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 8th, 2019:
Houston (AAC): 28-2, NET: 6, SOS: 57, vs. Q1: 4-2
Cincinnati (AAC): 25-5, NET: 23, SOS: 75, vs. Q1: 4-3
UCF (AAC): 23-6, NET: 26, SOS: 31, vs. Q1: 2-4
Virginia (ACC): 27-2, NET: 2, SOS: 34, vs. Q1: 10-2
Duke (ACC): 26-4 NET: 3, SOS: 2, vs. Q1: 8-3
North Carolina (ACC): 25-5, NET: 7, SOS: 6, vs. Q1: 8-5
Florida State (ACC): 24-6, NET: 17, SOS: 44, vs. Q1: 6-4
Virginia Tech (ACC): 22-7, NET: 11, SOS: 52, vs. Q1: 4-7
Louisville (ACC): 19-11, NET: 24, SOS: 4, vs. Q1: 4-9
Kansas (Big 12): 22-8, NET: 18, SOS: 1, vs. Q1: 10-7
Texas Tech (Big 12): 25-5, NET: 10, SOS: 56, vs. Q1: 6-5
Kansas State (Big 12): 23-7, NET: 27, SOS: 50, vs. Q1: 7-4
Iowa State (Big 12): 20-10, NET: 22, SOS: 46, vs. Q1: 5-6
Marquette (Big East): 23-7, NET: 29, SOS: 27, vs. Q1: 8-5
Villanova (Big East): 22-8, NET: 25, SOS: 16, vs. Q1: 4-5
Michigan (Big Ten): 26-4, NET: 9, SOS: 66, vs. Q1: 8-4
Michigan State (Big Ten): 24-6, NET: 8, SOS: 41, vs. Q1: 10-4
Purdue (Big Ten): 22-8, NET: 12, SOS: 12, vs. Q1: 7-7
Wisconsin (Big Ten): 21-9, NET: 15, SOS: 19, vs. Q1: 8-7
Maryland (Big Ten): 21-9, NET: 28, SOS: 10, vs. Q1: 6-7
Buffalo (MAC): 27-3, NET: 16, SOS: 85, vs. Q1: 2-1
Nevada (MWC): 27-3, NET: 20, SOS: 106, vs. Q1: 1-1
Tennessee (SEC): 27-3, NET: 4, SOS: 70, vs. Q1: 8-3
Kentucky (SEC): 25-5, NET: 5, SOS: 14, vs. Q1: 11-4
LSU (SEC): 25-5, NET: 13, SOS: 13, vs. Q1: 10-2
Mississippi State (SEC): 21-9, NET: 21, SOS: 9, vs. Q1: 8-6
Auburn (SEC): 21-9, NET: 19, SOS: 25, vs. Q1: 2-7
Wofford (SoCon): 26-4, NET: 14, SOS: 127, vs. Q1: 3-4
Gonzaga (WCC): 29-2, NET: 1, SOS: 45, vs. Q1: 4-2
SHOULD BE IN
VCU (A-10): 24-6, NET: 31, SOS: 40, vs. Q1: 2-2
VCU took care of business at George Mason on Tuesday and inch that much closer to ultimate safety. It’s final game is against St. Joseph’s at home, a Q4 matchup. The Rams don’t need to do anything special at this point to get into the tournament. Just win the games they obviously should against Q3 and Q4 competition, and they will have nothing to worry about on Selection Sunday.
Oklahoma (Big 12): 19-11, NET: 39, SOS: 20, vs. Q1: 4-9
A huge home victory against Kansas not only ended the Jayhawks’s 14-straight Big 12 regular season titles but also gave Oklahoma another great win. That gives the Sooners four Q1 wins now, and it’s numbers are that of an obvious tournament team. If Oklahoma wins one more game, no matter who it’s against, it will be a lock for an at-large.
Washington (Pac-12): 24-6, NET: 32, SOS: 62, vs. Q1: 2-4
The Huskies haven’t been playing well as of late, barely avoiding a second-straight bad loss at Stanford last weekend before needing overtime to take care of Oregon State at home Wednesday. But wins are wins, and at this point, avoid bad losses is good enough to get into the tournament without any worry. Washington’s final regular season game is Oregon at home Saturday, a Q2 game. A win would lock Washington before the Pac-12 Tournament. A loss would delay what is most likely inevitable by a game or two.
OVER THE BUBBLE
Syracuse (ACC): 19-11, NET: 41, SOS: 11, vs. Q1: 3-7
No games for Syracuse since our last update, but I nearly moved the Orange up because of what the teams around them did. I chose not to, though, and make Syracuse prove itself at Clemson on Saturday in its final regular season game. A win and a fourth Q1 win would probably lock Syracuse up, and even with a loss, Jim Boeheim’s team is likely fine for the NCAA Tournament.
Texas (Big 12): 16-14, NET: 34, SOS: 8, vs. Q1: 5-9
Texas didn’t play since the last bubble watch, and nothing much changes with the Longhorns. The numbers and elite wins are what keep this resume over the bubble, but it could quickly drop down with the low quantity of wins. The game against TCU at home to end the regular season will be huge for both teams, and for Texas it could be enough to lock it up before the Big 12 Tournament. A loss would mean the Longhorns would need to win at least one game in Kansas City to feel confident in their tournament chances.
Baylor (Big 12): 19-11, NET: 38, SOS: 48, vs. Q1: 4-7
After winning three in a row, Baylor has dropped two straight, the latest being a 67-64 anchor home loss to Oklahoma State. It becomes the team’s third Q3 or Q4 loss, which is not an ideal category to be adding to in March. Baylor has a handful of great wins that will keep it above the cutline most likely no matter what, and losing at Kansas in the final regular season game wouldn’t hurt too bad. It might not be pretty, but as long as Baylor doesn’t add another bad loss to its resume, it’ll be included in the tournament.
Iowa (Big Ten): 21-9, NET: 45, SOS: 94, vs. Q1: 4-8
The freefall continued this week as the Hawkeyes got run out of Kohl Center, 65-45, on Thursday. It was Iowa’s third-straight loss, a streak that has pulled the team’s NET down with it. The Hawkeyes aren’t in serious danger of missing the tournament at this point, though, because of wins against Michigan and Iowa State and a sizable collection of solid wins to boot. But this is not a good direction to head this time of year. If the bubble got its act together in the conference tournaments, some bids got stolen and Iowa doesn’t win again, there could be some nerves in Iowa City.
Ole Miss (SEC): 19-11, NET: 36, SOS: 73, vs. Q1: 4-10
Losing 80-76 to Kentucky isn’t going to hurt Ole Miss’s tournament chances, but it won’t help, either. The Rebels stay pat after coming within a few points of lockdom this week. Instead, the team has lost three in a row, but all in close games and two against top 10 competition. It would take a loss at Missouri on Saturday and an implosion in the SEC Tournament for Ole Miss to be concerned on Selection Sunday. But it could happen, and so until it wins again, this team will stay unlocked.
ON THE BUBBLE
Temple (AAC): 22-8, NET: 56, SOS: 91, vs. Q1: 2-6
Temple took care of Connecticut on Thursday, 78-71, to keep moving along as a team right on the cutline. Missouri moved into the NET’s top 75, giving the Owls a second Q1 win, at least for the time being. The situation remains the same it has, though: Temple needs another win against a tournament team to go along with the Jan. 9 home win against Houston. That either needs to come at home against UCF on Saturday or in the AAC Tournament, but if it doesn’t happen, Temple will be in the NIT.
Clemson (ACC): 18-12, NET: 40, SOS: 33, vs. Q1: 1-9
The Tigers avoided a disaster Wednesday, eeking out a 64-62 win at Notre Dame. Fortunately for Clemson’s chances, the status quo remains as the team hovers right around the cutline, but that also means the same issues persist. Similar to Temple, Clemson has a win against a great team at home from a few weeks ago and passable numbers, building a foundation for an at-large resume. But without another win to prove to the committee that the one wasn’t a fluke, this team isn’t getting into the tournament. A win against Syracuse at home would be better than a loss, but it wouldn’t be enough. This team needs to win a few games in the ACC Tournament, preferably against at least one tournament team, to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday.
North Carolina State (ACC): 20-10, NET: 35, SOS: 211, vs. Q1: 2-8
While some bubble teams were winning huge games to get safer, NC State was losing at home to Georgia Tech, seriously jeopardizing its tournament hopes. It was State’s second Q3 loss of the season, harming a resume that was already hanging on to a home win against Auburn and a pretty good NET for a bubble team. At a certain point, the horrendous SOS numbers, lack of great wins and couple of anchors are going to outweigh the top 40 NET. Avoiding a loss at Boston College to end the regular season would certainly be in State’s best interest.
Lipscomb (A-Sun): 25-6, NET: 43, SOS: 234, vs. Q1: 2-3
Lipscomb cruised to a 78-55 shlacking of NJIT in the A-Sun Tournament Semifinals, setting up a date with Liberty in the championship for the conference’s auto bid. This is the only scenario in which a loss could possibly not keep Lipscomb out of the tournament, but the likelihood that the Bison could get in with its current resume plus another loss to the Flames is very small. It would be best to not find out what would happen.
TCU (Big 12): 18-12, NET: 53, SOS: 26, vs. Q1: 2-8
The Horned Frogs haven’t played since our last bubble watch update, but the world moves on. Other bubble teams have won some big games and jumped TCU while it sat at home, marinating in a three-game losing skid. Its final game at Texas provides a Q1 win opportunity and a chance to show the committee this isn’t just a team that matches up well with Iowa State. It’s possible TCU could get in without adding another big win to its resume, and its odds in that situation would be better than teams like Clemson and Temple, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it. The Horned Frogs will have to pick up a great win at some point before Selection Sunday to feel remotely safe.
Seton Hall (Big East): 17-12, NET: 61, SOS: 36, vs. Q1: 5-6
One of those teams that passed TCU was Seton Hall, whose 73-64 home win against Marquette moved the Pirates further into the field toward safety. There are still issues with this resume keeping it on the bubble, namely the NET and two home losses to NET 98 DePaul and NET 108 Saint Louis, both Q3 defeats. With the Marquette win, though, Seton Hall now has three high-level wins to show the committee, which is a big deal with this bubble. If the team beats Villanova in its last game before the Big East Tournament, it would take it far from the bubble and potentially into lockdom.
Creighton (Big East): 17-13, NET: 54, SOS: 15, vs. Q1: 2-10
Creighton saved itself with an overtime squeaker at home versus Providence, 76-70, on Wednesday, keeping it right along the cutline for at least another few days. It was the team’s fourth-straight win, continuing a streak that lifted Creighton onto bubble consideration very late into the season. Only a home date with DePaul remains, so the Bluejays have to wait until the Big East Tournament to impress the committee. A loss to the Blue Demons would make that borderline impossible, though, so Creighton must remain focused on the next game before thinking ahead. This resume cannot afford to absorb a Q3 loss.
St. John’s (Big East): 20-10, NET: 62, SOS: 67, vs. Q1: 5-4
The Red Storm haven’t played since Monday, so no real changes here. Other bubble teams winning moved St. John’s down a bit, but the wins this team already has are enough to keep it relatively protected. The final regular season game at Xavier comes Saturday, and although this team is not in must-win mode for at-large bid right now, it could be if it continues it’s current two-game losing streak, both to non-tournament teams.
Indiana (Big Ten): 16-14, NET: 50, SOS: 38, vs. Q1: 6-9
And just like that, they’re back. Indiana took care of Illinois on the road, 92-74, on Thursday to extent its winning streak to three. All of a sudden, Indiana’s numbers are improving, and the high-level wins are adding up, with the home wins versus Wisconsin and Michigan State in the two previous games giving the Hoosiers five wins against teams in the NET top 30. There are negatives, like the 3-9 road record and a few losses to non-tournament teams, but the highs of this resume are near impossible to find across the bubble. Indiana is officially back in this thing. Just don’t throw it all away by losing to Rutgers at home to close the regular season Sunday.
Minnesota (Big Ten): 19-11, NET: 55, SOS: 49, vs. Q1: 3-8
The Gophers were in desperate need of another great win on their resume, and they got it Tuesday in a 73-69 home win against NET 12 Purdue. It’s Minnesota’s second win against an NET top 15 team and 10th Q1 or Q2 win of the season. That’s enough to confidently say Minnesota is on the right side of the bubble as of right now, and the Gophers could possibly lock themselves up with a win at Maryland on Friday to end the regular season. They would be fine with a loss, too, although a flame out of the Big Ten Tournament could provide anxious times in Minneapolis if there are bid stealers and other bubble teams acquire big-time wins.
Ohio State (Big Ten): 18-12, NET: 51, SOS: 58, vs. Q1: 4-8
Without Kaleb Wesson, this is not a tournament team. In fact, not only is it not a tournament team, one could argue it’s the worst team in the Big Ten by a good margin. Ohio State got smacked in Evanston on Wednesday, losing 68-50 to Northwestern in a game that was never really competitive. The game snapped Northwestern’s 10-game losing streak and in turn pushed the Buckeyes closer to the cutline. This team does not look like it can win another game with its leading scorer, and the resume is not good enough to get into the tournament with only losses added. He has to come back for this team not to slip out of the field.
Utah State (MWC): 25-6, NET: 30, SOS: 104, vs. Q1: 3-2
Utah State played with fire Tuesday, going to overtime at Colorado State before eventually winning, 100-96. It would have been the team’s second Q3 loss and undone some of the good added to the resume through the 81-76 home win against Nevada over the weekend. But the Aggies got it done and clinched at least a share of the Mountain West regular season title in the process. Utah State will now prepare for the Mountain West Tournament as either the one or two seed, and as long as it doesn’t add a Q3 or Q4 loss to its resume will likely be included in the tournament. But the committee doesn’t give mid-major teams the benefit of the doubt, so I’m remaining cautious of taking Utah State off the bubble for now.
Belmont (OVC): 25-4, NET: 44, SOS: 238, vs. Q1: 2-1
Belmont’s first game of the OVC Tournament is set: a semifinal date with Austin Peay on Friday. Although the team has a pretty respectable resume for a team from the OVC, I don’t think it’s enough to put the Bruins in the tournament should it lose at any point in the OVC Tournament, especially before the final and to a team not named Murray State. The game against Austin Peay is a must-win, if that wasn’t already abundantly obvious.
Arizona State (Pac-12): 20-9, NET: 71, SOS: 74, vs. Q1: 3-3
No games for Arizona State since defeating Oregon State in Corvallis, 74-71, on Sunday. That means bubble teams that picked up big wins this week jumped the Sun Devils, and now the team finds itself that much closer to falling out of the tournament. The numbers are bad, and although there are a few great wins on the resume to cushion the blow, is it enough to put them into the field? This resume definitely cannot afford any more losses to non-tournament teams, making the road date in Tucson against the hated Wildcats imperative. The Pac-12 Tournament is not going to provide many chances for quality wins, so at this point, Arizona State needs to hope avoiding any more bad losses is enough to get it in.
Alabama (SEC): 17-13, NET: 57, SOS: 22, vs. Q1: 3-8
Alabama couldn’t capitalize on a quality opportunity for an important win, dropping at home to Auburn, 66-60, in a game it led for about 30 minutes. The Crimson Tide have to go back to the drawing board and aim to find that elusive tournament-clinching win in the SEC Tournament, but first a road date at Arkansas looming to close the regular season. Although Arkansas is not currently getting serious at-large attention, a win in Fayetteville would count as a Q1 victory, and Alabama needs every one of those it can get. If the Crimson Tide don’t get this one, they will need to make a run in the SEC Tournament to feel at all good about their tournament chances.
Florida (SEC): 17-13, NET: 33, SOS: 51, vs. Q1: 3-10
The Gators could be feeling like they’re a win away from locking up a tournament spot after sweeping LSU, but instead they’re still hanging around the bubble searching for that second signature win to catapult them to safety. After losing by one to the Tigers in overtime, Florida will have a second chance at Kentucky on Saturday in the regular season finale. Even without a win in that game, Florida would probably be on the right side of the bubble heading into the SEC Tournament. However, going without another win before Selection Sunday could make for nervous times. The Gators need to win at least more game against any opponent to feel a little bit at ease.
Furman (SoCon): 24-6, NET: 42, SOS: 200, vs. Q1: 1-5
The bubble would need to implode, Furman would need to lose close in the SoCon Tournament Final to Wofford and there would need to be no bid stealers in order for the Paladins to get an at-large bid. Furman will hang around that cutline if it doesn’t lose to anyone but Wofford from here on out. But it’s not going to make any serious jumps without the addition of a great win, and there’s no more opportunities for that left. It’s likely the SoCon Tournament title or NIT for the ‘Dins.
Davidson (A-10): 22-8, NET: 69, SOS: 126, vs. Q1: 0-2
Providence (Big East): 16-14, NET: 77, SOS: 53, vs. Q1: 4-7
Xavier (Big East): 16-14, NET: 73, SOS: 54, vs. Q1: 3-9
Butler (Big East): 16-14, NET: 59, SOS: 21, vs. Q1: 1-10
Georgetown (Big East): 18-12, NET: 80, SOS: 87, vs. Q1: 3-6
Murray State (OVC): 25-4, NET: 48, SOS: 259, vs. Q1: 0-2
Oregon (Pac-12): 18-12, NET: 64, SOS: 78, vs. Q1: 1-5
Arkansas (SEC): 16-14, NET: 66, SOS: 47, vs. Q1: 1-9
UNC Greensboro (SoCon): 26-5, NET: 58, SOS: 134, vs. Q1: 1-5
St. Mary’s (WCC): 20-11, NET: 37, SOS: 29, vs. Q1: 1-6