Bubble Watch – Week 4

We’re now down to the final full week of the regular season in college basketball and things are starting to take shape as more and more teams play their way out of the bubble conversation. Teams like New Mexico, Virginia Tech and Seton Hall have moved to the ‘needing a miracle’ category as losses pile up and others pick up big wins. I have 31 locks on the board across 9 Conferences, so the best case scenario for these bubble teams is 22 at-larges taken with 14 spots remaining. I have 24 teams on the true bubble watch list. 55 total teams, 36 at-large spots plus 9 auto bids up for grabs will leave 10 of the remaining 24 teams not hearing their name called. That is, if everything goes according to plan. And in March, in college basketball, we know things never go according to plan. So, 24 teams battling it out for 14 spots, that’s March baby. Now we take a look at how each one of them can get their way into the dance with 14 days left to play. It’s going to be a fun ride. Enjoy. (*All data as of 2/27*)



Virginia    MIAMI   duke

On the Right Track:

Pitt: 21-8 (14-4) — Q1: (4-3) Q2: (3-4) Q3: (4-0) Q4: (10-1) SOS: (94) TW’s (4)

pittI am still shocked to be writing about a 14-4 team in the ACC as a bubble team but in this weird year we are still here with the Pitt Panthers. While Pitt went 2-0 this past week, I’m still looking at the overall resume and envisioning 2 losses to close out the season followed by a quick exit in the ACC tourney that would leave Pitt 21-11, below .500 in Q1/2 games and and very weak SOS. They are hanging their hat on a win @ Northwestern and then at home against Virginia which is looking less and less impressive. The weakness of the ACC cannot be understated as far as the NET is concerned. I get it, last year was the same story and the ACC teams dominated the tourney. It’s a fair point that ultimately does nothing to help Pitt if they go 0-3 down the stretch. Just win @ Notre Dame this Wednesday and this one can be locked up, as a loss @ Miami is not going to hurt them too much. It’s just time to take care of business, not to feel comfortable. 

N.C. State: 22-8 (12-7) — Q1: (2-5) Q2: (5-3) Q3: (5-0) Q4: (10-0) SOS: (86) TW’s (2)

ncstateThese ACC teams are just slowly sliding down the seed list as teams in other Conferences continue to pick up huge wins and they just try and survive. The Wolfpack were able to defend home court early in the week over Wake but then Clemson came into Raleigh and absolutely beat the living daylight out of em to keep them in dangerous territory. A weak SOS and being 7-8 in Q1-2 games is not exactly where you want to be sitting with March around the corner. With only 1 game remaining @ Duke, N.C. State is starting to feel the pressure behind them as they slip closer to those games in Dayton. I still don’t think they’re in trouble but 0-2 the rest of the way would leave them with a pretty weak resumé all things considered. A win in the ACC tourney may be what it takes to lock this one up. Stay tuned. 


Clemson: 21-8 (13-5) — Q1: (4-2) Q2: (3-2) Q3: (6-2) Q4: (8-2) SOS: (114) TW’s (3)

clemsonLast week we laid it all out for Clemson, who put their at-large hopes on life support with a loss to Louisville. However, they bounced back this week and picked up a massing Q1 win at N.C. State. We said to even have a fighting chance they needed to win at least 1 of their road games to finish and they got it done in the 1st opportunity. Now, they head into this week right on the outside looking in with another massive opportunity upcoming @ Virginia on Tuesday. Win that and they likely find themselves back on the right side of the bubble, lose and it gets real hairy. They finish the season at home with ND, nothing much to gain there. Anything short of 2-0 is going to put a lot of pressure on this group to win some games in the ACC tourney, but the path is still there without winning the whole thing to squeak in there. Just have to win games. 

North Carolina: 18-11 (10-8) — Q1: (1-8) Q2: (6-3) Q3: (5-0) Q4: (6-0) SOS: (29) TW’s (2)

uncThe Tar Heels are clinging on to a small sliver of hope as they try and rack up wins down the stretch. Beating Virginia this week was imperative, and gave them their first Q1 victory of the season. Now they end the season with 2 more must win games, at Florida St and then at home against Duke to end the season. Another Q1 win over Duke would put them firmly in the conversations, and with how hot they got last season that positive momentum could lead right into the ACC tourney to help push them over the edge. It’s as do-or-die as it can get, but at least they have the opportunity to improve the resumé. Best case scenario heading into the ACC tourney is being in the Last 4 in group, which certainly isn’t comfortable, but it’s a path nonetheless. 

–Big Ten–


purdue-4 iu northwestern    marylandiowa sparty

On the Right Track:

Illinois: 19-10 (10-8) — Q1: (3-9) Q2: (6-1) Q3: (4-0) Q4: (6-0) SOS: (28) TW’s (6)

illinois-4Everyone seems to feel Illinois is a lock to make the dance, and while they’re probably right something about that nasty 3-9 Q1 record makes me hesitate. They picked up a Q2 win this past week over Northwestern and then laid an egg @ struggling Ohio St giving the Buckeyes their first win since Jan 21. Illinois has been good enough this season to beat Texas and UCLA, but that feels like an eternity ago. While a 19-13 finish would make this resumé extremely flimsy, it might be those 2 wins in the non-conference that keeps them on the right side, but it still could be close. They need to take care of Michigan at home this week to lock things up in my mind, and the Wolverines are playing good basketball winning 6 of 8 so it’s no slam dunk. I’m still watching the Illini. 

Rutgers: 18-11 (10-8) — Q1: (6-6) Q2: (3-2) Q3: (2-3) Q4: (7-0) SOS: (39) TW’s (5)

rutgersRutgers is truly just limping to the finish line to close out the season as they’ve gone 2-4 over their last 6 games. Sunday became an extremely important game for their tournament chances after they lost early in the week to Michigan at home. The Scarlet Knights got up off the mat though and got a huge win @ Penn St to ease the pressure and now with 6 Q1 wins and an easy trip to Minnesota up next Rutgers should be feeling pretty good about their chances. Yet and still, finishing out the season with a loss to Minnesota and then at home to Northwestern would put them in dangerous territory yet again. They can’t feel comfortable until they walk out of the barn in Minnesota with a W. Sometimes it’s not what you gain it’s what you avoid losing. Time to just take care of business and make this easy on the committee. 


Wisconsin: 16-12 (8-10) — Q1: (6-6) Q2: (4-5) Q3: (1-1) Q4: (5-0) SOS: (13) TW’s (5)

wisconsinThe Badgers almost had a dream 2-0 week after beating Iowa at home with ease but they fell tragically in OT @ Michigan. Wisconsin was up 3 with 2 seconds left in regulation and Hunter Dickinson hit a wild 3 to force OT and they couldn’t recover. Now the Badgers have a home game with Purdue on Thursday that could serve as the win to put them firmly on the right side of the bubble. Of course, they can’t lose to Minnesota later in the week, but if they can go 2-0 this week, knocking off Purdue in the process, I really think that would punch their ticket. That would be their 7th Q1 win which would put them up with some of the top seeds. Lose to Purdue and they might need to win a some games in the Big Ten tourney to stave off the other bubble teams. Huge week in Madison. 

Michigan: 17-12 (11-7) — Q1: (3-10) Q2: (6-1) Q3: (4-0) Q4: (4-1) SOS: (26) TW’s (7)


Michigan had exactly the week that they needed to bolster their resumé as they went on the road to beat Rutgers and then beat fellow bubble team Wisconsin at home. However ugly it was it was 2-0 nonetheless and they’re now firmly in the Last 4 in/First 4 out conversations. They have skyrocketed up the bubble list over the last week and a half with 3 wins over projected tournament teams in Michigan St, Rutgers and Wisconsin. They now finish the season on the road @ Illinois and white hot Indiana. It may be expecting way too much to even want 1 of those to be wins, but if they can pull 1 of them off I think they’d undoubtedly be in the dance at that point. Going 0-2 isn’t the end of the road though, I just think they’ll need a win or 2 in the Big Ten tourney to squeak their way in. 

Penn St: 17-12 (8-10) — Q1: (3-7) Q2: (4-5) Q3: (5-0) Q4: (5-0) SOS: (41) TW’s (3)

PennstIn what was one of the biggest 2nd half collapses of the season, Penn St saw their hopes for an at-large bid take a major blow on Sunday blowing a 19 point 2nd half lead. They scored 5 points in the final 10 minutes, allowing Rutgers to come all the way back and steal the W. Had to be heartbreak in that locker room, with so much on the line and that big of a lead. However, I don’t think that was the final nail in the coffin, as they have two more Q1 opportunities left on the docket. They are of course still on the outside looking in, but a clean sweep the rest of the way would put them in the field in my mind. That of course is asking a lot, but they have to at least pick up the win over Maryland at home now to close out the season to have a chance. An 0-2 week would absolutely end their at-large chances. It is nut up or shut up time in Happy Valley. 

–Big 12–


kansastexas    baylor    kstate   iowast tcu


W. Virginia: 16-13 (5-11) — Q1: (4-12) Q2: (5-1) Q3: (1-0) Q4: (6-0) SOS: (5) TW’s (4)

wvuWest Virginia did what it had to do last week, picking up a huge win at home over Oklahoma St and then had a huge opportunity slip away @ Kansas. Not a game they had to win but with a chance to tie/win on the last possession stealing that one would have been huge to make them feel more comfortable. To close out the season they have 2 more chances to really firm this thing up with a trip to Iowa St and then at home against K-State to close things out. Go 1-1 and I think they would be in at that point. However, what the committee does with these Big 12 teams who have so many losses is the biggest storyline, as it’s hard to keep them out just because every game is so difficult. Imagine Oklahoma St or WVU in the Mountain West, do they cruise? Are they looking like Nevada right now who we all think is pretty safely in the tourney? It sucks but it’s the reality, and if the Mountaineers want to feel safe I really think they need to go 1-1 this week. Make it an easier decision for the committee.  

Oklahoma St: 16-13 (7-9) — Q1: (5-10) Q2: (3-2) Q3: (3-1) Q4: (5-0) SOS: (7) TW’s (4)

okstateWell the Pokes are sliding and sliding fast as by my estimation these 4 losses in a row have knocked them to the wrong side of the bubble. The loss at home vs K-State was devastating, as they led by 8 with 10 minutes left. Huge opportunity blown and now they stare down 2 more Q1 games this week as Baylor comes to Stillwater and then they head to Texas Tech. Somehow, someway they need to win at least 1 of these games to keep themselves in the conversation. I’m not saying the matchup with Texas Tech would for sure act as a play-in game, but for both teams that will be an abosolutely massive game as they both are on the outside looking in. I don’t see all 3 of these remaining Big 12 teams getting in, now maybe they do by knocking off some of the top dogs, but I just don’t know that I buy it. A loss to Baylor and the finale will be must-win for Ok-State, I know that much at least. 

Texas Tech: 16-13 (5-11) — Q1: (5-11) Q2: (0-2) Q3: (2-0) Q4: (9-0) SOS: (18) TW’s (4)


Tech picked up another Q1 win @ Oklahoma last week but dropped the ball when TCU came to town on Saturday. A win in that one and they would be on the right side of the bubble right now but instead they head into another gauntlet of a week needing another big win. They first head to Kansas who is playing as well as anyone in the Country, so that’s likely a loss. That will set up the gigantic home game with Oklahoma St to serve as damn near a play-in game for the big dance. Obviously, going 2-0 this week would put them in, but 1-1 keeps them right there in the bubble conversations and gives them a chance to squeak in with a win or 2 in the Big 12 tournament. 5-13 in Q1/2 is by far the worst record of the 3 big 12 teams fighting for these spots, so more than anyone else every loss is extremely devastating at this point. That TCU loss might end up being their undoing. 

–Big East–


marquettexavier uconn   creighton providence

On the Right Track: N/A

Teetering: N/A



arizona ucla

On the Right Track:

USC: 21-8 (13-5) — Q1: (4-5) Q2: (6-1) Q3: (6-1) Q4: (5-1) SOS (64) TW’s (2)

uscThe Trojans just had as big of a week as anybody in the Country as they picked up 2 huge road wins over Colorado and Utah. They improved from 8-6 to 10-6 in Q1/2 games and now are firmly on the right side of the bubble ranging anywhere from a 9-11 seed. They also now get Arizona and Arizona St at home this week giving them 2 more big time opportunities to wrap this thing up. I see a 1-1 week as a punching of the ticket for USC, especially if it’s beating Arizona. 


Oregon:  16-13 (9-8) — Q1: (4-8) Q2: (5-3) Q3: (3-2) Q4: (4-0) SOS (21) TW’s (3)


As much as I wanted to leave Oregon off of this entirely they do have 9 Q1/2 wins on the resumé, which is keeping them alive despite the myriad of bad losses. They have to go 2-0 this week, which will do nothing to help their cause but it will keep their bubble from bursting entirely. I still think a big win or 2 in the Pac-12 tourney is necessary but there is still a path for them to make it without winning the Conference tourney. 18-13 in this year’s Pac-12 just doesn’t sound like it’s enough to make it, and the more I write this the more I convince myself they don’t have a shot, but I guess what i’m saying is, there’s a chance. 

Arizona St: 20-9 (11-7) — Q1: (4-3) Q2: (5-5) Q3: (4-0) Q4: (7-1) SOS (77) TW’s (2)

azstateAs quickly as things turned dark for Arizona St losing at home to Colorado it turned much brighter with their last second win over Arizona. As massive of a Q1 win as it gets, they are now above .500 in Q1/2 games with 2 signature wins, 1 over Arizona and 1 on a neutral court vs Creighton. They are squarely in the Last 4 in/First 4 out discussions at this point with 2 very difficult games left @ UCLA/USC. Picking off 1 of them would almost lock the Sun Devils in for me, with 5 Q1 wins and being above .500 in that category the other bubble teams can’t compete with that. Losing both down the stretch however would likely force them to need some help in the Pac-12 tourney. That Colorado loss is looming so large right now, but they can make it meaningless if they can steal another road victory this week. Don’t be shocked if they roll into USC on Saturday and pull one out, especially if the Trojans knock off Arizona 2 days before. 



bama   vols  mizzou kentucky  a&m

On the Right Track:


Auburn: 19-10 (9-7) — Q1: (2-8) Q2: (6-1) Q3: (8-1) Q4: (3-0) SOS (34) TW’s (4)

auburnApparently to my fellow bracket prognosticators losing game after game in blowout fashion is not good enough to drop Auburn off of the 8/9 seed line. For me, only 2 Q1 wins and a below .500 Q1/2 record has Auburn on the brink, as I have them in the First 4 in Dayton. The blowout loss this past week @ Kentucky was the epitome of what we’ve seen from Auburn since they were 16-3. They have gone 3-7 since then, dropping game after game and not really adding anything to the resumé. Now they are reeling, and now head to rival Alabama this week before Tennessee heads to town, 2 more Q1 games and if they fall to 2-10 in that category I’m not sure how the committee can possibly keep them in, especially with these Big 12/Big 10 teams who are going to have 4 or 5 or even 6 Q1 wins. The Tigers could make it easy if they just take care of Alabama at home, but that is far easier said than done.

Arkansas: 19-10 (8-8) — Q1: (3-7) Q2: (4-2) Q3: (10-1) Q4: (2-0) SOS (30) TW’s (4)

arkansasArkansas is holding on right now, winning the games they should and continuing to drop Q1 games. They battled Alabama tough and looked the part of a NCAA tournament team, but ultimately it was another Q1 loss. With a road trip to Tennessee up next, it is looking like this Saturday’s matchup at home with Kentucky is going to be as close to must-win as it gets. Similar to Auburn, many have the Hogs higher than maybe their resumé deserves, but with two more losses dropping to 3-9 in Q1 and 7-11 in Q1/2 they would be right in the mix with all of those Big 12/Big 10 teams who are fighting for the last spots in the tourney. Win 1 of these final two and that might be enough for them to feel truly comfortable. 

Mississippi St: 19-10 (7-9) — Q1: (4-7) Q2: (4-2) Q3: (4-1) Q4: (7-0) SOS (48) TW’s (4)

missstIt was about as expected this week as Mississippi St fell to Kentucky but bounced back to complete the sweep over Ole Miss. They are still just barely on the right side of the bubble and this week presents two big opportunities to improve that. They go to Mizzou and then host Texas A&M in 2 giant Q1 games. After this week it’s a pretty easy end of the season, so picking up 1 of these will be huge come Selection Sunday. Win at home over A&M and I think they have a great shot at getting in the dance in season 1 under Chris Jans. Getting that Q1-2 record up to .500 would be huge in terms of locking this thing up though, so while a 2-0 record seems unlikely it would punch the ticket for the Bulldogs. Huge week for Mississippi St. 

–Mountain West–



On the Right Track:

Nevada: 19-7 (10-3) — Q1: (3-5) Q2: (6-2) Q3: (6-0) Q4: (4-0) SOS (50) TW’s (2)


So Nevada did in fact lose @ Utah St, but the path forward remains the same, finish 4-0 beating up on some bad teams and you’re in the dance. It is just about avoiding disaster as the season winds down for the Wolfpack as it’s all Q3 or 4 the rest of the way. The biggest plus to their resumé right now is they don’t have the bad losses out there weighing them down like some of the other bubble teams do. Just maintain that clean sheet and I think this one is a wrap. Drop 1 or even 2 down the stretch and that’s when things will get dicey, but I don’t see that happening with the way they’ve handled bad teams so far this season. Nevada looks tourney bound, just have to take care of business. 

Boise St: 20-6 (11-3) — Q1: (1-3) Q2: (8-1) Q3: (5-2) Q4: (6-0) SOS (77) TW’s (1)

boiseThe Broncos are in good shape right now, but the rest of the season is a really tough 4 game stretch that of course could sink the ship. It is also chalk full of opportunities to lock things up for them and it kicks off this week with New Mexico coming to Boise followed by a road game with San Jose St. 2 more Q2 wins and I think you can pencil the Broncos into the field of 68 as that 10-1 record would be too good to keep them out. They also still have a home game with San Diego St and a game @ Utah St to pick up some more Q1 wins to boot, so while 0-4 looks really scary just picking up the home wins should be enough to push them over the finish line. The Broncos looked poised to make it back-to-back trips to the dance for the first time in decades (potentially ever?)


New Mexico: 19-7 (7-7) — Q1: (3-2) Q2: (3-1) Q3: (8-3) Q4: (5-1) SOS (94) TW’s (3)

unm Well the collapse is in full swing as last week they dropped a home game against Wyoming to add another blow to this sinking ship. While they were able to bounce back in the road win over San Jose St, this thing is dying a slow painful death. 4-0 down the stretch is the only way they should feel comfortable entering the MW tourney, as they do get 2 more Q1 chances this week as they head to Boise St and then get San Diego St at home. Drop either one of those and now you just won’t have enough meat on the bone to makeup for 4 Q3-4 losses. No team made the tourney last year with 4 such losses, so I think it would take that 5-2 Q1 record to get it done. There is zero, and I mean zero, margin for error for New Mexico right now as they are playing for their lives the rest of the way. 

Utah St: 20-7 (10-5) — Q1: (0-4) Q2: (7-1) Q3: (10-1) Q4: (3-1) SOS (89) TW’s (1) 

utahstUtah St did exactly what they had to do this past week, going 2-0 at home and picking up another Q2 win over Nevada in the process. 0 wins in Q1 is what is holding them back at this point, as you at some point have to prove you can beat a really good team to make the tournament. Wyoming was the last team in the field last year with a 1-6 record in Q1 and was 9-1 in Q2 so Utah St isn’t out of it just yet but they have to have every win the rest of the way. This week they only have 1 and it’s on the road against Wyoming, an absolute can’t lose situation. A 3-0 finish to the season and the Aggies might find themselves on the right side of the bubble, as that would add 2 more Q1-2 wins with the Boise win being Q1. It’s not out of the cards right now for them, they just can’t afford to shoot themselves in the foot this week. As massive as it gets for a Q3 game. 




On the Right Track: N/A


Memphis: 22-7 (12-4) — Q1: (2-3) Q2: (7-3) Q3: (7-1) Q4: (6-0) SOS (79) TW’s (1)

memphisMemphis continues to do the right things, beating both Wichita St (on the road) and then Cincy (at home). It was just what the doctor ordered as they added to their Q2 wins and continued to stay on track to land somewhere in the 9-10 seed range. They get a shouldn’t lose game @ SMU next week before the biggest game of the season occurs, at home vs Houston. Win that game and Memphis will punch their ticket. I think even with a loss they are still in good position, but that win over Houston would lock them in for sure. It’s a huge week for Memphis, but what they can’t afford is to fall in the look ahead trap and lose to SMU. Then a 2nd loss to Houston would put them in trouble. Big swing potential this week for the Tigers. 



zags  smc


On the Right Track:

Florida Atlantic: 24-3 (15-2) — Q1: (2-1) Q2: (3-2) Q3: (6-0) Q4: (13-0) SOS (157) TW’s (1)


I think there’s an outside shot the committee would put FAU in if they’re 26-3 entering their Conference tourney and they get upset. That would just require two more road wins to close out the season over lowly Rice and LA Tech. Do that and if the loss is to a good team like UAB or N. Texas I think there’s a legitimate chance that Conference USA is a two-bid league. Their resumé stacked up against say a Texas Tech is damn near an impossible decision, and you could make a rational argument the team who played the brutal schedule should get the bid not the one with the extremely soft schedule. But, they made the quadrants for a reason, and the 5-3 Q1/2 record is a better win % than a lot of the bubble teams have in that category, so maybe just maybe the committee would have it in them. Hopefully we won’t have to find out. 


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