Updated: Mar 11, 2021
Bubble Watch is coming to an end. But that’s OK because that means our hard work and your enjoyment of this column will be rewarded with BRACKETS! Selection Sunday is now four days away!
This column will feature teams in three categories:
Bubble Watch Teams who should be in but winning their first-round conference tournament game would seal the deal;
Bubble Watch Teams who better win their first-round conference tournament game, and maybe another one, or there will be a lot of anxiety heading into Selection Sunday;
Former Bubble Watch Teams who are resigned that their 2021 NCAA Tournament fate revolves around their ability to win the conference tournament for the automatic bid.
We will be back with another post on Wednesday and Thursday night with the winners and losers from tournament games played those days and set the scene for Friday’s Bubble Watch games.
Enjoy the Madness! In many ways, this is the greatest week of the college basketball season with the major conferences hosting their conference tournaments.
TEAMS WHO SHOULD BE IN BUT CAN SEAL THE DEAL WITH A WIN:
Bubble Watch Teams who can seal the deal with a first-round conference tournament game win.
Michigan State (15-11, 9-11; NCAA NET: 67):
Big 10 First Round Game - Maryland - Thursday - Noon - BTN
Sparty wasn’t even on this list two weeks ago but their resume now includes wins over Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio State. No one has that quality of wins. Having said that, to be completely safe, beat Maryland in the first round of the Big 10 Tournament on Thursday.
Maryland (14-12, 9-11; NCAA NET: 34):
Big 10 First Round Game - Michigan State - Thursday - Noon - BTN
No one had as bad a week as Maryland. After losing to Northwestern last Wednesday, the Terps had a huge lead Sunday against Penn State at home on Senior Day with fans for the first time, but couldn’t close the deal. A win would have also given Maryland the seven-seed and a first-round game against Indiana. Instead, they get the red hot Spartans. With Michigan looming in the quarterfinal round. Losing three in a row to end the season is not a way to impress the Selection Committee.
North Carolina (17-9, 10-6; NCAA NET: 39):
ACC Quarterfinal - Virginia Tech - Thursday - 9:00 pm - ESPN2
North Carolina has already climbed to a No. 9 seed on Joe Lunardi's most recent bracket, so they are all but locked in. But boy oh boy, if they wanted to seal their fate, what better chance to do it than by knocking off Virginia Tech here?
Georgia Tech (15-8, 11-6; NCAA NET: 38):
ACC Quarterfinal Game - Miami - Thursday - 2:30 pm -
With their five-game winning streak, Josh Pastner’s squad earned the 4-seed and double bye in the ACC Tournament. They will see Miami, who comes in hot with two wins but is playing their third day in as many days, in this quarterfinal game.
BUBBLE TEAMS WHO NEED A WIN OR TWO:
Here are the Bubble Watch Teams who are truly on the bubble and need to win as many games as they can to secure their spot. Since the scenario is pretty simple, we will just list the team, its credentials, and who they play in their first game of their respective tournament.
The one game that highlights this list is the Big East quarterfinal battle between a pair of Bubble Watch teams when Seton Hall and St. John’s square off in what is a virtual elimination game on Thursday afternoon at 3 pm.
The one conference to pay attention to more than others may be the Mountain West Conference. There are three Bubble Watch Teams whose fate will be determined with this event. San Diego State is the top seed and solidly in the field. Boise State, Colorado State, and Utah State are all knocking on the door. The team that gets to the final will punch their ticket, making those potential semifinal games between those four teams a must watch.
Games are listed in order by day and time for your viewing pleasure. Set your calendars accordingly.
THURSDAY, MARCH 11 GAMES
Syracuse (15-8, 9-7; NCAA NET: 49):
ACC Quarterfinals - Virginia - Thursday - Virginia - Noon - ESPN2
Seton Hall (13-12, 10-9; NCAA NET: 58):
Big East First Round - Thursday - St. John’s - 3 pm FS1
St. John’s (16-10, 10-9; NCAA NET: 68):
Big East First Round - Thursday - St. John’s - 3 pm FS1
Boise State (17-7, 14-6; NCAA NET: 43):
Mountain West Quarterfinal - Thursday - Nevada - 5:30 pm - CBSN
Ole Miss (15-10, 10-8; NCAA NET: 53):
SEC Second Round - Thursday - South Carolina - 9 pm SECN
Utah State (17-7, 15-4; NCAA NET: 48):
Mountain West Quarterfinal - Thursday - Air Force/UNLV Winner - 9 pm - CBSN
Colorado State (16-5, 14-4; NCAA NET: 50):
Mountain West Quarterfinal - Thursday - New Mexico/Fresno State Winner - 11:30 pm - CBSN
FRIDAY, MARCH 12, 2021
Wichita State (13-4, 11-2; NCAA NET: 65):
AAC Quarterfinal - Friday - Temple/USF Winner - Noon - ESPNU
SMU (11-4, 7-4; NCAA NET: 56):
AAC Quarterfinal - Friday - Cincinnati - 3 pm - ESPNU
Memphis (15-7, 11-4; NCAA NET: 52):
AAC Quarterfinal - Friday - East Carolina/UCF Winner - 10 pm - ESPNU
WAITING IN THE CLUBHOUSE:
Then there are two teams whose seasons have concluded. Drake is one of The Last Teams In according to Lunardi’s latest Bracketology. That’s better than St. Louis, who is among The Last Four Out. Perhaps they should play one another. Another quality win would enhance their resume. The loser can start preparing for the NIT.
Drake (23-4, 15-3; NCAA NET: 47)
Saint Louis (14-6, 6-4; NCAA NET: 44)
Here are the teams who lost on Thursday, who now have left their fate in the hands of the NCAA Selection Committee:
XAVIER (13-8; 6-8; NCAA NET: 62)
Xavier couldn't hold on to a 14-point halftime lead and lost to Butler 70-69 (OT) in the first round of the Big East Tournament. Losing three in a row to end your season and having won only one Quad 1 game isn't a recipe for hearing your name called on Selection Sunday.
LOUISVILLE (13-7; 8-6; NCAA NET 57) Louisville had a chance to beat Duke three times this season, which is a rarity. Instead, Duke kept its status as a Bubble Watch team with its win over the Cardinals. Louisville only has one Quad 1 win and the lowest NET ranking of ACC teams in consideration. They do own a 6-1 Quad 2 mark. Now, imagine this scenario for Card fans - watching Duke win the ACC or Kentucky winning four games in Nashville to steal a bid. Now, imagine Lousiville is left out because of Kentucky. That would be a long off-season for Chris Mack and company.
POTENTIAL BID STEALERS:
Finally, these teams need to win their conference tournament to hear their name called on Selection Sunday. If they happen to do that, the teams in the category above will NOT be happy as they will be stealing a bid from someone.
Teams are listed alphabetically:
Duke, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Western Kentucky.