John GasawayESPN Insider
CloseESPN Insider faculty basketball contributor
First started overlaying faculty hoops in 2004
Has written for Basketball Prospectus and the Wall Road Journal
Editor’s notice: The NCAA match Bubble Watch has been up to date by way of Thursday’s video games.
Nevada has been ranked within the high 15 for the complete season, Buffalo has lurked smack in the course of the projected subject for weeks now, Wofford is showing in some mock brackets as a No. Eight seed, and the cool bracket-making children as of late are massive believers within the likes of Utah State and Belmont.
Additionally, Gonzaga, nonetheless you select to categorise Mark Few’s program, is, as all the time, Gonzaga.
Given all that, how can 2019 probably be in peril of providing a nasty Choice Sunday for mid-majors?
It is true Bubble Watch cannot see the longer term, nor peer into the furtive recesses of the preferences held by the people on the boys’s basketball committee. However one factor Bubble Watch can do is depend. This is the place we’re by way of bids and mid-majors in 2019.
The mock-bracket consensus is that maybe 37 bids might be absorbed by simply the ACC, Massive Ten, Massive 12, Massive East, Pac-12 and SEC. Throw in what’s more likely to be not less than a three-bid American (and probably 4 bids), and also you’re already as much as 40 invitations.
Naturally, there’s basketball left to be performed, and there is no assure these seven conferences will really safe that many bids. However only for the sake of debate, let’s contemplate these numbers: 40 bids for seven leagues, that means, in fact, 33 at-large spots going to these conferences.
As a devoted reader of the Watch, you realize there are simply 36 complete at-large slots out there. On this state of affairs, then, there can be simply three at-large bids for the 25 conferences under the highest seven.
For sure, the committee will make room within the bracket for Nevada, Buffalo and, one presumes, Wofford, even when the entire above had been to fail to win their convention tournaments. However that is form of the purpose, and certainly that is the place we have been now for the previous 4 brackets.
More and more, the one approach for mid-majors to extend their numbers within the subject of 68 is thru upsets in convention tournaments. A 12 months in the past, the Mountain West and Atlantic 10 each ended up having bid thieves, and San Diego State and Davidson joined league rivals Nevada and Rhode Island, respectively, within the subject of 68.
In idea, a mid-major bid thief could be stealing a spot from a fellow mid-major, however the post-2014 math right here has tended to work within the different route. A mid-major bid thief is extra more likely to take an invitation away from a middle-of-the-pack workforce in a significant convention.
No, it wasn’t all the time like this. As just lately as 2014, the six main conferences despatched “simply” 32 groups (counting computerized bids) into the NCAA match. Yearly since then, nonetheless, that quantity’s been within the mid-to-high 30s, peaking at 38 in 2017.
Bid thievery within the MW and A-10 helped drive that determine “down” to 37 final 12 months — the identical quantity, to repeat, that mock brackets are forecasting for major-conference bids in 2019. Briefly, that is why Nevada, Buffalo and Wofford ought to all be acknowledged as nice tales. The Wolf Pack, Bulls and Terriers are all pushing towards what seems to be a robust and persevering with development.
This is how we’re projecting the bubble proper now:
Bids from conventional “one-bid” leagues: 23 groups
Locks: 26 groups
The bubble: 29 groups for 19 out there spots
Must be in: 9 groups
Work to do: 20 groups
ACC | Massive 12| Massive East | Massive Ten | Pac-12 | SEC | American | Others
Locks: Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, Florida State, Virginia Tech
Must be in: Syracuse
Work to do: NC State, Clemson
Must be in
In back-to-back video games, Syracuse took its pictures at Duke and North Carolina solely to go Zero-for-2. Within the latter sport, the Orange tied a season excessive by making 14 Three-pointers and even that wasn’t sufficient to sway the consequence. The probabilities had been missed, however, in fact, there is no hurt achieved right here (until it results in this workforce overlooking its subsequent sport at Wake Forest). Syracuse remains to be going to be a No. Eight seed or one thing shut, and Jim Boeheim’s workforce nonetheless has yet another regular-season alternative to enhance that place. Virginia will go to the Provider Dome on Monday. (Up to date: Feb. 26)
Work to do
NC State Wolfpack
Kevin Keatts’ workforce drew one severely front-loaded convention schedule, and now that his guys have performed Clemson, Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Syracuse and Duke simply up to now few weeks, they’re getting a well-deserved respite of kinds. The sport developing this weekend at Florida State might be no picnic, definitely, however aside from that, NC State has video games towards Boston Faculty and Georgia Tech left to play. The potential No. 10 seed is trying strong at 20-Eight general and Eight-7 within the ACC. (Up to date: Feb. 24)
Late February was all about danger administration for Clemson. The Tigers did not nail down an at-large bid by beating Boston Faculty at residence and Pittsburgh on the street. Then once more, a workforce variously seen as both a No. 12 seed or as “first 4 out” materials might have pushed its bid likelihood down with a loss — or particularly two — in a stretch like that. At the moment 17-11 and 7-Eight within the ACC, Clemson now faces the principle choice occasion: North Carolina visits Littlejohn Coliseum this weekend. Beating the Tar Heels would give the Tigers a second Quad 1 win to put alongside their 59-51 win at residence over Virginia Tech. (Up to date: Feb. 28)
Locks: Kansas, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas State
Must be in: Baylor
Work to do: Texas, TCU, Oklahoma
Must be in
Baylor nonetheless refuses to be typecast. First got here the Bears’ quick 6-2 begin in Massive 12 play. Then there was the hobbled and short-handed stretch, one by which King McClure and Makai Mason each missed video games and Baylor fell to 7-5 within the convention. After that, Scott Drew’s workforce recovered properly, and with Mason again within the lineup, BU gained at Iowa State and secured a season sweep over the Cyclones. Now add nonetheless one other curve to this street: Enjoying at residence towards a short-handed model of Texas, Drew’s males recorded one in all their extra lifeless halves of the complete Massive 12 season earlier than rallying to win in time beyond regulation. Baylor is churning towards one thing near a No. Eight seed, and make no mistake, the Bears are doing so in a most mercurial trend. (Up to date: Feb. 28)
Work to do
Regardless of taking part in with out each Kerwin Roach II (suspension) and Dylan Osetkowski (sickness), the Longhorns almost recorded their first Quad 1 win in nearly a month at Baylor. Because it occurs, nonetheless, UT fell brief 84-83 and now sits at 15-13 general and 7-Eight in Massive 12 play. When you’re considering these numbers do not add as much as a No. 10 seed within the making, have in mind Texas has some lovely entries on its profile from earlier within the season, as much as and together with its neutral-floor win over North Carolina and residential victories over Purdue and Kansas. The suspension of Roach introduces a component of uncertainty, however it is a workforce that proved in Waco it may nonetheless hit 15 3s in 45 minutes and rating factors in bunches. (Up to date: Feb. 28)
TCU Horned Frogs
The fourth Quad 2 lack of TCU’s season, in triple-overtime at West Virginia, does not do an excessive amount of extra hurt to the profile of a workforce that entered the competition trying like a No. 9 or 10 seed. These 4 losses might effectively be balanced or not less than partially offset by the Horned Frogs’ two massive Quad 1 wins, each of which occur to have been recorded towards Iowa State. Which brings us to the sub-.500 query but once more: TCU seems like a gaggle that might wrap up Massive 12 play at 7-11 or so. Being 4 video games beneath .500 was a no-fly zone for at-large aspirants, even with a committee that insists it does not take a look at convention information. Individuals who make mock brackets, nonetheless, are taking the committee at its phrase in 2019. Anyway, Oklahoma could be proper there with the Frogs on this identical under-.500 horizon. The committee will most likely have a couple of alternative to be taken at its phrase. (Up to date: Feb. 26)
Not many groups by way of historical past have been 5-10 in convention play but capable of conclude that they are nonetheless within the hunt for an at-large bid. Then there’s Oklahoma in 2019. The Sooners are nonetheless being proven as a No. 10 seed in mock brackets thanks to 2 fundamental components. First, there was a comparatively sturdy non-conference efficiency, highlighted by wins over Wofford (at residence) and Florida (on a impartial ground). Second, membership within the Massive 12 confers the privilege of realizing that a lot of your losses aren’t “dangerous” losses. It could appear loopy at first look, however OU remains to be alive. (Up to date: Feb. 25)
Locks: Marquette, Villanova
Must be in: St. John’s
Work to do: Seton Corridor, Butler
Must be in
St. John’s Pink Storm
To not belabor the purpose, however St. John’s is Three-1 this season towards one of the best two groups within the Massive East, Marquette and Villanova. Towards the remainder of the league, nonetheless, Chris Mullin’s males are a mere 5-7. That latter file now features a quite listless 84-73 loss to Xavier at Carnesecca Area. Granted, Mustapha Heron sat out the night with a sore knee, whereas Shamorie Ponds appeared to injure his proper wrist early within the sport. Although the junior continued to play, he ended up scoring simply 13 factors on 5-of-16 taking pictures. Regardless, this was the worst factor that might occur to the St. John’s profile given the workforce’s remaining schedule. The house sport towards Xavier goes within the books as a Quad Three loss, whereas an upcoming street take a look at at DePaul and a rematch with Travis Steele’s group in Cincinnati will each be Quad 2 affairs. It seems there may very well be slippage in what beforehand appeared like a No. 9 seed for the Johnnies. (Up to date: Feb. 28)
Work to do
Seton Corridor Pirates
Regardless of shedding at St. John’s, the Pirates must be positive on paper. There’s nonetheless the Corridor’s neutral-floor victory over Kentucky, in fact, simply as there’s nonetheless the street win at Maryland. So, sure, Kevin Willard’s workforce must be in good condition as a probable No. 11 seed. Relaxation straightforward, optimists! … However for you pessimists on the market, here is the factor: Seton Corridor’s remaining video games are at Georgetown and at residence towards Marquette and Villanova. Is it actually so unthinkable that the Pirates (at the moment 16-11 general and 7-Eight within the Massive East) might lose two or, dare Bubble Watch say it, all three of these? This glass could be half empty in any case. (Up to date: Feb. 23)
The Bulldogs have been attempting actually laborious to take off for a lot of February, however they’re now on the finish of the runway. Dropping to Windfall is not significantly damaging — St. John’s did it twice — however the truth that Butler did so at residence does make it a Quad Three defeat, the primary one incurred this season by a workforce that is 15-13 and 6-9 in its league. LaVall Jordan’s males now should attempt to play their approach into the sector from “first 4 out” turf (at finest) with video games at Villanova, at residence towards Xavier and on the street for the rematch with the Friars in Windfall. Even a win on the street towards the Wildcats might not carry the mandatory luster to get this job achieved. The Bulldogs could have an terrible lot of labor to do on the Massive East match. (Up to date: Feb. 26)
Locks: Michigan State, Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin, Maryland
Must be in: Iowa
Work to do: Ohio State, Minnesota
Must be in
There are not any drop-dead terrible defenses within the Massive Ten this season, however it’s true that Iowa ranks final by way of factors allowed per possession in league play. It is also true the Hawkeyes definitely appeared that half in permitting Ohio State to ring up 90 factors in 70 possessions in Columbus. The consequence was a 20-point loss for the visiting workforce, a gaggle that possibly remains to be going to earn a No. 6 or 7 seed within the subject of 68. So, in what’s just about foreordained to be a final write-up on Iowa earlier than Fran McCaffery’s workforce is made a lock both by outcomes or the calendar, enable Bubble Watch to notice that protection continues to be a priority with this workforce. (Up to date: Feb. 26)
Work to do
Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State beating Iowa so simply at residence was extra vital than profitable at residence may ordinarily be for a projected No. 10 seed. Sure, the Buckeyes had been occupying that comparatively protected place in mock brackets earlier than tipoff, however the struggles of Chris Holtmann’s group on offense over the previous couple of video games gave the indication of a workforce that might, conceivably, falter. As a substitute, Justin Ahrens went nuts (29 factors) and OSU beat the Hawkeyes by 20. In fact, Ohio State nonetheless has three difficult video games but to play (on the street towards Purdue and Northwestern and at residence towards Wisconsin), however the worst-case state of affairs going into the Massive Ten match is now 18-13 general and Eight-10 in-conference. With these 18 wins, together with the one at Cincinnati, that ought to get the job achieved even within the worst case. (Up to date: Feb. 26)
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Now Minnesota’s season really begins. At 18-11 and Eight-10 within the Massive Ten, the Gophers can play their approach into the match by profitable one or, higher but, two Quad 1 video games towards Purdue in Minneapolis and Maryland in Faculty Park. Richard Pitino’s workforce seems to be proper on the road between “in” and “out,” together with fellow friends in peril Temple, Clemson and Utah State. Minnesota made an emphatic assertion by profitable at Wisconsin in January earlier than pretty staggering by way of a 2-6 February. March now beckons, and the Gophers have what each workforce says it desires. Jordan Murphy and his mates have an opportunity. (Up to date: Feb. 28)
Must be in: Washington
Work to do: Arizona State
Must be in
Properly, that was surprising. Mike Hopkins’ workforce was utilizing excellent protection to crush all resistance in what everybody agreed was an aberrantly weak Pac-12. Then the Huskies went on the street and bumped into essentially the most hapless of all of the league’s groups, Cal, whereupon the Bears proceeded to mild up this vaunted protection to the tune of 1.20 factors per possession. For reference, that is about what Gonzaga did to this identical D when the Bulldogs performed Washington in Spokane again in December. The loss in Berkeley goes within the books as a 76-73 Quad Four defeat when, previous to Thursday evening, UW did not even have any Quad Three losses. This totally makes what was beforehand projected as a No. 7 seed way more questionable. (Up to date: March 1)
Work to do
Arizona State Solar Devils
Bubble Watch may very well be persuaded to take Arizona State shedding at Oregon in stride, comparatively talking. The Geese really look fairly good in NET phrases, and a loss in Eugene is categorized as a Quad 1 defeat. That stated, the Solar Devils had been hammered 79-51, and there’s a hazard in Bobby Hurley’s workforce letting its personal NET rating fall too far. Coming into the sport towards UO, Arizona State was ranked No. 63, that means ASU was already close to the underside of the at-large-hopeful bin together with the likes of Seton Corridor and Minnesota. The committee is not simply going to go down the record of rankings from Nos. 1 to 68, in fact, however a quantity dropping into the 70s wouldn’t be a optimistic growth for a workforce that began the week slotted for a No. 11 seed. (Up to date: March 1)
Locks: Tennessee, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State
Must be in: Auburn, Ole Miss
Work to do: Florida, Alabama
Must be in
The knock on the Tigers is that that they are an environment friendly bunch beloved of the NET (having entered the sport at Kentucky ranked a lofty No. 20) however that, oh by the best way, Auburn does not really beat any good groups. For sure, shedding to the Wildcats at Rupp Area by 27 factors did zero to refute that college of thought. Bruce Pearl’s males are actually simply 2-6 towards SEC opponents listed as locks, should-be-ins or work-to-dos by Bubble Watch, and the wins got here at residence towards Alabama and Florida. AU is proven as a No. Eight seed, and with three Quad 1 alternatives remaining on the schedule, there’s nonetheless an opportunity for this workforce to each enhance its place within the bracket and, sure, to shake its “all stats, no statements” status. (Up to date: Feb. 23)
Ole Miss Rebels
The Rebels let one slip away and misplaced at residence to Tennessee 73-71. Kermit Davis was displeased by a cost drawn by Admiral Schofield on a Devontae Shuler Three-point try 30 ft from the basket within the closing seconds, and the coach’s protests earned him a technical foul. The house crowd was predictably irate, however Bubble Watch is all concerning the whole-season massive image. First, Ole Miss could have an equally good probability at a signature win (a fair higher one, really) when Kentucky visits Oxford subsequent week. Second, the Rebels are being slotted on maybe the No. Eight line in mock brackets, that means this program’s on the cusp of incomes its finest seed in both 17 or 18 years. Keep on, Coach Davis, you might be working relative wonders. (Up to date: Feb. 28)
Work to do
Few at-large aspirants rely extra closely on forcing turnovers than Florida. The Gators have really been outscored in SEC play on the “efficient” (turnover-less) possessions recorded by each UF and its opponents. Nonetheless, the truth that Mike White’s males have compelled those self same convention foes to offer the ball away on 23 % of their offensive possessions has evened these scales. Florida is anticipated to earn one thing within the space of a No. 10 seed, and while you fill out your bracket, you may need to look at that No. 7 seed’s guards and the way effectively they maintain the ball. (Up to date: Feb. 28)
Alabama Crimson Tide
An eight-bid SEC is starting to look pretty strong. Alabama did its bit to boost that likelihood by beating the league’s ninth aspirant for a bid, South Carolina, on the Gamecocks’ residence ground. The win lifts the Crimson Tide to 17-11 general and Eight-7 in convention play. Extra importantly, Avery Johnson’s workforce was being slotted in mock brackets for both a No. 11 or 12 seed earlier than the South Carolina sport however will now shut its common season with nothing however Quad 1 alternatives (at residence towards LSU and Auburn and on the street at Auburn). There are not any proverbial dangerous losses available there, and that is nonetheless a workforce that beat Kentucky in Tuscaloosa. Sure, it is trying just like the SEC may find yourself with eight bids, very possible no extra and fairly probably no much less. (Up to date: Feb. 26)
Locks: Houston, Cincinnati
Work to do: UCF, Temple
Work to do
Congratulations, UCF. You recorded your first Quad 1 win of the season along with your 75-63 victory at South Florida. That is not going to get you into the sector by itself, but it surely fills an vital gap on the profile for a projected No. 11 seed. Proper, about that seed: Ending up with video games at Houston, towards Cincinnati and at Temple offers you the proper probability to do one thing about that. Hold profitable, Knights. (Up to date: Feb. 28)
This example is turning into clearer and clearer: Temple beat Houston, interval. That, it seems, could also be roughly every thing the Owls have to point out on their profile. To make sure, there’s one other Quad 1 victory on the ledger, the workforce’s 70-69 time beyond regulation win at South Florida in mid-February. Nonetheless, beating the Bulls does not carry fairly the identical “within the room” cache as giving the Cougars their solely lack of the season. Fran Dunphy’s guys did have a shot to maybe play themselves off the “final 4 in” record with a greater win than the one in Tampa, however Temple misplaced 81-73 at Memphis. No extra Quad 1 possibilities stay, until this workforce sees Houston within the convention match. The Owls’ signature victory will not be sufficient to get it achieved, although. Within the meantime, Dunphy and his males ought to completely be hoping UH continues to win. (Up to date: Feb. 26)
Locks: Gonzaga, Nevada, Buffalo
Must be in: Wofford
Work to do: VCU, Utah State, Belmont, Saint Mary’s, Furman, Lipscomb
Must be in
The Southern Convention has by no means despatched an at-large workforce to the NCAA match, however there is a first time for every thing. Wofford is on this dialogue as a result of the Terriers are 25-Four, with the losses coming to North Carolina, Oklahoma, Kansas and Mississippi State. Mike Younger’s workforce moreover personal Quad 1 wins at Furman, UNC Greensboro and East Tennessee State. Lastly, it is value noting Wofford gained at South Carolina by 20, although that exhibits up on the profile as a Quad 2 victory. In actual fact, the Terriers are an ideal 19-Zero towards Quads 2, Three and Four. (Up to date: Feb. 28)
Work to do
At 22-6 general and in sole possession of first place within the Atlantic 10, Mike Rhoades’ workforce has a No. 10 seed ready for it subsequent month if mock brackets are to be trusted. In fact, mock brackets in February cannot essentially be trusted. Nonetheless, if VCU has a believable methodology at hand for turning projections into actuality, it’s protection. Within the Rams’ 85-57 win at residence over George Washington final weekend, Marcus Evans and firm uncorked a 21-Zero second-half run as they held the Colonials scoreless for greater than 10 minutes. That is the form of efficiency that may earn an at-large bid, even within the absence of Quad 1 alternatives. Hold profitable, Rams. (Up to date: Feb. 26)
Utah State Aggies
All the Mountain West has had this sport circled perpetually, and now it is lastly right here. Nevada is coming to Utah State eventually, so enable Bubble Watch to phrase this query in its starkest phrases: Can the Aggies, at the moment listed as one in all Lunardi’s final 4 groups in, get an at-large bid in the event that they lose to the Wolf Pack in Logan? The committee has achieved far wilder issues than that, goodness is aware of, however on paper it could be troublesome. USU’s finest win on the season is a neutral-floor victory over Saint Mary’s, and Craig Smith’s males can be going up towards competing bubble profiles with higher bling than that. Conversely, a house win over Nevada not less than offers this workforce its easiest shot. For the higher a part of the previous two months, Utah State has performed with a watch towed having this sport matter. Now it is right here, and it does. (Up to date: Feb. 26)
Belmont gained a sport in Pauley Pavilion towards UCLA in December, however (followers in Westwood will need to cease studying proper right here) it is the truth that Rick Byrd’s workforce swept a nonconference home-and-away collection with native rival Lipscomb that actually brightens a workforce sheet in 2019. Now the Bruins of Nashville are competing with Ja Morant and Murray State for Ohio Valley Convention supremacy. Morant possible has OVC Participant of the 12 months locked up (Bubble Watch is out on a limb right here), however in another season voters can be taking a really lengthy take a look at Dylan Windler and his prolific but extremely environment friendly scoring as a stretch-Four. Belmont is variously proven as one of many final groups in or as lurking simply exterior the sector in most projections, however at 23-Four, Byrd’s guys have gained 12 straight and wish to run the desk. (Up to date: Feb. 28)
Saint Mary’s Gaels
In six of the previous 9 years, the West Coast Convention has despatched two or extra groups into the NCAA match. Saint Mary’s is working to affix presumptive No. 1 seed Gonzaga and make that WCC run seven of the previous 10 years. At 20-10, the Gaels personal one in all Bubble Watch’s extra obscure Quad 1 wins, a street victory at New Mexico State in November. Extra just lately, Randy Bennett’s workforce hasn’t misplaced to a non-Gonzaga opponent in over a month. Talking of the Bulldogs, they’re going to come to Moraga this weekend for the WCC regular-season finale for each groups. A win for the house workforce can be only one extra piece of information in a profile made up of the complete season, the place every sport is taken into account equally and . . . no, simply kidding. A win would change every thing, to not point out put SMC into an unique membership with simply Tennessee and North Carolina as fellow “We beat the Zags” members. (Up to date: March 1)
It is a mark of how sturdy the Southern Convention is in 2019 that Furman can lose at residence to Wofford and nonetheless be within the dialogue for an at-large bid. No, the Paladins aren’t “must be in” materials simply but, however Bob Richey’s group does have that memorable Quad 1 win at Villanova and the Dins may very well be helped alongside by the mighty SoCon in nonetheless one other approach. The loss to the Terriers drops Furman within the convention title race to such an extent that it is conceivable Richey’s guys might see Wofford within the league match previous to the title sport. A 3rd sport towards the Terriers on a impartial ground in Asheville, North Carolina, can be a Quad 1 alternative. (Up to date: Feb. 28)
Earlier than final week, the Bisons’ worst loss was at residence to fellow Bubble Watch denizen Belmont, that means it wasn’t that dangerous a loss in any respect. Sadly for Casey Alexander’s workforce, nonetheless, that is not the case. Lipscomb went on the street and misplaced 67-61 at Florida Gulf Coast. The Eagles entered that contest ranked No. 244, making this a Quad Four defeat for the Bisons. It is an enormous blow to Lipscomb’s at-large hopes. (Up to date: Feb. 24)