With conference tournament week nearly over, the NCAA Tournament bubble is starting to come into clearer focus, with a handful of teams still anxiously waiting to see if the selection committee will find a spot for them in the field of 68.
This year has seen relatively few bracket busters during the conference championships. The main exception was San Diego State’s triumph in the Mountain West tournament. When the No. 5 Aztecs upset the No. 3 New Mexico Lobos to win the conference title, the upset shrunk the bubble by one spot.
By our analysis, that has left a dozen teams fighting for just six spots, with some of those teams looking safer than others. There’s also one potential upset brewing on Sunday that could throw a wrench into the works if a tournament lock ends up having to use up a precious at-large bid.
While the Pac-12 hasn’t been a strong conference this year, it appears as though the Bruins have done enough to work their way into the NCAA Tournament despite losing to Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals.
Texas would have loved to have gotten one more win in the Big 12 Tournament, but their strength of schedule and a marquee win over West Virginia in the final game of the regular season will likely be enough to earn them a bid.
Saint Mary’s (28-5)
The Gaels certainly didn’t want to lose to BYU in the WCC Tournament semifinals. But with a gaudy record and a win at Gonzaga earlier this season, it’s hard to see the committee leaving Saint Mary’s out of the field.
By making a run to the Pac-12 Tournament final, the Trojans have likely secured a March Madness bid, though their overall profile still leaves a bit to be desired.
On the Bubble
While the Sooners have wins over Wichita State and TCU on the road, Oklahoma has been dreadful since New Year’s, and losing eight of their last 10 has them squarely in bubble territory.
Arizona State (20-11)
The Sun Devils looked safe a few weeks ago, but losing to Colorado in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament added to their late season struggles, and now it is unclear if they will be included in the field.
The Orange are just about the definition of a bubble team this year, as their overall profile is borderline and their “signature” wins are only okay. There’s nothing all that impressive on their resume, but nothing disqualifying, either.
Notre Dame (20-14)
On paper, the Fighting Irish haven’t done enough to get in the field. But the team has been much better with a healthy Bonzie Colson back on the court. If the committee considers this, then they could still have a shot of inclusion.
Not Looking Good
The Cardinals have a similar resume to Syracuse, with one exception: they lost their head-to-head game with the Orange, which could be used to separate the two schools.
Wins over Kansas and Texas Tech looked to have the Bears back in the conversation, but losing four of their last five may have sunk Baylor’s tournament hopes.
Oklahoma State (19-14)
While Oklahoma State finished the season on a strong run and beat Kansas twice, a poor RPI ranking might just leave the Cowboys on the wrong side of the bubble.
Middle Tennessee (24-7)
The Blue Raiders suffered an upset loss in the Conference USA Tournament, and a lack of high-profile wins will likely see them passed over for an at-large bid.
Those keeping an eye on the size of the bubble will want to watch the Atlantic 10 Tournament final on Sunday. While Rhode Island (25-6) is a lock to make the March Madness field, Davidson (20-11) needs to win to get in the bracket. Should Davidson pull off an upset – they’re a 2.5-point underdog on Bovada – one less at-large bid will be available for a bubble team.