The first official update of the Bubble Watch is here and what an insane week of upsets it was once again, which has really become par for the course in 2023. #1 Purdue lost, Tennessee, once a top-5 ranked team, lost twice on buzzer beating 3’s and what is going on with all the blue bloods? UNC, Duke, Kentucky are all reeling right now as the Tar Heels and Wildcats find themselves barely hanging on to their tournament lives, and Duke is falling closer and closer to the cut line with every passing game. The Big 12 power dynamics are shifting, as Oklahoma St and Texas rise while TCU and Iowa St fall. Also, will the Pac-12 only be a 2-bid league? Can the Mountain West usurp the Conference of Champions? Then you have the Big 10, where 11 of the 14 teams have a legitimate path forward to an at-large bid, who will survive the carnage? All that and more are tackled in this one, let’s get it. (All info as of 2/13)
On the Right Track:
Pitt: 18-7 (11-3) — Q1: (4-2) Q2: (4-3) Q3: (2-1) Q4: (8-1) SOS: (72) TW’s (6)
Well Pitt is hanging in there and avoiding disaster in the ACC which is full of opportunities to blow up a resumé. A 2-0 week is exactly what the doctor ordered as they stay on track to be dancing in March. There are still plenty of opportunities to lose games they shouldn’t and put themselves in a dangerous position though as 4 of the final 6 are going to be in the Q3-4 range. So long as the Panthers go at worst 3-3 down the stretch I think they get in, although 3-3 would probably put them towards that last 4 byes territory. It starts this week with what should be an auto W at home against BC and then a tough one at Virginia Tech who is playing for their tournament lives. I don’t view that as a must win, but a 2-0 week from Pitt and they’ll likely be in the lock category so it’s obviously a huge opportunity to stamp their ticket and leave no doubts.
Duke: 17-8 (8-6) — Q1: (2-7) Q2: (5-1) Q3: (2-0) Q4: (8-0) SOS: (33) TW’s (5)
Well that’s two giant opportunities for the Blue Devils to really feel secure gone by the wayside as they got blown out at Miami (FL) and then lost controversially at Virginia. They are now below .500 in Q1-2 games, which puts them closer to the cut line than they’ve probably been all season. To put it in perspective, the best seeding for a team last season with that being true was Seton Hall as an 8 seed. They also had 6 Q1 wins, so things aren’t looking great. Do I think they are truly in danger of missing the dance all together? No. But, the schedule doesn’t have many opportunities to bolster the resume left now, with a home game against lowly Notre Dame up next. The road game next Saturday at Syracuse will be pivotal as that would be a solid Q2 win to tilt things back in a positive direction. A 2-0 week is a must for the Dukies.
N.C. State: 20-6 (10-5) — Q1: (3-4) Q2: (3-2) Q3: (4-0) Q4: (10-0) SOS: (77) TW’s (3)
The Wolfpack continued last week to be who we thought they were, as they lost a tough road game but bounced back in a big way to beat up on BC. They win the games they are supposed to, it’s just time to grab a few more quality wins to lock up this tournament resumé. The problem is with a couple of losses this team would be in dangerous territory, and this week they head to a dangerous Syracuse team and then host a desperate and talented UNC. An 0-2 week and all of a sudden N.C. State is down in the bubble mix. 1-1 and I think you breathe a sigh of relief if you’re a fan of this team, and 2-0 you might be able to lock this one up. It’s a pivotal week, not just for them but for the rest of this Conference as well as many teams are hanging around the cut line.
North Carolina: 16-9 (8-6) — Q1: (1-8) Q2: (5-1) Q3: (5-0) Q4: (6-0) SOS: (23) TW’s (2)
The Tar Heels are now on the brink, with an appearance in Dayton looking like where they would end up if the season ended today every game is desperation time. They broke a 3 game losing streak to start to right the ship in dominating fashion over Clemson on Saturday but there is still work to be done. It should be a win or go home mentality every game from here on out. They get Miami at home in a chance to pick up another Q2 win, but the following game at N.C. State is a Q1 chance that they have to capitalize on. They certainly are not out of it if they only go 1-1 this week, but things would look very bleak if they go 0-2. After this week only a home game against Virginia is left to try and improve on their measly 1 Q1 win. For reference, the only at-large a season ago with 1 or fewer Q1 wins was Wyoming who played in Dayton as a 12 seed. They were also 9-1 in Q2, so again, there is much work to be done to get the Tar Heels in the dance. It’s nut up or shut up time for last season’s runner ups.
Clemson: 18-7 (10-4) — Q1: (3-3) Q2: (4-1) Q3: (4-1) Q4: (7-2) SOS: (89) TW’s (3)
Whelp Clemson has now lost 3 in a row and have joined UNC on the cut line as they likely would end up in Dayton as well if they were to make it as of today. The Q1-2 record is not nearly as bad as the Tar Heels, but the bad losses are like an anchor just dragging the ship. 3 straight games await the Tigers that are simply must win if they want to make the tourney, as they are all Q3 or 4, so a loss would be like a bomb going off in the hull of the ship. Of course, you’re taking this thing one game at a time, but for those of us who can afford to look ahead this group ends February with games at N.C. State and Virginia. Win one of those and that just might be enough without a separate disaster. The plan is easy though going forward, go 2-0 this week. You simply can’t afford to lose these.
Virginia Tech: 15-10 (5-9) — Q1: (3-4) Q2: (2-3) Q3: (4-2) Q4: (6-1) SOS: (60) TW’s (4)
As quickly as Va Tech got themselves into the bubble conversations they have nearly played themselves out of it as a home Q4 loss to BC does almost as much damage as the home win over Virginia did positively. It’s a classic let down spot after the huge win, but it’s one you cannot fall victim to if you’re going to get into the tournament, especially when in desperation mode like they are. It will likely take a 5-1 effort down the stretch, which starts this week with a road game against struggling Georgia Tech followed by an opportunity at home against Pitt. A 2-0 week keeps them in the hunt, but they’re still looking up at a decent list of teams ahead of them. I don’t have much confidence in such an inconsistent team but they do have a path forward and alas, that is what it takes to remain on this watch list.
Wake Forest: 17-9 (9-6) — Q1: (1-5) Q2: (3-3) Q3: (5-1) Q4: (8-0) SOS: (71) TW’s (4)
Wake did what they had to do this week, going 2-0 and picking up a big time home win over UNC. With only 1 game this week on the road against Miami it’s going to be tough to improve their situation, but it’s an opportunity nonetheless. They are still pretty far out of the conversation but make no mistake if they can pick up 1 of the next 2 at Miami/N.C. St then they are going to have a chance. They may need both at the end of the day, but picking up 1 gives them a shot with the ACC tourney out there to pick up another big W. It’s not an easy path for the Demon Deacons to be dancing come March but it certainly is there for the taking, they just have to take advantage of every opportunity. Frankly, I don’t have much confidence in any of the teams ahead of them so why not Wake Forest?
On the Right Track:
Northwestern: 18-7 (9-5) — Q1: (6-4) Q2: (2-3) Q3: (2-0) Q4: (8-0) SOS: (41) TW’s (6)
A week that will be remembered for a long time for all involved as Northwestern took down #1 Purdue on Sunday to all but stamp their ticket to the dance. Now with 6 Q1 wins after getting back-to-back this week they are on the verge of being a sure lock in what is probably the most unexpected result in the Big Ten this season. Now in a tie for 2nd in the Big Ten, the Wildcats have a home meeting with IU for a chance to move into sole possession of 2nd place and follow it up with another home game against Iowa. What they can’t allow happen is a let down after such a big time win. As an outsider looking in you kind of have to be expecting it after seeing a court storming and coaches crying in post-game interviews after beating Purdue, but you have to somehow find a way to collect yourself and get ready for another huge week. There’s some really tough road games left on the schedule, so finding a way to take care of business at home is essential for Northwestern to punch their ticket.
Illinois: 17-7 (8-5) — Q1: (3-6) Q2: (4-1) Q3: (4-0) Q4: (6-0) SOS: (40) TW’s (6)
With the Minnesota game postponed the Illini were able to grant Rutgers their full attention all week and took advantage of a huge opportunity getting another Q1 win. The resumé is pretty clean but a string of losses could still put Illinois in danger of missing the dance, so this week becomes huge with 2 road games against Penn St and Indiana. It is not a huge stretch to see an 0-2 week as a real likelihood, especially with Penn St playing with what will assuredly be complete desperation. Of course Illinois is better than Penn St, and should absolutely beat them, but this is February in college basketball, expect the unexpected. Alas, with the only Q1 opportunities left all on the road if they go 0-4 their pitch at 3-10 in Q1 is going to be flimsy. This week could be more important than we think, so Underwood and company really need to find a way to steal one.
Rutgers: 16-9 (8-6) — Q1: (4-6) Q2: (4-2) Q3: (1-1) Q4: (7-0) SOS: (24) TW’s (5)
We spoke last week about the difficulty that awaited Rutgers this week and they in fact went 0-2 in road games with Indiana and Illinois. Not exactly something to hang your heads about but now it means there is some work to do to get back on track. The good news for the Scarlet Knights is they welcome Nebraska to town in a nice get right spot before they head to a reeling Wisconsin later in the week. The Badgers will of course be desperate for another good win but it’s a spot where Rutgers needs to come through if they want to feel safe and secure on Selection Sunday. Of course, a loss isn’t going to put them in major jeopardy just yet, but the schedule isn’t going to get any easier in the Big Ten with desperate Michigan and Penn St to follow. If you want to take the next step as a program you have to start winning some of the tough ones. A 2-0 week should lock this one up.
Iowa: 16-9 (8-6) — Q1: (7-6) Q2: (3-1) Q3: (0-1) Q4: (6-1) SOS: (12) TW’s (7)
The Hawkeyes lost by 14 on the road against #1 Purdue, no shame in that, and then bounced back to beat lowly Minnesota. Not exactly a week that moved the needle, but for a team hovering somewhere around the 6-7 seed line no movement is better than moving backwards. This week free-falling Ohio St visits and then a big time road game with Northwestern comes up, with both teams jockeying for similar spots that one could be one to lock up the Hawkeyes. The 7 Q1 wins becoming 8 would give me all of the confidence I would need, and would give them some breathing room as well. It’s a weird resumé with those 2 Q3-4 losses hanging out there, but if Iowa can just win their home games from here on out they should be in pretty good shape. They did lose to Eastern Illinois there though, so forgive me for pausing for 1 more week.
Maryland: 17-8 (7-5) — Q1: (3-7) Q2: (3-1) Q3: (4-0) Q4: (7-0) SOS: (35) TW’s (4)
Last week the recipe was this, lose to Sparty close and then beat Penn St to set yourself up for a massive W over Purdue this week. Check and check as Maryland completed steps 1 and 2. Now the Boilers come to town on Thursday in a gigantic game for the Terrapins that gives them the opportunity to make Selection Sunday a breeze. Purdue of course is now coming off of a loss and hasn’t lost back-to-back games all season so it’s no slam dunk that this will be a win for Maryland, but they have only lost once at home to UCLA so they may even be favored by Vegas. Big picture they only have 3 Q1 opportunities left on the docket and 3-10 is likely not going to be good enough, so with Purdue at home you absolutely have to capitalize or it’s going to get hot in the kitchen. Also important, don’t beat Purdue and then flop at Nebraska, just go 2-0 and make it easy on yourselves would ya?
Michigan St: 16-9 (8-6) — Q1: (6-7) Q2: (3-1) Q3: (3-1) Q4: (4-0) SOS: (3) TW’s (5)
It was a much needed week for Tom Izzo and Sparty as they went 2-0 picking up 2 Q1 wins in the process. A home win over Maryland was a must have, and then on the road a complete annihilation of Ohio State…don’t let Izzo get hot in February. This week they welcome in Minnesota and then it’s another chance at a Q1 win as they get the rematch with Michigan in Ann Arbor. The resumé at this point is so much better than it was a week ago, now sitting at 9-8 in Q1-2 games, they are inching closer to locking in an appearance. Obviously, going to Michigan and getting a win to go 2-0 this week would seal the deal, but after that is a home game against IU that would serve the same purpose. Just win your home games though and you’re in at this point Sparty, let’s get it done.
Wisconsin: 14-10 (6-8) — Q1: (5-6) Q2: (3-4) Q3: (1-0) Q4: (5-0) SOS: (6) TW’s (4)
It was a very Wisconsin-esque week this week as they picked up a huge Q1 win on the road against Penn St only to go and lose at Nebraska in a Q2 loss. Listen, that SOS number is nice, and the 5 Q1 wins are going to be a major selling point, but with 4 of the final 6 at home and a road game with Minnesota out there as well there’s ample opportunity for the Badgers to leave the committee no choice. They get Michigan and Rutgers at home this week in what I would say is almost must win territory. I don’t think going 1-1 eliminates them from the conversation but big picture they need to go at least 4-2 down the stretch to hang in there I think. The recipe is just go 3-1 in these tough home games and beat Minnesota on the road, it’s very doable. Is it likely? Maybe not, but that’s what has to happen for the Badgers to squeak their way into the dance.
Michigan: 14-11 (8-6) — Q1: (2-9) Q2: (3-5) Q3: (4-1) Q4: (5-0) SOS: (34) TW’s (3)
Michigan had been playing their way into this conversation and went into their home game against IU this past weekend with a chance to get themselves squarely on the cut line…and they lost. Now the path is a whole lot harder, with 4 of the final 6 on the road they are going to have to pull off some huge road upsets to make an at-large bid a reality. This week they head to Wisconsin and then host rival Sparty, but as it stands those are both Q2 wins. It’s a chance to bring that record to .500 but I don’t even think a 2-0 week puts them in the dance. Somehow some way the Wolverines need to go 4-2 down the stretch to even have a chance, which would mean finding 2 road wins to go with their 2 home games that are left. That means beating 2 of Wisconsin/Rutgers/Illinois/Indiana on the road. No small task, but a path nonetheless. That loss hurt, but it’s not quite over yet.
Penn St: 14-11 (5-9) — Q1: (2-5) Q2: (3-5) Q3: (4-1) Q4: (5-0) SOS: (34) TW’s (3)
Well that was about as bad as it gets for a week in the life of a bubble team, as Penn St dropped a home game in OT to fellow bubble team Wisconsin and then suffered again on the road to Maryland. Penn St needs to rack up wins now to have any chance whatsoever, as the clock is ticking on their hopes for making the tourney. The good news is the opportunities are out there, with a home game against Illinois offering up a Q1 chance followed by what should be an easy W at Minnesota. It is absolutely a must go 2-0 week for Penn St, anything worse than that and the path may have to be winning the Big Ten tournament. Now of course you can look big picture and think a 4-2 record down the stretch gives them a chance, I just have a hard time finding 4 wins if 2 of them aren’t this week. It’ll still be possible, but not very probable. It’s nut up or shut up time in Happy Valley.
On the Right Track:
TCU: 17-8 (6-6) — Q1: (5-7) Q2: (3-0) Q3: (1-0) Q4: (8-1) SOS: (19) TW’s (6)
TCU is in a bit of a rut thanks to injuries to two of their starters Mike Miles and Eddie Lampkin, who both missed their most recent loss at home to Baylor. They’ve now lost 3 in a row and 4 out of 5 with a road game at Iowa St up next. No off-nights in the Big 12. Obviously, things will look much better once their guys get healthy, but the slide is likely going to continue until that point and the losses mounting up could put pressure on their tournament hopes. They have 5 out of 6 games as Q1 games down the stretch, 0-5 puts them in real jeopardy with a 5-12 Q1 record and that Q4 loss hanging out there. Now, it sounds like both Miles and Lampkin should return at some point, so when that happens I would expect them to stop the bleeding, but you know how expectations can go. The one Q2 remaining game is this week as well at home against Oklahoma St, win that one and you can breathe a sigh of relief…go 0-2 this week and alarm bells are going to start sounding.
Iowa St: 16-8 (7-5) — Q1: (6-8) Q2: (3-0) Q3: (1-0) Q4: (6-0) SOS: (5) TW’s (6)
Last week I believe my exact words were, “Iowa St doesn’t lose at home, so I can’t see them going 0-2 this week”…well that is precisely what happened and now things are a whole lot more interesting for this group. 1 loss at home is forgivable, but the reality is they’ve now lost 4 out of 5 and are starting to reel a little bit. Unlike TCU we can’t just chalk this stretch up to injuries or other unforeseen circumstances, they’re just playing worse. What they do get is that hobbled TCU team coming to town in a huge get right spot as they try and stop the bleeding. They better make it happen, because after that are 2 road games against K-State and Texas. Go 0-3 in those games to push it to 5 straight losses and 7 out of 8 and they might be missing the dance altogether after being as high as a projected 3 seed. Deep breaths, relax, and get a home W to get this train back on the tracks.
W. Virginia: 15-10 (4-8) — Q1: (4-9) Q2: (3-1) Q3: (2-0) Q4: (6-0) SOS: (4) TW’s (4)
So last week we laid out the path for the Mountaineers and it was simply to win the remaining home games – 1 down 3 to go on that front. Yeah the blowout loss at Texas was ugly, but picking up a Q1 win over Iowa St was massive and they get another home game this week against Texas Tech after what will likely be a loss at Baylor. So it’s a big week to hold serve and go 1-1 to stay on the right side of the bubble. Right now they lie in that 8-10 seed range and it looks like that’s where they will land on Selection Sunday barring any catastrophe. And hell, go beat Baylor on the road and really solidify yourself in the field, why not? In all likelihood that isn’t going to happen, but I do think 3-3 down the stretch is going to be enough.
Oklahoma St: 16-9 (7-5) — Q1: (4-6) Q2: (3-2) Q3: (4-1) Q4: (5-0) SOS: (11) TW’s (4)
Oklahoma St is quietly one of the hottest teams in the Country as they’ve now won 5 straight Big 12 games, no small feat in a season like this. The most recent win @ Iowa St is probably the most impressive as their now top-10 defense is flexing its muscle. I laid out the path last week and it’s very similar to many of these Big 12 bubble teams, win your home games and you should be in. The Pokes have a chance this week to really cement themselves as they welcome the Kansas Jayhawks to Stillwater, and a win in that one would put them in a real nice spot as head down the stretch. However, a loss sets them up for a tough stretch as the next 2 after that are at TCU and W. Virginia. 3 straight losses and they could be on the wrong side of the bubble just as quickly as they were on the right side. That’s life in the Big 12 right now, but the simplest way to avoid all that headache is to just beat Kansas on Tuesday.
On the Right Track:
Creighton: 17-8 (11-3) — Q1: (4-5) Q2: (4-2) Q3: (6-1) Q4: (3-0) SOS: (25) TW’s (4)
Creighton had just about as good of a week as anybody in the Country last week as they picked up 2 huge Q1 wins on the road against Seton Hall and at home over Uconn. Now, after being 9-8 in mid-January the Blue Jays have reeled off 8 straight wins and look like the team everyone thought they would be entering the season. At this point disaster would have to strike in order for them not to get in, but this is college basketball you just can’t be too sure with these types of things. This is a team that lost to Nebraska at full strength so forgive me for showing a little more patience before locking them up. Especially when this week features 2 road games against teams desperate for big wins to improve the resumé in Providence and St. John’s. It would take an 0-2 week for you to not see Creighton in the lock group next week, but we have seen much stranger things than that.
Providence: 18-7 (10-4) — Q1: (3-5) Q2: (2-1) Q3: (4-1) Q4: (9-0) SOS: (58) TW’s (2)
The Friars racked up another questionable loss this week at St. John’s and the win over Georgetown does nothing positive so Providence is starting to get desperate for big wins. I don’t think a combined 5 Q1-2 wins is going to be nearly enough to get them in so as good as the record may look they are on shaky ground resumé wise. Next up though is Creighton at home, which is a perfect Q1 chance to add to the mix and the Friars have yet to lose at home this season so this is a massive opportunity. A 2-0 week, with Villanova also visiting Rhode Island, would make them feel a little bit cozier as they try and put some separation between them and the cut line. Ultimately I think a 4-2 run to end it would get them in, giving them 1 more win in Q1 and Q2 at least. So there is some margin for error but with every loss that margin continues to thin.
Seton Hall: 15-11 (8-7) — Q1: (3-6) Q2: (2-4) Q3: (4-1) Q4: (5-0) SOS: (20) TW’s (3)
Well last week I laid out a very optimistic case for how Seton Hall could continue to play themselves onto the right side of the bubble, man did that not go according to plan. The Pirates had a chance at 2 big wins and went 0-2 and now likely needs to at least go 4-1 down the stretch to have a fighting chance. This week a home game against Georgetown is just a land mine you hope to avoid going off, and then a trip to Connecticut gives you chance at the miracle you need. It is as desperate as you can get for a bubble team, and yes they can lose to Uconn and still have an outside shot, but that’s the only loss left on the schedule. They are on as thin of ice as you can get in this bubble game. Tough times for the Pirates but that path, however dark and dangerous, still exists, and that’s all they can cling to at this stage.
On the Right Track: N/A
USC: 17-8 (9-5) — Q1: (2-4) Q2: (5-2) Q3: (6-2) Q4: (4-0) SOS (54) TW’s (2)
Oh no…oh God no not like this. USC is self sabotaging at the most critical time of the season as they just lost back-to-back games in the state of Oregon. Oregon St is 202nd per Kenpom in the Country. You can’t lose that game in February, what are you doing USC? I said last week they needed to go 3-1 over their next 4, well that’s out the window…Now every game is go time, there’s no more room for bad losses or even missed opportunities. The Trojans have 2 must-win games this week at home vs Cal and Stanford, which by the way will do nothing for the resumé. It’s just about survival for them right now, as the last 4 games are when they will need to capitalize and play their way in. They get Colorado and Utah on the road and then the Arizona teams come to town to end it. Those 4 games are now essential and anything worse than 3-1 in those, so 5-1 in total, and the Trojans might be on the outside looking in.
Oregon: 15-11 (9-6) — Q1: (4-7) Q2: (4-2) Q3: (3-2) Q4: (4-0) SOS (13) TW’s (3)
Oregon had a chance to make last week a gigantic step forward but they settled for a 1-1 stretch with a home win over USC and then a home loss to UCLA. It’s no shame to lose to a team as good as UCLA, but when you’re fighting for one of the last spots in the tournament that is a chance that’s tough to let slip away. Now they’re faced with games against the bottom half of the Pac-12 which is really just more opportunities to shoot yourself in the foot. Road games this week against Washington and Washington St are ones you have to have if you want to feel secure. Honestly, anything short of 5-0 down the stretch is going to leave Oregon firmly on the cut line. A 2-0 week this week and all of a sudden they’re 10-9 in Q1-2 games which might be enough to put them on the right side of the bubble. This one feels like it’s going to come down to the wire.
Arizona St: 18-8 (9-6) — Q1: (3-2) Q2: (3-5) Q3: (5-0) Q4: (7-1) SOS (73) TW’s (1)
To my surprise Arizona St actually took care of business last week and won 2 road games in the Pac-12. Granted it took overtime for them to beat Cal of all teams but nevertheless they went 2-0 and have put themselves in position to play their way into the field of 68. This week its two Q2 opportunities at home against Colorado and Utah, must win games in my estimation as they need to bring that Q2 record up to .500. They are right there with Oregon on the outside looking in, but the difference is they have 5 opportunities to notch Q1/Q2 wins as we close things out. I think going 3-2 gives them a real shot at it, anything more and they would likely be sitting pretty good. That does mean they need to pick up 1 road win against Arizona/UCLA/USC. 0-3 in those games would likely still keep them out of it. Therein-lies the importance of this week.
Utah: 17-9 (10-5) — Q1: (1-5) Q2: (3-3) Q3: (3-1) Q4: (10-0) SOS (85) TW’s (1)
In the not-so-easy plan for the Utes to make a late push into the tourney we can check off step 1, beat Colorado at home. Next up are two road games at Arizona and Arizona St. I think they need to steal 1 of those to give themselves a fighting chance, but 0-2 doesn’t eliminate them it just means they have to win the last 3. As I lined out last week, there’s opportunity every night the rest of the way for Utah, as the schedule was extremely back-end loaded. They have two must-win home games against UCLA and USC and then need to pick up at least 1 road game with a visit to Colorado joining the trips to Arizona. Like I said last week, it’s not probable, but it certainly isn’t improbable either, so for now Utah remains in the hunt, even if they are as far out as anyone on this list.
On the Right Track: N/A
Auburn: 17-8 (7-5) — Q1: (2-6) Q2: (5-2) Q3: (5-0) Q4: (5-0) SOS (47) TW’s (2)
Auburn’s resumé is taking blow after blow right now as this group has now lost 4 out of 5 and are in desperate need of a win to right the ship. An 0-2 week at A&M and at home to Bama continued what has been just a brutal stretch, but there’s a little bit of a respite coming as Mizzou comes to town next followed by Vandy and Ole Miss. That is a stretch where you have to get things right and get the train back on the tracks. They are only Q2 games but to balloon that out to 7-2 would look really nice, and finding a way to just hold serve is what they need at this point. They’ll have a chance later on to pick up another Q1 win, but right now all the focus has to just be to get back into the W column, and it’ll be no easy task with Mizzou feeling themselves after a road win in Knoxville. It is now nut up or shut up time for Auburn, there’s no more room for error.
Kentucky: 16-9 (7-5) — Q1: (1-7) Q2: (6-1) Q3: (3-0) Q4: (6-1) SOS (51) TW’s (1)
Well I may have gotten ahead of myself last week when discussing Kentucky, as I was daydreaming about a repeat of 2014 only to watch these Wildcats go 0-2 in a week I thought they would go 2-0. The home loss to Arkansas was one thing, but following it up with a loss to Georgia? What is going on in Lexington right now? Just when you thought this team had turned the corner and figured out how to play together and win games they throw up a dud like that. We are now about to find out who this Kentucky team really is, as we’ve seen really good versions and really bad as well. They now head to a hot Mississippi St team only to head back to Rupp to take on Tennessee. Another 0-2 week might be all she wrote for a program that hasn’t won a NCAA tournament game since 2019. Could Calipari be on the hot seat? What a change in tune a week can provide.
Arkansas: 17-8 (6-6) — Q1: (2-5) Q2: (4-2) Q3: (7-1) Q4: (4-0) SOS (45) TW’s (3)
Last week was an interesting one for this program as they picked up a massive road win over Kentucky only to lay an egg at home against Miss St. All of that said I think the Q1 win was enough to tilt them onto the right side of the bubble, but they are on thin ice as they head down the stretch in the SEC. A piece of good news was star FR Nick Smith returned to action, albeit in limited fashion, in their last game and he provides them with some extra scoring punch when healthy. A massive road game against fellow bubble team Texas A&M awaits the Hogs this week, and a win in that one would really make them feel good about their chances. Still, with a loss there but a win later in the week at home over Florida they would hold serve and keep themselves in contention and likely on the right side of the bubble. Can’t go 0-2 though, absolutely cannot afford that.
Mississippi St: 17-8 (5-7) — Q1: (3-5) Q2: (2-3) Q3: (3-0) Q4: (9-0) SOS (48) TW’s (4)
Mississippi St is now white hot as they’ve won 5 in a row and just went into Fayetteville and knocked off Arkansas to put themselves barely on the right side of the bubble. It was a long climb after dropping to 12-8 but they are in position now to be dancing in March, they just need to take care of business down the stretch. It starts this week with what should be a desperate Kentucky team coming to Starkville. That’s followed by a rivalry matchup at free-falling Ole Miss so a 2-0 week is absolutely in the cards. It would also help them to get that ugly Q2 record up to 4-3 which would look much nicer and make them feel a whole lot more comfortable. Worst case scenario is a 1-1 week though, as the good Kentucky team could show up and knock them off. Just can’t afford to go to Ole Miss and lose.
Texas A&M: 18-7 (10-2) — Q1: (2-4) Q2: (3-1) Q3: (5-0) Q4: (8-2) SOS (79) TW’s (2)
Texas A&M is playing unbelievably well and is now 12-2 since losing to Wofford in December. There are two major holdups though when it comes to their resumé – only 2 Q1 wins, and those 2 Q4 losses. Last season only Wyoming made it in with 2 or fewer Q1 wins, and they were 9-1 in Q2 games. Needless to say, while the Aggies are playing like a tournament team, this is a resumé game and they still have some work to do if they want to hold up on Selection Sunday this year. The great news for them is they have 5 more chances to rack up Q1 wins, with the first coming Tuesday at home against Arkansas. That is followed by a trip to Mizzou, win just one of these this week and things start to look more safe. They also still have Tennessee and Bama at home, so plenty of chances to punch their ticket, just have to take advantage.
On the Right Track:
Nevada: 19-6 (10-3) — Q1: (3-4) Q2: (5-2) Q3: (6-0) Q4: (5-0) SOS (74) TW’s (4)
Last week I said the Wolfpack needed to finish 6-1, which would require them to either beat New Mexico or Utah St on the road. Well, they knocked off New Mexico and now look poised to make the dance for the first time since Steve Alford took over in 2020. All they have to do is win the games they are supposed to, and they can even afford to lose to Utah St on the road this week. Just finish 4-1 and I think they are golden. Now, if they for some reason lay an egg and suffer a Q3 or 4 loss while these other bubble teams are racking up more quality wins, things might start getting interesting. It really is as simple as beating who you are supposed to at this stage. This team is March Madness good.
New Mexico: 19-6 (6-6) — Q1: (3-3) Q2: (2-0) Q3: (8-3) Q4: (5-0) SOS (112) TW’s (3)
I’m not sure what to do with this New Mexico team as they’ve now lost 3 in a row and are 5-6 since starting the season 14-0. The massive wins over Saint Mary’s, San Diego St and Boise St are still keeping them afloat, but 3 Q3 losses puts them in major jeopardy of missing the dance altogether. Anything worse than a 5-1 finish to the season would put them in danger of being NIT bound, which seems insane after the way they started the season. This week has to be a bounce back week, with a home game over Wyoming and then a Q2 ish game at San Jose St. Gotta go 2-0, simple as that, because after this week it’s back-to-back matchups with San Diego St and Boise St. It is nut up or shut up time for the Lobos as time is running out to save this thing from being a complete collapse.
Boise St: 19-6 (9-3) — Q1: (2-3) Q2: (5-1) Q3: (5-1) Q4: (6-1) SOS (87) TW’s (1)
Just 1 game last week for the Broncos and they took care of business at home against Wyoming. It’s no time for letup at this point, as 2 more games this week at Colorado St and back home against UNLV should both be wins if they want to hear their name on Selection Sunday. Make no mistake, the margins are extremely thin as they are short on big time wins to offset those bad losses. The Texas A&M win is aging nicely and has turned over to a Q1 win to help things out, but they may need to finish 5-1 to have a shot. They just need to hold serve until San Diego St visits later in the season, which will be the perfect opportunity for a signature win to help make their case more convincing come March.
Utah St: 18-7 (8-5) — Q1: (0-4) Q2: (6-1) Q3: (9-0) Q4: (3-2) SOS (94) TW’s (1)
Utah St is on the very edge of this thing, with absolutely no margin for error they essentially need to win out or damn near it to have a chance at an at-large. This week is Air Force at home followed by a major opportunity with Nevada visiting the Aggies. You either go 2-0 this week or you will have to be looking at the MWC tourney for your shot at participating in the madness. Last week’s loss to San Jose St was just about the nail in the coffin, but a 5-0 finish would put them squarely back in the conversation. So you’re telling me there’s a chance? Yep, but man do I not have confidence in them to pull it off.
On the Right Track: N/A
Memphis: 19-6 (9-3) — Q1: (2-2) Q2: (4-3) Q3: (6-1) Q4: (7-0) SOS (77) TW’s (1)
Last week was simply a hold serve kind of week, and they did exactly that going 2-0 and setting themselves up for an absolutely massive week ahead. First up UCF at home, which gives them a chance to rack up another Q2 win and really play themselves into a more firm position. Right now I have them barely in the field, but another W would help them gain their footing on that side of the bubble. After that is a road trip to Houston, which is both an extremely difficult game and a gigantic opportunity to absolutely cement themselves into the field of 68. It’s probably asking too much to pick up that win, but going 1-1 this week is imperative. There are some tough ones down the stretch, making this matchup with UCF all that more important. Last time they met it went to 2OT, maybe not as dramatic this time?
On the Right Track:
Florida Atlantic: 22-2 (14-1) — Q1: (2-1) Q2: (3-1) Q3: (10-0) Q4: (7-0) SOS (215) TW’s (1)
FAU has had an unbelievable season and with a 5-2 record in Q1-2 games it’s looking like they won’t even need the Conference USA tourney to be dancing in March. All they have to do is continue to take care of business and beat everyone like they’ve been doing all season. They may even be able to afford one more loss but I wouldn’t want to push it. Last year Davidson got in as an at-large with a 6-5 Q1-2 record, so I’m thinking one more loss won’t sink their chances. As of now they look like they could be as high as a 7 seed, similar to Murray St a season ago. What a season and what a turnaround after losing 15 games last season.