Bubble Talk

Bubble Talk highlights the teams currently on the NCAA Bubble, teams that have locked up spots in the Field of 68, and teams that Should Be In but are not yet locks at the time of the update. Data noted credited to Warren Nolan and ESPN.

UPDATED:  February 22, 2020  |  8:30 a.m. ET

On to the latest …

Total Spots (68): Number of teams in the Field.

Automatic Bids (32): None – AQ’s will be determined during Championship Week as conferences hand-out their official NCAA bids to tournament champions.

  • Projected Locks (18): Teams projected to earn an at-large bid, if necessary.
  • Should Be In (10): Teams that should be in based on the current at-large landscape.
  • Work to Do: (31): Teams who are projected to be under consideration for at-large selection but who’s outcome is uncertain.
Atlantic 10
It’s become a three-horse race in the A10, with Dayton locked in the Field and Rhode Island and Richmond trying to either hold their positions or work their way in.  With VCU’s loss at Saint Louis on Friday, the Rams drop out of the at-large picture for now.

Locks: Dayton

Should Be In: None

Work to Do: Rhode Island, Richmond

  • Rhode Island – The Rams’ sweep of VCU is a little less muscular today that it appeared two weeks ago, but that’s how these things work sometimes. The Rams also have non-conference wins over Alabama and Providence – so URI will be rooting for the Friars, as odd as that may sound in those parts.  Rhody still gets another shot at Dayton, which would be a huge resume addition.  The only lowlight on an otherwise solid body of work is a loss to Brown.
  • Richmond – In a nutshell, the Spiders have a quality win at Rhode Island and a neutral-court W over Wisconsin.  The negatives are a loss to Radford and only four wins against Quadrants 1/2 opponents.  The Spiders’ opportunities moving forward are limited until the A10 tourney. In other words, keep winning and hope not to get passed.
A six-team race has now become a five-team race unless Syracuse re-groups or someone else (i.e. Notre Dame) finishes with a flurry.

Locks: Duke, Florida State, Louisville

Should Be In: None

Work to Do: NC State, Virginia

  • NC State – It’s hard to overstate the value of the Wolfpack’s win over Duke this week – even if it was in Raleigh.  It gives NC State a Top-Tier Quad 1 win and helps erase some of the dents from the loss at Boston College. Adding Florida State to its victory list would provide even more wiggle room for a team that’s been swept by Georgia Tech and lost to North Carolina (which seems odd, but true).  It’s also important for NCSU to avoid another BC-like performance on the way in.
  • Virginia – Having won six of seven, the Cavaliers may finally have a little breathing room – at least it appears that way.  The notables in that stretch are a home win over Florida State and a loss at Louisville.  If the Cavaliers can avoid miscues at Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech, it sets up a closing three-game stretch that includes home visits from Duke and Louisville.  It would still be nice to add one of those.
There’s nothing wrong with Houston’s profile, but let’s wait another week before moving the Cougars into Lock Land.  If UH dispatches of Memphis and Cincinnati in its next two outings, they will have done enough to avoid any complications.

Locks: None

Should Be In: Houston

Work to Do: Cincinnati, Memphis, Wichita State,

  • Cincinnati – The Bearcats have been an unpredictable crew, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.  UC has played four straight overtime games – three against non-NCAA contenders – with two of those turning into losses, most recently UCF at home. The next two Sundays are critical; UC hosts Wichita State and travels to Houston.
  • Memphis – The Tigers avoided a resume-killing loss to East Carolina at home to end a three-game losing streak.  If you’re an optimist, the Tigers still have a path to the NCAA tournament beyond winning the AAC tourney.   It just won’t be easy.  Memphis still has two shots at Houston and a home date with Wichita State – assuming, of course, they can also handle road trips to SMU and Tulane.
  • Wichita State – After a wobbly three-game stretch, the Shockers avoiding tipping over by running past UCF, Tulane and South Florida.  WSU’s closing stretch has a little more meat to it, beginning with a trip to Cincinnati this weekend.  It also includes road trips to SMU and Memphis.  For a team whose best wins include VCU, Oklahoma and South Carolina, there’s not a lot of wiggle room yet.
Providence has re-emerged as a legitimate at-large candidate and thus joins the latest edition of Bubble Talk.  That’s quite an accomplishment for a team that finished up its non-conference season with a 7-6 record, which included a neutral-court November loss to Long Beach State.  Butler and Marquette are closing in on lock status.

Locks: Seton Hall, Villanova, Creighton

Should Be In: Butler, Marquette

Work to Do: Georgetown, Providence, Xavier

  • Georgetown – The path to an at-large bid remains directly in front of the Hoyas.  Following a must-win trip to DePaul, Georgetown finishes with Marquette, Xavier, Creighton and Villanova.  Whether or not the Hoyas survive that gauntlet is anyone’s guess.  Assuming GT beats the Blue Demons, they probably need a split in those last four to avoid extra work in New York.
  • Xavier – The Musketeers split a road swing through Butler and St. John’s, so they remain status-quo. A huge opportunity awaits next with Villanova visiting the Cintas Center.  The closing stretch includes trips to Georgetown and Providence; neither of which will be easy (or fun) before a home date with Butler.  While the Muskies are 1-5 vs. the Top Tier of Quad 1 (3-8 overall), that road win at Seton Hall pays huge dividends.
  • Providence – At 15-12 entering this update, the Friars need to keep piling up wins.  A 6-8 mark against Quad 1 is offset a bit by those early-season woes that includes three Q3 losses and the one mentioned above.  How the Friars emerge from their next three will set the stage for New York – they get Marquette (home), Villanova (road) and Xavier (home) before closing with DePaul.
BIG 10
While the opportunity for double-digit bids remains a possibility, it’s not quite that simple, despite some overwhelming power numbers within the NCAA’s NET ratings.  Purdue needs to find some wins to improve its overall record and Rutgers’ closing stretch is potentially paralyzing.

Locks: Michigan State, Maryland, Penn State

Should Be In: Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State

Work to Do: Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin

  • Illinois – In the Pantheon of huge road wins, the Illini’s victory at Penn State ranks pretty high.  It snapped a four-game losing streak and sets the stage for Illinois to return to the NCAA tournament.  It also helps that Ayo Dosunmu returned quickly from what could have been a serious injury.  Now, the Illini need to build momentum by taking care of Nebraska (home) and Northwestern (road).  Overall, the Illini close with three of five at home.  The table is set, so to speak.
  • Indiana – The Hoosiers will take a road win at The Barn (Minnesota) and get out of Dodge.  While the NET isn’t overly fond of IU, other metrics are more favorable for a team that’s 5-7 vs. Quad 1 without a bad loss.  A 2-6 road record is still a concern with upcoming road trips to Purdue and Illinois.  But the Hoosiers do have a pair of neutral-court wins.  Next up, a chance against Penn State at home.  Further ahead, IU closes with Minnesota and Wisconsin at home.
  • Purdue – The roller-coaster continues for Purdue.  The Boilers have lost three straight after winning three straight, which means they enter the weekend at 14-13 and in need of another winning streak.  The good news: Purdue closes with three of four at home, with visits from Michigan and Indiana up next.  If Purdue wins its remaining home games (and loses at Iowa), the Boilers would enter the B10 tourney at 17-14; likely in need of a couple of wins to feel somewhat safe.
  • Rutgers – The Scarlet Knights’ perfect home record came to an end against Michigan this week.  By itself, it’s not a big deal.  But here’s what could be a big deal … Rutgers is 1-6 in road games this season and 1-8 away from the RAC, and three of RU’s final four games are on the road.  The home game in that stretch? Maryland.  Without another win (or two) away from home (road or B10 tourney), this could still get dicey for the Scarlet Knights.
  • Wisconsin – The Badgers are nearly impossible to beat at the Kohl Center so moving above the fray might be a formality (they close with three of five at home).  But with 10 losses, let’s be sure nothing funny happens before making the leap to Should Be In.
BIG 12
Nothing new to report: It’s still the Big 3 – and then Texas Tech and Oklahoma.  TTU’s metrics are strong so we’ll leave them where they are, but there’s some hesitation with a 2-8 mark vs. Quad 1 and a less-than-stellar road record (2-5) – especially knowing the Raiders’ next two are away from Lubbock.

Locks: Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia

Should Be In: Texas Tech

Work to Do: Oklahoma

  • Oklahoma – Last week we mentioned that the Sooners needed to survive. Whether they can do that (after losing to KU and Baylor) is highly debatable. OU is a nifty 8-1 against Quad 2 opponents; they are also 1-9 against Quad 1, which kind of sticks out in the wrong way when perusing the Sooners’ team sheet.  With 10 losses, the trip to Stillwater this weekend and a home date with Texas Tech suddenly look much more important.
Drama has developed for Northern Iowa thanks to its recent losses.  More than ever before, there are serious questions as to whether the Valley would be a two-bid league if UNI were to lose in its conference tourney.

Locks: None

Should Be In: None

Work to Do: Northern Iowa

  • Northern Iowa – It was a tough week for the Panthers’ at-large hopes, dropping back-to-back games to Loyola-Chicago and Indiana State.  Yes, the Panthers have a strong win at Colorado and a close loss to West Virginia as assets (plus a win over South Carolina), but winning the Valley by multiple games may no longer be a reality.  Whatever margin UNI had entering last week, it’s much less now.
San Diego State is one of the best stories of the season; the Aztecs remain perfect and have their sights set on a potential No. 1 seed in the West Region.

Locks: San Diego State

Should Be In: None

Work to Do: Utah State

  • Utah State – Early wins over LSU and Florida are keeping the Aggies in play.  It’s been a struggle to post any other “up” games – having been swept by San Diego State in league play and then falling to both BYU and Saint Mary’s.  There’s also the losses to UNLV and Air Force.  Are the Aggies good enough when firing on all cylinders? Sure.  Is their profile good enough?  It remains a close call.
PAC 12
Oregon had a strong non-conference season, so unless the wheels fall off down the stretch, the Ducks will again go Dancing.  Arizona and Colorado continue to look like good bets, even though Arizona’s paper profile doesn’t quite match its NET.   If there’s a speck in the rear-view mirror, it’s UCLA.  The Bruins are now 9-5 in the Pac-12.

Locks: Oregon

Should Be In: Arizona, Colorado

Work to Do: Arizona State, Stanford, USC

  • Arizona State – Make it six straight wins for ASU, the most recent against Oregon in Tempe.  The Sun Devils have come a long way in two weeks and now just need to avoid a let-down.  Oregon State arrives Sunday before trips to improved UCLA and USC.
  • Stanford – The Cardinal stopped a four-game slide (and 7 losses in 8 games) by winning at Washington.  Overall, Stanford feels like a team that’s hanging out on the cutline, buoyed some by its metrics.  In terms of NCAA wins, the Cardinal boast a home win over Oregon and a neutral-courter over Oklahoma (who is bubbly, too).  After visiting Washington State this weekend, Stanford returns to home to face Utah and Colorado.
  • USC – Much like Stanford (without as strong a NET rating), the Trojans’ profile just feels blah.  Nice win over LSU early with a perfect 6-0 mark against Quad 2 teams (which other than Stanford is littered with non-NCAA suitors at the moment).  Much as we noted with Oklahoma, one thing on USC’s profile sticks out, an 0-6 mark against the Top Tier of Q1.  Regardless, this next stretch is important.  USC is at Utah this weekend, followed by home dates with the Arizona schools.
LSU has officially lost its position as an NCAA lock, of which the author takes full responsibility for placing the Tigers in said position in the first place. LSU has lost four of five, with their only win in that stretch a narrow home victory over Missouri.  With trips to South Carolina and Florida up next, the Tigers could still find themselves with work to do.

Locks: Kentucky, Auburn

Should Be In: LSU

Work to Do: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi State, Tennessee

  • Alabama – The Tide took a resume blow with a home loss to Texas AM and now face an uphill battle at 14-12 overall.   There’s aren’t many “up” wins left, either, and Alabama faces Ole Miss and Mississippi State on the road in its next two.
  • Arkansas – Losers of five straight, the Razorbacks are hanging on by a thread. Missouri and Tennessee visit Fayetteville next, both feel like must wins.  What the Hogs really need is for Isaiah Joe to return, but there’s no indication (or timetable) that it will happen.
  • Florida – The Gators are best positioned within this group and the table is set before them.  After a trip to Kentucky, Florida has remaining home games with LSU and UK, along with trips to Tennessee at Georgia.  Winning its winnable games should be enough.  We’ll see if the Gators can get that done.
  • Mississippi State – The Bulldogs have won five of seven but largely treaded water, mainly due to the middling teams in the SEC.  Three of the Dawgs’ next five are away from home – including trips to Texas AM, Missouri and South Carolina, none of which will be easy.   Right now, MSU’s profile is largely based on a win at Florida, and a 6-7 mark against Quads 1/2 with two Q3 losses.
  • Tennessee – The Volunteers have 11 losses (15-11) heading into the weekend so margins are waning.  Next up, a huge opportunity at Auburn, followed by a roadie at Arkansas.  The Vols’ closing stretch? Florida, Kentucky, and Auburn.  So, if you’re an optimist, the path toward an at-large bid is in place.
Gonzaga is in a familiar position – eyeing another No. 1 seed out West.  The Bulldogs overall schedule (non-conference anyway) isn’t what’s it has been, but to this point, the Selection Committee doesn’t seem worried so neither are we.

Locks: Gonzaga

Should Be In: None

Work to Do: BYU, Saint Mary’s

  • BYU – A huge opportunity awaits the Cougars with Gonzaga in town. A victory would define BYU’s profile – and could solidify an NCAA berth.  An early win at Houston helps, too, and the Committee will consider games missed by Yoeli Childs. The negatives are losses to Boise State and San Francisco, the former without Childs.  Even with a loss to the Zags, the Cougars just need to avoid a couple of clunkers between now and Selection Sunday.
  • Saint Mary’s – If it weren’t for those pesky losses to Santa Clara and Winthrop. Oh well, the Gaels are still in solid shape thanks in particular to wins over Wisconsin, Arizona State and Utah State.  What matters now is taking care San Diego and Santa Clara before winding up the regular-season against Gonzaga in Spokane.
At least right now, there are limited non-power conference contenders.  We’ll see if any further ones emerge.

Locks: None

Should Be In: None

Work to Do: East Tennessee State, Liberty, UNC-Greensboro

  • East Tennessee State – The Buccaneers are good enough to win an NCAA game, proven by a road win at LSU.  The one stinker is a home loss to Mercer.  With a sweep against UNC-Greensboro as well, ETSU owns three wins against Quads 1/2. Assuming there aren’t further hiccups, this team will be (and should be) on the consideration board.
  • UNC-Greensboro – If there’s a team hovering around the perimeter of the bubble that could make the consideration board it’s the Spartans.  Being swept by East Tennessee State isn’t ideal, but the Spartans do own a win at Georgetown, are 3-3 vs. Quads 1/2 and boast a Top 70-ish non-conference schedule.   They also have a home date left with Furman (a Top 100 team).  Would they make it today? Probably not.  But winning out to the SoCon title game could put them at say 26-6; which would at least bring them into play, especially if Georgetown finishes well.
  • Liberty – Honestly, it still looks like a long shot for the Flames.  Despite an impressive record, Liberty’s overall schedule ranks above 300, and unlike ETSU, Liberty lost soundly at LSU.  It’s going to be hard to overcome a weak schedule and losses to North Florida and Steton (NET 300-ish).


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