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Selection Sunday s about a month away. That means its time to start the Bubble Watch 2021 series, explaining where each team stands relative to the cutline.

Bubble Watch 2021: Locks, Should Be, Over, On & Bursting

Welcome to Bubble Watch 2021!

Bracketology provides fans provide insight into how the committee sees teams and what the tournament would look like if the season ended that day. But there’s a lot that goes into it, and from only seeing the finished bracket, you don’t get the full picture.

That’s why we’re releasing a bubble watch where our bracketologist (me) breaks down where teams stand from the cutline and what they can do to remain or work themselves into the Field of 68.

There are five categories: locksshould be inover the bubbleon the bubble and bubble bursting.

Locks are teams that could lose the rest of their games and still get an at-large bid. It’s a tricky thing to lock a team up, and so it isn’t done lightly. Just because a team is unlocked doesn’t mean it won’t be in the tournament. It only means there are enough potential losses left that the resume could fall apart and risk being left out.

Should be in teams aren’t quite locks, but they’re looking pretty solid. If Selection Sunday was tomorrow, they would be absolute locks, and there’s a slim chance they play themselves out of the field. But the possibility remains, and so they stay unlocked.

Over the bubble squads are exactly that. They wouldn’t be worried about being excluded if the season ended now, but the resume isn’t strong enough that a few mistakes wouldn’t drop them down onto the bubble.

Those on the bubble are either barely in or barely out. They are receiving significant enough consideration for at-large positions, but in no way could they feel safe if the tournament selection occurred now. Finally, bubble bursting teams have enough of a foundation laid that if they collected some quality wins, they could play themselves onto the bubble, but at the time aren’t receiving significant consideration for an at-large bid.

You can see all the resumes for yourself here.

With that out of the way, let’s look at the state of the bubble as of Friday afternoon on March 5, 2021:


Houston (AAC): 20-3, NET: 6, SOS: 128, vs. Q1: 2-1

Virginia (ACC): 17-6, NET: 12, SOS: 46, vs. Q1: 4-4

Florida State (ACC): 15-5, NET: 22, SOS: 65, vs. Q1: 3-3

Clemson (ACC): 16-6, NET: 36, SOS: 27, vs. Q1: 3-6

Baylor (Big 12): 21-1, NET: 2, SOS: 49, vs. Q1: 8-1

Oklahoma (Big 12): 14-9, NET: 33, SOS: 25, vs. Q1: 5-8

West Virginia (Big 12): 18-8, NET: 23, SOS: 16, vs. Q1: 6-7

Kansas (Big 12): 18-8, NET: 14, SOS: 14, vs. Q1: 6-8

Texas (Big 12): 17-7, NET: 24, SOS: 24, vs. Q1: 6-6

Texas Tech (Big 12): 17-9, NET: 17, SOS: 28, vs. Q1: 4-9

Oklahoma State (Big 12): 18-7, NET: 30, SOS: 20, vs. Q1: 8-5

Villanova (Big East): 16-5, NET: 11, SOS: 63, vs. Q1: 3-3

Creighton (Big East): 18-7, NET: 25, SOS: 67, vs. Q1: 4-3

Michigan (Big Ten): 19-3, NET: 3, SOS: 22, vs. Q1: 7-2

Ohio State (Big Ten): 18-8, NET: 9, SOS: 7, vs. Q1: 7-6

Illinois (Big Ten): 20-6, NET: 4, SOS: 10, vs. Q1: 9-5

Iowa (Big Ten): 20-7, NET: 5, SOS: 17, vs. Q1: 7-5

Wisconsin (Big Ten): 16-11, NET: 26, SOS: 9, vs. Q1: 4-9

Purdue (Big Ten): 18-8, NET: 19, SOS: 15, vs. Q1: 6-6

*LOYOLA CHICAGO (MVC): 22-4, NET: 10, SOS: 141, vs. Q1: 2-2

San Diego State (MWC): 19-4, NET: 21, SOS: 119, vs. Q1: 0-3

Alabama (SEC): 21-6, NET: 7, SOS: 33, vs. Q1: 7-4

Tennessee (SEC): 17-7, NET: 18, SOS: 48, vs. Q1: 6-5

Arkansas (SEC): 21-5, NET: 16, SOS: 62, vs. Q1: 6-4

Missouri (SEC): 15-8, NET: 43, SOS: 19, vs. Q1: 7-5

Florida (SEC): 13-8, NET: 29, SOS: 23, vs. Q1: 5-4

LSU (SEC): 16-8, NET: 28, SOS: 41, vs. Q1: 4-7

USC (Pac-12): 21-6, NET: 15, SOS: 77, vs. Q1: 4-3

Colorado (Pac-12): 20-7, NET: 13, SOS: 78, vs. Q1: 3-4

Oregon (Pac-12): 19-5, NET: 32, SOS: 81, vs. Q1: 3-3

*GONZAGA (WCC): 26-0, NET: 1, SOS: 80, vs. Q1: 8-0

BYU (WCC): 19-6, NET: 20, SOS: 50, vs. Q1: 3-4


Virginia Tech (ACC): 15-5, NET: 42, SOS: 94, vs. Q1: 2-2

COVID-19 contact tracing struck Virginia Tech this week, and it led to the cancellation of its contests against Louisville (52) and at North Carolina State (68). That means it’s just the ACC Tournament remaining, assuming the Hokies can play in it, before Selection Sunday. This resume is certainly in the tournament right now, and with only one more possible loss left, it should be in even if VT falls in its ACC Tournament opener regardless of the opponent. Still, I’m practicing some caution in case things go haywire. WINS TO LOCK: 1

St. Bonaventure (A-10): 15-4, NET: 27, SOS: 107, vs. Q1: 3-2

St. Bonaventure did exactly what it needed to do to get off the bubble, and now it will probably dance whether it beats VCU (35) in the A-10 Tournament Final or not. A top-30 NET, positive record in Q1 contests, and wins over VCU (35) and Saint Louis (45) on a neutral floor are good enough to be in the 2021 field. Obviously, this matter would be solved once and for all if the Bonnies take care of the Rams, and a win in that one might help with seeding (although the committee has shown it basically doesn’t take Selection Sunday games into account whatsoever), but inclusion shouldn’t be an issue at this point. WINS TO LOCK: 1

VCU (A-10): 19-6, NET: 35, SOS: 95, vs. Q1: 2-4

VCU is in a similar spot as St. Bonaventure now, though a bit less safe. Still, with a top-40 NET, a pair of Q1 wins and a 7-0 record in Q2 contests, there are plenty of resumes around with less meat. If the Rams do lose in the A-10 Tournament Final, they might find themselves closer to the cutline than otherwise, but I don’t anticipate there being much of a question of their inclusion in the field. They’ve done what they’ve needed to do. WINS TO LOCK: 1

Rutgers (Big Ten): 14-10, NET: 38, SOS: 12, vs. Q1: 4-8

The Scarlet Knights needed overtime to hold off Minnesota (80) in their final regular season game, and while it might have been too close for comfort, they got the win they absolutely had to have to stay off the bubble. Now, Rutgers with see Indiana (61) in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday. A win would lock it all up, a loss would knock it down a category, but probably not to the bubble. Still, with a couple bid stealers and some bubble teams doing damage in their tournaments, Rutgers might sweat if it doesn’t handle the Hoosiers. Still, it’s probable that the Scarlet Knights will dance for the first time since 1991. WINS TO LOCK: 1


North Carolina (ACC): 16-9, NET: 39, SOS: 30, vs. Q1: 2-8

UNC topped Duke (51) to close out its regular season, propelling itself up and over the bubble in the process. Now, the Tar Heels are tasked with Notre Dame (79) in the second round of the ACC Tournament, and a win would probably take them out of this category and into lockdom. At this point, with a top-40 NET, 7-0 mark in Q2 games and a marquee win over Florida State (22), this resume is clearly above those languishing on the bubble. However, that 3-7 road record cannot be fixed now, and a 2-8 mark in Q1 contests won’t convince the committee of much. Still, if North Carolina takes care of the Irish, it will dance. A loss might not tumble it down to the bubble, but it could. WINS TO LOCK: 1

Georgia Tech (ACC): 15-8, NET: 37, SOS: 45, vs. Q1: 2-6

Georgia Tech won at Wake Forest (185), 75-63, in its final regular season showdown, and with some help of many around the bubble losing, it elevated GT off the bubble. A top-40 NET, a marquee win versus Florida State (22) and a 6-0 Q2 mark have the Yellow Jackets where they are, a product of their current six-game winning streak. Next, Georgia Tech will face the winner of Miami (153) and Clemson (36) in the ACC Tournament Quarterfinals. The outcome of that game will have an impact on what GT needs to do to avoid falling back to the bubble – obvious, a loss to any team wouldn’t help, but a defeat against Clemson probably wouldn’t hurt so much that the Yellow Jackets would fall to the bubble. However, if GT were to come up short against the Hurricanes, that would be much more likely. However, a win over either team would lock Georgia Tech up, so I’d recommend just doing that and making it easy. WINS TO LOCK: 1

Connecticut (Big East): 14-6, NET: 31, SOS: 59, vs. Q1: 3-3

Since losing at Villanova (11) on Feb. 20, UConn has rattled off four Ws in a row, most recently taking care of Georgetown (94), 98-82. That victory lifted the Huskies off the bubble, and they’re now in good shape to get back to the Big Dance. The NET has improved massively during this winning streak, and a 3-3 Q1 mark and 6-6 combined Q1 and Q2 record are good enough for inclusion. A 6-3 road record is a big plus, too. UConn will play the winner of DePaul (165) and Providence (77) in its first Big East Tournament game. A loss to DePaul could be problematic, though probably not enough to take the Huskies out of the field. An L to Providence would do less damage. A win over either of those opponents would send this resume to lockdom. WINS TO LOCK: 1

Maryland (Big Ten): 14-12, NET: 34, SOS: 13, vs. Q1: 4-9

Well, Maryland is showcasing what not to do at the end of a season. The Terps blew a 14-point second half lead to Penn State (40) at home, falling 66-61, their second-straight defeat to a team that will not be in the NCAA Tournament. As such, Maryland has fallen closer to the bubble, and a loss to Michigan State (65) in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament would send this team down closer to the cutline. Lots of talking heads have declared Maryland is a lock, but I don’t see how. Sure, there are some notable wins here, like at Illinois (4) (one of the best-possible wins you could have), Purdue (19) and at Wisconsin (26), and right now there’s no way this team wouldn’t be included in the field. But no team has ever been awarded an at-large bid without being at least two games above .500. If Maryland loses to the Spartans, it would finish the season 14-13. If that precedent were to break, this season and this year’s Big Ten would make sense as the reason why, but is this really the team and resume to make history? I’m not convinced. Don’t lose to MSU and find out, Terps. WINS TO LOCK: 1

Michigan State (Big Ten): 15-11, NET: 65, SOS: 6, vs. Q1: 5-9

From nowhere to off the bubble, Michigan State has made it happen in a few short weeks. Most recently, the Spartans got the better of their arch rival Michigan (3), giving them three wins over NET top 10 teams. An NET of 65 is ugly, as is a 3-8 road record, but MSU has done exactly what has to be done in order to overcome those negatives – picked up big -time wins. There are too many marquee victories, especially late in the season, for this resume to be considered on the level of some of the others struggling by the cutline. Take care of Maryland (34) in the Big Ten Tournament, and there won’t be any question at all. WINS TO LOCK: 1


Wichita State (AAC): 13-4, NET: 64, SOS: 84, vs. Q1: 2-3

Wichita State beat South Florida (212), 80-63, on Saturday, taking care of business as it should have. Now, only the AAC Tournament remains, and the Shockers have the No. 1 seed. That means Houston (6) won’t be a possible opponent until the final, so Wichita State can’t add that win to its resume without getting the auto bid. Instead, SMU (56) is the possible prize the Shockers could knock off in the AAC Tournament Semifinals, which could move the needle somewhat as a high-end Q2 W. Before that, though, Wichita State has to win its first tournament game against the winner of Temple (154) and USF. A loss in that game would make an at-large appearance nearly impossible. Right now, this resume has the skeleton of something good – a marquee win over Houston, a 5-2 road mark, no Q3 or Q4 defeats – but that’s all it has. The NET isn’t good enough to be overcome with the rest of the resume, at least not comfortably, and so the Shockers need more. And if SMU loses to Cincinnati (127) and the Bearcats are Wichita State’s opponent in the AAC Semifinals, then the auto bid might be this team’s only shot at dancing. WINS TO OFF THE BUBBLE: 2/3

Saint Louis (A-10): 14-6, NET: 45, SOS: 118, vs. Q1: 2-2

Saint Louis finished its season by losing big to St. Bonaventure (27) in the A-10 Tournament Semifinals, 71-53. That game won’t be convincing the committee that this team should dance. Neither will a 1-4 road record, two Q3 defeats and a sub-100 SOS. What SLU does have, though, are home wins versus SBU, LSU (28), NC State (68) and Richmond (70) and a top-50 NET. Is that enough to get in? In my opinion, no, it is not. But it is definitely enough to remain on the bubble and sweat it out on Selection Sunday. WINS TO OFF THE BUBBLE: N/A

Louisville (ACC): 13-6, NET: 52, SOS: 47, vs. Q1: 1-5

To end the regular season, Louisville lost to Virginia (12) at home, 68-58, for its fifth Q1 loss of the season. Going into the ACC Tournament, the Cardinals are just 1-5 in Q1 contests, though a 6-0 mark in Q2 games helps ease that pain some. Louisville faces Duke (51) in its first ACC Tournament game, and it’s one that the Cardinals would be very wise to win. With a victory in that one, the Cardinals might move off the bubble, but they certainly will move further from the cutline they keep creeping nearer and nearer to. A loss, though, would allow other bubble teams and bid stealers to leapfrog them the rest of the week, and an NIT appearance could be in the cards. I don’t know if the Duke game is an absolute must-win to dance, but it’s about as close as it can get to that at least. WINS TO OFF THE BUBBLE: 1/2

Syracuse (ACC): 15-8, NET: 49, SOS: 69, vs. Q1: 1-6

As I type this, I’m watching Syracuse lead NC State (68) by double digits in the second round of the ACC Tournament. If the Orange hold on in this game, they will remain on the bubble and inch closer to the right side of the cutline. If they collapse, it’ll be the NIT for Syracuse. Its NET has been climbing steadily for a couple weeks to the point where it’s now very tenable, and this resume does have a collection of wins that the committee will like, but not many. The Orange have no marquee win, they’re 2-7 in road games, and they were swept by Pitt (96). So, Syracuse cannot afford a loss to NC State, and to be comfortable at all, it will need to win again against Virginia (12) in the ACC Quarterfinals. If it does that, it’ll have its marquee win and likely be off the bubble. WINS TO OFF THE BUBBLE: 2

Seton Hall (Big East): 13-12, NET: 59, SOS: 35, vs. Q1: 3-7

Make that four Ls in a row. Seton Hall lost at St. John’s (67) on Saturday, and now it’s barely still on the bubble. The Pirates are 3-7 in Q1 games, 3-4 in Q2 ones, and have a Q3 loss, not to mention an NET inching toward the 60s. These are not good things. This resume is salvageable, but it would take quite a run in the Big East Tournament to make that happen. First, Seton Hall has to take care of the Johnnies in the quarterfinals, hope Villanova (11) wins its quarterfinals matchup, then beat the Wildcats to get to the Big East Tournament Final. Would that be enough for the at-large bid? I don’t know for sure, but the Pirates would have a decently strong argument – and a much better NET – at the very least. I don’t think anything but the auto bid could get Seton Hall off the bubble, though. WINS TO OFF THE BUBBLE: 3

Xavier (Big East): 13-7, NET: 58, SOS: 85, vs. Q1: 1-2

After beating Creighton (25) on Feb. 27, Xavier has two in a row – at Georgetown (94) and at Marquette (87). Now, the Musketeers are sitting right along the cutline, and they need to beat Butler (117) in the first round of the Big East Tournament. That won’t move the needle, though. Beating Creighton again in the quarterfinals would, though. If Xavier can reach the Big East Tournament Semifinals, it could feel pretty good about its at-large chances. Anything less, though, and it will be right on the edge or out. WINS TO OFF THE BUBBLE: 2

St. John’s (Big East): 16-10, NET: 67, SOS: 73, vs. Q1: 2-6

St. John’s has roared back onto the bubble with a late-season surge, closing the regular season with two-straight wins and seven Ws in its last 10 games. Beating Seton Hall (59) moves the Johnnies up onto the bubble, and now they can do more for their resume by beating the Pirates again in the Big East Tournament Quarterfinals. St. John’s has a bad NET, a 2-6 Q1 record and two anchor losses, the worst of which was to DePaul (165) at home. Those two Q1 victories are pretty good, though – Villanova (11) and at UConn (31). Add in a 4-2 Q2 mark, and the skeleton is there, but there’s not much time left. For the Red Storm to have any real hope, they have to beat Seton Hall and win against Villanova in the Big East Tournament Semifinals at a minimum. WINS TO OFF THE BUBBLE: 2/3

Drake (MVC): 23-4, NET: 47, SOS: 172, vs. Q1: 1-2

It’s just a waiting game now. Last time out, Drake fell to Loyola Chicago (10) in the MVC Tournament Final, ending its season and putting its fate in the hands of the committee. The Bulldogs have a passable NET, 6-2 combined Q1 and Q2 record and 9-2 road mark. However, they also hold two Q3 defeats, their NET isn’t good enough to be a reason why they’d be included, their SOS numbers aren’t pretty, and other than a home win over Loyola on Feb. 14, their best win is at Missouri State (92). So, Drake is probably on the right side of the cutline right now, but bid stealers and other bubble teams winning could change that, plus the committee doesn’t have a strong history of giving mid-major teams the benefit of the doubt. We shall see what happens to Drake. WINS TO OFF THE BUBBLE: N/A

Boise State (MWC): 17-7, NET: 44, SOS: 102, vs. Q1: 2-4

Ah, Boise. First, you lose both games at San Diego State (21) in two massive opportunities to help your resume. Then, you fall at home to Fresno State (186) for your first Q4 loss of the campaign. Absolutely not what you want at this point in the season if you’re a bubble team. So, the Broncos now face the MWC Tournament with no wins over the league’s best team and a 4-6 combined Q1 and Q2 record, plus a 4-6 road mark. Boise State now must get to the MWC Tournament Final while beating one of the other MWC bubble teams or the Aztecs in the process in order to potentially get off the bubble, and at that point, it might as well win the whole thing and lock it up. Best case, Boise State barely gets in. It will not sniff the tournament without first beating Nevada (98) to open its MWC Tournament. WINS TO OFF THE BUBBLE: 2/3

Utah State (MWC): 17-7, NET: 48, SOS: 123, vs. Q1: 2-4

After dropping two in a row at Boise State (45), Utah State has taken care of business in four-straight outings, most recently downing Fresno State (186), 57-51, on the road. The Aggies still have plenty of work to do with just three Q1 and Q2 victories and two Q3 losses on their resume, but the foundation is still there for them to play themselves in. USU will face the winner of Air Force (318) and UNLV (184), and it doesn’t really matter which opponent it plays – both would send Utah State to the NIT if the Aggies don’t win. After that, USU will hope Colorado State (50) is its next opponent. Otherwise, a win in the semifinals won’t move the needle, and it’ll probably be auto bid or bust. However, it is possible a run to the final without beating CSU could be enough if enough bubble teams fall off, but I wouldn’t bank on that, especially if there are surprises in other conference tournaments. WINS TO OFF THE BUBBLE: 2/3

Colorado State (MWC): 16-5, NET: 50, SOS: 117, vs. Q1: 2-3

What a brutal way to lose a massive game. The Rams fell at Nevada (98), 85-82, on a triple in the final seconds, delivering them with their worst loss of the season so far. Not ideal as a bubble team in March. Still, CSU remains on the edge, boasting a win at San Diego State (21), at Utah State (48) and over Boise State (44) at home, with no Q3 or Q4 defeats. But now Colorado State is 3-5 combined in Q1 and Q2 games, so something has to change for it to feel remotely comfortable on Selection Sunday. The Rams will play the winner of New Mexico (303) and Fresno State (186), and they have to beat whomever comes out of the first round to meet them. Like Utah State, they’ll be rooting for their fellow bubble team so they can ideally add another win over the Aggies to their resume. If that happened, would it be enough to get off the bubble? That’s not clear, but would it be enough to be on the right side of the cutline? Probably, unless some other things go against the Rams. WINS TO OFF THE BUBBLE: 2/3

UCLA (Pac-12): 17-8, NET: 41, SOS: 56, vs. Q1: 2-6

After UCLA lost to USC (15) on a buzzer beater for its third L in a row, it’s now 2-6 in Q1 contests, with the wins being a home one over Colorado (14) and a road W at Arizona (46). After that, a home win over the Wildcats is the only other victory the Bruins can point to as a reason for their inclusion in the field. Yikes. But there are other reasons for UCLA to be in: no Q3 or Q4 blemishes, the marquee win over the Buffaloes, an NET close to 40 and a positive Q2 record. But the reality is this resume isn’t sexy at all, and UCLA cannot feel safe right now. The Bruins will play Oregon State (106) in the Pac-12 Tournament Quarterfinals, and they need to win to not see themselves slip very close to the cutline, if not out. A victory would keep them afloat plus provide an opportunity in the semifinals to probably face Oregon (32). A win over the Ducks would take the Bruins off the bubble without a doubt. It’s possible that only beating the Beavers would, too, but that would be more up to how other bubble teams do than UCLA itself. WINS TO OFF THE BUBBLE: 1/2

Ole Miss (SEC): 15-10, NET: 54, SOS: 71, vs. Q1: 3-4

Ole Miss has saved its season by coming on hot to close out, winning seven of its last nine games, most recently outlasting Vanderbilt (108), 56-46. The Rebels are 8-8 in Q1 and Q2 games, which is very good for this bubble. However, they also are 2-2 in Q3 contests, which is not so good for this bubble. Tennessee (18) finishing the regular season strong has helped as the Vols are Ole Miss’s marquee win. I think Ole Miss is closer to the field than some others give it credit for. First, the Rebels need to beat South Carolina (133) in the second round of the SEC Tournament. Next, beating LSU in the quarterfinals would do wonders for this resume, and that’s a very winnable game. If the Rebels can get those two Ws, it would be enough to get off the bubble. WINS TO OFF THE BUBBLE: 2


SMU (AAC): 11-4, NET: 56, SOS: 99, vs. Q1: 0-3

Memphis (AAC): 15-7, NET: 53, SOS: 121, vs. Q1: 0-3

North Carolina State (ACC): 13-9, NET: 68, SOS: 68, vs. Q1: 1-6

Duke (ACC): 12-11, NET: 51, SOS: 51, vs. Q1: 2-5

Providence (Big East): 13-12, NET: 77, SOS: 38, vs. Q1: 3-6

Stanford (Pac-12): 14-12, NET: 72, SOS: 43, vs. Q1: 4-6

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