This weekend, the bubble got a lot more interesting as both Lipscomb and Belmont lost in their conference tournament finals. Both teams have solid NET rankings, and have only lost seven and five games respectively. Lipscomb knocked off TCU on the road, and Belmont took down Lipscomb in two meetings this season. In most years, these conferences would most likely be one team conferences and both teams – who could have pulled an upset or two in the tournament – are left on the sidelines. We will see if either is rewarded with a bid thanks to the committee’s new system. If other bubble teams who have plunged towards the cut line lose their first conference tournament games, then the mid-majors have a chance. As of now, I am giving them the nod in the last four in. In a little less than a week from now, things may change. For these two programs, the waiting game has begun.
ACC: Locks – Virginia, North Carolina, Duke, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Syracuse Work to do – Clemson, North Carolina State
For the longest time, I had NC State positioned as a “should be in.” However, in my latest projection I don’t have them in the field. After reevaluating their profile, it’s hard to see the Wolfpack making it to the tournament unless they win a game or two in the tournament. They have a win over Auburn at home, but not much else. And what really stands out is an abysmal non-conference SOS. And of course, NC State plays Clemson in their opener of the ACC tournament. A game that probably eliminates the loser from the field.
Big 12: Locks – Kansas, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Iowa State, Baylor Should be in – Oklahoma Work to do – TCU, Texas
TCU gained a little bit of breathing room by beating Texas in their regular season finale. Both TCU and Oklahoma need to avoid a bad loss to the bottom two teams in the Big 12 as tournament play begins. As for Texas, if they lose their initial tournament game they will sit at 16-16. Would a .500 record get the Longhorns into the Dance? That would be a pretty poor precedent to set in the first season of the NET.
Big East: Lock – Villanova, Marquette, Seton Hall Should be in – St. John’s Work to do – Creighton
Wow, what a week for Seton Hall. Last week, they were one of the last few teams in the field, and now they rose up to an eight seed in the latest projection. Winning against Marquette and Villanova will do that for a team. After having lost four straight, Creighton is now winners of five in a row and need to keep momentum going in the Big East tournament. A couple wins gets them on the right side of the bubble.
Big Ten: Locks – Michigan, State, Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin, Maryland, Iowa Should be in – Minnesota Work to do – Indiana, Ohio State
Indiana has really turned things around by winning their last four games, two of which came against Wisconsin and Michigan State. Ohio State, on the other hand, had dropped off badly – now losers of three straight and four of five. And of course, those two teams will open up the Big Ten tournament against one another. Like the ACC, I think the loser is eliminated.
Pac-12: Should be in – Washington Work to do – Arizona State
If Washington and/or Arizona State bows out of the Pac-12 tournament early, there will be a bid thief. Or maybe this should be a one bid league.
SEC: Locks – Kentucky, Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn Should be in – Ole Miss Work to do – Florida, Alabama
Having lost three straight games, Florida can not fall against Arkansas in their first game of the SEC tournament. That could bump the Gators out. Alabama just lost to that Arkansas team and is on their own three game fall. They get Ole Miss and probably need a couple wins to get back on the right side of the bubble at this point.
American: Lock – Houston, Cincinnati, UCF Work to do – Temple
UCF was able to defeat Cincinnati and most likely locked themselves up in the field. This, despite losing their finale to Temple. The Owls desperately needed the win, and can now pair it with their victory over Houston. Temple is in the field in the latest projection, but has very little margin for error at this point.
Others: Locks – Gonzaga, Nevada, Buffalo, Wofford Should be in – VCU, Utah State ? – Belmont, Lipscomb
I touched on Belmont and Lipscomb above. Both teams fell in their conference tournament final, something bubble teams across the nation were hoping to avoid. Will they be bid thieves? Will there be any other bid thieves if the favorites in these other conferences fall?
First Four Out: Ohio State, Creighton, Clemson, NC State
*Large conference winners are in bold.
16. Iona/St. Francis (PA)
12. Murray State
4. Kansas State
13. UC Irvine
16. Sam Houston State
5. Mississippi State
4. Virginia Tech
11. St. John’s
3. Texas Tech
14. Old Dominion
16. Norfolk State/Prairie View
9. Utah State
4. Florida State
11. Arizona State
1. North Carolina
8. Seton Hall
9. Ole Miss
12. New Mexico State
14. Georgia State
7. Iowa State
2. Michigan State
15. Wright State