March Madness Bubble Watch: Jan. 21

Story posted January 21, 2022 in Sports, CommRadio by Nolan Wick

It’s the middle of January, the time of year when college basketball is in full swing with over a month of regular season play left.

Let’s take a look at how the nation shakes out.

Big Ten

Locks: Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Illinois, Ohio State
Safe for now: Iowa
Bubble: Rutgers, Indiana

Purdue: Despite some tough losses to Indiana, Wisconsin and Rutgers, the Boilermakers aren’t going anywhere but up. This star-studded team has all the necessary pieces to finish the season strong and make a deep tournament run, with a dominant trio consisting of Jaden Ivey, Trevion Williams and Zach Edey.

Wisconsin: The Badgers have an impressive resume with wins over Purdue, Ohio State and Houston. Wisconsin does not have as much depth as Purdue, but Johnny Davis and the Badgers are good enough to play deep into March.

Michigan State: Michigan State had a down year last season compared to its normal standards, which have very much returned this season. Michigan State will make the tournament, but there could be concerns when the Spartans inevitably have to face other top teams, as they lost to Kansas and Baylor earlier this season.

Illinois: The Fighting Illini soared up eight spots in the latest AP Poll to no. 17. Illinois is currently neck-and-neck with Wisconsin in the Big Ten and has enough skill to win the Big Ten title. Illinois is a dangerous team that has the potential to make some noise, especially after taking Purdue to double overtime and barely losing to Arizona.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes are a dangerous team with wins over Duke and Wisconsin. Ohio State has a big chance to raise the rankings with an upcoming game against Purdue.

Iowa: Iowa is the first Big Ten team in the ‘safe for now’ category. With a 13-5 record, the Hawkeyes would currently make the tournament if the season ended today, but that could all change if they struggle with the rest of their schedule.

Rutgers: Rutgers has been okay this season. The unranked Scarlet Knights beat Purdue but have also lost to teams like Massachusetts. Rutgers could make the tournament if things go its way and if it looks like a more consistent basketball team.

Indiana: Indiana hasn’t had a bad season, but it also hasn’t been particularly good. The upset wins over Purdue and Ohio State are nice, but there is still work to do.

ACC

Locks: Duke, Miami, North Carolina
Safe for now: Florida State
Bubble: Wake Forest

Duke: Duke will be fine despite losses to Miami and Florida State. The talent is there in Paolo Banchero, Wendell Moore Jr. and Mark Williams. Coach K has as good of a chance as anyone to take their team far in March. Since the ACC is not very good this season, there is not much competition in Duke’s way the rest of the season. It would not be surprising if the Blue Devils ended up with a top seed in the March Madness bracket.

Miami: The Hurricanes may not be ranked, but they are first place in the ACC and have received votes. If Miami keeps it up, it’ll make it into the tournament.

North Carolina: It is unrealistic to expect new coach Hubert Davis to immediately take North Carolina to the top of the rankings. The Tar Heels have certainly hung around, and have even received votes to be ranked in the latest AP Poll. North Carolina is certainly a tournament team if it continues playing this way. Tar Heel fans probably shouldn’t be worried.

Florida State: Remember when Florida State was primed to make a run in 2020 but then the pandemic canceled March Madness? It seems so long ago that this team was a serious contender to win it all. Florida State doesn’t appear to be in the same situation this season, although it should still make the NCAA Tournament. The Seminoles are on a five-game win streak right now, and it could be only a matter of time before they’re ranked again.

Wake Forest: Wake Forest has a chance to make the NCAA Tournament, and having a nice run in the ACC Tournament would certainly help matters. Wake Forest should make it come selection Sunday.

Big 12

Locks: Baylor, Kansas, Iowa State, Texas Tech
Safe for now: Texas, West Virginia
Bubble: Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU

Baylor: Baylor is without a doubt making the NCAA Tournament, and likely as a top seed as well. There is also a serious possibility that the Bears go back-to-back. If Baylor wins a second consecutive championship, it would be the eighth school to do so and the first since Florida won championships in 2006 and 2007

Kansas: The Jayhawks are also a lock for March. Bill Self’s perennial contender of a program is once again in a great position to make a deep run in March, as it has been doing for years now. Sooner or later, this team will break through and win it all.

Iowa State: Iowa State will easily make the tournament, especially with Izaiah Brockington playing the way he is. The Cyclones are also 4-3 against ranked opponents this season.

Texas Tech: Texas Tech appears to be doing pretty well despite Chris Beard departing for Texas, and the Red Raiders even sit one spot ahead of the Longhorns in the Big 12 standings.

Texas: Texas has been slipping lately, losing three of its last four games. Had it not been for this losing streak, the Longhorns would be a lock to make the NCAA Tournament. Texas should still end up making it, but only if it stops the losing streak.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers have seemed off lately. However, expect this team to rebound and be just fine.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma is safe for now. The Sooners have a good enough record to get in, but can’t afford to slip that much.

Oklahoma State: Like their in-state rival, the Cowboys have a good enough record to get in but they cannot afford to drop many more games.

TCU: The Horned Frogs have hung around and know how to compete. TCU even received votes in the latest AP Poll. TCU should sneak into the bracket on selection Sunday.

Kansas State: Kansas State has somewhat of a chance to make it in. It would be surprising to see all teams from one conference make it in, but if they all deserve it then why not?

PAC-12

Locks: Arizona, UCLA, USC
Safe for now: Oregon
Bubble: Colorado

Arizona: Arizona only has one loss, and it was against ranked Tennessee. A 15-1 record at this point in the season seals the deal for the Wildcats. Two players to watch are Bennedict Mathurin and Christian Koloko.

UCLA: Led by Johnny Juzang, the Bruins have a very similar roster to the one they had last season that took them very far in March. UCLA has four players averaging over ten points per game, so it has plenty of offensive talent that is capable of going far in March.

USC: Even though USC fell very far in the most recent rankings, it is still a lock to make the tournament. One reason USC fell so far was that many of its games were postponed, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t make up ground.

Oregon: Oregon has looked good lately with five straight wins, two of which being against UCLA and USC. Those wins result in Oregon being in the ‘safe for now’ category, with a good chance of becoming a lock soon.

Colorado: Colorado hasn’t beaten a ranked team this season, but it still has a good record in a power five conference. All the Buffaloes need to do is win a few more games, then they’ll be in the ‘safe for now’ category.

SEC

Locks: Auburn, Kentucky, LSU
Safe for now: Tennessee, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Alabama

Auburn: Auburn has torched everyone recently. The Tigers are undefeated in conference play and have only one loss. This is a team that is built to win now.

Kentucky: The Wildcats have been dominant this season with 15 wins and pose a legitimate threat to Auburn. The two teams face off this weekend in what will be a huge matchup down south.

LSU: Even though the Tigers have lost two consecutive games and are fifth in the SEC, being ranked as high as they are at this point in the season is enough to get them into March Madness.

Tennessee: Tennessee recently fell two spots in the latest AP Poll, and has understandably had trouble against some of the other better teams in the SEC. Still, it’s hard to see any team ranked at this point in the season missing out on March Madness, barring an unusual collapse.

Texas A&M: Texas A&M looks good, with a 15-3 record. The Aggies should make it with that good of a record and could become a lock soon.

Mississippi State: Mississippi State looks safe for now. Mississippi State has won two of its last four games, but it will need to step it up to solidify itself as a tournament team.

Arkansas: Arkansas is good enough to make the tournament with a 13-5 record, but it’s not as good as some of the other SEC teams on this list.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide have lost three of their last four, but have what it takes to compete in March with Nate Oats as the coach.

American Athletic

Locks: Houston
Safe for now: SMU
Bubble: Cincinnati

Houston: Houston has what it takes to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, and it should be taken very seriously. Although they lost, the Cougars put up a very good fight against Wisconsin, losing 65-63. Houston also lost by one point to Alabama, a team that was ranked no. 9 at the time. Houston will not only make it to the NCAA Tournament but should go very far, too.

SMU: SMU is currently 57th in the NET rankings. SMU should be safe for now, but losing a significant amount of games from here on out will cost it a potential tournament bid.

Cincinnati: Cincinnati currently has a three-game win streak. It has the potential to build on the win streak in a weak AAC, so getting into the NCAA Tournament is a possibility.

Atlantic 10

Locks: Davidson

Davidson: Davidson is doing everything it needs to do to advance into March. The team even received votes to be ranked this week.

Big East

Locks: Providence, Villanova, Xavier, Connecticut,

Providence: Providence has a good enough record to make it to the NCAA Tournament. Providence currently sits atop the Big East standings as of now.

Villanova: It isn’t March Madness without Villanova! Villanova also has the record and program reputation to get in.

Xavier: Xavier is pretty good! Being ranked no. 20 with a 14-3 record is enough to get Xavier into March Madness.

Connecticut: The Huskies soared up five spots and into the top 25. Any team currently ranked should make the tournament.

Others

Locks: Gonzaga, Loyola Chicago, BYU

Gonzaga: Gonzaga is in the best position out of any team to win the championship. The roster is stacked, with the likes of Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren on the team this season.

Loyola Chicago: Loyola Chicago is ranked, so that should get it in. If there is such a thing as ‘America’s team,’ it should be Loyola Chicago, because everyone seems to root for Sister Jean and Co. during the NCAA Tournament.

BYU: BYU looks good with a 16-4 record, and it even received votes to be ranked. It should certainly become ranked if it continues winning games, which is quite possible.

Nolan Wick is a first-year majoring in journalism. To contact him, email nhw5046@psu.edu.