Odds for CBB Bubble Teams Making the 2019 NCAA Tournament Entering March
Bubble teams across the country keep blowing opportunities to prove they belong in the 2019 NCAA men's basketball tournament, but the field has to get to 68 teams somehow.
What are the chances that each of the current bubble teams makes the cut?
Based on a combination of current resumes, current seeding in the Bracket Matrix and the remaining schedule, we've placed odds on them being in the last four in and being the first four out.
Please also keep in mind that if one or more among Gonzaga, Nevada, Wofford and Buffalo lose in their conference tournaments—or if a team like DePaul or Rutgers comes out of nowhere to steal a bid by winning a major-conference tournament—then the at-large pool shrinks. It's not likely, but it's possible that none of these eight teams get in. That is factored into the moneyline odds (+200 means to bet $100 to win $200).
Before we dive in, let's be sure to mention Temple.
In Tuesday's matrix update, the Owls were the fifth-to-last team in, but that was before they lost at Memphis that night. That's not a terrible misstep, but it certainly doesn't help Temple's case. Though they weren't close enough to the cut line to make this week's list, their odds of getting in aren't great. They probably need to win their remaining three games (vs. Tulane, at Connecticut, vs. UCF) to feel safe, and that won't be easy.
On the other side of things, let's also briefly discuss Indiana.
The Hoosiers are 14-14 and were nowhere close to the field in the last matrix update, but that was before their home win over Wisconsin. Add that outcome to a resume with no bad losses and that already had great victories over Michigan State, Louisville and Marquette, and you've get a team worth considering. If they happen to beat Michigan State again Saturday, they'll jump back onto the right side of the bubble.
The following teams are listed in ascending order of percent chance to get in, beginning with Butler as the long shot and ending with Utah State as the one most likely to make the Big Dance.
Resume: 15-13, NET 52, KP 53, SOS 18, NC SOS 53, 2-7 vs. Q1, 5-5 vs. Q2, 8-1 vs. Q3/Q4
Current Spot in Bracket Matrix: Second Team Out
Remaining Schedule: at Villanova, vs. Xavier, at Providence
Here's a stat that means nothing but is interesting anyway: Since the beginning of this calendar year, Butler is 5-0 on Saturdays and 1-8 on all other days of the week. One of those eight losses came at home against Providence on Tuesday.
For a team already on the wrong side of the bubble with a dozen losses, it was a terrible time to pick up a Quadrant 3 L. The Bulldogs had done a fine job of avoiding bad losses for more than a month, but that one might be the final nail in the coffin.
In addition to the sheer quantity of losses, Butler's best wins aren't anything special.
As we've recounted more than a few times in these bubble debates, the Bulldogs had a nice neutral-site victory over Florida, but they also lost to the Gators by 34 points a month later. The next-best win on their resume is either the home game against Ole Miss or the road game against Georgetown, neither of which moves the needle a discernible amount.
At this point, Butler must at least win the rest of its regular-season games. It needs the road game against Villanova to add some quality, and it needs the subsequent games against Xavier and Providence just to avoid any further losses. And based on KenPom's projections, there's a less than 10 percent chance Butler goes 3-0 down the stretch.
And even then, if the Bulldogs were to immediately lose to a Seton Hall, Xavier or Georgetown in the Big East quarterfinals, they would be 18-14 with one great win, two decent wins, five questionable losses, and NET and KenPom rankings that are just OK. There's no way that resume would be a lock.
Tournament Odds: +750
Resume: 20-8, NET 67, KP 72, SOS 111, NC SOS 118, 0-2 vs. Q1, 4-2 vs. Q2, 15-4 vs. Q3/Q4
Current Spot in Bracket Matrix: Third Team Out
Remaining Schedule: vs. Fordham, vs. St. Bonaventure, at Richmond
This is where an ugly bubble gets downright repugnant.
No disrespect to Davidson. Love me some Jon Axel Gudmundsson and Kellan Grady. That's probably the best backcourt duo in the nation that nobody talks about, and they are the anchors of a primary six-man rotation devoid of seniors. The Wildcats could be special next season.
But even before the loss to La Salle on Wednesday night, what in the world was this resume doing in the conversation this year?
Davidson doesn't have a Quadrant 1 win, and the North Carolina school was blown out by Purdue and North Carolina in its only chances at one. The Wildcats do have a nice home win over VCU, but were we supposed to believe that's enough to make up for losses to Saint Joseph's, Wake Forest and Massachusetts?
Neither the NET nor KenPom rate Davidson as a top-60 team. We can almost overlook that in Seton Hall's case because of its great wins over Kentucky and Maryland, but there's no reason to overlook it here.
Even if Davidson wins the rest of its regular-season games and gets all the way to the Atlantic 10 championship game before losing to VCU, it wouldn't have a great argument for an at-large bid. Thus, the odds here are roughly Davidson's chances of getting that A-10 automatic bid.
Tournament Odds: +425
Saint Mary's Gaels
Resume: 19-10, NET 39, KP 34, SOS 39, NC SOS 66, 1-5 vs. Q1, 2-2 vs. Q2, 16-3 vs. Q3/Q4
Current Spot in Bracket Matrix: Fourth Team Out
Remaining Schedule: vs. Portland, vs. Gonzaga
Let's make sure not to bury the lede here: Saint Mary's is not going to make the tourney unless it beats Gonzaga—whether at home this Saturday or in the WCC final. The latter would automatically put the Gaels in, and the former would at least keep them in the conversation.
But the fact that Saint Mary's is even in the hunt right now shows three things:
- The quantity of viable at-large candidates is lower than usual.
- Scoring margin is a huge deal.
- We're not sure how the committee is going to use the NET.
If you've made it this far into the article, you already know No. 1 to be true. And No. 2 intersects with No. 3, since the Gaels are in great shape in the NET thanks to 17 wins by a double-digit margin and close calls in losses to LSU and Mississippi State.
At least we assume that's why they're in great shape, because they have three Quadrant 3 losses and their best wins of the season came against New Mexico State, San Francisco and San Diego, none of which has a realistic hope for an at-large bid.
Which brings us back to the main point. If Saint Mary's doesn't beat Gonzaga, it simply won't have the quality wins necessary to get in. The Gaels missed the tournament last year with a 28-5 record and a road win over Gonzaga. As bad as the bubble may be, it's hard to imagine they could get in with 12 losses and no great victories.
Tournament Odds: +400
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Resume: 17-11, NET 60, KP 49, SOS 48, NC SOS 152, 2-8 vs. Q1, 6-3 vs. Q2, 9-0 vs. Q3/Q4
Current Spot in Bracket Matrix: Third-to-Last Team In
Remaining Schedule: at Northwestern, vs. Purdue, at Maryland
Everyone has been so obsessed with the collapses of Indiana and Nebraska in Big Ten play that Minnesota's choke job had been flying below the radar prior to Sunday's loss to Rutgers.
It was the Golden Gophers' ninth loss in 14 games, eroding away a resume that wasn't that strong in the first place. All five of the wins during that stretch of nearly two months were home games, and the only one against a projected tournament team was over Iowa—and that isn't even a Quadrant 1 win anymore following the Hawkeyes' 20-point loss to Ohio State on Tuesday and subsequent drop out of the NET top 30.
Every time I look at Minnesota's resume, it seems to get worse.
There's still a chance to salvage this mess, though. If the Gophers win at Northwestern on Thursday and can manage a split in the final two games against Purdue and Maryland, they would be in great shape. For all their struggles as of late, they haven't suffered any unforgivable losses and could spruce things up in a hurry with a win over one of the best teams in the conference.
If they only manage to win one of the three games, they would likely land in the No. 8 vs. No. 9 Big Ten tournament game against Illinois for the right to face the No. 1 seed—Michigan State, Purdue or Michigan—in a quarterfinal game they would need to win.
Neither of those routes seem likely. Minnesota is in for now, but chances are it will slide out over these final couple of weeks.
Tournament Odds: +200
Seton Hall Pirates
Resume: 16-11, NET 64, KP 62, SOS 49, NC SOS 87, 3-6 vs. Q1, 7-2 vs. Q2, 6-3 vs. Q3/Q4
Current Spot in Bracket Matrix: Fourth-to-Last Team In
Remaining Schedule: at Georgetown, vs. Marquette, vs. Villanova
Seton Hall's resume has been a tough nut to crack all season long.
As luck would have it, we had a projected bracket published Jan. 3, which was right at the high point of the Hall's campaign. The Pirates had two excellent December wins away from home against Kentucky and Maryland, but they also had a disappointing home loss to Saint Louis and a 23-point road loss to Nebraska—both of which have only gotten worse with age.
Even then with a 11-3 record, they were merely a No. 9 seed. The metrics didn't much care for the Pirates in early January, and they still don't.
Worse yet, they are 5-8 since then with two losses to DePaul, a home loss to Xavier, a road loss to Providence and nary a win over a team currently in the projected field. And four of the five wins were by a margin of six points or fewer, which is a big part of why both KenPom.com and the NCAA Evaluation Tool say this isn't a top-60 team, despite its three Q1 wins and 10 Q1/Q2 wins.
If they can get two wins in these final three games, it'll be a lot easier to project the Pirates as a tournament team. But if they beat Georgetown before losing to Marquette and Villanova, it might be the Big East tournament that decides Seton Hall's fate.
KenPom has the Pirates projected to lose all three games by a slim margin, though, which would mean going to the NIT for sure.
Tournament Odds: +125
Alabama Crimson Tide
Resume: 17-11, NET 49, KP 54, SOS 32, NC SOS 57, 2-7 vs. Q1, 8-3 vs. Q2, 7-1 vs. Q3/Q4
Current Spot in Bracket Matrix: Second-to-Last Team In
Remaining Schedule: vs. LSU, vs. Auburn, at Arkansas
On Tuesday night, Alabama did what only one other SEC team had been able to do this season: win a game at South Carolina. The Gamecocks had handed losses to Auburn, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Missouri in Columbia, but the Crimson Tide eked out a critical 68-62 victory.
Alabama now has quite the stockpile of Quadrant 2 wins, and that was easily its best road victory of the season.
Even more important than the extra Q2 win has been the disappearance of Q3 losses. Alabama had three of them for quite some time, but both Texas A&M and Northeastern have done the Crimson Tide a solid by playing well enough as of late to turn those previous losses into Q2 results.
Alabama's NET and KenPom rankings haven't changed much at all, but there's no denying that it's a lot easier to put this resume in the projected field with a one in the "bad losses" column.
There's still some work to be done, though, because an 0-3 finish—entirely possible against this remaining schedule—would relegate the Crimson Tide to the NIT.
If they go 1-2 and at least show up in the No. 8 vs. No. 9 game of the SEC tournament, that might be enough, provided there aren't a few bid thieves in the Mountain West, Southern, West Coast or Mid-American Conferences. A 2-1 finish would definitely get them in, though, and that's feasible.
Tournament Odds: +105
Resume: 17-11, NET 43, KP 35, SOS 31, NC SOS 121, 1-8 vs. Q1, 4-3 vs. Q2, 12-0 vs. Q3/Q4
Current Spot in Bracket Matrix: First Team Out
Remaining Schedule: vs. North Carolina, at Notre Dame, vs. Syracuse
If the season ended today, has Clemson done enough to warrant a bid?
The Tigers don't have any bad losses, but they also just have the one quality win (vs. Virginia Tech) in nine chances against Quadrant 1 opponents. There's not much in the Quadrant 2 bucket bolstering the resume, either. The home win over Lipscomb doesn't look as impressive as it did a few weeks ago, and one of their Q2 wins (at Georgia Tech) may well become a Q3 result before Selection Sunday.
As far as the current Bracket Matrix is concerned, Clemson already doesn't quite belong in the field. And unless the Tigers win the home game against North Carolina, they won't be adding any more Q1 wins to their resume during the regular season.
In fact, let's assume they lose that game and win the other two. At least they would be adding two more Quadrant 2 wins, but we're still talking about a 12-loss team (13 unless they win the ACC tournament) with just the one quality win—in a game that Virginia Tech played on the road without its best player, Justin Robinson, by the way. That might be enough this year, but it's hardly a lock.
Also, just assuming they'll win those two games is a bit silly. The Tigers should be favored against both Notre Dame and Syracuse, but neither game is anything close to a gimme. And with a 1-2 finish (or worse), Clemson would begin the ACC tournament on the wrong side of the projected cut line.
It's going to be a photo finish.
Tournament Odds: Even
Utah State Aggies
Resume: 23-6, NET 33, KP 39, SOS 119, NC SOS 20, 1-2 vs. Q1, 2-3 vs. Q2, 19-1 vs. Q3/Q4
Current Spot in Bracket Matrix: Last Team In
Remaining Schedule: vs. Nevada, at Colorado State
In last week's odds, we gave Utah State the best chance of reaching the tournament with -125 odds, even though it was the second team out in the Bracket Matrix at that time. Since then, the Aggies won at Boise State, avenged their loss to San Diego State and have a colossal showdown with Nevada on Saturday.
If Utah State wins that game—which KenPom now projects as a 52 percent possibility—it will just about be a lock to dance. The Aggies already have great metrics and an impressive record. Adding a marquee win would push this resume over the top.
Even if they lose to the Wolf Pack, though, they still would have a decent tournament chance. They would need to win the regular-season finale against Colorado State and reach the MWC championship game—preferably by knocking off Fresno State in the semifinals—before yet another showdown with Nevada.
As long as the Aggies aren't embarrassed in either of those games against the Wolf Pack, they'll remain in the conversation. At any rate, the teams currently on the wrong side of the bubble aren't exactly making enough of a push to jump ahead of a team that should have put up two good fights against a quality opponent like Nevada.
Three big things working in Utah State's favor are a top-25 nonconference strength of schedule, a 10-5 record away from home and a lack of terrible losses. All three of those things should stand out against the rest of the bubble, especially if we're left with a decision between Minnesota, Utah State, Davidson and Saint Mary's.
With any luck, though, the Aggies will just beat the Wolf Pack on Saturday and remove all doubt.
Tournament Odds: -145
Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @kerrancejames.