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Peeking at the bubble

There are big names on the bubble and, even more shockingly, big names that aren’t even close.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Miami-Florida
There’s a great chance this guy misses March.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

In case you haven’t noticed amongst the swirling political turmoil, the year long global pandemic, and the usual vagaries of life, March is approaching. Like the white knight riding in at the last second, the month of March waits, restive, just over the yet gloomy horizon. March won’t be filled with packed gyms and chaotic mid-court celebrations this season, but it will be filled with games that matter. That means bubble talk.

The first thing of note about the bubble this season is who isn’t there. Duke, UK, and Michigan State aren’t usually on the bubble. That hasn’t changed, but which side of the bubble they are on has. Michigan State is 86th in NET and 2-6 in Q1. UK is 79th in the Net and a hilarious stunning 1-9 in Q1 games. Duke is 75th and 1-4 and could conceivably be back on the bubble by winning out, but that isn’t likely.

The Big East

In the Big East there are two teams that are locks so far. Creighton and Villanova are going dancing unless the sky falls. Xavier is on track to join them. The Musketeers serious issue is that they are 11-2. That’s a good, going on great, record, but it also leaves them vulnerable to a losing streak that would tank things quickly. Xavier needs to add wins by actually playing some games.

It depends on who you ask where the rest of the conference falls. UConn is likely the next team that could get in. Or at least they were before losing to Providence last night. Providence is far on the outside looking in and losing to them dropped the Huskies NET ranking by 11 places. UConn comes to Xavier looking for a resume win. The best thing going for them will be the imminent return of James “Book” Knight.

Seton Hall is 46th in the NET and has racked up a solid 6-7 record in the top two quadrants. A bit of shoring up and they are in. The Pirates concern is that they already have a Q3 loss. Add in another one, and the schedule is littered with chances, and they will be sweating come Selection Sunday. Another team that has played their way into the conversation is St. John’s. The Red Storm had been moving into UConn territory until they gagged a game against Butler. Still, the Johnnies have a win over Villanova and a 4-7 Q1/2 record to fall back on. The chances are there for SJU, with games against Xavier, Nova, and Seton Hall left to play.

No other Big East team has a chance.

The Big Names

Some of the genuinely big ones are already out, but several more are just hanging around the bubble. UNC is likely out right now based on having only one Q1 win. The Tar Heels have other wins that could slide into Q1, but they can’t afford another slip up like losing to NC State. Also in the ACC and also barely hanging on is Syracuse. The Orangemen and their reprehensible coach have no Q1 wins. The lack of bad losses will help them, but 2-6 in Q1/2 with no resume wins isn’t impressing anyone.

Indiana and Maryland are also just hanging on. The Hoosiers are one of the most fun bubble stories of the season, because they have two wins over Iowa but have somehow also need 90 minutes of basketball to beat Northwestern just once. So long as they don’t lost to Michigan State at home, they should be in. The Terps are 4-10 in Q1. They have a lot of good games, but not a lot of wins. Avoid the pitfalls of Nebraska and MSU and all those good games will pay off.

Finally, Kansas. The Jayhawks have been a trendy pick to say are falling off along with some of the other blue bloods. Unless they have a collapse of unprecedented proportions, they are in.

The Whole Conference

Both the Atlantic 10 and the Pac 12 are in a position where they have three to four teams that could sneak in or they could just land the AQ. The Pac 12 is in a better position with USC and UCLA probably in no matter what. Colorado, Oregon, Stanford, and Utah all still have chances ranging from good at the top of that list to barely hanging on for the Utes. Notable by their absence are both of the Arizona teams.

In the Atlantic 10 things are obviously a little different. Cannibalization will limit the bids but St. Bonaventure, VCU, Saint Louis, and Richmond are all still in with a chance. The Bonnies would be a fun story if for no other reason that it would only be their fourth bid in the last 21 years.

The Rivals

UC, Dayton, and Butler have no chance unless they take an AQ,