NCAA Tournament 2022: Stock Watch for Bubble Teams at Start of Championship Week
When conference tournaments begin, life on the March Madness bubble swiftly becomes a daily struggle in men's college basketball.
Every day, the threat of bid-stealers looms. That exciting upset is entertaining for most fans, but certain teams dread the thought of that program taking another win. And another. And soon enough, as the upstart squad wins a conference tournament title, the bubble gets smaller.
While a dozen conference tournaments have started, the bulk of initial postseason drama is now getting underway. Most of these high-major leagues have key bubble teams, too.
Heading into a busy week of programs chasing automatic bids to the Big Dance, we're resetting the bubble situation—largely based on the latest results.
Stock Considerably Up
Since toppling Purdue on Feb. 10, the Wolverines have alternated results in a reasonable way. They lost to four ranked opponents and beat the unranked competition—though in a strong Big Ten, victories over Iowa, Rutgers and Michigan State were all valuable.
In the regular-season finale, however, Michigan broke through with a road win at Ohio State. That's a massive late boost for the Wolverines, who take on Indiana to begin the Big Ten tourney.
Are they in? If that 14-point victory over Houston on Sunday didn't lock up a spot for Memphis, Penny Hardaway's club isn't far off. Memphis closed the regular season on a 10-1 surge with two valuable wins against Houston.
No matter whether UCF of South Florida await in the AAC quarterfinals, Memphis needs that victory to feel safer.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Entering the clash at Duke, the problem with North Carolina's resume was the absence of a marquee win. But the Tar Heels spoiled Mike Krzyzewski's home finale with an emphatic 94-81 triumph.
As a result, UNC is very likely headed to March Madness. One victory in the ACC tournament would securely lock in the Heels.
Stock Slightly Up
After coughing up a late advantage to Virginia Tech on Feb. 26, the 'Canes toppled both Boston College and Syracuse on the road. Though the victories didn't put an exclamation point on Miami's resume, the team avoided a not-so-great loss.
At this point, regardless of what happens in its ACC tournament opener, Miami is undoubtedly in the discussion. But one final win—especially if it's opposite No. 5 Wake Forest—would be awfully helpful for the fourth-seeded Hurricanes.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Pretty wild that the ACC's No. 2 seed isn't a March Madness lock, right? Such is life for Notre Dame, which is 2-6 against Quadrant 1 competition and 2-2 opposite Quadrant 2 foes. As with Miami, the Irish would benefit from another win.
Barring an upset, ND will meet Virginia Tech in the quarterfinals. The other options are Clemson and North Carolina State.
San Francisco Dons
Had the Dons upended Gonzaga on Monday, their stock would've skyrocketed. To no surprise, though, San Francisco bowed out of the West Coast Conference tournament in the semifinals.
Nevertheless, its quarterfinal triumph over BYU gave San Francisco a nice boost to a 6-2 record against Quadrant 2 teams. It'd be stunning if the Dons aren't in the Big Dance.
On the surface, this may seem positive. However, the Gators desperately need a reason to have their stock improve. They're probably on the wrong side of the cut line.
Florida missed its final regular-season chance for a marquee win, losing to Kentucky by eight points. The Gators simply must defeat Texas A&M in the SEC tourney second round and then top-seeded Auburn in the quarters to have a place in the bubble conversation.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
The dilemma with Rutgers is the potential for a deep run compared to the unsurprising possibility of an immediate exit. While the Scarlet Knights have basically beaten everyone of note in the Big Ten, they barely avoided falling to Indiana and Penn State to close the regular season and have a handful of bad losses.
Rutgers' opening game—expected to be against Iowa, barring an upset from Northwestern or Nebraska—is massive for the team's NCAA tournament hopes.
During the final week of the regular season, SMU edged past Cincinnati and Tulane. Dropping either game could've been disastrous, but those victories kept a second Quadrant 3 loss off the resume.
Short of celebrating an AAC title, the Mustangs should be hoping to take on Memphis in the semifinals and snag a quality win.
Just beat UNLV. That's the challenge for Wyoming, which should be on the proper side of the cut line as the Mountain West tourney begins. But with four losses in the last seven games—including a Quadrant 3 letdown at New Mexico—the Pokes aren't comfortable.
They capped the regular season with an overtime win against Fresno State to prevent a further slide.
Stock Slightly Down
The issue with "slightly down" is BYU had little, if any, room to fall in the pecking order on the bubble.
After rolling Loyola Marymount in the West Coast Conference opener, the Cougars lost to San Francisco. BYU still has a shot, considering it holds 4-6 and 3-3 marks against Quadrant 1 and 2 teams, respectively. Now begins the waiting game—and hoping for zero bid-stealers in other league tournaments.
Oh, man, did the Hoosiers need that upset at Purdue. However, the Boilermakers managed a 69-67 victory and sent Indiana into the Big Ten tourney with a 2-7 record in the last nine outings.
The good news is Indiana could rapidly land two quality wins against Michigan and Illinois. The bad news is both of those programs beat the Hoosiers by 17-plus points in the regular season.
In a vacuum, losing to Saint Louis isn't a problem. The issue is VCU already had a thin margin for error, so every letdown is a crushing one. Entering the Atlantic 10 tourney, the Rams are 2-3 and 4-4 against Quadrant 1 and 2 teams.
VCU doesn't necessarily need an AAC title, but anything short of two victories will create a nerve-wracking Selection Sunday. Even winning two may only slightly reduce the tension.
Virginia Tech Hokies
It might be generous to have the Hokies "slightly down" instead of in the next category. Though it counted as a Quadrant 2 loss, falling at Clemson in the regular-season finale was a rough result.
Virginia Tech is just 1-5 opposite Quadrant 1 competition and 4-5 against the second group. Given that the Hokies might not have a Q1 opportunity until the ACC semifinals, they're effectively in championship-or-bust territory.
Stock Considerably Down
So, uh, that closing week could've gone better. After sandwiching a victory over UCLA with narrow losses to Arizona and USC, the Ducks had an opportunity to reaffirm themselves as a bubble team to watch. Instead, they fell to Washington and Washington State.
Oregon's only path to the Big Dance is through a Pac-12 title. That pursuit begins opposite Oregon State—which, hey, pulled off this exact championship run as the No. 5 seed last season.
Xavier had dropped five straight games and seven of the last eight before a 22-point triumph over Georgetown, but that didn't help its resume because the Hoyas are 6-24.
Lose to Butler, and the Musketeers are unquestionably in trouble. Win that game, however, and a third shot at Providence could be Xavier's ticket to March Madness.