Bauer’s Bubble Watch 6.0
We’re entering the homestretch now. With minor conference tournaments starting to wrap up and major conference tournaments beginning play on Tuesday, the college basketball season is coming to a close. Selection Sunday is just a few days away, and teams are making their final pushes toward an NCAA Tournament bid. Conference championship week is sure to clear up a bit of the confusion, but before we delve too deep into these tournaments, let’s take a glance at the latest edition of the Bubble Watch.
Locks: Virginia, North Carolina, Duke, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Louisville
Safe for Now: Syracuse
Bubble: North Carolina State, Clemson
Louisville’s worries are all in the past. After defeating Notre Dame in the second round of the ACC Tournament, the Cardinals earned themselves a lock.
Syracuse moves up a category too, despite losing to Clemson in the final game of the regular season. An ACC Tournament win over Pittsburgh means the Orange should be feeling safe about their postseason chances.
That leaves NC State and Clemson as the ACC’s two bubble teams, and Wednesday’s match between the two may have been the decider. Clemson blew an 18-point lead in the second half, allowing NC State to earn a much-needed Q1 win and advance to the next round of the ACC Tournament. The committee may use this game as rationale for including the Wolfpack and leaving out the Tigers.
Safe for Now: Cincinnati, Central Florida
Cincinnati has caused a little concern by dropping the last two regular season games, but a win over Tulsa or SMU in the second round of the American Tournament should still lock the Bearcats in. Even then, a loss there probably doesn’t put Cincinnati on the bubble either.
UCF has gone from bubble to near-lock almost instantly, as the Knights defeated Houston and Cincinnati in back-to-back games. Even a loss to Temple right after doesn’t hurt that much. Like Cincinnati, UCF really should be safe.
Despite a strong finish to regular season play which included a win over UCF, Temple remains on the bubble due to a middling résumé and low predictive metrics. A win over Wichita State or East Carolina in the American Tournament is required to stay alive. A second win over Cincinnati would probably put the Owls in.
Locks: Marquette, Villanova
Safe for Now: None
Bubble: Seton Hall, St. John’s, Creighton, Georgetown
Although Seton Hall boasts a low NET ranking of No. 62, the Pirates are feeling safer than other bubble teams due to two huge wins over Marquette and Villanova to end the regular season. Still, they should plan on winning a game or two in the Big East Tournament to feel truly safe.
St. John’s needed to defeat DePaul in the first round to stay alive. The Red Storm got the win they needed, but they shouldn’t stop there. A third win over Marquette would surely mean a tournament bid for St. John’s.
Creighton is likely right on the teetering point between in and out. The Bluejays must defeat Xavier to stay in the conversation, and another win over Villanova and Providence may be required too in order to avoid falling victim to bid thieves.
Georgetown is in a do-or-die scenario. With metrics much lower than any other Big East bubble team, a deep conference tournament run is needed to keep the Hoyas alive. It may just be better to win the tournament outright and secure themselves an auto-bid.
Locks: Michigan State, Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin, Maryland
Safe for Now: Iowa
Bubble: Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio State
Iowa’s four-game slide is definitely reason to worry about the Hawkeyes’ chances for success in the NCAA Tournament, but it shouldn’t affect their ability to get there in the first place.
Minnesota falls on the high end of the bubble with a résumé carried by last Tuesday’s home win over Purdue. The Golden Gophers are probably still in with a Thursday loss to Penn State, but they’d feel a lot safer with a victory.
Indiana and Ohio State are very much on the heart of the bubble, and like yesterday’s match between NC State and Clemson, today’s bout could very well be an elimination game. Indiana is likely a little safer with six Q1 wins to Ohio State’s four, but there’s no reason to test that hypothesis. Just win and you’re in.
Locks: Texas Tech, Kansas, Kansas State
Safe for Now: Iowa State
Bubble: Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Christian
Like intrastate rival Iowa, Iowa State has been on a worrisome losing streak. But also, like Iowa, Iowa State really shouldn’t be too concerned about missing the big dance at this point.
Baylor is barely a bubble team, though a lost to Iowa State today would mark four straight losses to finish the season. That’s not a good sign for a team trying to enter the tournament with two Q4 losses.
Oklahoma is likely in too, though Wednesday’s loss to West Virginia certainly isn’t a pretty addition to the résumé. The Sooners will just have to sit and wait now.
TCU avoided disaster by defeating Oklahoma State by a slim margin in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament. That win probably keeps the Horned Frogs in the field of 68, but another win or two would have them feeling much safer.
Texas is such an interesting case. No team has ever made the tournament with a .500 record, so they likely need to defeat Kansas today. But even if the Longhorns don’t, they still have the metrics and résumé of a tournament team. What will the committee do with the Longhorns? We may get a better idea after Thursday’s games conclude.
Safe for Now: Washington
Bubble: Arizona State
Is Washington a lock yet? A 24-7 record and 15-3 conference record indicate that the Huskies are in, but the point remains that Washington’s best win is at Oregon. Let’s not forget that terrible loss at Cal in late February. All things considered, Washington remains “safe for now.”
Arizona State is the only other contender from the Pac-12, and the story remains that the Sun Devils have excellent wins that balance out atrocious losses. Will the committee value those wins or will it emphasize those losses? Arizona State certainly hopes the former is true, but there’s no way to be sure. Better get some wins in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Locks: Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana State, Auburn, Mississippi State
Safe for Now: Ole Miss
Bubble: Florida, Alabama
No doubt about it now. After defeating Tennessee, Auburn is a lock. Mississippi State is now too, though the Bulldogs didn’t quite get there in the same bold fashion that the aforementioned Tigers did. Still, a lock is a lock.
Ole Miss remains safe for now after ending a three-game losing streak with a win at Missouri. The Rebels are probably still in if they lose to Alabama in the second round of the SEC Tournament, but they shouldn’t test it.
Florida and Alabama are the SEC’s two true bubble teams, though the Gators are in better shape due to better metrics, résumé factors, and a head-to-head win over the Crimson Tide. Florida could still be selected to the field with a loss to Arkansas, but a win would be much preferred. Alabama will likely be left out without a win over Ole Miss. Looking at the scope of the bubble, it’s hard to imagine that both teams get in.
Locks: Gonzaga, Wofford
Safe for Now: Buffalo, Nevada, Virginia Commonwealth?
Bubble: Utah State, Belmont, Lipscomb, Furman, UNC Greensboro
Wofford gets locked in through the easiest method: winning the conference tournament. Nevada and Buffalo should be able to get there with wins in their opening conference tournament games, though winning the tournament outright would absolutely do the trick too.
VCU jumps into the “safe for now” category after dominating the final few months of Atlantic 10 play. Even a loss in their first game of the conference tournament should put the Rams in.
Utah State isn’t as safe as VCU, though as a team on the high end of the bubble, it would take a lot of things to go wrong to kick the Aggies out of the field.
Belmont, Lipscomb, Furman and UNC Greensboro all play the waiting game, as all four teams failed to win their conference tournaments. Would the committee be willing to hand out two bids to the Ohio Valley, Atlantic Sun or SoCon? It’s not looking good right now.
DJ Bauer is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.