We are to the last Saturday of the regular season. It’s now just eight days away! Here are the four distinct categories of teams: Tourney Bound, Looking Solid, Truly Bubbly, and Longshots.
Let’s break down each category.
TOURNEY BOUND – These 32 teams are going to the NCAA Tournament:
Villanova, UNC, Kansas, Virginia, Xavier, Auburn, Michigan State, Texas Tech, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Miami, Creighton, Wichita State, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Gonzaga, West Virginia, Michigan, Arizona, Duke, Ohio State, Seton Hall, TCU, Clemson, Texas A&M, Houston, Virginia Tech, Florida, Missouri, NC State, and Purdue
LOOKING SOLID – These 5 teams are likely to be in the field and will cement a spot with the following number of regular season wins:
Alabama – 1
Butler – 1
Florida State – 1
Arizona State – 1
Nevada – 1
TRULY BUBBLY – These teams represent the “true bubble.” Some will play themselves in comfortably, some will play themselves out, and some will stay on the bubble all the way through the Selection Show:
Rhode Island – The Rams have dropped to the bubble after a couple of losses to end the season. They’re still well clear of the cutline right now, but a bad loss in the A-10 Tournament could prove catastrophic. The only truly noteworthy win is by one over Seton Hall. The committee won’t love that.
Providence – There are great wins over Villanova and Xavier, but those were in Providence. The three bad losses could be a differentiator if they fall too close to the cut line. Still, they have to like their chances.
Texas – The Longhorns picked up a desperately needed one-point home win over Oklahoma State before losing at Kansas. Their five Quadrant 1 wins are great, but their 17-13 overall record is not. Still, a home win over West Virginia should be enough to see them through to the NCAAs if they can get it.
USC – The Trojans are playing surprisingly well sans Boatwright. That said, they have ZERO wins against definite tournament teams and a home loss to Princeton. Beating UCLA will make them sleep a whole lot easier.
St Mary’s – The Gaels seemingly put themselves in position to miss the tournament every year by failing to schedule tough out of conference. This year is no different. They’ll need to beat BYU in the WCC tournament and hope other bubble teams falter to make the field.
Syracuse – The Orange have a very mediocre profile, but that’s enough to keep them on the bubble. Wins at Miami and Louisville will help, but there isn’t a marquee win on the resume. That will hurt if they fail to beat Clemson. But a win will likely do the trick.
Washington – Winning at likely one seed Kansas is a huge feather in the cap that should take away all of the sting from losing to Oregon State. It’s crucial that the Huskies defend their home court against Oregon to close out the year. If they do, they’ll likely find themselves on the right side of the bubble.
Kansas State – This profile is nice, but TCU at home, at Texas, and at Baylor shouldn’t be your best three wins of the year if you’re trying to make the tournament from a power conference. Protecting their home court against Baylor would leave them on the right side of the bubble for the time being.
UCLA – It’s going to be a very tough climb for the Bruins if they can’t beat USC. Even a win there would be no guarantee.
Georgia – A one-point home loss to Texas A&M on Wednesday is a particularly brutal way for a bubble team to lose. If they can’t win at Tennessee, it’s likely auto bid or bust.
Middle Tennessee – There are three Quadrant 1 wins, a strong 20th-rated RPI, and no truly bad losses. But they don’t have a single win over a team that is in serious competition for an at-large bid. If MTSU loses in the CUSA Tournament, then this one will be VERY close.
Louisville – With a second left to play, Louisville looked like a lock against Virginia. A five-point final second for Virginia later and the Cards were right back on the cutline. Still, a win at NC State will likely be just enough if they can get it today.
Utah – Getting blown out by USC is not the right statement to make right now, but there is still enough good on the resume to be close (including three Quadrant 1 road wins). It will take a run in the PAC-12 tournament to make it, but this could still happen.
Marquette – Winning at Georgetown was step one. Now they need to beat Creighton or make a Big East finals run to have a chance.
St Bonaventure – The Bonnies would likely be in if Selection Sunday were today, but they still have to play Saint Louis on the road. If an at-large is needed, it may very well come down to how many A-10 tournament games they win.
Baylor – The Bears really needed that win over Oklahoma. They’ll get a chance to firm up a bid on the road against Kansas State.
Loyola-Chicago – They get a grade bump from Longshot to Truly Bubbly after an MVC quarterfinals win. Now they get Bradley before a potential tilt with Illinois State or Southern Illinois. Odds are probably against them unless they win the whole thing, but this will be very close if they need the at-large (likely First Four Out).
Penn State – A third win over Ohio State was enough for a grade bump, but they still need to beat Purdue to be in the thick of it. My gut says they get in if they beat Purdue in the Big Ten semis, but it would be close.
LONGSHOTS – These teams aren’t totally out of it, but their bubble is on the verge of being popped:
Mississippi State, LSU, Temple, Nebraska, Notre Dame, South Carolina, and Oklahoma State
If you were keeping count, 37 teams from 8 conferences are Tourney Bound or Looking Solid. That means there are only ten bids available for teams that are Truly Bubbly or Longshots.