March Madness: Teams That Are In Already, and Teams That Are Really on the Bubble

March Madness: Teams That Are In Already, and Teams That Are Really on the Bubble


March Madness: Teams That Are In Already, and Teams That Are Really on the Bubble

A lot of chatter over the weekend about who is on the bubble, including several teams that I think are really not on the bubble at all. Of course, my definition of the “bubble” may be different. I think there is an area between lock and bubble, where a team may not be guaranteed a spot yet, but that doesn’t mean they are on the bubble. The bubble, to me, means that any one result can swing your outlook.

So, I went through each potential tournament team’s wins and losses to sort out who is already in, who is almost in, and who is truly on the bubble, and then who is chasing those bubble teams to get in consideration. If I put a team in, it means I think that if they lose every game remaining, they will still get selected, even if the “bubble” shifts slightly with conference tournament results. Their seeding may be affected, but they are in. It depends just as much on remaining schedule and opportunities as anything.

I’ve got St. Mary’s, for example, in already, because they can only take one more loss. Kansas State, meanwhile, is not quite in, just because they have potential for two bad losses this week, then the tournament. The team that just beat them, though, Iowa State, is IN. They play Missouri, Baylor, and then a quality team in either the 3-6 or 4-5 matchup in the tournament. Opportunities to adjust seeding, but their profile, with 11 conference wins in one of the toughest conferences in the country, and wins over Kansas, Kansas State (2x) and Texas, is better than the true bubble teams could muster.

TEAMS THAT ARE IN (25 Teams from 10 Conferences)

Atlantic Coast: Duke, North Carolina, Florida State

Big XII: Kansas, Missouri, Baylor, Iowa State

Big East: Syracuse, Marquette, Georgetown, Louisville

Big Ten: Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin

SEC: Kentucky, Florida

Missouri Valley: Wichita State, Creighton

Mountain West: UNLV

Ohio Valley: Murray State

Atlantic 10: Temple

West Coast: Gonzaga, St. Mary’s


NOT IN YET, BUT ALMOST THERE (13 more teams, from 10 conferences)

This group isn’t really on the bubble right now. They would have to have multiple bad results, and probably not win any remaining games, just to be in the discussion for missing out on Selection Sunday. Even then, unless they lost every remaining game, and the bubble shrank with conference tournament upsets, most would still be in. However, applying the “what if they lost every remaining game” standard, I could not quite put them in yet.

Harvard is the interesting one here, since the Ivy League doesn’t have a conference tournament. If they win the last two regular season games, then I think they are in, even if Pennsylvania wins out and ties them for the title. If it goes to a playoff again this year with Penn and Harvard at 12-2, Harvard is getting an at-large. I put them here, though, because it will take multiple losses in the last two (or three, with a playoff with Penn) to knock Harvard out. Even then, they are squarely on the Last Four In, Last Four Out discussion.

Atlantic Coast: Virginia

Big XII: Kansas State

Big East: Notre Dame

Big Ten: Purdue

SEC: Vanderbilt, Alabama

Pac-12: California

Atlantic 10: St. Louis

Mountain West: New Mexico, San Diego State

Conference USA: Memphis, Southern Miss

Ivy: Harvard


RIGHT ON THE BUBBLE (20 Teams, 13 Conferences)

If you’ve done the math, we have 38 teams from 13 conferences above. That’s 25 at-larges, leaving 12 more at-larges. That is why when people start tossing around teams on the bubble, they need to actually go through and see where it is floating. As many as 12 of these teams are getting in as at-larges (and several more can claim the automatic bids), and all have flaws. Now, we know that there will be upsets, and some of those projected teams that are in or virtually in will drop to at-larges. The biggest candidates are Murray State in the OVC, California adding a couple more wins but losing the Pac-12 tournament, or someone outside the bubble pulling an upset in the Atlantic-10, Mountain West, or Conference USA. Realistically, we are probably looking at 9-10 spots here.

Some of the teams on this list are “mid-majors”, and if I put them on this list, it means I think there are scenarios where they can get an at-large even if they don’t win their conference tournament. I know that Drexel and VCU have a lower RPI (low 70’s for both), but if they reach the final and lose, it will be tough to keep them out with this soft bubble. Early loss is a different story. Middle Tennessee St., Iona, Long Beach State, and Oral Roberts will be in the mix if they lose to the right teams in the conference finals, but bad losses move them out. If I did not put a mid-major on this list (Belmont, Davidson, Akron, for example) it means that I think they must win the automatic bid.

In the end, about half these teams will be in the tournament, and for each, any result could be the difference. Add multiple good results against tournament type teams in the last week, or the conference tourney, and get in. Take a bad loss, and you are in trouble. Beat the teams you should, but lose to tournament teams, and sweat out Selection Sunday.

Atlantic Coast: Miami

Big XII: Texas

Big East: Seton Hall, Cincinnati, Connecticut, South Florida

Big Ten: Northwestern

SEC: Mississippi State

Pac-12: Washington, Arizona, Oregon

Atlantic 10: Xavier, St. Joseph’s

Colonial Athletic: Drexel, VCU

West Coast: BYU

Sun Belt: Middle Tennessee State

Summit: Oral Roberts

Big West: Long Beach State

MAAC: Iona



These teams are on the wrong side of the bubble now. They don’t just need one result, they probably need multiple good wins to get in the discussion. However, if I put them on the list, it’s because I think that they can get an at-large bid with the right set of remaining results, short of winning the conference tournament. For example, the SEC has several teams on here. Win in the final week, then pull a massive upset of Kentucky in the tournament, and yes, you get in the discussion and are probably in. Alternatively, beat Florida and Alabama or Vanderbilt, and you are in the discussion even if you do not beat Kentucky in the final.

Atlantic Coast: NC State

Big East: West Virginia

Big Ten: Illinois, Minnesota

SEC: Tennessee, LSU, Ole Miss, Arkansas

Pac-12: Colorado

Atlantic 10: St. Bonaventure, Dayton, UMASS, LaSalle

Mountain West: Colorado State

Conference USA: Marshall, Central Florida


[photo via US Presswire]

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