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NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament - First Round - Villanova v BYU

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Bubble Watch: 3/1/23

Projecting the NCAA Basketball Tournament field of 68

Photo by Tim Fuller/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

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

Welcome to March! Only 11 days until Selection Sunday! The number of “data points” and chances to move in/out of the tournament and up seed lines is starting to become very limited. Remember – every at large team will take a loss in the conference tournament and beating bottom of conference teams doesn’t do anything from a resume standpoint to play your way in. So the only data points really left on the season are what happens over this coming weekend and then the potential to improve your seeding by maybe 1 line/a team can play their way in by getting quality wins in the tournament. There are only really a couple teams across the country that this will apply to so the bracket will be largely set after this coming weekend.

As for A&M – it was a bit of a nervous win, but hey – it was great to go on the road, coming off of a loss, without your best defender, against a guy that has a career night from behind the arc and grind out another win. As we head to March, there are no easy wins and you have to learn how to win games like that, and now this team has proven they can time after time. It’s great to go into March and still be alive to win the conference regular season, especially playing in a conference with the #1 overall seed. Now if we could just get a little bit of help from Auburn…

As for the rest of the bubble, only Clemson eliminated themselves after losing on Tuesday. Just too many bad losses and not enough opportunity left vs. Notre Dame and with the double bye in the ACC tournament to play their way in. Should be a handful of teams that reach lock status over the next few days and Saturday will really provide clarity on who is in and out headed into the conference tournaments.

Speaking of the tournaments, we are actually already underway in 4 conferences, with 3 more starting on Wednesday. Nothing to really watch for yet in terms of bubble activity until Saturday when the Summit gets into full swing.

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

Once teams start getting locked in this section will begin to project the 12 through 16 seed lines.

Conference (Projected Champ, Current Net)

  1. A10 (VCU, 67)
  2. Atlantic Sun – (Liberty, 40) despite the NET – 0 Q1 wins, 1Q2 Win (Bradley) – no chance
  3. Big Sky (Montana State, 105)
  4. Big South (UNC Asheville, 139)
  5. Big West – (UC Irvine, 96)
  6. America East (Vermont, 118)
  7. Horizon (Youngstown State, 112)
  8. Ivy – (Yale, 66)
  9. MAC - (Kent State, 68)
  10. MAAC – (Iona, 58)
  11. MEAC (Norfolk State, 171)
  12. MVC (Bradley, 56) – maybe 1% chance at an at large
  13. Northeast (Wagner, 303)
  14. Ohio Valley (Morehead State, 220)
  15. Patriot (Colgate, 99)
  16. Southland (Northwestern State, 196)
  17. Southern (Furman, 88)
  18. Sun Belt – (Marshall, 78)
  19. SWAC (Grambling State, 194)
  20. WAC - Sam Houston State (63)

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

Three 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 nine 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. $Baylor

28. $Kansas State

3 seeds

29. $Arizona

30. $Tennessee

31. $Marquette Big East auto bid

32. $Gonzaga WCC Auto bid

---------0% Chance that A&M catches anyone above this line, even by winning out and them losing every game ----------------------

4 seeds

33. $UConn – would need a lot of help to catch, they have a few potential bad losses left to get through.

34. $Xavier – would need a lot of help to catch, they have a few potential bad losses left to get through.

35. $Virginia ACC auto bid – they would be vulnerable if they took a bad loss to Louisville

36. Indiana – Would be tough to catch, but maybe if they go 0-2 and we win the next 4.

5 seeds

37. $Miami – Would be tough to catch, but maybe if they go 0-2 and we win the next 4.

38. $St. Mary’s – Double bye to WCC Semis so no real opportunity for them to drop much, although with their lack of quality wins we may be able to catch them on our own merits if they drop back at all.

39. $Iowa State – Reeling lost 6 of 7, we can absolutely catch them by winning out if they don’t turn it around

40. $San Diego State MWC auto bid – them losing to Boise State Tuesday night helps. If they lose to Wyoming to end the year they are very vulnerable

6 seeds

41. $TCU – we can catch them if they stop racking good wins and lose their next 3

42. $Northwestern – As long as they don’t win their last 2 we can catch them

43. $Maryland – If we win out we will catch them if they do not win multiple in the Big 10 tournament (or even if we just beat Alabama potentially)

44. $Duke – we will pass them if we win out (or even just by beating Alabama)

7 seeds

45. $Michigan State– If we win out we will catch them if they do not win multiple in the Big 10 tournament (or even if we just beat Alabama potentially)

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. In terms of their seeding in relation to A&M, we will pass them if we beat Alabama. (3/1 Georgetown)

47. $Iowa – Very catchable if we outperform them the next week and a half.

48. $Texas A&M (24, 22-8, 14-3) – The new winning streak has started. For any Aggies that were still sweating an at large bid (you shouldn’t have been), this will finally put to rest any thoughts of a late season collapse and not only put NIT completely out of your mind but also Dayton or fears of a 10 seed. Given the final remaining game of the year is against Alabama, the floor for this resume is really an 8 seed and then I will extend that to a 9 as the worst-case scenario if other teams currently behind us all finish very strong. The best-case scenario? Realistically probably a 6 although with some help we could still rise all the way to a 5 with a run in the SEC tournament. So the full range is anywhere from a 5-9 with a 6-8 being where almost all of the realistic scenarios lie. The fun part here – with no bubble to sweat out we can scoreboard watch and go into March with a possibility to still win the SEC, a conference in which the #1 overall seed resides. That’s a remarkable achievement considering where this team was 2 months ago. (3/4 Alabama)

8 seeds

49. $Illinois – could pass A&M if we lose to Bama and they win at least 2 more total games

50. $Kentucky – could pass A&M if we lose to Bama and they win at least 2 more total games

51. $Providence – could pass A&M if we lose to Bama and they win at least 2 more total games

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. In terms of seeding in relation to A&M, if A&M loses our next 2, and Missouri wins each of their next 3 they potentially could pass A&M. (3/1 @LSU)

9 seeds

53. $Rutgers – could pass A&M if we lose to Bama and they win at least 2 more total games

54. Pitt (53, 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. In terms of seeding, they could pass A&M if we lose the next 2 games and they win at least 3 more. (Next: 3/1 @Notre Dame)

55. Memphis (39, 21-7, 11-4) – Memphis is starting to rack up the Quad 2 wins, now 7-3 in those games which is really solid. They have one more “can’t lose” game against a bad SMU team coming up. Assuming they win that one, they should be in pretty good shape and in my opinion do not necessarily need to beat Houston in the finale or get the auto bid. If they do beat Houston however it makes it very easy to move them into lock territory. In terms of seeding, if A&M loses our next 2, Memphis could pass us by winning out which would mean beating Houston twice. (3/2 @SMU)

56. Florida Atlantic CUSA auto bid (18, 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. In terms of seeding. I do not see a path for them to pass A&M. (3/2 @Rice)

10 seeds

57. $NC State (Regular Season Over, no chance to fall out). For seeding purposes if A&M loses the next 2 and NC State wins the ACC tournament, they could catch us.

58. Boise State (26, 22-7, 13-4) – Rebounds from the loss at San Jose State for a statement win over San Diego State to possibly punch their ticket. Now with wins over SDSU and Utah State to go along with the OOC win over A&M that looks better by the day. If they can win at Utah State to end the year they will leave no doubt, but I kinda feel like they are in even with a loss in that one. If Boise State wins out and A&M loses each of the next 2 they could still pass us. (3/4 @Utah State)

59. West Virginia (23, 17-13, 6-11) The win at Iowa State is probably enough to push them over the edge. Which feels a little weird to say for a team that’s just 6-11 in conference. They did well OOC picking up solid wins over Pitt and Auburn but getting chances every night in the Big 12 they have continued to pick up nice wins over TCU and sweeping Iowa State. I don’t really see them getting left out even if they don’t pick up another win. If WVU wins out including winning the Big 12 tournament and A&M loses each of the next 2 they could pass us. (3/4 Kansas State)

60. Arkansas (14, 19-11, 8-9) – Arkansas will enter their last game of the regular season still yet to clinch their at large bid. This is despite a 11-2 OOC with wins over San Diego State, Bradley and Oklahoma. They have not been very good on the road at just 2-8 on the year so thankfully for them this crucial deciding game is at home. Despite the great OOC going just 8-10 in the SEC with really only 1 quality win (@Kentucky) may not be enough to balance out losses to LSU and Vanderbilt. (3/4 Kentucky)

11 seeds

No chance for anyone below this line to pass us regardless of any outcome.

61. USC (46, 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)

62. Auburn (37, 19-10, 9-8) – Completely noncompetitive in their blowout 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. *Nevada (35, 21-8, 12-5) Just when I was about to put Nevada into my bracket in ink they go and lose a quad 3 game to Wyoming, clearly their worst loss of the year. They still are in for now, but the game to end the year vs. UNLV is now a must win and even then, they may still have a bit of sweating to do if they have an early exit in the conference tournament. (3/4 UNLV)

64. Oral Roberts – Summit League auto bid (43, 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 (54, 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 (74, 16-12, 8-10) – The Badgers are the Rutgers of last year. The NET ranking suggest that they shouldn’t even be in the conversation but the 6 quad 1 wins and 4 more quad 2 is tough to ignore. They may be just hanging in for now but if assuming they lost to Purdue coming up they likely slip out to start the conference tournament week. (3/2 Purdue)

67. *Mississippi State (44, 20-10, 8-9) 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. They followed that up with a close win against South Carolina at home, a win that doesn’t really do anything to make them feel safer. Still need to finish the year with a win if they want to be on the right side of the bubble headed to the SEC Tournament. (3/4 @Vanderbilt)

68. *Arizona State (61, 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. 2-0 is a lock, 1-1 and I think they are just barely on the outside looking in to start conference tournament week depending on what others do. (3/2 @UCLA)

*Play In game Participants

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

69. North Carolina (45, 19-11, 11-8) – North Carolina has picked up a couple of struggle wins over Florida State and Notre Dame that have done nothing to inspire confidence in the heels. Of course those wins also sandwich their biggest win (and maybe only good win) of the year over Virginia. Even that win is barely quad 1 now and still leaves them at just 1-8 vs. quad 1. The best thing the resume has going for it is no bad losses but there still isn’t much to hang their hat on at this point in the season. Monster game to end the year vs. their arch rival. That is shaping up to be a monster game for the Heels. (3/4 Duke)

70. Utah State (30, 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)

71. Michigan (55, 17-12, 11-7)- Well – this is why they stayed on the bubble watch despite picking up their 12th loss in Mid February. 3 HUGE wins in a row over Michigan State, Rutgers and Wisconsin have the Wolverines on a roll and right at the brink of playing their way in. The last 2 are on the road vs. Illinois and Indiana. If they win both there is no doubt they are in. A split and they will have some work to do in the Big 10 tournament and I think an 0-2 finish probably means they need the auto bid. They are still just 3-10 vs. Quad 1 and have a quad 4 loss OOC to Central Michigan. So these 2 quad 1 opportunities are critical. (3/2 @Illinois)

72. Oklahoma St (47, 16-14, 7-10) Oklahoma State takes their 14th loss of the season, and 5th in a row. 5 quad 1 wins are great, but they were not great OOC (lost to Southern Illinois and UCF and their best win was over Sam Houston State. At this point it feels like a win at Texas Tech to end the season may not even be enough to fully secure a bid. Maybe that one plus a 1st round win in the Big 12 will be the magic formula. (3/4 @Texas Tech)

73. Bradley MVC Auto Bid? (56, 22-8, 16-4) – Bradley won 10 in a row to end the regular season. The problem is most of them were against quad 4 competition. 0-5 vs. quad 1 is likely what will prevent them from getting serious consideration, they were 3-1 vs. quad 2 however none of those wins really stand out. Nearly a certainty they will need the auto bid considering there really won’t be any more opportunities to improve their resume. (3/3 MVC Quarters UNI/Illinois State)

74. Oregon (52, 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)

75. Penn State (60, 17-12, 8-10) – Penn State is back on life support after blowing a big 2nd half lead to Rutgers and picking up their 12th loss. None of the losses are really that bad, but they also don’t have a ton of top end wins (beat Indiana and won @Illinois). They need to win each of their last 2 to have a realistic shot at an at large. (3/1 @Northwestern)

76. New Mexico (48, 20-9, 8-9) – It looks like the lobos have finally played their way all the way out of contention. Losers of 6 of their last 8 and sitting at just 8-9 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 finish the year with a win, make a deep tournament run plus hope for a lot of help to even get back in the conversation. (3/3 Colorado State)

77. Drake (70, 23-7, 15-5) – After losing to Bradley to end the regular season I don’t really see a realistic path here, but if the bubble really collapses and the committee goes searching for mid-majors its possible they get a quick look as a 2nd team from the MVC. They did after all get a quad 1 win on a neutral court over Mississippi State. The 3 quad 3 losses and#144 SOS is what almost certainly dooms this profile to the NIT without getting the automatic berth. (3/3 MVC Quarters Murray St./Valpo)

78. 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)

79. Texas Tech (50, 21-6, 5-12) I just can’t quit Tech. If they win their last game of the year plus pick up 2-3 more quad 1 wins in the tournament (and if the committee decides to actually value the conference tournament, I know this hasn’t been a pretty season but we are still talking about a team that doesn’t have any losses outside the quad 1 and would have 8 quad 1 wins. (3/4 Oklahoma State)

Eliminated Since Last Edition:

  • Clemson (Lost 2/28 to Virginia)

What to Watch for (Aggie fans should cheer for the team in bold)

Wednesday 3/1

  • 6:00 ESPNU Pitt @ Notre Dame- A Pitt loss cements A&M ahead of them for seeding
  • 6:00 ESPN2 Auburn @ Alabama – Auburn isn’t going to pass us. It sure would be fun to play for a conference championship on Saturday.
  • 6:00 CBSSN DePaul @UConn – If you are an eternal optimist cheer for one of A&Ms best OOC win to pull a massive upset and send UConn’s seed tumbling.
  • 6:00 BTN Maryland @ Ohio State – Maryland is a direct competitor for seeding with A&M.
  • 6:00 SECN Vanderbilt @ Kentucky – Kentucky is a direct competitor for seeding with A&M.
  • 7:00 LOL Big 12/ESPN+/No TV Oklahoma @ Kansas State – No impact on A&M, a KSU win eliminates OU from any at large hope.
  • 7:30 FS1 Xavier @ Providence – Realistically it’s a very slim hope to pass Xavier, Providence is a real threat to pass A&M if they win this one.
  • 7:30 FS1 Georgetown @ Creighton – This would be a massive upset and send Creighton tumbling down the seed line
  • 8:00 BTN Penn State @ Northwestern – Northwestern is catchable, especially if they drop this one. If you are a fan of a bubble team you would want NW to win.
  • 8:00 SECN Missouri @LSU – Indifferent here, Buzz the Tiger King already beat both twice, a Missouri loss further cements them as behind A&M for seeding however that is probably already in hand anyways and Missouri is 2 of our best wins. Not a huge game one way or the other.
  • 8:00 ESPN2 Texas @ TCU – If you can bring yourself to root for the burnt orange it would help make TCU catchable.
  • 10:00 CBSSN Utah State @ UNLV – Doesn’t matter for A&M, but if you are a fan of another bubble team you want Utah State to lose.

Thursday 3/2

  • 6:00 ESPN Michigan @Illinois - Kentucky is a direct competitor for seeding with A&M. If you are a fan of a bubble team you would want Michigan to lose.
  • 6:00 FS1 Rutgers @ Minnesota – A loss by Rutgers here would be devastating for their chances of being seeded ahead of A&M.
  • 8:00 ESPN Arizona State @ UCLA – big bubble game. No impact on A&M. A win for ASU would be huge for their chances at an at large
  • 8:00 FS1 Purdue @ Wisconsin – big bubble game. No impact on A&M. A win for Wisconsin would be huge for their chances at an at large
  • 8:00 ESPN2 Memphis @ SMU – Is it just me or is Memphis really unlikeable? A loss here for them not only kills their chance to pass A&M but would be devastating to their at large chances.
  • 10:00 ESPN Arizona @ USC – big bubble game. No impact on A&M. A win for USC would be huge for their chances at an at large
  • 10:00 FS1 – Cal @ Oregon – I don’t think Oregon realistically has a chance anyways but a loss by the Ducks here removes all doubt.

Friday 3/3

  • Noon ESPN+ MVC Quarterfinals – 1st Conference Tournament game with any bubble impact – Bradley must win and advance a few rounds to get into the conversation for an at large.
  • 6:00 ESPN+ MVC Quarterfinals – Drake’s game. See note for Bradley. Bonus points to make it interesting if it is Murray State that advances to this game to potentially get that bad loss on A&Ms resume out of the quad 4 territory.
  • 10:00 FS1 New Mexico @ Colorado State – No impact on A&M, loss officially takes UNM out of at large consideration.

Next update on Saturday morning will preview a full slate of Saturday contests.


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