March Madness 2021: Schedule and Bracket Predictions for Bubble Teams

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2021

March Madness 2021: Schedule and Bracket Predictions for Bubble Teams

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    The dawn of March means time is running out for teams on the bubble to make their cases to participate in the madness of the NCAA men's basketball tournament in 2021.

    This year's bubble teams feature some bluebloods. Joe Lunardi of ESPN's last four in and last four out feature Duke and Michigan State, both of whom are traditional tournament powerhouses but will have to prove they belong in the field this year.

    The bubble also includes Indiana, which has struggled to build a resume in the brutal Big 10, Drake and Boise State, who could both make rare appearances in the tourney.

    With Selection Sunday set for March 14, these teams only have a few opportunities left to pick up some quality wins and beef up their resumes.

2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Schedule

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    Selection Sunday: March 14

    First Four: March 18 at Mackey Arena and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall

    First Round: March 18-20 at Mackey Arena, Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum and Lucas Oil Stadium

    Second Round: March 21-22 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, and Lucas Oil Stadium

    Sweet 16: March 27-28 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Hinkle Fieldhouse

    Elite Eight: March 29-30 at Lucas Oil Stadium

    Final Four: April 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium

    National Championship: April 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium


    All dates and TV schedules can be found on the tournament's official website.

Duke Blue Devils

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Duke's chances of salvaging their season and at least making the tournament appear to have peaked with February's 66-65 win over Virginia. However, that momentum took a big hit with back-to-back losses against Louisville and at Georgia Tech.

    Both teams are also on Lunardi's bubble. The losses moved Duke's record on the season to 11-10, with a 2-4 record against Quad 1 teams and a .500 record against teams in Quad 2 and 3.

    The Blue Devils have just one regular-season game left to improve their resume. They will head to Chapel Hill to take on North Carolina on Saturday before playing in the ACC Tournament, where they are on pace to be the No. 10 seed.

    That would set them up with an opening-round game against last-place Boston College, which wouldn't do much to improve their standing but would set up a rematch against North Carolina. Winning that would give them a crack at No. 2 Virginia.

    All of those hypothetical roads won't matter if Duke doesn't start putting things together quickly, though. They shot 58.8 percent from the free-throw line and 44.1 percent from the field, showing a lack of focus as the games become more and more important down the stretch.

    On the season, the Blue Devils rank 100th in KenPom's defensive efficiency metric.

    This is a young Blue Devils team that has underachieved every step of the way this season. There have been just enough signs of life to keep hopes alive but little reason to believe they get enough quality wins down the stretch to get in.

    Prediction: Out (for the first time since 1996).

Michigan State Spartans

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Tom Izzo has plenty to commiserate with Mike Krzyzewski about this season. Both are traditionally fighting to earn higher seeds this time of year. But they are fighting just to get into the tournament field.

    Fortunately for Izzo, his team is playing much better. They have won four of their past five, including big wins against Illinois and Ohio State as well as two wins over fellow bubble team Indiana.

    They also have two regular-season meetings with Michigan in which they could make a statement.

    Unlike Duke, a look at Michigan State's record by quadrants helps their case. The Spartans have played more than half of their games against Quad 1 opponents, way more than anyone else on the bubble, according to CBS Sports.

    Sparty has a 4-9 record against those opponents but a 6-1 combined record against Quad 2 and 3 teams.

    Those wins against Illinois and Ohio State bode well for what Michigan State can do in the Big 10 tournament. The Spartans are in line to take on someone like Indiana in the tournament before getting another chance against one of the conference titans.

    They have proved they can beat one of those teams if Aaron Henry is on. Another win over a team like Michigan, Illinois or Ohio State and Izzo's side would have a good argument to get in.

    Prediction: In with at least one win over Michigan.

Boise State Broncos

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    The Boise State Broncos are Lunardi's last team in, but their campaign took a major hit with a loss to 11-10 Fresno State on Tuesday. After back-to-back defeats to San Diego State, the Broncos only have the Mountain West Conference tournament in which to prove their worth.

    The safest route to the Big Dance would be either making the championship game or winning the tournament outright.

    The Mountain West figures to generate at least two tournament teams in San Diego State and Colorado State. Utah State will also be looking to improve its resume. The Broncos have two wins over the Aggies, though, so they hold the upper hand if the committee wants to compare the two head-to-head.

    With no regular-season games left, the Broncos will have to make a run in the tournament to impress the committee. A losing record against the top two teams in the conference is bad for their chances to win. The loss to the Bulldogs makes it concerning they will even advance.

    In the defeat to Fresno State, the Broncos got off to a slow start and never recovered. That's not something they can afford to do if they want to walk the thin line to the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

    Prediction: Out after an upset loss in the MWC Tournament.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Josh Pastner is well on his way to his first NCAA men's tournament berth with Georgia Tech. After serving a postseason ban last season, the Yellow Jackets have been on the bubble but the race is starting to fall in their favor as we near Selection Sunday.

    The moment that probably killed Duke's chances was another quality win for his team. Georgia Tech has won five contests in a row, including back-to-back wins over bubble teams in Duke and Syracuse, plus a win over a tournament-bound team in Virginia Tech.

    They have one more contest at Wake Forest, which likely won't help their cause much but won't hurt them as long as they don't suffer an upset loss to the Demon Deacons.

    Big man Moses Wright has integral to their success. Over the past three games, he has scored at least 25 points while pulling down no fewer than 10 rebounds.

    His presence inside is going to be a problem for just about any team as long he continues playing at that level. The Jackets might not even need a strong run in the ACC Tournament, but Wright is likely to lead them on one anyway.

    Prediction: In (without breaking a sweat on Selection Sunday).