In all the craziness regarding agents, runners, and coaches paying players, we are just TWO weeks from Selection Sunday! With that in mind, the bubble has now trimmed itself and we have four distinct categories of teams: Tourney Bound, Looking Solid, Truly Bubbly, and Longshots.
Let’s break down each category.
TOURNEY BOUND – These 25 teams are going to the NCAA Tournament:
Villanova, UNC, Kansas, Virginia, Xavier, Auburn, Michigan State, Texas Tech, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Wichita State, Kentucky, Arkansas, Gonzaga, West Virginia, Houston, Michigan, Arizona, Duke, Ohio State, Seton Hall, TCU, Clemson, Texas A&M, and Purdue
LOOKING SOLID – These 11 teams are very likely to be in the field and will cement a spot with the following number of regular season wins:
Alabama – 1
Butler – 1
Creighton – 1
Florida – 1
Florida State – 1
Miami – 1
Missouri – 1
Oklahoma – 1
Arizona State – 2
NC State – 2
Nevada – 2
Rhode Island – 2
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:
Virginia Tech – The Hokies have great wins, but they lost to Saint Louis, were swept by fellow bubbler Louisville, and have an awful OOC SOS.
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.
Texas – The Longhorns picked up a desperately needed one-point home win over Oklahoma State. Their five Quadrant 1 wins are great, but their 17-12 overall record is not.
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 ever 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.
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 the two Oregon schools to close out the year. If they do, they’ll likely stay on the right side of the bubble.
Kansas State – At Oklahoma was a chance to really move into a safer position, but the Wildcats instead find themselves still hanging out in the 11 line. 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. Winning at TCU and protecting their home court against Baylor should be enough to punch a ticket to the dance.
UCLA – Winning at Colorado would’ve helped out a lot, but the Bruins lost a close one. Winning at USC is now a must. If not, they’ll have to do a ton of conference tournament damage, and even that might not be enough.
Georgia – A win at home over LSU doesn’t move the needle much, but it was absolutely necessary. The last two are Texas A&M in Athens and at Tennessee. Splitting will keep them alive. Winning both will likely send UGA to the NCAAs.
Middle Tennessee – The Blue Raiders actually moved up a line in the bracket today behind steady and impressive work in Conference USA. There are three Quadrant 1 wins, a strong 24th-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 can beat Western Kentucky before falling in the CUSA tournament, then this one will be VERY close.
Louisville – What a HUGE road win in Blacksburg. The Cardinals aren’t just back in it, they’re back into the field as an 11. The final two are Virginia at home and at NC State. A win in either might be enough to make the field, but those are two really tough games to end with.
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.
Nebraska – It is looking increasingly likely that Nebraska will go 13-5 in the Big Ten and miss the field. Beating Penn State was a great start, but it probably won’t matter unless the Cornhuskers make the Big Ten final.
Mississippi State – Things were not looking great in StarkVegas, but the Bulldogs came back to beat South Carolina and keep the dream alive. Nine games against Quadrant 4 in the non-conference is really going to hurt, though.
Temple – Anything less than winning their last two regular season games should prove fatal, but if they win those two they’re going to be right in the thick of the race.
St Bonaventure – The Bonnies would likely be in if Selection Sunday were today, but the schedule is a bit of a problem to finish. They get Davidson at home and Saint Louis on the road. Neither is an easy game, but neither will do much to help the resume. If an at-large is needed, it may very well come down to how many A-10 tournament games they win.
Baylor – The Bears can’t afford to lose to both Oklahoma and Kansas State. If they beat both, though, they’ll all of a sudden be in great position to make the field.
Marquette – They desperately need to beat both Georgetown and Creighton, but they’ll be right near the cutline if they do. That loss at DePaul was not fatal, but they likely can’t lose another regular season game.
LONGSHOTS – These teams aren’t totally out of it, but their bubble is on the verge of being popped:
LSU, UCF, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Oregon, Penn State, Western Kentucky, Loyola-Chicago, and Oklahoma State
If you were keeping count, 37 teams from 9 conferences are Tourney Bound or Looking Solid. That means there are only eight bids available for teams that are Truly Bubbly or Longshots.