College basketball bubble breakdown: Who's positioned to get an NCAA tournament bid in March?
Selection Sunday is two weeks from Sunday and the bubble is starting to shrink — as expected.
Selections probably won’t be an issue after the bracket is revealed. Seedings are always debatable and never easy to project/predict/produce.
Let’s dive into the Bubble Breakdown.
- America East
- Atlantic Sun
- Big Sky
- Big South
- Big West
- Sun Belt
Let’s break down the other conferences (the order is strictly for organizational purposes since the committee doesn’t look at conference affiliation).
Locked in: Cincinnati, Wichita State and Houston.
I was tempted to put Tulsa on this list after SMU and Temple have fallen off. But the Golden Hurricane need to beat Cincinnati on the road Sunday to be taken seriously.
Prediction: This holds. 3 teams.
Locked in: Rhode Island
Bubble: St. Bonaventure
The Bonnies have moved up to an RPI of 25 after beating Rhode Island at home. That was the Bonnies third quadrant 1 win. Road wins at Buffalo and Syracuse are now Q1 wins. The Bonnies are 4-2 in Q2. If the Bonnies keep winning and reach the final but lose to URI, or maybe even Davidson, I think the Bonnies get into the field.
Prediction: Bonnies get in the field.
Locked in: Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, NC State, Virginia Tech, Miami, Florida State.
Bubble: Louisville, Syracuse
The Hokies move up to locked status with five Q1 wins and four in Q2. Miami has been erratic, but the numbers don’t lie. Four wins in Q1 and 2 in Q2 is hard to pass on for an at-large berth. The Seminoles are inconsistent, too. But Florida State’s five Q1 wins and two in Q2 are solid enough to get the Seminoles in the field. Louisville has slid back to bubble status.
The Cardinals are 2-8 in Q1 and 1-2 in Q2. They have lost five of their last seven games. The last three will determine if this team plays its way in or out with games at Virginia Tech, Virginia and then at NC State. Syracuse has two Q1 wins and four Q2. The wins at Miami and Louisville should resonate but the Orange missed a home opportunities against NC State and North Carolina. The Orange have chances at Duke and against Clemson (a road game against Boston College is on the docket too). Go 2-1 in the final three and the Orange will be in the field.
Prediction: Syracuse makes it, but Louisville does not. Nine from the ACC.
25. Big 12
Locked in: Kansas, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Oklahoma.
Bubble: Kansas State, TCU, Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma has been reeling, losing six in a row. But the Sooners still have the profile of an NCAA team with six Q1 wins and one monster win over Wichita State in Kansas. So, I’m not ready to bump them off the locked line. They finish with two of three at home against Kansas State, at Baylor and at home against Iowa State. I’m expecting the Sooners to get at least one of those. The Wildcats are taking care of business now with three Q1 wins, including two critical road wins at Baylor and Texas. The Wildcats are now 6-0 in Q2. Kansas State ends at Oklahoma, at TCU and hosts Baylor. TCU has dealt with a major injury to Jaylen Fisher, but still has four Q1 wins and three in Q2. The road win at Baylor was huge, so too, was the one at Oklahoma State.
TCU can finish strong with home games against Baylor and Kansas State before closing at Texas Tech. Baylor has four Q1 wins and two for Q2, with road wins at Texas and Oklahoma State. The blowout home loss to West Virginia stings a bit. And Baylor will have to earn it in the final week with games at TCU, hosting Oklahoma and at Kansas State. Oklahoma State is a brutal 4-10 in Q1, but that also means the Cowboys played a great schedule. The wins at Kansas and West Virginia are difference makers. The Cowboys finish with games at Texas and at Iowa State before hosting Kansas. Texas has a tough slate the final three games against Oklahoma State, at Kansas and against West Virginia. Texas is 5-9 in Q1 and 3-3 in Q2, which is clearly a tad better than Oklahoma State. Playing in the PK80 was a huge help to this team.
Prediction: Kansas State, Texas and TCU get in but the schedules could doom Baylor and Oklahoma State.
26. Big East
Locked in: Xavier, Villanova, Butler, Seton Hall, Providence.
Bubble: Creighton, Marquette.
The Friars lost the suspended game against Seton Hall Thursday. But the win over Villanova and five Q1 wins and three in Q2 are hard to ignore. The Bluejays have three Q1 wins and 6 in Q2. The neutral win over UCLA is aging well. Creighton has lost three of four games. And the schedule ends with Villanova and DePaul at home and at Marquette.
Creighton needs to go 2-1 to feel comfortable. Marquette has four wins in Q1 and four in Q2. The sweep of Seton Hall can help significantly and the road wins at Providence and Creighton. The schedule could be cruel with road games at DePaul and Georgetown and a home game against Creighton. The first two won’t help the Golden Eagles, but they can’t lose them and still get into the field.
Prediction: Creighton gets in barely, Marquette just out.
27. Big Ten
Locked in: Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan.
Bubble: Nebraska, Penn State and Maryland.
The Huskers are 1-6 in Q1 and 3-2 in Q2. The Huskers have zero significant non-conference wins. Watch Nebraska and they look like an NCAA tournament team. But the Huskers need to beat Penn State and possibly one more quality team in New York. Penn State blew a chance at home against Michigan. The Nittany Lions need to beat Nebraska on the road and pick up another quality win in New York. The Nittany Lions are just 2-6 in Q1 and 2-3 in Q2. Maryland is in the RPI range at 60, but the 0-9 on Q1 is hard to overcome. The Terps end hosting Michigan. That is what you call a must win.
Prediction: Nebraska makes it, Penn State falls short. Maryland has too much to climb.
Bubble: Middle Tennessee.
The Blue Raiders have two wins in Q1, but they are both from Conference USA. The two Q2 wins were against Old Dominion and Vanderbilt out of the SEC. Now, the good news for Middle Tennessee is that all four were on the road.
Prediction: Middle Tennessee gets in if the Blue Raiders get to the final and lose to Western Kentucky or Old Dominion.
Locked in: Nevada
Bubble: Boise State
The Wolfpack aren’t going anywhere with an RPI of 13, even with five total Q1 and Q2 wins. Boise State blew a chance to knock off Nevada in Boise and the loss at Utah State stings. The RPI of 52 hurts, so too, does the 0-2 Q1 ledger. Five wins in Q2 helps, but it may not be enough.
Prediction: Nevada only. Boise State has to win the tournament, but I like the Wolf Pack to close it out in Las Vegas.
Locked in: Arizona, Arizona State
Bubble: UCLA, Utah, USC, Washington
UCLA has two monster wins at the time of when they were played — against Kentucky in New Orleans and at Arizona. UCLA lost to Utah Thursday night and go to Colorado next before ending with USC. USC has two Q1 wins and 4 in Q2, beating Colorado Wednesday night in Boulder. The Trojans finish the season at UCLA. Not having Bennie Boatwright could be a difference maker in the final week.
Washington has the shelf-life win over Kansas in Kansas City and beat Arizona and Arizona State at home, as well as USC. The Huskies have four Q1 wins. The loss at Stanford Thursday was crushing for Washington. The Huskies finish at Cal and then host Oregon State and Oregon. Utah has road wins against the Oregon and Washington schools as well as at Arizona State. Utah got its third Q1 win by knocking off UCLA at home Thursday night. The Utes get USC and then Colorado to finish the season.
Prediction: UCLA and Utah join Arizona and Arizona State in the field.
Locked in: Auburn, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama.
Bubble: Missouri, Florida, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Georgia, Mississippi State, LSU.
Mizzou should be fine, whether Michael Porter Jr., returns or not. The Tigers have six Q1 wins and four in Q2. The Tigers have lost two in a row and end with games at Kentucky, Vanderbilt and at home against Arkansas. Still, even if they were to lose all three, the Tigers have the profile. Florida has the resume with six Q1 wins and five in Q2. But the overall RPI is 64. The Gators are floundering with three-straight losses. The home games against Auburn and Kentucky loom very large.
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So, too, does the road game at Alabama. Arkansas had a disheartening loss at home to Kentucky. But the seven total Q1/Q2 wins should be influential for the committee. The schedule is rough in the final week with games at Alabama, Auburn and at Missouri. Texas A&M will be the toughest team to figure for the selection committee. The Aggies have had a slew of suspensions and injuries. They do have four Q1 wins and six in Q2. But the Aggies aren’t the same team they were a month ago. The Aggies have lost three in a row and could lose more with games at Vanderbilt, at Georgia and at home against Alabama. Georgia has the resume with six Q1 wins and two Q2. But the RPI is at 70. The Bulldogs have lost seven of the last 10 games. So, this season comes down to games against LSU, Texas A&M and a road game at Tennessee.
Ben Howland’s Mississippi State Bulldogs are making a late surge to crash the at-large part. The RPI is 63 but they’ve got three wins in Q1 and Q2. The Bulldogs have won six of their last eight games. So, what happens if Mississippi State were to win out against South Carolina, Tennessee and at LSU? They would still need to do more in the SEC tournament in St. Louis. LSU jumps into the conversation with a sweep of Texas A&M, a neutral-court win over Michigan, a home win over Houston and a road win at Arkansas. The Tigers do have five Q1 wins and three in Q2. The Tigers have won three of their last four and close with road games at Georgia, South Carolina before hosting Mississippi State.
Prediction: Texas A&M, Georgia, LSU and Mississippi State fade out. Mizzou, Florida and Arkansas find a way to get in the field.
Locked in: Gonzaga
Bubble: Saint Mary’s
The Gaels have one Q1 win — but it was a big one, at Gonzaga. They’ve got just two in Q2. The Gaels need to get to the WCC final and if they lose, have it to be to Gonzaga yet again.
Prediction: Saint Mary’s does just that and squeaks into the field.