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:  March 14, 2021  |  7:15 a.m. ET

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

Automatic Bids (31): None – AQ’s will be determined during Championship Week as conferences hand-out their official NCAA bids to tournament champions.  The Ivy League is not participating this year.

  • Automatic Bids (one bid leagues): Liberty (Atlantic Sun), Morehead State (OVC), Winthrop (Big South), Loyola-Chicago (MVC), UNC-Greensboro (Southern), Appalachian State (Sun Belt), Drexel (Colonial), Mount St. Mary’s (NEC), Cleveland State (Horizon); Hartford (America East); Norfolk State (MEAC), Texas-Southern (SWAC); Iona (MAAC), Ohio (MAC), Eastern Washington (Big Sky), UC-Santa Barbara (Big West), North Texas (C-USA), Abilene Christian (Southland), Grand Canyon (WAC), Oral Roberts (Summit), Patriot League
  • Projected Locks (34): Teams projected to earn an at-large bid, if necessary.
  • Should Be In (4): Teams that should be in based on the current at-large landscape.
  • Bubble: (17): Teams who are projected to be under consideration for at-large selection but who’s outcome is uncertain.
  • Bracket Math: 17 teams for 10 at-large spots.
Atlantic 10
With developments elsewhere along the cutline, VCU appears to be in a position to claim a bid regardless of Sunday’s A-10 final – providing, of course, the Rams showcase a performance that wouldn’t give then Committee a reason to question their inclusion.

Locks: St. Bonaventure, VCU

Should Be In: None

Bubble: Saint Louis

  • Saint Louis – The Billikens are waiting and hoping things break their way.  Significant COVID challenges limited SLU’s opportunities to compile wins – but also, potentially, losses.  Either way, it’s going to be a close call unless we see some bid thieves take positions, in which case making the Field becomes that much tougher.  As it is, SLU is hoping a home win over St. Bonaventure and non-conference wins over LSU and Richmond are enough to carry the day and offset a loss to La Salle.  They are also hoping bid thieves stay away.
ACC
It feels safe to “Lock” North Carolina into the Field.  The Heels have done enough down the stretch to post 11 wins against Quads 1-2; a team with that profile isn’t going to be left out.  Virginia Tech is probably fine, too, thanks to wins over Virginia and Villanova – even though the Hokies’ metrics aren’t great and they, too, suffered several missed games.

Locks: Georgia Tech (Automatic Bid), Florida State, Virginia, Clemson, North Carolina

Should Be In: Virginia Tech

Bubble: Louisville, Syracuse

  • Louisville – The Cardinals didn’t show up with a needed sense of urgency against Duke in the ACC tournament and are now hoping that home wins against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, a regular-season sweep of the Blue Devils, and an overall mark of 7-6 against Quads 1-2 (with a loss to Miami) is enough.  The Cards may survive, but they’ll be closely watching this weekend’s bid thieves, hoping they all fall short.
  • Syracuse – The Orange are still peeling after Virginia beat them at the buzzer.  It leaves SU with a 1-7 mark vs. Q1 teams (not ideal) and a 7-8 mark against Quads 1-2 that is largely filled with home wins.  Their NET metric has improved and Syracuse is certainly playing better of late – passing the “eye test” against Virginia.  Will it be enough?  Much like Louisville, the Orange will be carefully watching what happens elsewhere.
AMERICAN
SMU leaves the at-large picture with Friday’s loss to Cincinnati.  That leaves Memphis and Wichita State as additional options to join Houston. The Shockers will feel better if they reach the title game, because they could still take a “bad loss” in the semifinals.

Locks: Houston

Should Be In: None

Bubble: Memphis, Wichita State

  • Memphis – The Tigers fell just short (again) in their bid to knock off Houston.  It’s a heartbreaking development, knowing those two losses will likely keep you from the NCAA tournament.  The Tigers end at 0-4 vs. Quad 1 and just 4-7 vs. Quads 1-2; with five losses to non-tournament teams, including two to Tulsa.  Memphis needed a huge win and it never materialized.
  • Wichita State – The Shockers’ season came to a surprising halt Saturday against Cincinnati in the AAC semifinals. It adds a Quad 3 loss to WSU’s profile that was largely living on a huge win over Houston (home) and a victory at Ole Miss.  Perhaps the Committee will factor in competitive, close losses to Oklahoma State and Missouri.  They could also factor in a 20-point loss at Memphis when the Shockers were coming off a lengthy pause.  WSU ends at 4-4 vs. Quads 1-2, but with just two wins against Top 100 NET teams.  Like some other bubble teams, it’s a waiting game, hoping Cincinnati or someone else doesn’t steal a spot.
BIG EAST
Georgetown completed its surprising run through the Big East tournament to claim the league’s automatic bid.  Included in that accomplishment is the knowledge that the Hoyas take a spot from someone else.

Locks: Villanova, Creighton, Georgetown (Auto Bid)

Should Be In: Connecticut

Bubble: Seton Hall, St. John’s, Xavier

  • Seton Hall – The Pirates finished up a 14-13 after losing to Georgetown.  It’s hard to see the Committee accepting that type of overall performance despite some nice wins.
  • St. John’s – The Johnnies gave it a nice run, but February losses to Butler and DePaul will likely keep the Red Storm out of the NCAA field.  There’s a solid win over Villanova and one at Connecticut (without Bouknight), but no other tournament-level wins to showcase.
  • Xavier – The Musketeers blew a 19-point first-half lead and dropped an overtime decision to Butler.  It was a disappointing end to a season that once had so much promise.  They have to hope an early home win over Oklahoma and another against Creighton offset 5-6 losses to non-tournament teams, depending upon what happens with Georgetown.
BIG 10
Will the Big Ten receive nine bids?  It’s looking like a realistic possibility, although Maryland (15-13) and Michigan State (15-12) have both amassed significant losses – albeit against tough schedules.  Will the Committee value those teams’ high-end wins?  It looks like it may work out that way, but there’s not enough confidence to say with absolute certainty, either.

Locks: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin

Should Be In: Rutgers

Bubble: Maryland, Michigan State

  • Maryland – The Terrapins may (with an emphasis on that word) have wrapped things up with Thursday’s win over Michigan State in the 8/9 game of the B10 tourney.  Friday’s loss leaves them at 15-13 overall.  Not many teams have received an at-large bid with that type of mark, but this is also a rare season – given the pandemic.  It’s all about perspective – and what perspective the Committee takes.
  • Michigan State – The Spartans may have wrapped up a bid by beating Michigan to close the regular season.  It could be tough for the Committee to dismiss a group that recently posted a trio of wins over Illinois, Ohio State and Michigan, even if all were at home.  A 9-12 mark against Quads 1-2 also looks pretty good compared to some other bubble teams.  Their NET metric isn’t great; then again, a team’s resume is more than its number.
BIG 12
Seven teams will be dancing.  The only outlier here would be an unexpected NCAA appeals ruling on Oklahoma State.  And it doesn’t seem remotely possible that the infractions committee would announce something this late in the process.

Locks: Texas (Auto Bid),Baylor, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech

Should Be In: None

Bubble: None

  • None
MISSOURI VALLEY
Loyola sealed up the league’s automatic bid at the MVC tournament.  It’s a tenuous wait for Drake.

Automatic Bid: Loyola-Chicago

Should Be In: None

Bubble: Drake

  • Drake – Drake fell in the MVC title game to Loyola, meaning the Bulldogs dropped two of three to the regular-season and tournament champions. They wrapped their season with a 23-4 record.  The profile numbers look like this: 6-2 vs. Quads 1-2 (home win over Loyola) – with losses at Bradley and Valparaiso.  It’s unfortunate the Bulldogs aren’t at full strength, but the Committee will evaluate the team as is – unless new information becomes available.  The real challenge between now and Selection Sunday is waiting and hoping other teams don’t pass them.  It could end up being a close call.
MOUNTAIN WEST
The Mountain could end up with one bid – or more.  So much depends on what happens this weekend, including whether Utah State can grab the league’s automatic bid.

Locks: San Diego State (Auto Bid)

Should Be In: None

Bubble: Boise State, Colorado State, Utah State

  • Boise State – An early win at BYU is solid, but the Broncos remaining profile is squarely mixed. Add in a loss to Fresno State and an early exit from the MWC tourney, and BSU must sit around and hope, somehow, their profile sneaks in.
  • Colorado State – The Rams split three series with San Diego State, Utah State and Boise State in the regular season and bowed out to Utah State in the MWC semifinals.  They also have a rather lopsided loss to Saint Mary’s on their resume – along with a loss to Nevada.  It’s an overall iffy profile that doesn’t stick out.  They are 3-6 vs. Quads 1-2 and just 7-6 vs. Quads 1-3, meaning 10 of 17 wins are in Quad 4.
  • Utah State – The Aggies ousted Colorado State in the Semifinals but missed their shot against San Diego State in the finals.  It’s hard to beat a team three times, but USU’s profile is anything but solid.  Outside the league, they were taken down pretty handily by VCU.  The Aggies have to hope those earlier wins over SDSU carry some weight (even if at home), and that one of the other bid thieves falls short.
PAC 12
Will UCLA make it?  It’s a tough question to answer.  It may work out, but the Bruins have put themselves in a position to be questioned.

Locks: Colorado, Oregon, USC, Oregon State (automatic bid)

Should Be In:

Bubble: UCLA

  • UCLA – The Bruins resume is quite meh when you break it down – and that didn’t change with an exit to Oregon State in the P-12 tourney. They are a meager 5-8 against Quads 1-2. For what it’s worth, the Bruins only own one (1) win against a projected NCAA team (Colorado at home, by 3 points).  This could still end up being a very close call – especially if some bid thieves win this weekend.
SEC
Ole Miss “missed” its chance against LSU on Friday and now begins to wait.  It figures to be a close call and a lot may yet depend on what happens around them.

Locks: Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, Missouri, LSU

Should Be In: None

Bubble: Ole Miss

  • Ole Miss – The Rebels close their season at 16-11 overall with a victory over Tennessee and a regular-season sweep of Missouri.  It’s a very bubble situation that could break either way depending upon how the Committee weights the team’s wins vs. pile of defeats.  It is worth mentioning that an 8-9 mark vs. Quads 1-2 still looks pretty good compared to some other bubble contenders, and only the loss to Vanderbilt is outside the Top 100 of the NET.
WEST COAST
Gonzaga appears to be headed for the overall No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday after beating BYU in the WCC title game.  The Cougars look like a strong bet to make the field, so there isn’t much more to see here until the bracket is released.

Automatic Bid: Gonzaga

Should Be In: BYU

Bubble: None

BEST OF THE REST
Western Kentucky would be wise to win the Conference USA title and remove all doubts.  But there’s enough on their resume to warrant a look either way.

Locks: None

Should Be In: None

Bubble: Western Kentucky

  • Western Kentucky – The Hilltoppers are still holding onto an early road win at Alabama.  A close early loss to West Virginia is also notable.  There are things to like about the Hilltoppers and they could certainly be a spoiler in an opening NCAA tournament game.  The question is: Can they get there?  At this point, that’s a very big question mark after Saturday night’s loss to North Texas in the C-USA final.
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