NCAA Tournament Bracket Scouting: Breaking Down The Bubble As Selection Sunday Nears

College basketball’s regular season is officially over, which means time is running out for teams to improve their resumes and climb onto the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. Four automatic bids have already been clinched and if there’s a high number of bid stealers, then the number of at-large hopefuls will shrink.

Here’s the latest edition of NCAA Tournament Bracket Scouting, where we examine the NCAA Tournament resumes for all of the teams in college basketball’s top six conferences.

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.

 

 

AAC

Locks: Houston, Cincinnati, UCF

Pencil them in: None

Work to do: Temple

Auto-bid or bust: Memphis, Wichita State, South Florida, Tulsa, UConn, SMU, East Carolina, Tulane

 

Temple (23-8)

No. 49 NET | 2-6 Quadrant 1, 6-1 Quadrant 2, 7-1 Quadrant 3, 8-0 Quadrant 4

The Owls may have made a decisive push for the NCAA Tournament on Saturday when they beat UCF 67-62. It was their second Quadrant 1 win and it allowed them to climb to 8-7 in Quadrants 1/2.

Temple was the last team in Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament projections, which were published Friday, and the latest win kept the Owls on the right side of the bubble – for now.

The win allowed them to clinch the No. 3 seed in the AAC Tournament so they’ll receive a first-round bye, then face the winner of Wichita State and East Carolina. The Shockers would be a Quadrant 2 opponent and the Pirates would be a Quadrant 4 opponent, so the Owls should hope Wichita State wins that first-round matchup.

If Temple and Cincinnati both win in the quarterfinals, they would meet in the semifinals and the Bearcats would offer the Owls the chance for another Quadrant 1 win.

One more win might be all it takes for Temple to earn an at-large berth and two would certainly get the job done.

[RELATED: Stadium’s Latest NCAA Tournament Projections]

ACC

Locks: Virginia, North Carolina, Duke, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Louisville

Pencil them in: Syracuse

Work to do: NC State, Clemson

Auto-bid or bust: Georgia Tech, Miami, Boston College, Wake Forest, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh

 

Syracuse (19-12)

No. 46 NET | 3-8 Quadrant 1, 4-2 Quadrant 2, 8-2 Quadrant 3, 4-0 Quadrant 4

Syracuse is going to make the NCAA Tournament. Let’s make that clear.

A road win at Duke might be the best win in all of college basketball this season.

But the Orange losing four of their final five games made Syracuse’s NCAA Tournament standing more shaky.

Syracuse was a projected No. 9 seed prior to its loss at Clemson Saturday. The Orange will be the No. 6 seed in the ACC Tournament, which means a second-round matchup against Boston College or Pitt. That’ll be a Quadrant 3 game for Syracuse regardless of opponent, so a win wouldn’t help the Orange’s NCAA Tournament resume but a loss could be damaging.

If Syracuse advances to the quarterfinals, it’ll face Duke.

The next week will decide if Syracuse is a No. 9, 10 or 11 seed.

 

NC State (21-10)

No. 32 NET | 2-8 Quadrant 1, 6-0 Quadrant 2, 3-2 Quadrant 3, 10-0 Quadrant 4

While NC State’s win total is impressive, you can’t say the same about the Wolfpack’s resume. Almost half of their wins are in Quadrant 4 and they have the same number of Quadrant 1 wins and Quadrant 3 losses.

One interesting note is that one of NC State’s two Quadrant 1 victories was on a neutral court against Penn State. Penn State is ranked No. 50 in the NET on Sunday and the cut-off for Quadrant 1 games on a neutral court is opponents that rank in the top 50. So if Penn State falls to No. 51 (or lower) in the NET rankings, that becomes a Quadrant 2 game and NC State’s Quadrant 1 record would drop to 1-8.

The Wolfpack are the No. 8 seed in the ACC Tournament and they’ll play Clemson in second round, which will be a Quadrant 1 game. No. 1 seed Virginia awaits the winner in the quarterfinals.

 

Clemson (19-12)

No. 35 NET | 1-9 Quadrant 1, 6-3 Quadrant 2, 6-0 Quadrant 3, 6-0 Quadrant 4

Clemson was the second team left out of Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament projections on Friday and the next day, the Tigers added a Quadrant 2 win over Syracuse. That alone won’t be enough to guarantee an at-large bid.

The Tigers will face fellow bubble team NC State in the second round of the ACC Tournament. If we work from the assumption that Clemson is currently just outside the field of 68, there’s a chance a Quadrant 1 win over the Wolfpack would push the Tigers over the edge and into the NCAA Tournament, but it would probably take two wins for Clemson to feel safe.

 

Big 12

Locks: Texas Tech, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State

Pencil them in: Baylor, Oklahoma

Work to do: Texas, TCU

Auto-bid or bust: Oklahoma State, West Virginia

 

Baylor (19-12)

No. 36 NET | 4-8 Quadrant 1, 8-1 Quadrant 2, 2-1 Quadrant 3, 5-2 Quadrant 4

The Bears finished the regular season on a three-game slide but they’re still likely a single-digit seed if the season ended today. Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament projections had Baylor as a No. 8 seed prior to its loss at Kansas Saturday.

As the No. 4 seed in the Big 12 Tournament, Baylor will play No. 5 seed Iowa State in the quarterfinals.

 

Oklahoma (19-12)

No. 40 NET | 4-10 Quadrant 1, 6-2 Quadrant 2, 9-0 Quadrant 3, 0-0 Quadrant 4

The Sooners lost at co-Big 12 champion Kansas State on Saturday, which put Oklahoma at 7-11 in conference play this season.

Even though there’s never been a Big 12 team that went 7-11 in the conference’s current format and made the NCAA Tournament, Oklahoma is still somewhat safely in the field. The Sooners were a projected No. 9 seed prior to Saturday’s loss.

Ironically, a home win over Wofford is Oklahoma’s best win, despite all the opportunities for marquee wins provided in the Big 12. The Sooners are the No. 7 seed in the Big 12 Tournament and they’ll play last-place West Virginia in the first round.

Given the Mountaineers’ No. 109 NET ranking, that’ll be a Quadrant 3 game. If the Sooners lose, then maybe they’ll be sweating on Selection Sunday.

 

Texas (16-15)

No. 39 NET | 5-9 Quadrant 1, 4-5 Quadrant 2, 4-1 Quadrant 3, 3-0 Quadrant 4

The Longhorns suffered their 15th loss of the season on Saturday with a home loss to TCU and the record for the most losses by an at-large team is 15. Texas was a projected No. 10 seed prior to its latest loss and it’ll face No. 3 seed Kansas in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament.

There’s no way Texas will make the NCAA Tournament if it loses that game and enters Selection Sunday with a .500 record. It would likely take at least two wins in the Big 12 Tournament, meaning an appearance in the championship game, for the Longhorns to entertain an at-large bid.

 

TCU (19-12)

No. 48 NET | 3-8 Quadrant 1, 5-4 Quadrant 2, 7-0 Quadrant 3, 4-0 Quadrant 4

The Horned Frogs added a third Quadrant 1 win on Saturday with their road win at Texas, which could give them some breathing room after appearing in the Last Four In of Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament projections. As the No. 8 seed in the Big 12 Tournament, TCU will play No. 9 seed Oklahoma State in the first round.

That’ll be a Quadrant 2 game for TCU and a loss could put the Horned Frogs squarely on the bubble depending on how many bid stealers there are.

 

Big East

Locks: Marquette, Villanova

Pencil them in: None

Work to do: St. John’s, Seton Hall, Creighton, Xavier, Georgetown

Auto-bid or bust: Butler, Providence, DePaul

 

St. John’s (20-11)

No. 66 NET | 5-6 Quadrant 1, 5-3 Quadrant 2, 2-2 Quadrant 3, 8-0 Quadrant 4

St. John’s arguably has the third-strongest NCAA Tournament resume among Big East teams yet the Johnnies finished in seventh place in the conference. They’ll enter the Big East Tournament on a three-game losing streak that could leave their tournament future in jeopardy if they lose their first game in Madison Square Garden. They play No. 10 seed DePaul in the first round with No. 2 seed Marquette awaiting the winner.

The Red Storm were a projected No. 10 seed prior to their loss at Xavier on Saturday.

 

Seton Hall (18-12)

No. 61 NET | 6-7 Quadrant 1, 6-3 Quadrant 2, 3-2 Quadrant 3, 3-0 Quadrant 4

The Pirates made a frantic push to ensure an at-large bid with home wins over Marquette and Villanova to finish the regular season. That gave them six Quadrant 1 victories entering the Big East Tournament.

Seton Hall was a No. 11 seed before beating Villanova and it’ll face No. 6 seed Georgetown in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament. That’ll be a Quadrant 2 game for Seton Hall and a win could lock up an at-large bid for the Pirates.

 

Creighton (18-13)

No. 54 NET | 3-10 Quadrant 1, 6-3 Quadrant 2, 5-0 Quadrant 3, 3-0 Quadrant 4

The Bluejays have won their last five games and they finished 9-9 in the Big East after sitting at 4-9 three weeks ago. Creighton was the first team in the Next Four Out of Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament projections, which were published Friday.

Creighton will face No. 4 seed Xavier in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament, providing the chance to potentially face No. 1 seed Villanova in the semifinals. It would almost certainly take at least two wins at Madison Square Garden for Creighton to make the NCAA Tournament.

 

Xavier (17-14)

No. 71 NET | 4-8 Quadrant 1, 4-4 Quadrant 2, 3-2 Quadrant 3, 6-0 Quadrant 4

Xavier was among the Next Four Out of Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament projections, along with Big East foes Creighton and Georgetown, and the Musketeers since added a Quadrant 2 win over St. John’s.

Xavier will face Creighton in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament and the loser will be eliminated from NCAA Tournament consideration. The winner likely needs to make the Big East Championship to have a shot at an at-large bid.

 

Georgetown (19-12)

No. 76 NET | 5-6 Quadrant 1, 6-4 Quadrant 2, 1-2 Quadrant 3, 7-0 Quadrant 4

The Hoyas finished an up-and-down regular season on a high note with an 86-84 win at Marquette on Saturday, which gave them their fifth Quadrant 1 win. Georgetown was in the Next Four Out of Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament projections and the Hoyas likely need to beat No. 3 seed Seton Hall, then their semifinal opponent, to have a chance of earning an at-large bid.

 

Big Ten

Locks: Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Maryland, Iowa

Pencil them in: None

Work to do: Minnesota, Ohio State, Indiana

Auto-bid or bust: Penn State, Rutgers, Illinois, Nebraska, Northwestern

 

Minnesota (19-12)

No. 56 NET | 3-9 Quadrant 1, 7-3 Quadrant 2, 4-0 Quadrant 3, 5-0 Quadrant 4

Halfway through Big Ten play, Minnesota was two games over .500 in the conference. The Gophers finished two games below .500 and they were a projected No. 11 seed before losing at Maryland on Friday.

One win in the Big Ten Tournament might be all it takes for Minnesota to secure an at-large bid and a second-round exit in Chicago could leave the Gophers as one of the final teams to make the field on Selection Sunday.

 

Ohio State (18-13)

No. 52 NET | 4-8 Quadrant 1, 4-3 Quadrant 2, 4-1 Quadrant 3, 6-0 Quadrant 4

The Buckeyes rallied from a 23-point deficit to force overtime at home against Wisconsin Sunday but it wasn’t enough. Ohio State will enter the Big Ten Tournament on a three-game losing streak (all without leading scorer Kaleb Wesson, who has been suspended) and the Buckeyes’ second-round game against Indiana could potentially be a play-in game for both teams.

A win for either team could be enough to guarantee an at-large berth. Ohio State was a projected No. 10 seed prior to losing to Wisconsin.

 

Indiana (17-14)

No. 55 NET | 6-9 Quadrant 1, 2-5 Quadrant 2, 3-0 Quadrant 3, 6-0 Quadrant 4

It’s pretty amazing that Indiana is firmly in the bubble conversation after losing 12 of 13 games in the heart of Big Ten play. But the Hoosiers will arrive in Chicago for the Big Ten Tournament riding a four-game winning streak that propelled them back onto the bubble. Indiana was the first team left out of Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament projections from Friday.

There’s a chance it would only take one win in the Big Ten Tournament for Indiana to get an at-large bid but the Hoosiers would probably be safe if they win at least two games in their conference tournament.

 

Pac-12

Locks: Washington

Pencil them in: None

Work to do: Arizona State

Auto-bid or bust: Utah, Oregon, Colorado, Oregon State, UCLA, Arizona, USC, Stanford, Washington State, California

 

Arizona State (21-9)

No. 67 NET | 3-3 Quadrant 1, 8-2 Quadrant 2, 4-2 Quadrant 3, 6-2 Quadrant 4

The Sun Devils were a projected No. 11 seed prior to their road win at Arizona Saturday, which improved their Quadrant 2 record to 8-2. Arizona State will get a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament, then face the winner of UCLA and Stanford.

That’ll be a Quadrant 3 game regardless of opponent and Arizona State could be in trouble if it loses that game and suffers a fifth Quadrant 3/4 loss.

 

SEC

Locks: Tennessee, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn, Ole Miss

Pencil them in: None

Work to do: Florida, Alabama, Arkansas

Auto-bid or bust: South Carolina, Texas A&M, Missouri, Georgia, Vanderbilt

 

Florida (17-14)

No. 33 NET | 3-11 Quadrant 1, 3-1 Quadrant 2, 6-2 Quadrant 3, 5-0 Quadrant 4

The Gators will enter the SEC Tournament on a three-game losing streak after falling 66-57 at Kentucky on Saturday. They were among the Last Four In of Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament projections prior to that loss.

Florida will play No. 9 seed Arkansas in the second round of the SEC Tournament in what could be a de facto play-in game for both teams. The Gators need to win at least one game, if not two, to earn an at-large bid.

 

Alabama (17-14)

No. 58 NET | 2-9 Quadrant 1, 7-3 Quadrant 2, 5-2 Quadrant 3, 3-0 Quadrant 4

Alabama will play No. 7 seed Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament and the Crimson Tide will likely need a win or two in its conference tournament to earn an at-large bid. Alabama was a projected No. 11 seed prior to losing at Arkansas in its regular season finale. The Crimson Tide have the same number of Quadrant 1 wins and Quadrant 3 losses, so the resume isn’t particularly impressive.

 

Arkansas (17-14)

No. 64 NET | 1-8 Quadrant 1, 4-3 Quadrant 2, 8-3 Quadrant 3, 4-0 Quadrant 4

The Razorbacks won their final three regular season games to enter the fringes of the bubble conversation. They only have one Quadrant 1 win and three Quadrant 3 losses so they’ll need to win at least two games in the SEC Tournament, if not make the SEC Championship, to have a chance of making the NCAA Tournament.

 

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