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Bubble Watch: Locks, Should be, Over, On & Bursting 3/1

Bubble Watch: Locks, Should be, Over, On & Bursting 3/1

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: locks, should be in, over the bubble, on 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 occured 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.

With that out of the way, let’s look at the state of the bubble as of Friday afternoon on March 1st, 2019:


Houston (AAC): 27-1, NET: 4, SOS: 70, vs. Q1: 3-1

Cincinnati (AAC): 24-4, NET: 22, SOS: 82, vs. Q1: 4-2

Virginia (ACC): 25-2, NET: 2, SOS: 30, vs. Q1: 9-2

Duke (ACC): 24-4 NET: 3, SOS: 2, vs. Q1: 8-3

North Carolina (ACC): 23-5, NET: 8, SOS: 5, vs. Q1: 7-5

Florida State (ACC): 22-6, NET: 24, SOS: 51, vs. Q1: 6-4

Virginia Tech (ACC): 22-6, NET: 11, SOS: 63, vs. Q1: 4-6

Kansas (Big 12): 21-7, NET: 17, SOS: 1, vs. Q1: 10-6

Texas Tech (Big 12): 23-5, NET: 10, SOS: 55, vs. Q1: 5-5

Kansas State (Big 12): 21-7, NET: 28, SOS: 45, vs. Q1: 6-5

Iowa State (Big 12): 20-8, NET: 14, SOS: 27, vs. Q1: 5-5

Marquette (Big East): 23-5, NET: 21, SOS: 33, vs. Q1: 9-4

Villanova (Big East): 21-8, NET; 27, SOS: 13, vs. Q1: 4-6

Michigan (Big Ten): 25-4, NET: 9, SOS: 76, vs. Q1: 7-4

Michigan State (Big Ten): 23-5, NET: 6, SOS: 28, vs. Q1: 10-3

Purdue (Big Ten): 21-7, NET: 12, SOS: 15, vs. Q1: 7-6

Wisconsin (Big Ten): 19-9, NET: 16, SOS: 21, vs. Q1: 8-7

Maryland (Big Ten): 21-8, NET: 26, SOS: 20, vs. Q1: 6-6

Nevada (MWC): 26-2, NET: 19, SOS: 121, vs. Q1: 0-0

Tennessee (SEC): 25-3, NET: 7, SOS: 92, vs. Q1: 7-3

Kentucky (SEC): 24-4, NET: 5, SOS: 25, vs. Q1: 9-3

LSU (SEC): 23-5, NET: 13, SOS: 12, vs. Q1: 7-2

Mississippi State (SEC): 21-7, NET: 20, SOS: 11, vs. Q1: 9-4

Gonzaga (WCC): 28-2, NET: 1, SOS: 52, vs. Q1: 3-2

Bubble Watch: Locks, Should be, Over, On & Bursting 3/1


Louisville (ACC): 18-11, NET: 25, SOS: 4, vs. Q1: 4-9

Another winless week means the Cardinals have to wait to be locked up. Louisville is still not in any serious danger of missing the tournament, but going 2-6 in February wouldn’t help anyone’s case. There’s only two more games left on the regular season schedule: Notre Dame and at Virginia. If Louisville wins either one, it should become a lock.

Baylor (Big 12): 19-9, NET: 35, SOS: 35, vs. Q1: 4-6

The Bears picked up two wins this week, both home victories against West Virginia and Texas. The WVU win doesn’t do much, but the Texas win adds another Q2 notch to the resume. Nothing much to worry about for Baylor in terms of earning an at-large. There’s an opportunity for a Q3 loss left, though (home against Oklahoma State on March 6), and perhaps another in the Big 12 Tournament. Baylor could get nervous if it loses all remaining games, but it’ll probably be fine.

Iowa (Big Ten): 21-7, NET: 33, SOS: 87, vs. Q1: 4-7

A blowout loss at Ohio State isn’t ideal, but it’s not enough to affect Iowa’s tournament hopes. The Hawkeyes haven’t played well the last couple of weeks, and now their head coach is suspended for two games after letting some Big Ten officials know what he thought of them. There’s no bad losses on this resume, and as long as Iowa avoids a loss to home to Rutgers and doesn’t pick up a different Q3 or Q4 loss in the Big Ten Tournament, it should be in without an issue.

Buffalo (MAC): 25-3, NET: 15, SOS: 73, vs. Q1: 2-1

Buffalo added a couple more MAC wins under its belt this week, chipping away at the conference schedule. The Bulls haven’t lost since Feb. 1, and at this point it would take multiple bad losses to put them in jeopardy of missing the tournament. However, the MAC is made up of mostly bad loss opportunities. Buffalo could absorb a few and only suffer a seed hit, but too many could bring it closer to the cutline than preferred.


VCU (A-10): 22-6, NET: 37, SOS: 34, vs. Q1: 2-2

Another week, another sets of Ws for the Rams. VCU has won nine straight, most recently a 71-65 home win over Saint Louis, to climb to the top of the A-10 standings. This team is a defensive juggernaut, and barring some anchor losses, will likely get an at-large bid. Bubble teams beware if VCU fails to win the A-10 Tournament.

Syracuse (ACC): 18-10, NET: 44, SOS: 10, vs. Q1: 3-6

Syracuse took two losses this week, but dropping games to Duke and at North Carolina isn’t going to hurt any team’s resume too much. The Orange are still in good position for an at-large berth, with pretty good numbers, a win at Duke and a 5-3 road record holding them up. A win against Virginia would likely lock Syracuse up, but even with a loss, wins at Clemson and at Wake Forest instead could get the job done. But a losing streak could do the opposite.

Oklahoma (Big 12): 17-11, NET: 42, SOS: 14, vs. Q1: 3-9

The Sooners split the week, gaining a Q2 win in its home victory over Texas and adding another Q1 loss to its resume, falling at Iowa State. The numbers helps Oklahoma slightly escape the bubble, as well as Wofford’s continued success. The Terriers are Oklahoma’s best win, a pleasant surprise that will be a sticking point for the Sooners assuming they do enough to stay above the cutline from here on out. It will be important to avoid a bad home loss to West Virginia on Saturday, and then adding at least one of its two other games against Kansas at home and Kansas State on the road to its win column would have Oklahoma sitting pretty for the tourney.

St. John’s (Big East): 20-9, NET: 59, SOS: 67, vs. Q1: 6-4

Boy, is St. John’s lucky the bubble is so bad. The numbers here are not good, and the Red Storm have Q3 losses to Providence and DePaul, both at home. What the Johnnies do have, though, is six Q1 wins, and teams near the cutline definitely do not have that this year. They have a 3-1 record against the Big East’s two titans, and those plus the other good wins is enough to survive a home loss to Xavier with relative ease. Now, if St. John’s lets that loss into two more, at DePaul and at Xavier to close the regular season, then it could have some issues.

Ohio State (Big Ten): 18-10, NET: 40, SOS: 43, vs. Q1: 4-7

Ohio State picked up its first win against a tournament team since defeating fellow bubble-squad Minnesota on Dec. 2, and it couldn’t have come at much better of a time. The victory over Iowa was only a Q2 win, but the Buckeyes need every quality win they can. Sophomore Kaleb Wesson, the team’s leading scorer, was suspended indefinitely Friday for violating an athletic department policy, which is going to make the finish stretch of the season tricky. Ohio State was having trouble finding scoring before, but it’s going to need more big performances from freshman Justin Ahrens and the rest of the supporting cast to end the season. It’s not currently required, but if the Buckeyes can win at Northwestern and split between games at Purdue and Wisconsin in Columbus, they’ll likely be in. That’s a big if, though.

Washington (Pac-12): 22-6, NET: 32, SOS: 71, vs. Q1: 1-4

A loss at NET 253 is never ideal for any resume, and that’s what Washington added to its Thursday, falling 76-73 at California, a team that lasted until the end of February without winning a conference game in a one-to-two bid league. As bad as that is, the Huskies have beat up on enough cupcakes, have a handful of Q2 wins and decent enough numbers that the Cal loss isn’t a dagger. Washington’s biggest issue is owning only one Q1 win, a road victory at NET 62 Oregon, a team that will need to win the Pac-12 Tournament to see the Big Dance. The Huskies are fine for now, but it’s vital that they make the California headstratcher a one-off.

Ole Miss (SEC): 19-9, NET: 38, SOS: 78, vs. Q1: 4-8

One of the best aspects of this resume is that all four Q1 wins are against teams NET 20-35, meaning there’s not much danger of those dropping. Every one of those wins is going to catch committee members’ eyes, and that’s Ole Miss’s biggest strength. The team didn’t change its resume too much this week, with a home win against Georgia and a narrow home loss to Tennessee, and it remains in good position for an at-large bid. A home game with Kentucky looms for Tuesday, but first the Rebels need to take care of Arkansas on the road Saturday, a good chance for a possible Q1 win.

Florida (SEC): 17-11, NET: 29, SOS: 47, vs. Q1: 3-9

When you have numbers like Florida, adding the wins to boot with shooting your resume up pretty quick. After a three-game losing streak in early February, the Gators have won five in a row, with a home win versus Missouri and a road win at Vanderbilt this week. Neither do much to move the needle, but not losing is always a plus, especially with this bubble. That win in Baton Rouge continues to be fruitful for Florida as the Tigers have jumped to the forefront of the SEC title race, and two opportunities to move the Gators even further from the cutline are coming: a home rematch with LSU on Wednesday and at Kentucky on March 9. But first, don’t overlook Georgia, who have played seemingly everyone in the SEC close. This resume does not need another anchor loss.

Auburn (SEC): 19-9, NET: 23, SOS: 29, vs. Q1: 2-7

Auburn doesn’t really beat good teams, which sounds bad. But it also doesn’t lose to bad teams, and the numbers are fantastic. Compare that to teams on the bubble, and you see why the Tigers are over the bubble for the time being. The great news for Auburn is the great wins issue could be solved before the SEC Tournament with all three remaining games being Q1 matchups (Mississippi State, at Alabama, Tennessee). The Tigers might need to get at least one of them to feel comfortable heading into the conference tournament, but get two or even all three, and there shouldn’t be too much to sweat by Selection Sunday.

Wofford (SoCon): 25-4, NET: 18, SOS: 132, vs. Q1: 3-4

Talk about a statement. Wofford handled Furman 72-64 on the road last Saturday, and with it collected a third Q1 win. That win, as well as another blowout conference victory at Chattanooga to extend the winning streak to 16, officially brings the Terriers over the bubble. There’s no way the committee could leave out a team with an NET that high, and the wins and zero losses outside of Q1 back up the numbers. Unless Wofford loses its final game at NET 163 Samford, loses in its first game of the SoCon Tournament and too many bubble teams go on tears, it will be in the tournament even without a conference tournament title.


Temple (AAC): 20-8, NET: 56, SOS: 66, vs. Q1: 1-6

Temple is in such a tenuous position. I don’t think there is a team closer to the cutline than the Owls, and it has been that way for weeks. The game at Memphis was a great opportunity for Temple to finally add another Q1 win to its elite victory over Houston at home, but it couldn’t convert. The Houston win is the best thing Temple has to offer, and while it is pretty great, one win can only take a resume so far. The numbers are pedestrian, the home loss to NET 122 Penn is unfortunate, and all Temple has otherwise are some good to okay wins the committee won’t care much about. The Owls have one Q1 matchup left on the schedule: a home game with UCF on March 9. Depending on how their other two games go before that one, it may become a must-win.

UCF (AAC): 21-6, NET: 30, SOS: 69, vs. Q1: 0-3

The zero Q1 wins are the biggest problem for UCF at the moment, and that problem remains from last week. The Knights took care of rival South Florida on the road, which hurt the Bulls’s NET enough to knock it from a Q1 to Q2 win. But winning is always good, and UCF have three sure-fire Q1 opportunities remaining on the schedule, plus the AAC Tournament. The rest of the resume looks solid, with a very good NET for a bubble team, a .500 mark on the road and a non-conference win over Alabama at home. One or two Q1 wins would make do wonders for this resume.

Clemson (ACC): 17-11, NET: 41, SOS: 39, vs. Q1: 1-8

The Tigers took care of business this week, beating Boston College at home, then Pittsburgh on the road. Winning is better than losing, but neither of those wins does much to solve the ugly record in Q1 games. Clemson beat Virginia Tech at home Feb. 9, but that and a Q2 home win against Lipscomb are really all the Tigers have to offer. Unlike most other bubble teams, Clemson has zero bad losses, and the numbers are relatively passable. The Tigers are going to need more Q1 and Q2, especially Q1, wins between now and Selection Sunday to feel remotely safe, though. That starts with NET 8 North Carolina coming to town Saturday in a prime opportunity for Clemson to play its way into the tournament.

North Carolina State (ACC): 20-8, NET: 31, SOS: 222, vs. Q1: 2-7

State came away with two wins this week, but home wins against Boston College and Wake Forest are only good for avoiding anchor losses. The Wolfpack’s issue is they have very few quality wins. Their best win is at home against Auburn, but otherwise a neutral floor win against NET 50 Penn State rounds out of the Q1 wins. The Nittany Lions’s winning ways lately have been great for NC State, but relying on teams not in at-large contention for your resume is never a good sign. It also holds home wins against Syracuse and Clemson, but unless those teams go on Penn State-like tears, those Ws will stay in Q2. Additionally, NC State has some of the worst SOS numbers reasonably possible. So what else is there? A road game at Florida State on Saturday, but the Seminoles are 47-3 at home over the last three seasons. Unless State wins that game, it will probably need to do something of note in the ACC Tournament to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday.

Lipscomb (A-Sun): 22-6, NET: 47, SOS: 212, vs. Q1: 2-3

Not much has changed since last week. Lipscomb survived an A-Sun team, which doesn’t mean much to the committee, and all the same problems remain. It would take losing to Liberty in the A-Sun Tournament Championship, TCU to turn it around, winning otherwise and getting help from the rest of the bubble for Lipscomb to get an at-large bid.

TCU (Big 12): 18-10, NET: 43, SOS: 41, vs. Q1: 3-6

TCU does wonders for its resume by taking care of Iowa State at home Saturday, sweeping the season series with the Cyclones, then goes and ruins it through losing at West Virginia on Tuesday. It’s a bit of a roller coaster of a resume, with highs of the Iowa State sweep and a home wins against Florida, Baylor and Texas, but lows of road losses to the two worst teams in the Big 12 and a 2-7 road record. Only Q1 games remain, so TCU will have ample opportunity to prove itself to the committee. The game at Texas holds extra importance for the chance to show the Horned Frogs can beat a good team other than Iowa State away from Fort Worth. Home wins over Texas Tech or Kansas State would be quite helpful, too.

Texas (Big 12): 15-13, NET: 36, SOS: 9, vs. Q1: 4-8

Don’t let the record fool you, this team is still in a good position for an at-large bid. Texas has incredible numbers that will help the committee overlook the number of losses, and although the quantity of wins isn’t plentiful, the quality is. The Longhorns have a neutral win against North Carolina, a road victory at Kansas State and home triumphs over Purdue and Kansas, which is light years beyond what most of the bubble can hope to offer on Selection Sunday. A 2-7 road mark and two Q3 losses don’t help, which is why Texas finds itself on the bubble this week after losing two straight at Oklahoma and at Baylor, plus losing Kerwin Roach to an indefinite suspension. Texas is still on the right side of the bubble for now, but .500 and below .500 teams do not get at-large bids. With the depth of the Big 12, that is a danger.

Seton Hall (Big East): 16-11, NET: 64, SOS: 50, vs. Q1: 4-6

Normally these numbers wouldn’t be good enough for a bid, but with the bubble as weak as it is and Seton Hall holding four Q1 wins, the Pirates are still in contention for the Big Dance. With the Big East having a down year, opportunities for eye-catching wins are hard to come by. But Seton Hall still has two left: home dates with Marquette and Villanova in the final two games of the regular season. The Pirates could be set up more perfectly for a late-season surge into the tournament. But they’ll need to be wary first of the trap game at Georgetown on Saturday, a game this team has proven very capable of losing.

Georgetown (Big East): 17-11, NET: 72, SOS: 93, vs. Q1: 3-6

The Hoyas have come into the bubble conversation late in the season, but they didn’t capitalize on their momentum from the Villanova win, losing 82-69 at Creighton in the next game. They also took care of DePaul at home this week, a win that means an anchor is avoided. Georgetown will probably need another great win before Selection Sunday to make up for its numbers and bad losses, and other than the Big East Tournament, a road game at Marquette is its last chance in the final game of the season. Unless the Hoyas can go on a deep run in the conference tournament, that Marquette game is likely a must-win regardless of what they do in their other two games left against Seton Hall and at DePaul.

Indiana (Big Ten): 14-14, NET: 58, SOS: 37, vs. Q1: 5-9

I know I said .500 teams don’t get in the tournament, and I stand by that. But at this stage of the season, with a bubble this weak, a .500 team with wins like Indiana has keep you in the conversation. The Hoosiers finally broke their second long losing streak of the year, falling two losses shy of January’s seven-game skid, in dramatic fashion: a double overtime home win against Wisconsin. That’s Indiana’s fifth Q1 win of the season. Ignore all the outside noise about this team and look around the bubble. Do you see many teams with wins that can challenge at Michigan State (NET 6), Wisconsin (14), Marquette (21), Louisville (25) and five-total Q1 victories? No? That’s because this bubble is softer than Indiana, so the Hoosiers hang around for now, not for their own competence but general ineptitude across the bubble.

Minnesota (Big Ten): 18-11, NET: 55, SOS: 57, vs. Q1: 2-8

Losing at Rutgers is definitely not what I would recommend to a bubble team with few good wins, a volatile NET and wretched road record, but Minnesota does what it wants. The Gophers avoided submarining their resume by beating Northwestern, 62-50, on Thursday, only their second road win of the season. The bubble being horrible is keeping Minnesota afloat more than it deserves, and although that could be said for several teams, the Gophers will need another Q1 win to feel safe at all. Their last two games provide opportunities, first with Purdue at home, then a trip to College Park to end the regular season. Win one of those, and you can get by with only one win the conference tournament, maybe even zero. Lose both, and you’re looking at a must-win situation in at least one Big Ten Tournament game.

Utah State (MWC): 23-6, NET: 34, SOS: 123, vs. Q1: 1-2

It’s this simple: the game comes down to the Nevada game. No matter what Utah State does in the game at Colorado State or the Mountain West Tournament, winning this home date with the Wolfpack is going to make or break its at-large chances. The Aggies have only one Q1 win, a neutral court W over NET 39 St. Mary’s, and an otherwise relatively clean resume: just the one borderline Q3 loss, a good NET, a great non-conference SOS of 21 and an 8-4 mark as the away team. It won’t be enough without at least one win over Nevada, though. If Utah State can’t beat the best team in the conference in two tries, the committee isn’t going to see a reason to include it in the tournament. The teams will probably occupy the top two spots in the league, so a third meeting couldn’t come until the Mountain West Tournament Championship, too late for Utah State’s at-large chances. Rightly or wrongly, we know mid-major schools do not get the benefit of the doubt, so Utah State has to capitalize.

Belmont (OVC): 24-4, NET: 45, SOS: 231, vs. Q1: 2-1

I said that week that Belmont would need a better NET to have a real shot at an at-large bid, and it miraculously improved a significant margin in just seven days after it blew the doors off SIU-Edwardsville and UT Martin. Still, it will need to get better to cushion for the loss that would be required in the OVC Tournament for this conversation to be relevant, and that defeat would probably need to come against Murray State in the championship. Nothing Belmont can do at this point but keep clobbering the opponents in front of it, so by all means, keep it up and see what happens.

Arizona State (Pac-12): 19-9, NET: 68, SOS: 81, vs. Q1: 3-2

Arizona State is a ridiculous team. Wins against Mississippi State (20) and Utah State (34) on neutral floors, Kansas (17) and Washington (32), then a 91-70 home drumming via Washington State (182), another home loss to Princeton (172), and two Q3 losses to boot. Terrible NET, but decent SOS numbers. The Sun Devils are surviving in large part through the failures of others, but the committee has to find 36 at-large teams somewhere. There are two Q2 games remaining here before the Pac-12 Tournament. Winning both and one game in the Pac-12 Tournament would probably have the Sun Devils feeling relatively comfortable.

Alabama (SEC): 17-11, NET: 48, SOS: 31, vs. Q1: 2-8

Another uninspiring resume that wouldn’t be so far on the right side of the bubble in a normal year. Home wins against Kentucky and Mississippi State are carrying Alabama, because there isn’t anything else here to get too excited about. Another home victory against tournament-caliber Ole Miss and seven total Q2 wins are nice, and losses to Georgia State in Tuscaloosa and Northeastern on a neutral court aren’t. The numbers are above average for a bubble team, and that’s enough to keep Alabama above the cutline. All three remaining games are currently Q1 matchups. Going 0-3 in those games would be a dagger only a very deep SEC Tournament could hope to remedy.

Furman (SoCon): 23-6, NET: 46, SOS: 195, vs. Q1: 1-5

Don’t take this inclusion on the bubble as an indication of great hope for the Paladins: it’s not happening unless Furman is able to meet and beat Wofford in the SoCon Tournament before the final and the rest of the bubble further implodes. There are enough things to like on this resume for it to hang around in the first eight out for a while, but Furman couldn’t capitalize on its big chance: a home showdown with Wofford. The Paladins lost 72-64, most likely ending their at-large hopes. The ‘Dins need a second great win to couple with their road victory over Villanova in order to get over the cutline, and without specific circumstances in the SoCon Tournament, there are no more chances left.


Memphis (AAC): 18-11, NET: 53, SOS: 44, vs. Q1: 1-7

Dayton (A-10): 19-9, NET: 66, SOS: 90, vs. Q1: 1-5

Davidson (A-10): 20-8, NET: 75, SOS: 127, vs. Q1: 0-2

Providence (Big East): 16-13, NET: 78, SOS: 46, vs. Q1 4-7

Creighton (Big East): 15-13, NET: 57, SOS: 16, vs. Q1: 2-10

Xavier (Big East): 16-13, NET: 71, SOS: 48, vs. Q1: 3-8

Butler (Big East): 15-13, NET: 54, SOS: 19, vs. Q1: 2-8

Nebraska (Big Ten): 15-14, NET: 49, SOS: 64, vs. Q1: 2-11

Old Dominion (C-USA): 23-6, NET: 76, SOS: 243, vs. Q1: 1-0

Murray State (OVC): 24-4, NET: 52, SOS: 288, vs. Q1: 0-2

Oregon State (Pac-12): 17-10, NET: 84, SOS: 114, vs. Q1: 1-1

Oregon (Pac-12): 16-12, NET: 67, SOS: 62, vs. Q1: 1-4

Arkansas (SEC): 14-14, NET: 74, SOS: 40, vs. Q1: 1-9

South Carolina (SEC): 14-14, NET: 86, SOS: 18, vs. Q1: 3-8

UNC Greensboro (SoCon): 25-5, NET: 61, SOS: 131, vs. Q1: 1-5

San Francisco (WCC): 21-8, NET: 60, SOS: 136, vs. Q1: 0-4

St. Mary’s (WCC): 20-10, NET: 39, SOS: 59, vs. Q1: 1-5

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