have a loss to Colorado State and Washington and many of their wins are against bottom tier competition.

42. Duke (25, 17-6) – I continue to be a bit higher on Duke than others. OOC wins over Xavier, Ohio State and Iowa will be key for this resume.

6 seeds

43. Illinois (26, 16-7) – Wins over UCLA and Texas OOC, and no bad losses yet. Winners of 7 of their last 9 to ease concerns of their once poor Big 10 record.

44. Rutgers (19, 16-7) – their best win OOC is against a Wake Forest team that likely won’t make the tournament but their win to start conference play on January 2nd at Purdue will be unmatched in terms of signature wins for their peer group. Treading water since then.

45. Miami (40, 18-5) – One of the better weeks in the country beating Virginia Tech then winning at Clemson. Now 9-4 in conference and look very unlikely to need to sweat out Selection Sunday.

46. Providence (37, 17-6) The overtime loss at Xavier is not going to move them down. They do need to take advantage of the soft part of their schedule coming up. Didn’t do anything OOC (no wins against the top 250!!!) but did notch conference wins against Marquette and UConn.

7 seeds

47. San Diego State MWC auto bid (23, 17-5) In the midst of a tough stretch in the schedule lost at Nevada, blew out Boise State and next travel to Utah State then get UNLV. Best OOC win over Ohio State is starting to lose a lot of luster but they do still have the #6 SOS and no bad losses.

48. NC State (42, 19-5) Took advantage of the soft part of their schedule to get to 9-4 in the ACC. Didn’t do much OOC outside of a win over Dayton. No bad losses is probably the best thing about this resume.

49. Auburn (30, 17-6) – Auburn learned early in conference play that it’s tough to win on the road, and their loss to Georgia is an anchor to this profile that still has just 1 quad 1 win (against Arkansas). Missed a golden opportunity in Knoxville and has a tough schedule coming up against A&M, Alabama, and Missouri.

(This is where the resumes start having some major blemishes and start to feel like true bubble teams)

50. Creighton (16, 15-8) Winners of 6 in a row as their schedule finally lightened up. They took their 8th loss on January 11th and things were looking a bit dicey, but they have really righted the ship after 6 straight losses in December. Wins over Providence and Xavier during this winning streak.

8 seeds

51. Missouri (48, 17-6) – Took the loss in Starkville on Saturday to drop them back to 5-5 in conference. Feels like a must win/can’t lose game at home against South Carolina coming before a 3-game stretch @Tennessee, @Auburn and against A&M. Not much here OOC other than avoiding bad losses and beating Illinois.

52. Maryland (28, 16-7) 4 straight wins. All 7 losses to Quad 1. Best wins are Indiana, Illinois, and Miami.

53. Iowa (33, 15-8) Big movers this week beating Northwestern and Illinois. The worst loss of a potential tournament team goes to the Hawkeyes losing to #345 Eastern Illinois on their home court. Now 7-5 in the Big 10 before heading on the road for the next 2.

54. North Carolina (44, 15-8) – Took an 0-2 week losing to Pitt and @Duke after they had gone 6-1 in January. Now just 1-7 vs. Quad 1 competition with that 1 win being against Ohio State which doesn’t exactly feel like a quad 1 win.

9 seeds

55. Michigan State (45, 14-9) Tough schedule @Purdue and at MSG vs. Rutgers led to an 0-2 record for Sparty this week. Now 6-6 in the Big 10. OOC win over Kentucky helps offset a bad loss to #189 Notre Dame.

56. New Mexico (39, 18-4) – The win over St. Mary’s is so huge for this resume which otherwise did not challenge themselves OOC and took a couple bad losses to Fresno State and UNLV to start January. 3 Quad 1 wins still have the lobos relatively comfortable in relation to the rest of the bubble but if they were to take another bad loss the NET will start to be a concern.

57. Florida Atlantic CUSA auto bid (18, 20-2) – The 20-game winning streak is over after losing @UAB. That’s a forgivable loss given it was a quad 1 game. They are likely still in if they win out and fail in the conference tournament, however their safety net got a lot thinner. If for some reason they lose again (no top 100 teams left on the schedule) coupled with a 4th bad loss in the tournament and things start to feel dicey.

58. Arkansas (29, 16-7) – Winners of 4 straight SEC games that 1-5 conference mark is now suddenly 5-5 and they hogs are breathing much easier. That combined with an 11-2 OOC record with wins over San Diego State and Oklahoma, and they are ok for now.

10 seeds

59. Pitt (56, 16-7) – Didn’t do much OOC outside of a win at Northwestern. Really good wins in ACC play over Virginia, UNC (twice) and Miami have them on the right side of the bubble for now.

60. West Virginia (20, 14-9) Beat Oklahoma on Saturday by 32, and the Mountaineers continue to be kings of the metrics with a NET that doesn’t match the record. Still just 3-7 in conference. 7-11 feels good enough…is it possible they could get in at 6-12? This will be the case that will really test how bad can the conference record be and still get in.

61. Boise State (27, 17-6) – Blown out @San Diego State in what will be their hardest game of the year. Still, the Broncos have the look of a tournament team after recovering from bad early season losses to South Dakota State and Charlotte. Their wins over A&M & @Nevada look better by the day and they have collected 5 quad 2 wins in addition to those Quad 1 wins. Schedule gets very manageable coming up.

62. Kentucky (31, 16-7) – After beating Tennessee in Knoxville they have now run off 6 straight SEC wins. Still just 1-6 in their Quad 1 games and the home loss to South Carolina is a real head scratcher but as of right now the Wildcats are breathing easier than they have all year.

11 seeds

(As it looks like most of the auto-qualifying mid majors will be 12 seeds or lower, it looks likely we will have 6 11 seeds this year, with the bottom 4 playing a play in game for the last 2 spots on the 11 seed line)

63. USC (52, 17-6) Winners of 4 straight the trojans are one of the biggest risers in the field the last 2 weeks going from way out of the field to one of the last 4 byes. They now head on the road the next 2 so we will see if they can keep that going. Beat Auburn OOC to make up for a stinker L against FGCU.

64. Oklahoma St (35, 14-9) Won 5 of the last 6, sweeping Oklahoma, and picking up home wins against Iowa State and TCU. Now 5-5 in conference. If they can stay close to .500 in conference, it’s hard to see any scenario where they don’t get in. They do have 1 bad loss at home to Southern Illinois.

*65. Clemson (64, 18-6) – The biggest faller in the field in the last week with an 0-2 week including losing at #180 Boston College. I said in January that this would be the resume most compared to Texas A&M and I believe that more than ever. Now 10-3 in conference, 3 bad losses now to South Carolina (A&M beat them), Loyola Chicago (A&M beat them) and now BC. How much does the conference record wipe out those bade losses? They have 4 seemingly very easy games left (hardest of which is home against #102 Syracuse) and 3 extremely difficult road games at UNC, NC State and Virginia. Would a 14-7 conference mark be at risk for getting left out? Feels like that would be the same conversation with a 12-6 Texas A&M.

*66. Nevada (34, 17-6) The wolfpack had a really good week beating San Diego State and now have wins against all of the class of the conference (SDSU, New Mexico, Boise State and Utah State). If they can make sure their only losses the rest of the way are @New Mexico and @ Utah State, I think they are likely in.

*67. Memphis (47, 17-6) – Took a bad loss this week to Tulane for the series sweep by the Green Wave. The 4-1 record OOC vs. the SEC will certainly be a talking point if it comes down to Memphis vs. A&M, Florida, or Kentucky. Memphis still looks like the most likely 2nd team out of the AAC but assuming they have 3 losses left to Houston (2 in reg season + one in the AAC tournament) do they have any margin for another loss? Very manageable schedule the rest of the way other than the games vs. Houston.

*68. Northwestern (57, 15-7) – Rivaling Clemson for the worst week of the field. 0-2 with 2 completely noncompetitive blowout losses @Iowa and against Michigan. Now they head on the road to Wisconsin and Ohio State, 2 teams fighting for their lives before playing Purdue, Indiana, Iowa…. losing streak brewing?

*Play-in game participants

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

69. Texas A&M (41, 16-7) – Falling out of the field this week is more of a reflection of the good weeks for Nevada and Oklahoma State than it is anything A&M did this week. Significant opportunity this week to go 2-0 with games against Auburn and @LSU and then it is pretty much all Quad 1 to end the year. 8-2 conference record is great but that was largely done against the bottom half of the league and the OOC is still a problem (we have beaten that horse to death). The 2 wins against Florida are looking better and better so that’s nice. Can we go 4-4 down the stretch? Will 12-6 be good enough? That’s a question that we will be asking each update as we get more and more data on what the rest of the field is doing. A 1-1 week and we are likely still out of the field of 68 on the next update, on the plus side a 2-0 week may even be above the last 4 in.

70. Wisconsin (69, 13-8) – Got the big win at Ohio State this week to stop the losing streak. Huge home game on Sunday vs. Northwestern where it feels like loser is out (and maybe winner in? at least for now). Worst loss is still to Michigan State so that’s not bad and solid wins vs. Penn State, Iowa, Maryland, Marquette, USC and Dayton. The NET is a real problem for Wisconsin right now.

71. Oral Roberts – Summit League auto bid? (38, 17-4) all 4 losses are respectable (St. Mary’s, Houston, Utah State, New Mexico). League play will leave basically no margin for error as any loss is a bad loss. That said…if they take their first and only bad loss in the conference tournament – I can definitely see them sneaking in as a last 4 in.

72. Seton Hall (51, 13-9) 3 good quad 1 wins over UConn, Rutgers and Memphis but just 7-5 in conference. 4 Quad 1 opportunities remain and they need to take advantage when they come.

73. Penn State (53, 14-8) – There isn’t much too this resume other than home wins against Indiana and Iowa. #244 OOC SOS means they need a .500 record or better in conference and as of now they are not there.

74. Oklahoma (61, 12-11) Losers of 5 straight Big 12 games (with a 24-point blowout of Alabama mixed in????) the Sooners are now 2-8 with the next 4 @Baylor, Kansas, KSU, @Texas. If they can’t find a way to win at least 2 of those it’s hard to see the Sooners having enough wins to merit consideration.

75. Mississippi State (46, 15-8) Now a 3 game winning streak after losing 8 of 9. Massive wins lately over TCU and Missouri. Working their way back towards the field but still just 3-7 in the SEC. The schedule suggests that 6-2 down the stretch to get to 9-9 is very doable.

76. Utah State (32, 18-5) Got their best win of the season beating New Mexico last week. Still zero quad 1 wins and not very many more opportunities to add to that number. Lost on their home court to Weber State. The Utah Aggies will need to put together a long winning streak to work their way into the field.

77. Florida (43, 13-10) I have the Gators quite a bit lower than Lunardi. Challenging OOC schedule but they didn’t win any of the big games, in the midst of a brutal stretch @ Kansas State (L), Tenn (W), @ Kentucky (L), Alabama. Assuming they lose @Alabama their backs will really be against the wall with a stretch of must win games coming.

78. Charleston CAA auto bid? (62, 21-3) Looked promising at one time with a 20 game winning streak, but 2 bad losses in a row to Hofstra and to #192 Drexel leaves Charleston on the outside looking in. Given any tournament loss would be a bad one they need to win out in the regular season to even be in the conversation. Their NET has completely tanked. Best wins are against Virginia Tech and Kent State.

79. Virginia Tech (50, 14-9) Huge win over Virginia on Saturday to keep their at large hopes alive. Now they have 3 straight can’t lose games vs. #180 BC, #189 Notre Dame and #228 Georgia Tech. Assuming they win all 3 of those they will be back to 7-8 in the ACC and at least in the conversation down the stretch.

80. Oregon (54, 14-10) Losses to UC Irvine, and Utah Valley have left this profile with very little margin for error in conference play. They have done just enough the last month to stay a fringe bubble profile.

81. Arizona State (66, 16-8) This profile has completely tanked, losing 5 of 6. Also lost OOC to Texas Southern #314. Backs are really against the wall now.

82. Southern Miss Sun Belt auto bid? (59, 18-4) Almost certainly will need the auto bid, but they have won 7 straight and if they win out their resume will be getting close to at large consideration.

82. Ohio State (36, 11-11) The NET ranking for the Buckeyes is a bit of a head scratcher considering their overall record (including one inexcusable loss on their home court to Minnesota (#215). Lost 8 of 9. It is must win time.

---Including even the fringe candidates now…because it’s fun to cross them out as they lose their must win games---

83. UAB (71, 16-7) – By beating FAU they get off the keep an eye on list and get an official spot on the bubble watch. Must win out until they lose to FAU in the tourney to have any shot.

84. North Texas (58, 17-5) – same bucket as UAB – elimination game thiseek.

85. UNLV (82, 14-8) - a loss to Fresno State this week probably takes them out of contention but them “winning out” means beating SDSU, Boise St, Utah St. and Nevada…so technically there is a path for an at large

86. Bradley (72, 16-8) – The problem here is that they are 0-4 in Quad 1 and have no more chances. Very unlikely even if they win out.

87. Wake Forest (67, 15-9) – Needs to just about win out to have any hope.

88. Kent State MAC auto bid? (63, 16-5) 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.

89. Utah (55, 15-9). There isn’t much to get excited about with this profile outside of a win over Arizona – and now they are losing really winnable games. They need to go on a run starting right now if they have any chance at an at large.

90. Michigan (74, 12-10)- they did beat Northwestern to technically stay alive. Playing in the Big 10 so obviously lots of opportunities remain.

91. Texas Tech (70, 12-11) – like Michigan they are technically alive just because there are so many opportunities to win statement games available to them. But given their record they need to just about win out.

92. Colorado (75, 13-11) - maybe if they win out?

93. VCU A10 Auto bid? (78, 18-6) – Very unlikely A10 gets an at large bid but crazier things have happened.

94. Saint Louis (86, 14-6) They did beat Providence and Memphis OOC but after an 0-2 week its almost impossible to envision a run that ends in an at large for Saint Louis.

95. Dayton (81, 15-9) See Saint Louis/VCU, must win out.

96. Cincinnati (73, 15-8) – maybe if they win out?

97. UCF (68, 13-9) – maybe if they win out?

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