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A Comparative Look at NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams

Streeter Lecka

This time of year there is always a LOT of discussion around what will it actually take to get into the NCAA Tournament, who is on the Bubble and where do the Gophers fit into the picture.  After this weekend's games I wanted to identify most of the teams that are either slightly above the bubble-fray along with the teams working their way on to the bubble.

As I've stated before, the Gopher's actual numbers (SOS, RPI, record vs. top 100, etc)matter only in how they compare to every other team fighting for an at-large bid.  This list is not necessarily all encompassing, it does not contain every bit of information that the Selection Committee will be using when determining who gets a bid.  But for now, this is a fairly high-level look at where teams stand.  Future iterations of this table will likely include record vs. top 50 or 100 and maybe KenPom ranking as well.

I utilize Lunardi and the Bracket Matrix as a guide here but it should be pointed out that these are not predictive, these are a snapshot of now.  I really like Bracket Matrix but the one problem with it is that it takes bracket predictions that may still be a few days old.  Lunardi's seeding was updated this morning.  You can't put too much stock into any one but I like getting a wide consensus along with someone like Lunardi who has been doing this for a long time.

Much can and will change but this is where things stand following this weekend's games.  In the table below the likely cut-line is somewhere around St. Johns and BYU.

Lunardi Seed Bracket Matrix Team Record RPI SOS Last Game Up Next Arbitrary Grouping
9 8 Arizona State 19-6 28 52 W #2 AZ @Colorado Lock
9 9 George Washington 19-6 37 88 L Umass @Richmond Safe
9 10 Stanford 16-8 47 40 W Wash St USC Safe
9 10 California 17-8 45 47 W Wash UCLA Safe
10 9 Colorado 19-7 26 27 W USC Arizona St. Safe
10 11 Xavier 17-8 49 53 L Marq DePaul Relatively Safe
10 9 SMU 20-6 48 125 L Temple Houston Relatively Safe
10 10 Minnesota 16-9 34 5 W NW Illinois Relatively Safe
11 11 Missouri 18-7 38 55 W Tenn Vandy Relatively Safe
11 10 Oklahoma State 16-9 44 13 L Oklahoma @ Baylor Relatively Safe
11 12 Providence 17-9 57 59 W DePaul #9 Villanova Bubble
11 11 Tennessee 14-10 54 11 L Mizz Georgia Bubble
11 F4O Richmond 17-8 39 45 W Ford George Wash Bubble
12 12 St. Joe's 17-7 41 57 W LaSalle Rhode Island Bubble
12 N4O St. Johns 17-9 52 35 W Georgetown Butler Bubble
F4O F4O BYU 17-10 40 30 W SMC #25 Gonzaga Bubble
F4O 12 Georgetown 15-10 58 23 L SJU @Seton Hall Bubble
F4O OUT West Virginia 15-11 69 38 L Tex Baylor Bubble
F4O 11 Southern Miss 19-5 41 140 L MTSU UT-San Antonio Bubble
N4O N4O Florida State 15-10 61 48 W Wake North Carolina Bubble
N4O N4O LSU 15-9 71 78 L Ark Miss St. Bubble
N4O N4O Dayton 17-8 59 70 W URI LaSalle Work to do
N4O F4O Louisiana Tech 20-5 78 233 W Rice E Carolina Work to do
OUT 12 Oregon 16-8 43 28 W Ore St Wash Work to do
OUT F4O Baylor 14-9 50 8 W KSU Oklahoma St. Work to do
OUT OUT Mississippi 16-9 68 86 L Georgia #18 Kentucky Slim
OUT OUT St. Mary's 18-8 60 87 L BYU @San Francisco Slim

As far as the Gophers are concerned, they just need to stay above the fray.  There are still several teams that will have to out-perform the Gophers down the stretch.  Either all of them need to go on a strong run to finish the season or we'd have to perform worse than they, the latter appearing to be the most likely.  After getting that road win over Northwestern, beating Illinois and Penn State at home should be enough, in my opinion, to still get them in; even if they lose in the 1st round of the Big Ten Tournament.  We might be sweating a little on Selection Sunday and we might end up in one of those crappy play-in games as a 12-seed; but we'd be in.  I'm not trying to predict where we'll land, just what it will take to get there.

Any win in addition to the two I mentioned would just solidify our position and earn a higher seed.

Other Team Notes:

Arizona State may have locked up a seed with their win over Arizona State over the weekend.  They still have a number of games against bubble teams that will move them one way or the other on this list; but their huge win plus assume a couple wins over Utah and Oregon State should get them in.  The Pac-12 has a number of teams on this list and they all get to play each other over the next couple weeks.

Richmond is probably sitting outside of the Tourney right now, but they are hosting George Washington on Tuesday which would be a big boost to their resume.  Following that game they have a few winable ones in a row hosting LaSalle, @ last place George Mason and then @Rhode Island.  If they can win on Tuesday over GW, they have a real shot at putting together a 7-game win streak.  Them winning only helps the Gophers.

Speaking of Gopher opponents, Florida State has some work to do and a few opportunities to do it.  They have a couple likely wins in Georgia Tech and at Boston College.  Then they have three games against good teams that would really help them.  It begins with hosting North Carolina tonight, they travel to Pitt and they  host Syracuse to end the regular season.

Oklahoma State was once a safe team but things have come off the tracks for the Cowboys.  Marcus Smart is in the middle of his 3-game suspension and the Cowboys are in the middle of a 6-game losing streak.  Smart will also miss the game against Baylor tonight before being allowed to return for the team's final five games.  Trending the wrong way here.

Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss, one of them will potentially be an at-large team and they are both still very much alive for the Conference USA automatic bid along with Middle Tennessee State and UTEP.  Louisiana Tech is close to getting in according to both projections but I just don't see it with their 233rd SOS.  Southern Miss makes a stronger case but they still have some work to do as well.  Both will likely end up with 25 or more total wins, which will make things difficult on the Selection Committee but without any marquee wins and some big losses (SoMiss lost by 31 at Louisville and L Tech lost to OK St by 15) it will be tough for them to get in.

SMU appears to be the one American team that is on the bubble.  They were pretty safe prior to their bad loss to last place Temple this weekend.  They face three ranked teams down the stretch and host two teams they should beat.  Should they finish the season 2-4, with a pretty bad SOS (125th) they will make for an interesting resume for the Selection Committee. Thy have opportunities to earn another big win or two (we still have to play the games), but they moved closer to the the cut-line than they were before this past weekend.

Big Games This Week

I'm not including ALL games for bubble teams, just the relatively significant ones (i.e. I'm not including Xavier hosting 2-11 DePaul on Wednesday).


  • North Carolina at Florida State
  • Oklahoma State at Baylor


  • George Washington at Richmond
  • Villanova at Providence
  • Kentucky at Ole Miss
  • Illinois at Minnesota
  • UCLA at Cal
  • Arizona St at Colorado
  • Washington at Oregon
  • Vandy at Missouri
  • Gonzaga at BYU
  • Georgetown at Seton Hall