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 25, 2021  |  11:30 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.

  • Projected Locks (15): Teams projected to earn an at-large bid, if necessary.
  • Should Be In (15): Teams that should be in based on the current at-large landscape.
  • Work to Do: (35): Teams who are projected to be under consideration for at-large selection but who’s outcome is uncertain.
Atlantic 10
As it stands with this update, the A-10 could end up with one bid, or perhaps as many as three.  Any remaining hopes of an at-large run for Davidson or Dayton likely disappeared with losses on Wednesday.

Locks: None

Should Be In: None

Work to Do: Richmond, Saint Louis, St. Bonaventure, VCU

  • Richmond – The Spiders’ biggest assets remain a neutral-court win over Loyola-Chicago and a road win at Kentucky.  Questionable home losses to both Hofstra and La Salle are also on the team sheet.  Friday’s game with Saint Louis is big for both teams, assuming no hiccup with Saint Joseph’s to close the regular season.
  • Saint Louis – The Billikens took it on the chin at Dayton, falling to 1-3 in road games (Fordham is their lone win away from home).  It looks like a must-win against Richmond on Friday, followed by two with Massachusetts to close.  While an early win over LSU remains helpful, the Billikens are just 2-3 vs. Quads 1-2.  They may need a run in the A-10 tourney, regardless.
  • St. Bonaventure – Resume pluses are wins over Richmond (road) and VCU (home).  Best win outside the league: Akron.  It’s an iffy profile that could benefit by a regular-season A-10 title.  Either way, the Bonnies would be best served by taking care of George Washington and Dayton on their way to the postseason tourney.
  • VCU – The Rams bounced back from a tough loss to George Mason by taking out Saint Louis.  While they are 0-3 vs. Quad 1, VCU is a nifty 8-0 against Quad 2 opponents, which certainly helps an otherwise middling profile.  Winning at Davidson won’t be easy, especially if the Rams are again at less than full strength.  But a victory would keep the Rams in decent shape heading into postseason play.
It’s been a down year in the ACC, so it’s no surprise, perhaps, that a race is on for bids amongst a handful of teams.  Florida State and Virginia (despite a recent slide) are good to go.  We’ll keep an eye on Virginia Tech, but for now, the Hokies hold their spot alongside Clemson.

Locks: Florida State, Virginia

Should Be In: Clemson, Virginia Tech

Work to Do: Duke, Georgia Tech, Louisville, North Carolina, Syracuse

  • Duke – The Blue Devils picked up an important win at home against Syracuse, continuing their upward momentum.  They are an even 6-6 against Quads 1-2; with two of those wins (Virginia and Clemson) against projected NCAA Teams.  At the same time, this is a historically “down” year for the ACC.  Next, Duke hosts Louisville, followed by a trip to Georgia Tech. How Duke’s profile looks heading into the ACC tournament will depend a lot of those two outcomes.
  • Georgia Tech – Adding a victory over Virginia Tech on the road enhances earlier victories over Florida State and Clemson, which were both at home.  With an improved NET rating, the Yellow Jackets are squarely in the conversation.  Next, GT gets opportunities with Syracuse and Duke at home.
  • Louisville – The Cardinals bounced back against Notre Dame, a victory that more or less kept them from a free-fall after the debacle at North Carolina.  Louisville is 0-4 vs. Quad 1, with a loss at Miami (Q3).  They are 7-0 mark versus Q2, which helps, and three of those W’s are against Georgia Tech, Duke and Virginia Tech.  The Ville’s closing stretch is no picnic.
  • North Carolina – The Tar Heels came out flat against Marquette and dropped a home game to the sub-.500 Golden Eagles on Wednesday.  If nothing else, it takes a little luster off the manhandling of Louisville. Overall, UNC sits an even 7-7 vs. Quads 1-2, and a recent win at Duke now qualifies as a Q1.  The Heels get Florida State and Duke at home, plus Syracuse on the road.  Winning two of those would help after Wednesday’s misstep.
  • Syracuse – The Orange are hanging on, barely, after their loss at Duke.  A victory over Virginia Tech is the notable bright spot.  Syracuse is 3-6 against Q1-2 opponents and probably needs to win at least two of three (Georgia Tech, UNC, Clemson) down the stretch to have a realistic shot at staying on the at-large board.
It’s Houston and everyone else.  The Cougars are locked in as a potential Top 4 seed.  Wichita State has the next best profile, but the Shockers still have work to do.

Locks: Houston

Should Be In: None

Work to Do: Memphis, SMU, Wichita State

  • Memphis – In short, the Tigers have a home victory over SMU to show the Committee. They lost games to VCU and Western Kentucky, along with Auburn.  In the interest of transparency, all of those games were without DeAndre Williams, who transferred from Evansville and was then granted a waiver to play.  Assuming the Tigers can beat Cincinnati and South Florida on the road, they get a shot against Houston at home to close the regular season.
  • SMU – The Ponies own a split with Memphis and a win over Dayton (4-3 vs. Quads 1-2) and neither game with Houston was particularly close.  Other than piling up wins, SMU’s best bet is to get back on the court and make a lengthy run in the AAC tournament, assuming their final games with Cincinnati and Tulsa result in victories.
  • Wichita State – An early win over Ole Miss looks a little better these days, but a home victory over Houston serves as the team’s signature moment – and one that could, with a good finish – propel the Shockers into the NCAA tournament. For now, WSU must survive road trips to Tulane and Temple.  A potential regular-season championship (even in a weird year) might come in handy.
While it may not be a vintage Villanova team defensively, the Wildcats are dancing and Creighton looks like a good bet to join them.  Who else follows suit?  It’s truly uncertain.

Locks: Villanova

Should Be In: Creighton

Work to Do: Connecticut, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Xavier

  • Connecticut – The Huskies survived a trip to Georgetown and close with Marquette, Seton Hall and the Hoyas. An early win over USC is notable, and with James Bouknight back, one would like Connecticut’s chances to make a run.  They are 5-5 against Quads 1-2, although an earlier win at Xavier is becoming less impressive.  Ideally, the Huskies will take care of business coming in and get another shot at Creighton or Villanova.
  • Seton Hall – The Pirates were probably going to be okay if they took care of games against Georgetown and Butler.  Well … SHU lost both games – leaving the Pirates with more questions than answers.  Their best win outside the league is Penn State, and if Xavier and/or Connecticut falters, SHU’s resume could be void of an NCAA-level win come Selection Sunday.  Next up: a rematch with Connecticut, followed by a trip to St. John’s.
  • St. John’s – The formerly surging Johnnies found a way to lose at home to DePaul and then got run over by Villanova.  Whatever mojo SJU had, it’s now gone, and it’ll take a sweep of Providence and SHU to keep them in the conversation.
  • Xavier – A long pause has paused the Musketeers winning, and an NCAA-tournament bid is now very much in question.  Other than an early win over Oklahoma, the team’s best NET win is Toledo, along with league wins over St. John’s, Marquette and Providence.  Suddenly, Saturday’s home tilt with Creighton feels almost like a must-win ahead of closing road games at improved Georgetown and Marquette.
BIG 10
From the outset, attrition was likely going to be an issue, and that scenario is playing out before our eyes.  The top of the league is a whose-who of college hoops this season.  But the race for bids amongst the others is growing.

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

Should Be In: Purdue, Rutgers

Work to Do: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota

  • Minnesota – The Gophers’ profile sheet reflects a team that is 5-10 against Quads 1-2, even with some monumental take-downs at Williams Arena.  Then there is this: an 0-8 mark in games played away from home.  Despite those high-end wins, Minnesota has lost 6 of 8 and needs a quick course reversal.  The Gophers’ closing stretch now includes two road games – Nebraska and Penn State.  They might need both.
  • Indiana – The Hoosiers’ closing stretch began with a loss at Rutgers that leaves them at 12-11 overall and likely outside the current tournament field, despite a season sweep of Iowa.  IU’s final three include Michigan at home, followed by road trips to Michigan State and Purdue.  Can desperate IU find two wins?  If not, they may need a lengthy stay in Indianapolis.
  • Maryland – The Terrapins own a Top 10 SOS, having played 15 Quad 1 games.  They are 5-10 against that group and 6-10 against Q1-2 combined.  Maryland has also shown well on the road, having wins at Illinois, at Wisconsin at Minnesota, and at Rutgers after Sunday.  While there are no gimme games in the B10, a favorable schedule is a nice benefit.
  • Michigan State – The Spartans took down Illinois in East Lansing and gained more traction in the face of a brutal closing stretch that continues with Ohio State tonight and two games against Michigan.  They are 6-9 vs. Quads 1-2 and have an opportunity to play their way in.  It’s worth noting an early win at Duke (as both are on the bubble now).  A 70’s NET rating could use improving, but that will be a foregone conclusion if they win enough.
BIG 12
It’s an easy story in the Big 12.  It looks like seven of the league’s teams will be dancing in March.  As long as one of those seven doesn’t fall off a cliff between now and Selection Sunday, we’ll leave the bubble talk for another season.

Locks: Baylor, Oklahoma, West Virginia

Should Be In: Kansas, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech

Work to Do: None

  • None
It may not be a deep league, but Loyola-Chicago and Drake have positioned themselves as at-large candidates.  Either team’s chances (assuming one or the other wins the MVC tourney) may still depend upon whom else is lurking among at-large contenders.

Locks: None

Should Be In: None

Work to Do: Drake, Loyola-Chicago

  • Drake – Despite a 21-2 record and a 5-1 mark against Quads 1-2, only the victory over Loyola serves as a true NET gain.  Another issue is an overall SOS number in the mid 200s and an NC SOS number over 300.  Fair or unfair, with a loss at Valparaiso on the books, Drake probably cannot afford another hiccup ahead of the MVC tourney.
  • Loyola-Chicago – The Ramblers have a strong NET rating and much more favorable SOS numbers.  And the split with Drake was on the road, giving a little more credence to a significant win and close loss.  Loyola also owns a Top 100 win over North Texas, although that is not a real “help.”  Assuming the Ramblers finish off a 19-4 regular season by winning a duo with Southern Illinois at home, the numbers are favorable.  It would look even better had they reversed a two-point loss to Richmond back in January.
Quick question: Who is the best team in the Mountain West?  An affirmative answer is unclear and thus we prepare to enter March with four contenders but no team as a Lock or necessarily “In” at the moment.

Locks: None

Should Be In: None

Work to Do: Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State, Utah State

  • Boise State – An early win at BYU is solid, but the Broncos overall profile remains a bit iffy, thanks largely to a pair of losses at Nevada.  BSU is 4-4 against Quads 1-2 (winning at BYU and splitting with Colorado State).  The Broncos finish with two at San Diego State.  It might be a good idea to win at least one of those.
  • Colorado State – The Rams have split three series with San Diego State, Utah State and Boise State.  They also have a rather lopsided loss to Saint Mary’s on their resume.  Nothing bad, but nothing that makes their profile stick out, either.  With two games against Air Force (home) and one with Nevada (road), it’s clean-up duty ahead of the league tourney.
  • San Diego State – How good is the Aztec’s early win over UCLA? It’s debatable.  On the plus side, SDSU has a Top 30 NET rating, which helps, and they walloped Saint Mary’s.  They are also 0-3 vs. Quad 1 and have a home split with Colorado State as another asset.  SDSU closes with two against Boise State at home.  Winning both of those would elevate the Aztec’s profile immensely.
  • Utah State – The Aggies have to feel a bit behind the proverbial 8-ball after dropping both games to Boise State. Quad 3 losses to South Dakota State and UNLV are a resume drag, too.  Outside the league, they were taken down pretty handily by VCU.  USU must take care of Nevada and hope a home sweep of San Diego State keeps them in the mix heading into the MWC tournament.
PAC 12
USC may be approaching lock status if for no other reason than pure math. After that, Colorado can be really good, but also enigmatic.  This could end up being a three or five-bid league.  For those just checking in, Arizona has deemed itself ineligible for the postseason.

Locks: None

Should Be In: USC

Work to Do: Colorado, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA

  • Colorado – The Buffalos might be closer to Should Be In than the true bubble trouble, but this is also a team (at times) that cannot seem to get out of its own way – as three Quad 3 losses suggests.  They are 8-4 against Quads 1-2 and 6-3 vs. Quad 3, including losses to league cellar-dwellers Washington and Cal.
  • Oregon – The Ducks’ resume remains a bit meh after Monday’s loss at USC.  While not troublesome, it was an opportunity lost.  The Ducks close with some potential potholes on the road.  Heading into the Pac-12 tourney, it would be best to avoid a loss at Cal and win at least two of the other 4 – Stanford, Arizona, UCLA and Oregon State.
  • Stanford – Good news: The Cardinal avoided a “bad” loss at Washington last week.  Bad news: The Cardinal couldn’t escape Washington State.  Overall, they have four Quad 1 wins, including a huge early get against Alabama.  Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, the Cardinal have been inconsistent, with a 2-4 mark against Q2 teams.  If you like to think positive, they close with Oregon and Oregon State at home, then get an opportunity at USC.
  • UCLA – The Bruins own a home win over Colorado and a sweep against Arizona.  That pretty much sums up what they can offer the Committee, other than an early competitive loss to Ohio State, a loss at San Diego State and a win over Marquette. A defining stretch lies ahead – beginning with a three-game swing to Utah, Colorado and Oregon.  The Bruins could rise (or fall) depending upon how it goes.
Alabama cruised into lock status, and despite some ups and downs, Tennessee appear to have locked up bids as well. Florida, Arkansas and LSU all look like solid bets, as does Missouri despite a falling NET rating.

Locks: Alabama, Tennessee

Should Be In: Missouri, Florida, Arkansas, LSU

Work to Do: Ole Miss

  • Ole Miss – The Rebels revived themselves against Missouri and now own a sweep of the quirky Tigers.  They are 6-7 vs. Quads 1-2 and 2-2 against Quad 3.  They also own a victory over Tennessee.  Some momentum was halted with a home loss to rival Mississippi State, but we’ll see how Ole Miss wraps things up – starting with a visit to Vanderbilt (must win) and then a home date with improved Kentucky.
Gonzaga could potentially be the NCAA tournament’s No. 1 overall seed.  Then it’s BYU, in pretty good shape heading down the stretch.

Locks: Gonzaga

Should Be In: None

Work to Do: BYU

  • BYU – Metrics and analytics like the Cougars, with good reason.  What’s keeping BYU from Should Be In status is an overall absence of NCAA-level wins.  If this team can finish its regular season with victories against San Francisco and Saint Mary’s at home, it’ll be time to upgrade their status.
To add some intrigue, let’s go ahead and filter in Belmont and Winthrop. We’ll see how the next two weeks unfold and then re-evaluate.  Western Kentucky is still the most realistic at-large option from this grouping.

Locks: None

Should Be In: None

Work to Do: Western Kentucky, Belmont, Winthrop

  • Western Kentucky – The Hilltoppers are holding onto an early road win at Alabama.  Beating what appears to be a Top 3 seed on the road is nothing to sneeze at, especially when you factor in a close loss to West Virginia and a win over Memphis. Tonight, WKU gets a huge chance against Houston to further stamp itself within the at-large discussion.
  • Belmont – The Bruins boast a 23-1 record overall and an 18-0 mark in the Atlantic Sun. The issues are an overall SOS that ranks right around 300.  Combined with a mid-60ish NET rating, Belmont presents the Committee with a unique challenge.  Due to COVID, an early season tournament was cancelled, along with some other matchups, leaving the Bruins without a realistic opportunity to garner potential Quad 1-2 wins.  Maybe the Committee will consider that, but as is, the team’s profile sheet is absent a game (or win) against a Top 100 opponent.
  • Winthrop – If we are going to list Belmont, than it only seems fair to include the Eagles who are 20-1 and have two Top 100 wins (Furman and NC-Greensboro).  It’s a historic stretch for sure, because Winthrop boasts a 70-ish NET rating and a profile that includes 16 (of 20) wins against Quad 4 teams, all but two of which are ranked 200 or worse.
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