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:  Saturday, March 4   |  6:45 a.m. ET (Final Update)

As usual, we have a lot on the table during Championship Week, with 30 or so teams having various amount of work to complete.  Selection Sunday is now only a week away.

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 (27): Teams projected to earn an at-large bid, if necessary.
  • Should Be In (6): Teams that should be in based on the current at-large landscape.
  • Work to Do: (30): Teams who are projected to be under consideration for at-large selection but who’s outcome is uncertain.
Atlantic 10
Rhode Island should be safely in the Field, but the Rams’ seed may slip a line or two after ending the regular season with an ugly loss to Saint Joseph’s and a close call at Davidson.  In all, URI dropped three of five down the stretch.  We’ll see if the A10 tourney provides a course correction.

Locks: Rhode Island

Should Be In: None

Work to Do: St. Bonaventure

  • St. Bonaventure | RPI: 22 | BPI: 56 | SOR: 35 |  Given that their worst loss came without star guard Jaylen Adams, the Bonnies have fared well enough to warrant strong consideration for an at-large bid.  They need to finish up their regular-season work by beating Saint Louis this weekend.  After that, if they can avoid a dubious departure from the A10 tourney, their outlook should be favorable.
If Louisville ends up missing the NCAA tournament they’ll look back at Thursday’s home loss to Virginia and wonder how exactly they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  That said, what matters now is how they respond.  Ample opportunities remain for the Cardinals to make their case.

Locks: Clemson, Duke, Miami-FL, North Carolina, Virginia

Should Be In: Florida State, Virginia Tech

Work to Do: Louisville, NC State, Notre Dame, Syracuse

  • Louisville | RPI: 41 | BPI: 31 | SOR: 43 | There aren’t words to describe the loss Louisville suffered against Virginia, so we won’t try.  The Cardinals storyline remains simple: win a couple of NCAA-level games before Selection Sunday.  The journey starts (or returns) with a trip to NC State this weekend.
  • NC State | RPI: 61 | BPI: 48 | SOR: 38 |  With a chance to potentially cement a bid, the Wolfpack lost at Georgia Tech; their third Quadrant 3 loss of the season.  The Pack get Louisville at home this weekend, so there’s time to put the nervousness away.  A loss to the Cardinals could make the ACC opener a bigger priority – especially as the Pack’s metric numbers are a bit uneven.
  • Notre Dame | RPI: 68 | BPI: 32 | SOR: 59 |  It’s as easy as this:  Can the Irish put together a run with a healthy roster?  A couple of their “bad” losses came with a full team so there’s no quick and simple pass on their bumps.  Fortunately for them, the ACC offers more than enough opportunities to re-raise their profile.  First stop: a trip to Virginia this weekend.
  • Syracuse | RPI: 50 | BPI: 51 | SOR: 56 |  With a week to go Syracuse finds itself in a familiar spot.  So much of their overall profile is just plain average – a couple of nice road wins and a couple of glitchy losses; which has them directly along the cutline.  At 7-10 in the ACC, beating Clemson this weekend would not only provide a marquee win, but also keep the Orange from a steeper climb next week in Brooklyn.
Tulsa is playing its best basketball at the right time and could be a sleeper in the AAC tourney next week, but the Golden Hurricanes’ at-large hopes are pretty slim.  Temple’s loss to Connecticut gives the Owls an awfully big hill to climb, too.  It looks like a three-bid league unless there’s a surprise coming.

Locks: Cincinnati, Wichita State, Houston

Should Be In: None

Work to Do: None

Butler might be okay.  The optimal words, though, are might be.  In the Bulldogs’ case, they managed to lose to both Georgetown and St. John’s in their past four games.  While their overall metrics are favorable, the Dawgs have just three Q1 wins (3-8 against that group) and have struggled away from home.  Providence is dogged by some unsightly losses, and Marquette could use another splash.

Locks: Villanova, Xavier

Should Be In: Creighton, Seton Hall

Work to Do: Butler, Marquette, Providence

  • Butler | RPI: 39 | BPI: 24 | SOR: 39 |  The good: a home win over Villanova and neutral-courter over Ohio State – plus home wins against Creighton and Providence.  The negatives are a home loss to Georgetown, that recent misfire at St. Johns (without its best player), and a rather home-heavy success story.  Winning at Seton Hall Saturday would lock them in.  A loss would leave them 9-9 in the Big East with a little more on the line next week in New York.
  • Marquette | RPI: 64 | BPI: 46 | SOR: 47 |  The Golden Eagles are lamenting that untimely loss at DePaul, but there’s time to recover thanks to a home game with Creighton this weekend and the BE tourney ahead.  Marquette is missing an elite level win, but a couple more good ones could be enough.  Other than the loss to the Blue Demons, there’s nothing egregious to worry about.
  • Providence | RPI: 42 | BPI: 73 | SOR: 46 |  For the Friars, it’s all about Quadrant 4; that’s where you’ll find three losses.  It’s the reason they’re on the bubble, despite wins against both Xavier and Villanova at home.  Having lost three of its last four, Providence would be advised to take care of St. John’s this weekend and then avoid a flameout to the wrong team at the BE tourney.
BIG 10
The Big Ten

Locks: Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan

Should Be In: None

Work to Do: Nebraska, Penn State

  • Nebraska | RPI: 61 | BPI: 58 | SOR: 33 |  Nebraska ended its season with a bit of a clunker against Michigan at the Big Ten tournament on Friday – a game the Huskers really needed.  Their primary asset is a collection of 13 regular-season Big Ten wins.  Unfortunately, schedules are no longer equal, and 12 of those 13 came against teams who likely won’t make the NCAA tournament – we’ll see how Penn State finishes up.  It’s been a great story for Nebraska, but an happy ending on Selection Sunday seems questionable at the moment.
  • Penn State | RPI: 67 | BPI: 28 | SOR: 63 |  The Nittany Lions pulled off a third win over Ohio State on Friday to advance into the B10 semifinals against Purdue.  If they beat the Boilermakers, PSU’s at-large profile becomes much more intriguing (not to mention they’ll have a chance to earn the automatic bid).  The reality is those three wins over OSU are what the Lions bring to the table; the NC schedule was sub-par and included a loss to Rider.
BIG 12
Somewhere, in a crazy basketball season, there’s room for a team four Quadrant 1 wins and four Quadrant 2 wins without a bad loss on its resume.  That team would be Oklahoma State. Although the Cowboys’ RPI is troublesome, the other metrics in front of the Selection Committee are much more favorable.  Thus, OSU joins the bubble fray.

Locks: Kansas, Texas Tech, TCU, West Virginia

Should Be In: None

Work to Do: Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas

  • Baylor | RPI: 55 | BPI: 35 | SOR: 40 |  For what it’s worth, metrics favor the Bears who are home-heavy winners without any negatives.  While they are 4-10 vs. Quadrant 1, those four wins include Kansas and Texas Tech.  Baylor hasn’t been very good on the road, however, and they close the regular season at fellow B12 bubbler Kansas State.  It could easily come down to the B12 tourney.
  • Kansas State | RPI: 63 | BPI: 49 | SOR: 32 |  Once again the Wildcats are on the bubble thanks to a weak non-conference schedule (300+ NC SOS) that offered very little help.  K-State is thus relying on home wins over TCU and Oklahoma, and roadies at Baylor and Texas.  Baylor comes to town Saturday ahead of the B12 tourney.  They may need a couple more wins.
  • Oklahoma | RPI: 37 | BPI: 44 | SOR: 34 |  Quality wins aren’t the issue when evaluating the Sooners; they have plenty.  The issue is a long and winding losing stretch in which they’ve haven’t resembled the team we saw in December.  The good news, for now, is that OU avoided another set-back by trumping Iowa State in Norman on Friday night, ending them at 8-10 in the B12.  Assuming they avoid an ugly exit next week, the forecast is once again favorable.
  • Oklahoma State | RPI: 95 | BPI: 65 | SOR: 51 |  The basis for the Cowboys’ inclusion is noted above.  They have some quality wins on the board.  Next up: Kansas visits Stillwater.  A victory would be OSU’s second against the Jayhawks this season and would have to raise some eyebrows, even with a highly questionable RPI.  Other metrics are more more in agreement on this: OSU is closer to the bubble than their RPI might suggest.  It could still get interesting.
  • Texas | RPI: 58 | BPI: 42 | SOR: 41 |  Texas has the quality wins it needs; mounting losses are the real issue. Entering the weekend, the Longhorns have 13.  The most ever for an at-large team is 15 (last year – Vanderbilt, which had a top overall SOS).  Any more losses before the Big 12 tourney would put the Horns at risk of equaling that mark. Winning their final regular-season game won’t be easy, either – West Virginia comes to Austin.
Nevada has put together an outstanding campaign that’s flown largely under the radar.  Their metrics are solid and they own a 7-3 mark against Quadrant 1/2 teams (combined).  In that mix are closes losses to a fully healthy TCU team and a six-point defeat at Texas Tech.

Locks: Nevada

Should Be In: None

Work to Do: Boise State

  • Boise State | RPI: 53 | BPI: 53 | SOR: 52 |  Boise’s best wins are Oregon and Loyola-Chicago.  After losing to Nevada a second time, the Broncos once-favorable metrics started to slide.  Then they added a loss at San Diego State.  Assuming they can beat Wyoming this weekend, it looks like they need a run to the final of the Mountain West tourney.  Could they lose to Nevada a third time and earn an at-large?
PAC 12
Oregon’s loss to Washington State puts a damper on the Ducks’ once-resurgent hopes.  That leaves five teams with a varying degrees of work to do.  Arizona State is in the best shape, one would think, but they’ve puttered through their Pac 12 slate after a strong non-conference season.

Locks: Arizona

Should Be In: None

Work to Do: Arizona State, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington

  • Arizona State | RPI: 41 | BPI: 43 | SOR: 55 |  Early wins over Xavier and Kansas continue to pay dividends.  That’s good, because as noted, their league performance has been very average; thus they have some final work to clean up. Taking care of Stanford this weekend might be enough.  A loss would increase the importance of a win (or two) at the P12 tourney.
  • UCLA | RPI: 56 | BPI: 59 | SOR: 60 |  The Bruins haven’t been very good on the road, save a win at Arizona, which is really helping their case, along with that neutral-court victory over Kentucky.  Their metrics are marginal (at best).  With two straight road losses in tow, UCLA heads across town to surging USC this weekend.  A loss would drop the Bruins to 2-8 in road games.
  • USC | RPI: 32 | BPI: 45 | SOR: 54 |  It’s easy to look at the Bruins Pac-12 record and solid RPI and think the Trojans could be a lock.  But inside those numbers are a team without an elite-level win – Middle Tennessee, New Mexico State, and Utah are officially their best.  Nothing wrong with those, but a slippery finish could create some questions about their ultimate destination.
  • Utah | RPI: 54 | BPI: 77 | SOR: 65 | The Utes have won 5 of 6 games and remain squarely in the conversation.  Their best non-conference win is Missouri, and they’ve beaten Arizona State and Washington (both on the road) in Q1.  They close with a home game against Colorado.  Then it’s off to Los Angeles were they’ll likely need a couple of victories to improve their standing.
  • Washington | RPI: 44 | BPI: 108 | SOR: 67 |  Other than a loss at improved Stanford, the Huskies have beaten the teams they need to beat down the stretch.  Their final game in that series is Oregon at home this weekend.  Overall, a win against Kansas continues to help, as does a victory over Arizona and a roadie at USC.  The rest of UW’s profile is very average.  Next week will be a decisive one for the Huskies.
It’s been a roller-coaster of a journey in the SEC, save perhaps Auburn and Tennessee.  At this point, Florida has enough big wins to avoid any real trouble, so let’s lock them in.  Missouri and Texas AM should be okay, too, although not quite as solid.  That leaves a race to the finish for fading Alabama and a trio of hopefuls.

Locks: Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky

Should Be In: Missouri, Texas AM

Work to Do: Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi State

  • Alabama | RPI: 57 | BPI: 54 | SOR: 62 |  The Crimson Tide are in a similar position to Texas in that they have enough quality wins and a solid strength of schedule.  What they also have is a pile of mounting losses, leaving them very little wiggle room down the stretch.  ‘Bama has lost four straight and faces a tough road trip to Texas AM this weekend.  Another loss puts would put some definite pressure on the SEC tourney.
  • Georgia | RPI: 81 | BPI: 83 | SOR: 61 |  With 13 losses and a 7-10 SEC record, time is running out on the Bulldogs.  They also face a trip to Knoxville this weekend.  Without an upset of the Vols, there’ll be a steep, uphill climb at the SEC tourney.  UGA’s best wins are Tennessee (home) and Florida (road), plus a NC victory over Saint Mary’s.
  • LSU | RPI: 91 | BPI: 72 | SOR: 68 |  Much like Georgia, the Tigers are grasping to stay afloat, even with some nice Ws on their resume (6 Quadrant 1 wins).  They, too, have 13 losses and need a late winning streak to regain the traction they once had.
  • Mississippi State | RPI: 65 | BPI: 64 | SOR: 49 |  MSU got nothing from its non-conference season and is dragging around 300+ NC SOS.  The good news is this: they have nothing else anchoring a profile that’s still light on quality wins (3-7 vs. Q1).  The Bulldogs have a testy trip to LSU this weekend.  Win that and we’ll see how long they stay afloat next week.  The ball is in their court, so to speak.
Mark Few and the Zags keep rolling along.  Another Top 4-to-5 seed is in order, most likely, and with the right draw, Gonzaga could reach another Sweet 16.  As for Saint Mary’s, they should be okay provided they avoid an early exit from the WCC tourney.

Locks: Gonzaga

Should Be In: None

Work to Do: Saint Mary’s

  •  Saint Mary’s | RPI: 36 | BPI: 22 | SOR: 42 |  The Gaels have an overwhelming number of wins and a victory at Gonzaga.  As for the rest of their profile, it’s on the light side, which reduces their margin with a week to go.  Assuming they avoid a bad loss, SMC may be able to sustain a second loss to the Zags.  Anything less and it could still be inconclusive come Selection Sunday.
Our list resides remains at four. It’s possible another team (or two) could emerge late if things break apart in the conference tournaments.

Locks: None

Should Be In: None

Work to Do: Loyola-Chicago, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico State, Western Kentucky

  • Loyola-Chicago | RPI: 31 | BPI: 52 | SOR: 50 |  Not sure whether a win at Florida will be enough, but it keeps the Ramblers in the conversation.  So does an escape Friday afternoon in the MVC Quarterfinals against Northern Iowa.  Loyola is 1-1 vs. Quadrant 1 and 4-3 vs. Qs 1/2 combined.  Their hiccups are losses to Milwaukee and Indiana State.
  • Middle Tennessee | RPI: 20 | BPI: 40 | SOR: 25 |  If you’re a Blue Raiders fan, there’s real reason for optimism after sweeping Western Kentucky.  Although MTSU lost to Auburn, Miami, and USC, all three games were competitive (single-point margins).  That has to help at least a little.  If MTSU can avoid a bad loss in the C-USA tourney, it looks somewhat promising.  But as these things go, there are no guarantees, obviously.
  • New Mexico State | RPI: 47 | BPI: 71 | SOR: 48 |  Is a single non-conference win over Miami-FL enough?  Sounds a lot like Loyola (above).  When you break it down, 18 of their 21 Division I wins are against Groups 3/4.  Their metrics are mixed.  Winning, obviously, erases all doubts.
  • Western Kentucky | RPI: 52 | BPI: 57 | SOR: 64 |  WKU find itself in a tough spot after losing to Middle Tennessee a second time. Yes, they have those early wins over Purdue and SMU (when healthy), but there’s the matter of eight (8) losses, which is tough for non-power conference teams to overcome – especially when four of those are against Quadrant 3 teams.


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