It’s March 3 and…80 percent of the Big East is on the NCAA Tournament bubble?
Welcome to NCAA Tournament Bracket Scouting, where we analyze the NCAA Tournament resumes and upcoming opportunities among tournament hopefuls from the top six conferences in college basketball.
As a reminder, here’s how we define each category.
Lock = These teams could lose literally every single game from today until Selection Sunday and we think they’d still make the NCAA Tournament.
Pencil them in = These teams will probably make the NCAA Tournament but we suggest you use pencil, not pen, when writing their names among the 2019 NCAA Tournament field – for now. If they keep winning, they’ll likely become locks soon.
Work to do = Pretty simple definition. These teams need to add wins, both in terms of quantity and quality, to make the NCAA Tournament. The amount of “work to do” varies from school to school.
Auto-bid or bust = This is also pretty self-explanatory. These teams better win their conference tournament if they want to make the NCAA Tournament.
As the season progresses, teams can move between categories but decisions to put teams in the “lock” category are final.
We believe they’re safe regardless of what happens between the decision and Selection Sunday.
Locks: Houston, Cincinnati
Pencil them in: UCF
Work to do: Temple
Auto-bid or bust: Memphis, South Florida, Wichita State, Tulsa, SMU, UConn, East Carolina, Tulane
UCF’s road win at Houston was probably a net positive for the conference, even though it came at the expense of the American Athletic Conference’s premier team and the Cougars’ chase of a top-two seed in the NCAA Tournament. The AAC is likely to send at least three teams to the NCAA Tournament now with Temple providing the potential for a fourth.
No. 29 NET | 1-3 Quadrant 1, 6-2 Quadrant 2, 9-1 Quadrant 3, 6-0 Quadrant 4
We refrained from putting UCF in the “lock” category even though the Knights would finish with a 22-9 record even if they lost the rest of their games until Selection Sunday. But for all intents and purposes, UCF’s 69-64 win at Houston on Saturday night will likely be the one that pushed them over the edge.
It was the Knights’ first Quadrant 1 win of the season and it will go down as one of the best wins of the entire regular season, considering Houston entered the weekend with a 27-1 record and a 33-game winning streak at home. Upcoming Quadrant 1 games against Cincinnati and Temple provide the opportunity to further solidify UCF’s at-large status and improve the Knights’ potential seeding.
No. 55 NET | 1-6 Quadrant 1, 5-1 Quadrant 2, 7-1 Quadrant 3, 8-0 Quadrant 4
Temple took care of business at home Sunday, beating Tulane 80-69 to avoid what would have been the Owls’ worst loss of the season. Their last two games are at UConn (Quadrant 2) and home against UCF (Quadrant 1) and the latter is especially important given Temple’s 1-6 Quadrant 1 record.
Locks: Duke, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia Tech
Pencil them in: Louisville, Syracuse
Work to do: NC State, Clemson
Auto-bid or bust: Boston College, Miami (FL), Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh
We didn’t make any changes from last week among the four NCAA Tournament categories listed above for the ACC. Louisville and Syracuse will likely make the NCAA Tournament but each team could use a few more wins to make that outcome a sure thing. NC State and Clemson are in a more dire situation, especially the Tigers after missing out on what would have been a huge win against North Carolina.
No. 25 NET | 4-9 Quadrant 1, 4-2 Quadrant 2, 7-0 Quadrant 3, 4-0 Quadrant 4
Few teams in the country had a worse February than Louisville. It entered March on a three-game losing streak after losing six of its eight games last month. The Cardinals might be lucky to even get a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament after being a projected No. 4 seed in the Bracket Preview Show last month.
They beat Notre Dame 75-61 at home Sunday, leaving a road game at Virginia as Louisville’s final opportunity for a quality win before the ACC Tournament.
No. 39 NET | 3-6 Quadrant 1, 5-2 Quadrant 2, 7-2 Quadrant 3, 4-0 Quadrant 4
The Orange recently missed out on a pair of potential Quadrant 1 wins against Duke and North Carolina but they still have two more chances in the regular season against Virginia and Clemson. If Syracuse loses both games, then things could get interesting. ‘Cuse would have a 19-12 record, a 3-8 Quadrant 1 record and two Quadrant 3 loss entering the ACC Tournament.
A road win at Duke, even if the Blue Devils were shorthanded, is still incredibly strong and it’s an insurance policy that could probably cover a late-season slide should Syracuse enter Selection Sunday having lost its last three games. The Orange were a No. 8 seed in Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament projections.
NC State (20-9)
No. 31 NET | 2-8 Quadrant 1, 5-0 Quadrant 2, 3-1 Quadrant 3, 10-0 Quadrant 4
The Wolfpack have one of the more intriguing NCAA Tournament resumes and not necessarily in a good way. They missed out on all seven Quadrant 1 opportunities the ACC had to offer them in the regular season and they also have a Quadrant 3 loss to Wake Forest on their resume.
NC State has 20 wins but not all 20-win teams are created equal. Half of those wins were against Quadrant 4 competition and the Wolfpack’s final regular season games – at home against Georgia Tech (Quadrant 3) and at Boston College (Quadrant 2) – won’t improve their resume significantly even if they win both.
No. 40 NET | 1-9 Quadrant 1, 4-3 Quadrant 2, 6-0 Quadrant 3, 6-0 Quadrant 4
If Clemson misses the NCAA Tournament, which is a realistic – if not likely – possibility, the Tigers will look back at their 81-79 home loss to North Carolina Saturday and wonder what could’ve been.
It would’ve been their best win of the season and their second Quadrant 1 victory. They have two Quadrant 2 games – at Notre Dame and home against Syracuse – to finish the regular season, which may not move the needle enough to significantly improve the standing of a Clemson team that was the first team left out of Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament projections.
The Tigers might need to win both, then win a game or two in the ACC Tournament to earn an at-large bid.
Locks: Texas Tech, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State
Pencil them in: Baylor
Work to do: Oklahoma, Texas, TCU
Auto-bid or bust: Oklahoma State, West Virginia
The Big 12 sent seven teams to the NCAA Tournament last season and it could contend for eight bids this season but it’ll come down to how Oklahoma and TCU finish the regular season. Both schools have a 6-10 conference record and a tough week ahead, meaning the Big 12 could have anywhere from six to eight teams in the NCAA Tournament.
No. 34 NET | 4-7 Quadrant 1, 8-1 Quadrant 2, 2-0 Quadrant 3, 5-2 Quadrant 4
Baylor split its games last week, beating Texas at home in overtime before losing at Kansas State by six. But that was enough for the Bears to guarantee a conference record above .500 as they’re 10-6 with two games left.
They’ll finish at home against Oklahoma State, a Quadrant 3 game that represents a potential bad loss, before traveling to Kansas, which provides the opportunity for Baylor’s fifth Quadrant 1 win.
Baylor is a projected No. 7 seed in Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament projections, which is a remarkable turnaround after the Bears suffered two Quadrant 4 losses at home during their non-conference schedule.
No. 42 NET | 3-9 Quadrant 1, 6-2 Quadrant 2, 9-0 Quadrant 3, 0-0 Quadrant 4
Oklahoma might need to win its final two regular season games to feel confident about its NCAA Tournament chances. There are recent precedents of Big 12 teams that earned at-large bids after going 8-10 in the conference but a 7-11 or 6-12 conference record is a different story. The Sooners host Kansas, then travel to Kansas State, which is a daunting way to close the regular season for a team that is projected somewhere in the No. 9/10 seed range and has a lopsided Quadrant 1 record.
No. 33 NET | 5-8 Quadrant 1, 4-3 Quadrant 2, 4-2 Quadrant 3, 3-0 Quadrant 4
After losing consecutive road games at Oklahoma and Baylor by a combined three points, Texas finally got some good fortune with a massive 86-69 home win over Iowa State. It was the Longhorns’ fifth Quadrant 1 win and their fourth victory over a team ranked in the top 20 in the NET.
They’ll have another opportunity Monday, when they play at Texas Tech. With an 8-8 record in the Big 12, Texas is in a favorable position for an at-large bid if it can climb to another win or two over .500.
No. 48 NET | 2-7 Quadrant 1, 5-4 Quadrant 2, 7-0 Quadrant 3, 4-0 Quadrant 4
After starting the season 15-4, TCU has since lost seven of its last 10 games. Most recently, the Horned Frogs lost at West Virginia 104-96 in triple overtime and at home to Texas Tech.
TCU still doesn’t have any bad losses (read: Quadrant 3 or Quadrant 4) but it has just two Quadrant 1 wins and it’s only 9-11 in Quadrants 1 and 2. The Horned Frogs host Kansas State and travel to Texas in the last week of the season and they can’t afford to go 0-2.
TCU was a projected No. 10 seed in Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament bracket projections before its loss to Texas Tech.
Locks: Marquette, Villanova
Pencil them in: None
Work to do: St. John’s, Seton Hall, Xavier, Butler, Georgetown, Creighton
Auto-bid or bust: Providence, DePaul
The Big East had three teams in the Next Four Out in Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament projections – Xavier, Butler and Georgetown – which means there will be a mad dash to the finish as at least half of the conference is scrambling for an at-large bid in March. Marquette and Villanova are the only Big East teams above .500 in conference play but every team in the Big East is above .500 overall, making it one of the stranger conferences this season.
Even Providence and DePaul could enter the fringes of the bubble conversation if either wins the rest of its regular season games, then makes a run in the Big East Tournament.
St. John’s (20-10)
No. 58 NET | 6-4 Quadrant 1, 4-4 Quadrant 2, 2-2 Quadrant 3, 8-0 Quadrant 4
There may not be a more up-and-down power conference team in the country than St. John’s, which lost to Xavier and DePaul last week, falling to 8-9 in the Big East in the process. The Red Storm were projected to be a No. 10 seed before the loss to the Blue Demons. They haven’t won more than two conference games in a row this season.
St. John’s finishes the regular season at Xavier, which is a Quadrant 1 game, and provides the opportunity for the Johnnies to enter the Big East Tournament with a 7-4 Quadrant 1 record.
Seton Hall (16-12)
No. 63 NET | 4-7 Quadrant 1, 6-3 Quadrant 2, 2-2 Quadrant 3, 4-0 Quadrant 4
The Pirates were among the Last Four In for Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament projections but the next day they lost at fellow bubble team Georgetown 77-71 in double overtime. It was a missed opportunity for a Quadrant 1 win that would’ve improved Seton Hall’s record to 5-6 in that quadrant.
But the Pirates aren’t lacking opportunities for quality wins moving forward. They host Marquette and Villanova this week, making the next six days a make-or-break gauntlet for Seton Hall.
No. 70 NET | 3-8 Quadrant 1, 6-2 Quadrant 2, 1-3 Quadrant 3, 6-0 Quadrant 4
It wasn’t long ago that Xavier was in last place in the Big East. After St. John’s’ loss at DePaul, the Musketeers are tied for third with Georgetown and in the NCAA Tournament bubble conversation thanks to their five-game winning streak. If they can beat Butler and St. John’s to end the regular season, they’d enter the Big East Tournament with an 18-13 record, a 10-8 conference record and four Quadrant 1 wins.
Given that the Musketeers have three Quadrant 3 losses, it might take at least a win or two in Madison Square Garden for them to feel confident on Selection Sunday if they’re able to win their last two regular season games.
No. 60 NET | 2-9 Quadrant 1, 5-4 Quadrant 2, 5-1 Quadrant 3, 3-0 Quadrant 4
The Bulldogs were the sixth team out of the NCAA Tournament in Stadium’s latest projections. Butler is just one game over .500 and it likely needs to beat Xavier and Providence this week to even entertain an at-large bid. No team has ever earned an at-large bid with more than 15 losses.
No. 72 NET | 3-6 Quadrant 1, 6-3 Quadrant 2, 2-2 Quadrant 3, 7-0 Quadrant 4
The Hoyas were the eighth team out of the NCAA Tournament field in Stadium’s latest projections. The next day, Georgetown beat Seton Hall in double overtime, which improved the team’s Quadrant 2 record to 6-3.
Georgetown will finish the regular season on the road at DePaul Wednesday and Marquette Saturday. Those games fall under Quadrant 2 and Quadrant 1, respectively, and the Hoyas might need to win both to be in a comfortable position relative to the NCAA Tournament bubble entering the Big East Tournament.
No. 57 NET | 3-10 Quadrant 1, 6-3 Quadrant 2, 3-0 Quadrant 3, 3-0 Quadrant 4
The Bluejays capitalized on their final regular season opportunity for a Quadrant 1 win as they knocked off first-place Marquette 66-60 on the road on Sunday. Creighton’s Quadrant 1 record is lopsided but the Bluejays don’t have any bad losses. They have a respectable Quadrant 2 record and their strength of schedule ranks 16th nationally.
To quote Jim Carrey in “Dumb and Dumber,” “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?”
Locks: Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Maryland, Wisconsin, Iowa
Pencil them in: None
Work to do: Ohio State, Minnesota, Indiana
Auto-bid or bust: Rutgers, Illinois, Penn State, Nebraska, Northwestern
Somehow, some way Indiana is back on the NCAA Tournament bubble after the Hoosiers upset No. 6 Michigan State (again) on Saturday. The Hoosiers still have work to do to have a shot at an at-large bid but it’s reasonable to discuss them as a potential tournament team. That’s the most notable development in the Big Ten’s NCAA Tournament outlook since last week.
Ohio State (18-11)
No. 43 NET | 4-8 Quadrant 1, 4-2 Quadrant 2, 4-1 Quadrant 3, 6-0 Quadrant 4
You’d be hard-pressed to find a team with two more extreme results last week. Ohio State beat Iowa 90-70 on Tuesday, then lost 86-51 at Purdue Saturday. That’s a swing of 55 points in terms of margin of victory/defeat. That was at least in part – if not mostly – due to the suspension of sophomore center Kaleb Wesson on Friday for a violation of a school policy. Wesson leads the team with 14.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game and his absence could lead to losses at Northwestern and at home against Wisconsin to close the regular season.
Ohio State announced Wesson will return this season and he might need to lead the Buckeyes to a run in the Big Ten Tournament if they finish the regular season with an 18-13 record (8-12 Big Ten). Ohio State was a projected No. 9 seed, according to Stadium’s latest projections, before its latest loss.
No. 56 NET | 2-8 Quadrant 1, 7-3 Quadrant 2, 4-0 Quadrant 3, 5-0 Quadrant 4
The Gophers split their Quadrant 2 games last week, losing at Rutgers before winning at Northwestern. Minnesota doesn’t have any bad losses but it only has two Quadrant 1 wins, so there’s a sense of urgency for the Gophers this week against Purdue and Maryland – a pair of Quadrant 1 opponents.
Minnesota was a No. 11 seed in Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament projections so it probably needs to win at least one of its last two regular season games to stay on the right side of the bubble.
No. 54 NET | 6-9 Quadrant 1, 1-5 Quadrant 2, 2-0 Quadrant 3, 6-0 Quadrant 4
The record for the most losses by an at-large team is 15, which means Indiana probably needs to beat Illinois and Rutgers to finish the regular season to keep its wavering at-large hopes alive. Regardless of what happens against the Fighting Illini and Scarlet Knights, the Hoosiers will likely need to do some damage in the Big Ten Tournament, whether it’s extending a potential four-game winning streak or winning the Big Ten’s auto-bid if their at-large resume falls apart.
Pencil them in: Washington
Work to do: Arizona State
Auto-bid or bust: Oregon State, UCLA, Utah, Oregon, Colorado, USC, Stanford, Arizona, Washington State, California
Washington, a projected No. 7 seed, and Arizona State, a projected No. 12 team and the last team in Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament projections, are the only Pac-12 teams with at-large hopes. If Arizona State fades down the stretch and the Huskies win the auto-bid, the Pac-12 could potentially be a one-bid league.
No. 32 NET | 2-4 Quadrant 1, 6-1 Quadrant 2, 8-0 Quadrant 3, 7-1 Quadrant 4
The Huskies held on for a 62-61 win at Stanford Sunday, which prevented an 0-2 week for the best team in the Pac-12. Washington lost at California Thursday, which was a Quadrant 4 loss that will weigh heavily, in a bad way, on its resume.
Washington will finish the regular season at home against the Oregon schools, which represent a Quadrant 2 and a Quadrant 3 game. There will be a ceiling on the Huskies’ potential seeding given their lack of marquee wins and the level of competition in the Pac-12.
Arizona State (19-9)
No. 69 NET | 3-3 Quadrant 1, 6-2 Quadrant 2, 3-2 Quadrant 3, 7-2 Quadrant 4
Note: This story was published before Arizona State’s game against Oregon State Sunday.
Arizona State was the last team to make the field in Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament projections. That means the Sun Devils could really use a 2-0 week on the road against Oregon State and Arizona to add a pair of Quadrant 2 wins.
They have four bad losses and just three Quadrant 1 wins, which leaves Arizona State vulnerable to bid stealers once conference tournament action gets started.
Locks: Tennessee, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State
Pencil them in: Auburn, Ole Miss
Work to do: Florida, Alabama
Auto-bid or bust: South Carolina, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Missouri, Georgia, Vanderbilt
South Carolina’s three-game losing streak dropped the Gamecocks to the “auto-bid or bust” category and Florida and Alabama’s losses Saturday put both schools in the danger zone with two regular season games remaining.
No. 21 NET | 2-7 Quadrant 1, 9-2 Quadrant 2, 4-0 Quadrant 3, 4-0 Quadrant 4
Auburn is a projected No. 9 seed in Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament projections. The Tigers wrap up the regular season with a road game at Alabama and a home game against Tennessee, both of which fall under Quadrant 1. It might only take one win this week for Auburn to feel safe as an at-large team.
If the Tigers drop both, they’d have exact opposite records in Quadrant 1 (2-9) and Quadrant 2 (9-2).
Luckily for the Tigers, they don’t have any bad losses but they also don’t have many good wins, which is a common recipe for a bubble team that just makes the cut for the NCAA Tournament.
Ole Miss (19-10)
No. 37 NET | 4-9 Quadrant 1, 3-1 Quadrant 2, 6-0 Quadrant 3, 6-0 Quadrant 4
The Rebels missed out on two potential Quadrant 1 wins last week in losses to Tennessee and Arkansas – a pair of games they lost by a combined three points. Ole Miss is still on track to make the NCAA Tournament but those narrow losses will likely cost the team in terms of its seeding.
Ole Miss still has another huge opportunity in the regular season when it hosts Kentucky Tuesday in the Rebels’ final Quadrant 1 game before the SEC Tournament.
No. 35 NET | 3-9 Quadrant 1, 5-1 Quadrant 2, 4-2 Quadrant 3, 5-0 Quadrant 4
The Gators suffered their second Quadrant 3 loss of the season on Saturday, when they lost 61-55 at home to Georgia. Florida was a No. 11 seed in Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament projections, which were released the day before that loss.
A road win at LSU is Florida’s only top-end Quadrant 1 win, which puts more pressure on the Gators this week when they host LSU and then travel to Kentucky. An 0-2 week would put Florida at 17-14 overall with a 3-11 Quadrant 1 record entering the SEC Tournament.
No. 53 NET | 2-8 Quadrant 1, 6-3 Quadrant 2, 6-1 Quadrant 3, 3-0 Quadrant 4
Alabama lost to LSU at home by five on Saturday as a great opportunity for another resume-boosting win slipped through the Crimson Tide’s grasp. Similar to Florida, Alabama is 17-12 with a Quadrant 1 record that’s lacking and two upcoming Quadrant 1 games to finish the regular season.
The Crimson Tide were among the Last Four In of Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament projections so Alabama really needs to beat Auburn or Arkansas – and ideally both – this week.