Final Bubble Watch

Story posted March 11, 2018 in Sports, CommRadio by DJ Bauer

NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch – 3/11/18

It’s finally Selection Sunday. Later today, the selection committee will officially release its list of the 68 teams who will be playing for a national title. Many teams have already locked up spots from winning their conference tournaments, while others are locks thanks to their tournament resumes. However, there a still a select few teams that will be sweating it out on Sunday evening as the bracket is revealed. In 2018’s final edition of the Bubble Watch, we have four more locks (Virginia Tech, Providence, Missouri and Rhode Island) and seven eliminations (Utah, Oregon, Washington, Mississippi State, LSU, Boise State and Western Kentucky). Let’s take one last look at the bubble before the committee rolls out the field of 68:

Locks: Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech
Safe for Now: Florida State, NC State
Bubble: Louisville, Syracuse, Notre Dame

Although Virginia Tech hasn’t played since Wednesday’s loss to Notre Dame, the Hokies become a lock by virtue that their resume, which features wins over Duke and Virginia, is just too good for the committee to pass up, especially compared to other bubble teams. Florida State and NC State remain in the “safe for now” category, and they should be selected to the field, but it’s not quite a guarantee. Louisville, Syracuse and Notre Dame all remain on the bubble, as none of them failed to get past the conference quarterfinals. With San Diego State stealing an at-large bid thanks to a Mountain West conference tournament victory and Davidson able to steal a bid against Rhode Island tomorrow, all three will be on the edge of their seats this evening.

Locks: Cincinnati, Wichita State, Houston
Safe for Now: None
Bubble: None

No movement here. Sunday’s championship game between Cincinnati and Houston has the potential to move the seed lines around a bit, but other than that, there’s nothing of note.

Big East
Locks: Villanova, Xavier, Seton Hall, Creighton, Providence
Safe for Now: Butler
Bubble: Marquette

Providence locks up a spot after their overtime victory over Xavier and their overtime loss to Villanova. Butler is not quite there, as the Bulldogs were trounced by Villanova on Friday. They’re very likely to grab an at-large bid, but much like Florida State and NC State, it’s not quite a guarantee. Marquette is the one true bubble team of the Big East, who couldn’t handle the Wildcats either. The NIT is looking like the most likely path for the Golden Eagles, but the committee has made some crazy selections before. There’s still hope for Marquette.

Big Ten
Locks: Michigan State, Purdue, Michigan, Ohio State
Safe for Now: None
Bubble: Penn State, Nebraska

Penn State and Nebraska remain on the bubble, but their at-large hopes are dwindling fast, especially with the presence of bid thieves. Many tournament projections don’t have either team within the first eight teams out, so unless the selection committee decides to make an oddball move, it’s unlikely that the Nittany Lions or Cornhuskers will receive invitations to the big dance.

Big 12
Locks: Kansas, West Virginia, Texas Tech, TCU
Safe for Now: Oklahoma, Kansas State
Bubble: Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State

Oklahoma still seems to worry many with their disastrous season-ending slide, but their work at the beginning of the year still stands firm. If the committee continues to value the metrics that they have in the past, the Sooners should remain in the field. Kansas State is also “safe for now,” thanks to a big overtime win over TCU. Even though the Wildcats couldn’t compete with their in-state rivals in the Big 12 semifinals, they should still be feeling confident about their tournament hopes thanks to a rather impressive resume. Texas was feeling much safer a few days ago, but with bid thieves lurking and other bubble teams rising to the occasion, the Longhorns are feeling the heat once again. The same goes for Baylor, who, like Texas, couldn’t make it past the Big 12 quarterfinals. Oklahoma State is right there with those teams, as they failed to beat Kansas for a third time. Like the other Big 12 teams, the Cowboys have some excellent wins, but the point remains that their RPI, #86, would be a new all-time low for an at-large selection. That doesn’t bode well for Oklahoma State.

Locks: Arizona
Safe for Now: None
Bubble: USC, UCLA, Arizona State

Utah, Oregon and Washington all failed to put together any sort of spectacular Pac-12 Tournament run, so they all fall to the wayside, leaving the conference with one lock and three teams looking for at-large bids. USC is the most likely candidate, who put together a nice run before losing to Arizona in the title game. Just below them is UCLA, who also played well, taking the Wildcats to overtime in a semifinal loss. As has been the case, these teams have similar resumes, and may both make the field. That would put the pressure on Arizona State, who now may be on the outside looking in after starting the year strong. Could this late-season collapse kick the Sun Devils out of the field? We’ll find out on Sunday night.

Locks: Tennessee, Auburn, Kentucky, Arkansas, Florida, Texas A&M, Missouri
Safe for Now: None
Bubble: Alabama

Missouri is another Virginia Tech: locked up because their resume is too good to exclude. This leaves Alabama as the only SEC bubble team (LSU was eliminated after the loss to Mississippi State, and Mississippi State was eliminated after the loss to Tennessee.) Alabama came up huge twice, defeating Texas A&M on a last-second layup and then knocking off top seed Auburn by double digits, but they couldn’t do it a third time as Kentucky knocked Alabama out of the SEC Tournament once and for all. If they are selected, their 15 losses would tie a record for most by an at-large team. But the strong metrics (especially the SOS) and a nice showing in the conference tournament may save the Crimson Tide.

Other Contenders
Locks: Gonzaga, Nevada, Rhode Island
Safe for Now: St. Bonaventure
Bubble: Saint Mary’s, Middle Tennessee

Win or lose on Sunday, Rhode Island is a tournament lock. St. Bonaventure is not as secure thanks to the loss to Davidson in the Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinals, but their resume seems to be as strong as any. It would be shocking not to hear the Bonnies’ name called during the selection show. Western Kentucky and Boise State failed in their conference tournaments, and New Mexico State secured an auto-bid, alleviating any bubble worries, so we’re left with Saint Mary’s and Middle Tennessee on the bubble. These teams are very similar in that they have gaudy win totals and tournament-like RPIs, but the rest is lacking. Saint Mary’s SOS could be killer, while Middle Tennessee’s best wins are against Western Kentucky and Murray State. Both teams are regretting failing to win their conference tournaments, and both will be sweating all afternoon.


DJ Bauer is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email

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DJ Bauer

Senior / Broadcast Journalism

David “DJ” M. Bauer Jr. is a senior from Valencia, Pennsylvania majoring in broadcast journalism at Penn State. He is an editor, writer, producer, and play-by-play announcer for the CommRadio sports department. His writings include the Weekly NFL Game Picks series, Bauertology, and the NCAA Bubble Watch series. He is the co-host of the CommRadio talk show 4th & Long alongside Jeremy Ganes, and formerly Jason Marcus and Francesco de Falco. He was also a production intern for the Frontier League’s Washington Wild Things baseball club. If you’d like to contact him, email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).