March Madness bubble watch update for Week 15. Here are the projected last four in and first four out.
Getting into the NCAA Tournament isn’t easy.
Sure, there are 68 spots, but when you consider there are 351 Division I schools, that’s room for less than 20 percent of all the teams competing. Take away the 32 automatic bids that come from winning a conference tournament, and that number drops to 10.3 percent. In other words, just short of 90 percent of the teams playing Division I basketball during the 2015-16 season that don’t win their conference tournament will be watching from home when the NCAA Tournament tips off.
Not everybody can make the NCAA Tournament, but a few schools will feel the joy of just squeaking into the Big Dance where their records will disappear and any team can make a run. Some others will only know disappointment at not hearing their name called at all. Which teams fit each category with March Madness nearing? Let’s find out.
Last Four In
The Wolverines have won six of their last eight, and although they have been getting fat on some of the lesser in the Big Ten, their win over Purdue Saturday was huge. It added to Michigan’s wins over Texas and Maryland as resume builders. That said, UM has lost by double digits in every defeat this year, and John Beilein’s team has to deal with Maryland, Wisconsin and Iowa down the stretch. Picking up wins in those games would help solidify Michigan’s spot come March Madness.
Recent losses to George Washington and UMass weren’t positives, but they came by a total of nine points and interrupted a 12-game winning streak. The Rams don’t face a real challenge until it travels to Dayton March 5, and there is every reason to believe they’ll finish strong. VCU gave Duke and Wisconsin all it could handle on neutral sites early in the year, a fact that might help the Rams on Selection Sunday.
Saturday’s loss at home to Alabama hurt the Gators tremendously, and now they’re hanging by their claws to one of the last spots. Inconsistency has been a killer for Florida, and it has resulted in diminishing returns. After losing to Texas A&M Jan. 12, the Gators won three straight before losing at Vanderbilt. Then they won two games before getting ripped by Kentucky Feb. 6. A win over Ole Miss at home Feb. 9 felt good, but the warm n’ fuzzies stopped with the loss to ‘Bama. With road trips to Georgia and South Carolina coming this week, this could be a make-or-break stretch for the Gators.
Seton Hall Pirates
Seton Hall’s only bad losses came in November or early December, and since then, the Pirates have only lost to the likes of Villanova (twice), Creighton, Xavier and Butler. That’s nothing to hang your head about. That said, Seton Hall might need to run the table to feel comfortable Selection Sunday. Georgetown, Providence, Xavier and Butler all provide opportunities to build the resume, but a trap game Feb. 21 at St. John’s is one to watch.
First Four Out
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Recent wins over Iowa State and Baylor show life, but it can’t erase that stretch that saw the Red Raiders drop seven of eight. More losses figure to mount with Oklahoma, Kansas and West Virginia on the sked in the coming weeks. That also means more chances to get to the other side of the fence, but right now, Texas Tech doesn’t quite have enough.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Never count out Thad Matta late in the season, but OSU’s losses to UT Arlington and Louisiana Tech early in the season still hurt. Both of those came at home, and the Buckeyes still don’t have a quality win in the Big Ten. They’ve lost by double digits in four of their five conference losses, and they close the season with two games vs. Michigan State and a home game vs. Iowa. OSU can’t afford another loss if it wants to be playing come March Madness.
The Bulldogs might be out of time to build their NCAA Tournament resume. Last week’s ugly 82-48 loss at Kentucky showed what Georgia can do against quality competition, and this is a team that simple is lacking a hang-your-hat win. Beating Florida or Vanderbilt will help, but beyond those two teams, there isn’t anyone left on the schedule that can help Georgia now.
Butler’s chances of dancing come March Madness took a hit with the 17-point loss to Xavier Saturday, and the Bulldogs likely need to beat both Creighton and Villanova this week to get back on the other side of the bubble. Butler’s inconsistency coupled with the weakness of the bottom half of the Big East is a killer.