Odds for Each CBB Bubble Team Making March Madness Pre-Conference Tourneys
You can count on two hands how many days are remaining until Selection Sunday for the 2020 men's NCAA tournament, but the final few spots in the field are still completely up for grabs.
Opportunities are dwindling. The bubble is shrinking. It's do-or-die time for a bunch of teams trying to prove they deserve a spot in the field.
Utah State—the projected last team in—has already played its final regular-season game (and lost). Now we wait to see if the Aggies will show up for the Mountain West Conference tournament or if they'll make things easier on the selection committee by losing immediately and removing themselves from the conversation.
Each of the other seven teams surrounding the projected cut line still has at least one regular-season game remaining, but their fates will also ultimately be determined by how they fare in their respective conference tournaments—or how many bid thieves there are in the other ones.
While we will say that Team A needs to do X, Y and Z to get into the tournament, it might not actually be enough if more bubble teams than usual play well in these final 10 days or if there are a bunch of conference tournament teams that turn projected auto bids into at-large bids and reduce the number of available spots.
Conversely, Team A might fall short of accomplishing X, Y and Z but still get in if enough other teams sputter to the finish line and lower the bar for a spot in the field.
However, people are constantly asking what it would take for specific squads to get into the tournament, and this is our best guess at those minimum requirements for the eight teams surrounding the cut line.
You can't bet on them, but these are the tournament odds we've generated for the last four in and first four out, according to Tuesday night's Bracket Matrix update. They are listed in descending order of how safely in the field they are (or aren't).
Spot in Bracket Matrix: Fourth-to-Last In
Remaining Schedule: at Oregon State, at Oregon, Pac-12 tournament (projected No. 7 seed)
Thanks to four consecutive wins, including Quadrant 1 victories at Washington and vs. Colorado, Stanford is in much better shape than it was two weeks ago.
With a NET ranking in the top 30 and only one bad loss—a 52-50 game at rival California that isn't all that bad—it's hard to imagine this team getting left out. The only legitimate beef here is with the nonconference strength of schedule, but Stanford blew out Oklahoma on a neutral floor, almost beat Butler 24 hours later and played (and lost to) Kansas for the fourth consecutive year. It's not like the Cardinal faced nobody.
As such, Stanford is probably one victory away from sealing the deal, whether that's a road win over one of the Oregon schools this week or simply avoiding a bad loss to the likes of Utah or Washington State in the opening round of the Pac-12 tournament.
That said, if the Cardinal are unable to win Thursday night's game at Oregon State, this becomes more of a 50/50 proposition. They likely aren't going to win at Oregon, and while I think a victory over Utah or Washington State would be enough, it wouldn't make them a lock—particularly if they proceed to lay an egg in the subsequent quarterfinal against an also-bubbly Arizona State or UCLA.
Beat the Beavers and they should be good, though.
Tournament Odds: -165
Resume: 19-10, NET 51, KP 44, SOS 14, NC SOS 28, 2-6 vs Q1, 7-0 vs. Q2, 10-4 vs. Q3/Q4
Spot in Bracket Matrix: Third-to-Last In
Remaining Schedule: vs. Temple, AAC Tournament (Projected No. 2 Seed)
For much of Tuesday night's game against South Florida, Cincinnati seemed more than content with going to the NIT. The Bearcats trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half before finally showing a sense of urgency and storming back for a 12-point victory.
A loss to the Bulls might have been the final nail in the coffin, but Cincinnati is still hanging on in spite of its quartet of Quadrant 3 losses to Colgate, UCF, Bowling Green and Tulane.
As long as the Bearcats win that regular-season finale against Temple, they should enter the AAC tournament on the correct side of the projected cut line, though not by much.
Their NET ranking isn't great, and they have suffered six losses to teams not expected to dance. And as far as good wins are concerned, Cincinnati has a home victory over Houston and a season sweep of Wichita State—the latter of which is only in slightly better shape for an at-large bid in its own right.
In other words, the Bearcats will still need to prove they belong in the field by making a good impression in the AAC tournament.
Landing on the opposite side of the bracket from both Houston and Wichita State significantly increases Cincinnati's odds of reaching the championship game, but it's a double-edged sword because it means it won't face a legitimate at-large candidate until the championship.
An immediate loss to Connecticut or UCF (projected Nos. 7 and 10 seeds) would be brutal, and even a loss to Tulsa (projected No. 3 seed) in the semifinals would leave the Bearcats in roughly the same position they are in today.
Tournament Odds: +150
Resume: 19-11, NET 75, KP 80, SOS 56, NC SOS 205, 6-6 vs Q1, 3-3 vs. Q2, 9-2 vs. Q3/Q4
Spot in Bracket Matrix: Second-to-Last In
Remaining Schedule: at USC, Pac-12 Tournament (projected No. 2 seed)
It would be awesome if we could get one "phone-a-friend" lifeline per season in which we were able to pick the selection committee's brain about one particular team. Because there's always one "I have no clue what to make of this" resume, and this year's is UCLA.
Over the past seven weeks, the Bruins have been a tournament team. They have won 11 of their last 13 games, including each of the past seven. During that time, they swept Arizona, swept Colorado and picked up a few decent wins at Oregon State, at Utah and vs. Arizona State. Aside from the two-point road win over Washington on Jan. 2, each of UCLA's eight best wins have come in the past seven weeks.
But then there are the first 10 weeks of the season, during which the Bruins suffered an egregious home loss to Cal State Fullerton, endured less-awful-but-still-bad defeats at the hands of Hofstra, Washington State and North Carolina and didn't even look like they belonged in the CBI or CIT tournaments, let alone the NCAA.
After 17 games, they were 8-9 with seven losses by double digits and nary a respectable showing against a likely tournament team.
Is the selection committee going to somewhat overlook more than two months' worth of poor play—and the poor current predictive metrics that came with it—because the Bruins have gotten hot in a conference that probably won't produce a single Elite Eight team?
That all hinges on how they close this thing out.
Lose at USC and get immediately bounced from the Pac-12 tournament and UCLA won't be dancing. Beat the Trojans and win the Pac-12 quarterfinal and the Bruins should be in. But a 1-1 (beat USC, lose first P12 game) or 1-2 (lose to USC, win first P12 tourney game, lose in semifinal) finish would lead to a tough decision for the selection committee.
If only we knew where it stood on UCLA.
Tournament Odds: +125
Utah State Aggies
Resume: 23-8, NET 38, KP 42, SOS 120, NC SOS 88, 2-4 vs Q1, 2-2 vs. Q2, 17-2 vs. Q3/Q4
Spot in Bracket Matrix: Last Team In
Remaining Schedule: MWC Tournament (Projected path of New Mexico, Nevada and San Diego State)
While the Aggies might sneak in if the NCAA tournament started today, they are going to be sweating bullets for more than a week if they don't win the Mountain West Conference tournament. (Games in said tournament are this Thursday, Friday and Saturday.)
They were in much better shape prior to the regular-season finale at New Mexico. The Lobos hadn't beaten a remotely quality opponent in 2.5 months and had lost 10 of their last 12 games, but Utah State still managed to blow a 52-38 lead with less than 12 minutes remaining in the process of acquiring its second-worst loss of the season.
The Aggies do still have Quadrant 1 neutral-site victories over LSU and Florida, but pretty much all they have done since those nonconference wins is dare the committee to leave them out by stockpiling questionable road losses in league play.
If they don't win the MWC tournament, they had better at least get to the championship game, and it better be against San Diego State. Not only would that be a "quality loss," but it would also mean no bid thieves from this conference.
Even in that scenario, though, Utah State would likely enter the final week in this spot right on the bubble, praying for no bid thieves and hoping that teams currently on the wrong side of the bubble suffer early losses in their respective conference tournaments. But let's be real, there are always a couple of teams that storm into the field during conference tournament week. It's realistically auto bid or bust for USU.
The Aggies would have a decent shot at beating San Diego State on a neutral floor, though, especially if the Aztecs are as content with the No. 2 seed in the West Region as many are suggesting they should be.
Tournament Odds: +225
North Carolina State Wolfpack
Resume: 18-12, NET 58, KP 55, SOS 53, NC SOS 81, 4-5 vs Q1, 5-4 vs. Q2, 9-3 vs. Q3/Q4
Spot in Bracket Matrix: First Team Out
Remaining Schedule: vs. Wake Forest, ACC Tournament (Projected No. 7 Seed)
After NC State pummeled Duke at home on Feb. 19, it looked like the Wolfpack would get in as long as they won their remaining games against the bottom half of the ACC. Losing at home against Florida State and on the road against Duke wouldn't be an issue, so long as they beat Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Wake Forest and whoever they drew in the second round of the conference tournament.
With that mandate, it was obvious that the road game against UNC would be the most likely problem spot. Lo and behold, that loss to the Tar Heels last Tuesday is effectively the difference between NC State being in and out right now.
That isn't to say it was a terrible loss or that it's the only reason NC State isn't in the field. But if we're to believe the Wolfpack were barely on the right side of the projected cut line after beating Duke, that meant they probably needed to win three of their final regular-season games. The Pitt and Wake games were the "givens," and the UNC game was the wild card they were unable to get.
Closing out the regular season with a home win over Wake Forest won't do anything to help the Wolfpack, but it is a game they need to win. A loss to the Demon Deacons would potentially mean NC State needs to reach the championship game of the ACC tournament to get back into position for a bid.
But if they beat Wake Forest, get an ACC tournament win over a team like Boston College or Virginia Tech and then lose in the quarterfinals to a Florida State or a Louisville, it'll be a photo finish.
On the plus side, at least we won't have to spend the remaining hours until Selection Sunday screaming about NC State's lamentable nonconference strength of schedule. That sure was annoying last year.
Tournament Odds: +105
Rhode Island Rams
Resume: 20-9, NET 52, KP 56, SOS 77, NC SOS 47, 1-4 vs Q1, 5-3 vs. Q2, 14-1 vs. Q3/Q4
Spot in Bracket Matrix: Tied for Second Team Out
Remaining Schedule: at Massachusetts, A-10 Tournament (Projected No. 3 Seed)
It's rather fitting that Rhode Island and Richmond are tied in the Bracket Matrix, barely on the wrong side of the cut line, because it has been quite the puzzle to determine which of these A-10 teams most deserves to be deemed the top challenger to Dayton and the league's second-best candidate for a bid.
However, Rhode Island sure seems to be going out of its way to make sure Richmond receives those honors as the Rams have now lost four of their past six games, including not-great losses to Saint Louis (home) and Davidson (road).
At this point, Rhode Island has just one win over a projected tournament team, and that December home game against Providence isn't even a Quadrant 1 result. Rather, URI's lone Quadrant 1 victory was a road game against VCU that has been losing value on a near-daily basis for more than a month.
Thus, its two best wins were nothing special, and it still has that hideous 85-75 Quadrant 4 loss to Brown on the resume.
Translation: Rhode Island better make a big impression in the A-10 tournament.
A win over Massachusetts on Saturday is merely a Quadrant 3 result, which won't do much. The A-10 quarterfinal might also be a Quadrant 3 game. The Rams likely need to face and beat Richmond in the semifinals before giving Dayton a legitimate fight in the championship game.
Even then, they would still be on the bubble. And given their recent struggles, it seems likely they'll slip up again before then anyway.
Tournament Odds: +350
Resume: 23-7, NET 42, KP 48, SOS 94, NC SOS 102, 2-4 vs Q1, 2-2 vs. Q2, 19-1 vs. Q3/Q4
Spot in Bracket Matrix: Tied for Second Team Out
Remaining Schedule: at Duquesne, A-10 Tournament (Projected No. 2 Seed)
Save for one not-that-bad misstep at Saint Bonaventure two weekends ago, Richmond has done an excellent job treading water for more than a month.
The Spiders have won eight of their last nine games, including a blowout of VCU that seemed like a quality win at the time. Unfortunately, the Rams have been in free-fall mode for a while now, so that's not even a top-half-of-Quadrant 2 victory anymore.
That collection of victories hasn't done much to help them gain ground of their own volition, but the Spiders have benefited from more bubble teams playing their way out than in.
The regular-season finale at Duquesne is going to be their toughest test since January, at least as far as the NET is concerned. That is a solid Quadrant 2 opportunity, which could really help Richmond given its minimal supply of victories over the top two quadrants.
Winning that coin-flip game may temporarily push the Spiders into the projected field, but they'll need to back it up with a good run through the A-10 tournament, in which they are likely to be the No. 2 seed projected to face No. 3 Rhode Island in the semifinals.
If things play to form and we are blessed enough to get that bubble bonanza, then the winner will be in good shape to dance, while the loser may need to settle for a No. 1 seed in the NIT.
Tournament Odds: +200
Resume: 19-11, NET 55, KP 49, SOS 40, NC SOS 113, 5-7 vs Q1, 2-4 vs. Q2, 12-0 vs. Q3/Q4
Spot in Bracket Matrix: Fourth Team Out
Remaining Schedule: vs. Oklahoma State, Big 12 Tournament (Projected No. 3 Seed)
Texas was as good as dead three weeks ago. Not only had we written the Longhorns out of the tournament conversation, but we were also already trying to give head coach Shaka Smart's job to John Beilein. And with players dropping like flies due to injury, there was no good reason to believe they had any hope of turning things around.
Against all odds, though, Texas has won five in a row. The last three (vs. West Virginia, at Texas Tech, at Oklahoma) were each Quadrant 1 games, too, breathing some serious life into a tournament resume that previously consisted of one road win over Purdue and little else.
The first four wins of the current streak were relatively comfortable, but what a heart-stopping rock fight that was at Oklahoma on Tuesday night. The Sooners led by three with less than 30 seconds remaining, but they missed three of their final four free throws, leaving the door open for Matt Coleman to bank in an off-balance, last-second three-pointer for the victory.
That sequence may well end up being what puts the Longhorns into the tournament.
The predictive metrics are never going to look great because the Longhorns were absolutely pummeled by West Virginia (97-59), Iowa State (81-52) and Providence (70-48). They also had four other losses by double digits and have a year-to-date scoring margin of just 1.6 points per game.
But Texas now has five Quadrant 1 wins and zero losses outside the NET Top 90. If it wins the regular-season finale against Oklahoma State, there's not going to be much of a case for keeping this team out. Heck, even if it loses that game and its Big 12 tournament opener against an Oklahoma or a West Virginia, Texas will at least still be solidly in the conversation.
Tournament Odds: -175