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 34 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, Florida State, Missouri, NC State, Texas, and Purdue
LOOKING SOLID – These 2 teams are likely to be in the field, but they enter Championship Week without a bid fully locked up. They may be able to take an early conference tournament loss, but it is no guarantee:
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:
Alabama – The Tide have plenty of quality wins, but that record (17-14) is brutal. They can’t afford to go winless in St. Louis. But how many wins they need is very much up in the air.
Arizona State – At one time, Arizona State was a one seed on this site. Now, they look unlikely to make the field after losing to Colorado on a neutral floor. They’re going to be very close to the cutline. They’re very likely to find themselves in the last four in or first four out.
Butler – The Bulldogs get Seton Hall in the Big East quarters. A win should be enough to dance. Whether a loss will be fatal would be a close call. They would probably end up barely staying in the field.
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. A win over Creighton, if they can get it, should send them through.
USC – The Trojans could’ve all but punched their ticket with a home win over UCLA. Instead, they’re right near the cutline. They’re actually in pretty decent shape now after seeing so many bubble teams fall on Wednesday. Avoiding a bad loss should be enough.
St Mary’s – The Gaels seemingly put themselves in position to miss the tournament ever year by failing to schedule tough out of conference. This year is no different. They’ll need to keeping hoping for bubble teams to falter, but it is not looking good right now.
Syracuse – The Orange have a very mediocre profile, but that’s enough to keep them on the bubble. The win over Wake and loss to UNC leaves them right on the cutline. They’ll remain in bubble limbo until Sunday night.
Kansas State – It was an amazing Big XII season for Wildcats, as they basically won every game they should and lost no games they shouldn’t. That’s the perfect recipe for a spot on the bubble entering Kansas City. The good news is a win over TCU will almost surely send the dancing. The bad news is a loss is more likely than not to doom the Wildcats to the NIT (though it would be close).
UCLA – Winning at USC completely changed the Bruins’ outlook. They probably can’t afford to go winless in the Pac-12 tourney, but they’re a fair amount above the cutline. The odds are in their favor.
Louisville – Beating Florida State in the ACC tournament keeps them very close to the cutline, and may or may not be enough. Adding a win over Virginia would obviously lock them.
Utah – A run to the Pac-12 finals might be enough to get in, but even that isn’t a guarantee. If they beat USC along the way, they’ll probably make the field.
Marquette – After beating DePaul, they’re one game from a bid. All they have to do is, gulp, beat Villanova. Even a loss wouldn’t guarantee an NIT bid. There is already enough on the resume to give them a shot.
St Bonaventure – The Bonnies are solidly in the bracket right now. If they avoid a bad loss in the A-10 Tournament, they’ll likely sneak in.
Baylor – The Bears get West Virginia in the Big XII quarters. A win should be enough to dance, but a loss is more likely than not fatal.
Oklahoma State – Beating rival Oklahoma was an absolute must and beating Kansas is, too. Udoka’s injury for Kansas does leave some question as to whether the committee would view a third victory as well as they view the first two.
Notre Dame – The win over Virginia Tech gets them in the picture, but they still probably need a quarters win over Duke to have a good shot of making it.
Oregon – Beating Washington State in overtime keeps their homes alive, but the Pac-12 finals are necessary to have a decent shot.
LONGSHOTS – These teams aren’t totally out of it, but their bubble is on the verge of being popped:
Georgia, Mississippi State, LSU, UCF, Washington, Temple, South Carolina, Nebraska, Penn State, and MTSU
If you were keeping count, 36 teams from 9 conferences are Tourney Bound or Looking Solid. That means there are only nine bids available for teams that are Truly Bubbly or Longshots.