Predicting the Best CBB Teams Who'll Crash and Burn to Miss March Madness
No one wants to end up on the wrong side of the bubble.
With 32 of the NCAA tournament's 68 spots decided by automatic bid, there are only so many at-large berths available when the field is set, and a handful of tournament-caliber teams always wind up on the outside looking in each year.
Ahead we've taken a crack at predicting the seven best teams that will miss March Madness.
Whether it's a tough remaining schedule, a lack of marquee wins, a troubling recent stretch or a simple numbers game, each of these teams faces a steep uphill battle.
There's still time for resumes to be improved, and a conference tournament win would make it a moot point. But right now, these seven schools, presented in alphabetical order, look to be on their way to the NIT.
Note: NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings in parentheses. Notable wins written in italics indicate a road game, while underlined games indicate a neutral site.
San Diego State Aztecs (32)
Record: 17-6, 9-3 in Mountain West
Quadrant 1 Wins: Saint Mary's (21), Fresno State (74)
Quadrant 2 Wins: Colorado State (31), Utah State (64), UNLV (91)
Q1: 2-6, Q2: 3-0, Q3: 6-0, Q4: 6-0
Bad Losses: None
It's a tough road ahead for one of college basketball's best defensive teams.
On Tuesday, they'll look to avenge an ugly 42-37 home loss to Boise State, and next week they have another tough road test when they travel to take on a very good Wyoming team.
The Aztecs are capable of shutting down any team in the country, and last time out, they held Fresno State to 44 points in 55 possessions. Still, they are inconsistent enough on the offensive end to be susceptible.
With Colorado State (No. 7 seed), Wyoming (No. 8 seed) and Boise State (No. 8 seed) all comfortably in the field based on the latest Bracket Matrix, the Aztecs could wind up being the victim of a Mountain West numbers crunch, depending on how things play out in the major conference tournaments.
North Carolina Tar Heels (42)
Record: 19-8, 11-5 in ACC
Quadrant 1 Wins: Virginia Tech (41)
Quadrant 2 W: Michigan (34), Virginia Tech (41), Clemson (94), Louisville (124)
Q1: 1-7, Q2: 4-0, Q3: 8-0, Q4: 6-1
Bad Losses: Pittsburgh (169)
The Tar Heels took care of business on Saturday with a big road win over Virginia Tech following their worst loss of the season against Pitt on Wednesday.
Unfortunately, their upcoming games can really only hurt their resume.
Leading up to the regular-season finale against Duke on March 5, they'll face Louisville (NET: 124) at home, NC State (NET: 131) on the road, and Syracuse (NET: 84) at home. While a loss in any of those three games would likely push the Tar Heels to the other side of the bubble, wins wouldn't do much to advance their case for a spot in the field.
That's treacherous ground for a team that has underperformed relative to preseason expectations.
Indiana Hoosiers (43)
Record: 16-9, 7-8 in Big Ten
Quadrant 1 Wins: Purdue (9), Ohio State (18)
Quadrant 2 Wins: Notre Dame (57), Saint John's (67), Maryland (95)
Q1: 2-5, Q2: 3-4, Q3: 3-0, Q4: 8-0
Bad Losses: None
The Hoosiers enter Monday night's road matchup with Ohio State mired in a four-game losing streak that has dropped them below .500 in Big Ten conference play.
Leading scorer Trayce Jackson-Davis exploded for 30 points on 10-of-13 shooting in Tuesday's loss to Wisconsin, which was a welcome sign after he had averaged just 12.7 points on 44.9 percent shooting in the team's previous seven games.
They have what should be a gimme at home against Maryland on Thursday, but their other four remaining games are on the road against Ohio State, Minnesota and Purdue and at home against a red-hot Rutgers team.
Even splitting those four contests might not be enough to keep the Hoosiers on the right side of the bubble conversation.
Oklahoma Sooners (45)
Record: 14-13, 4-10 in Big 12
Quadrant 1 Wins: Texas Tech (8), Arkansas (23), West Virginia (69)
Quadrant 2 Wins: Iowa State (35), Florida (49), Kansas State (60), UCF (92)
Q1: 3-10, Q2: 4-2, Q3: 1-1, Q4: 6-0
Bad Losses: Butler (127)
Why are we still talking about an Oklahoma team that has gone 3-11 in its last 14 games?
Those three wins have been at home against Iowa State (NET: 35), on the road against West Virginia (NET: 69), and a decisive 70-55 victory at home against Texas Tech (NET: 8) earlier this month. There is no question the Sooners are capable of beating tournament-caliber teams.
However, they've also already piled up 10 conference losses.
Tuesday night's rematch with Texas Tech would go a long way in advancing their resume if they can find a way to win again. Even if they survive that game, though, losses against any of Oklahoma State, West Virginia or Kansas State to close out their regular-season slate would be a dagger to their chances.
SMU Mustangs (46)
Record: 19-6, 9-3 in AAC
Quadrant 1 Wins: Houston (4), Memphis (44)
Quadrant 2 Wins: Memphis (44), Dayton (52), Tulane (100)
Q1: 2-1, Q2: 3-3, Q3: 7-1, Q4: 7-1
Bad Losses: Missouri (147), Loyola-Marymount (215)
Since stumbling to back-to-back losses to Missouri (NET: 147) and Loyola-Marymount (NET: 215) at the Jacksonville Classic in November, SMU has gone 16-3 to build a viable at-large resume.
That solid stretch includes an 85-83 victory over then-No. 6 Houston on Feb. 9, but their tournament case took a major hit on Wednesday when they suffered a 64-57 loss on the road to Temple. That's a Quad 2 loss for the time being but could easily wind up slipping to Quad 3 loss with the Owls hanging on the fringe of the top 135.
The good news for the Mustangs is that three of their final four games are at home, where they have gone an impressive 13-0 on the year. They also regained some momentum with a 73-57 victory at home over a good Memphis team on Sunday.
However, their only remaining road game is against Houston on Feb. 27, and that could be another resume booster or a nail in the coffin. Regardless of how the regular season plays out, the Mustangs will likely have some work to do in the AAC tournament to secure their spot in the field.
UAB Blazers (51)
Record: 18-7, 10-4 in ACC
Quadrant 1 Wins: North Texas (39), Saint Louis (59)
Quadrant 2 Wins: Louisiana Tech (102), Western Kentucky (121)
Q1: 2-1, Q2: 2-3, Q3: 5-2, Q4: 9-1
Bad Losses: Rice (205), Old Dominion (219), Marshall (247)
North Texas and UAB each have a viable bubble case coming out of Conference USA. However, it's highly unlikely that both will find their way into the field if someone else from that conference secures the automatic bid, and even one at-large bid might be a longshot.
The Blazers rank in the top 75 in adjusted offensive efficiency (32nd) and adjusted defensive efficiency (75th) in KenPom's ratings, and they have a dynamic go-to scorer in Jordan Walker, who is averaging 19.2 points per game and has 36-point and 42-point outbursts on his resume this year.
However, it's difficult to look past those three losses to teams ranked outside the NET top 200.
Their only real hope outside of the automatic bid is to run the table the rest of the way during the regular season and to beat North Texas in the conference tournament semifinals for another Quad 1 victory. That would place them squarely on the bubble, though still with an uphill battle to make the field.
Oregon Ducks (63)
Record: 17-10, 10-6, in Pac-12
Quadrant 1 Wins: UCLA (13), USC (24)
Quadrant 2 Wins: SMU (46), Washington State (48), Colorado (79), Utah (122)
Q1: 2-4, Q2: 4-3, Q3: 3-3, Q4: 7-0
Bad Losses: Colorado (79), Arizona State (119), California (139)
After reaching the Sweet 16 last season, Oregon began the year at No. 13 in the preseason AP poll.
Despite losing Eugene Omoruyi and Chris Duarte to the NBA and LJ Figueroa to graduation, they still returned an experienced team with three seniors and three juniors in the regular rotation, led by former top-100 recruit Will Richardson (per 247Sports) and transfers De'Vion Harmon (Oklahoma) and Jacob Young (Rutgers).
They stumbled out of the gates to a 6-6 record but seemed to find their stride with a 9-1 stretch in Pac-12 play, including back-to-back road wins over UCLA (No. 3) and USC (No. 5), who were both ranked inside the AP Top 5 at the time.
However, they have dropped three of their last four, including Quad 3 losses to Arizona State and California.
Home games against UCLA and USC await this coming week, and the outcome of those contests will likely determine if the Ducks can salvage their season or if they'll squander such an impressive stretch in conference play.
All stats courtesy of Sports Reference.