In less than two weeks, teams hanging around the NCAA tournament bubble will be sweating it out while waiting to hear their names called for an at-large bid in the field of 68.
There are 36 at-large bids for the selection committee to hand out, but based on our
, there's only 11 spots open for borderline teams to take. The problem? There are 20 teams that will be fighting for those bids.
Baylor, Oklahoma State and Colorado are three teams that are relatively safe barring a late collapse. After that it gets tricky. In this week's Bubble Tracker, we take a look at the dirty dozen of bubble teams that have a small margin for error and have résumés that'll be dissected over and over again.
Teams listed in order of how safe they are.
The Razorbacks (20-9) significantly boosted their credentials in a Feb. 27 road win against Kentucky, part of a five-game winning streak. A home game against Ole Miss and a road game at Alabama are on deck before the SEC Tournament, where Arkansas will still need to fare well.
The Musketeers' latest résumé-boosting back-to-back wins (at St. John's, vs. Creighton) have positioned them comfortably in the field. They'll need to win a road test at Seton Hall before taking on league leader Villanova. With several Big East foes (St. John's, Georgetown) chasing, a strong Big East tourney finish would be recommended, too.
The Panthers might not be as secure as their 22-7 record suggests. Their best win came against Stanford in a cushy non-conference slate. A home game against North Carolina State and a road game at Clemson are next.
The old saying goes, it's not how you start but how you finish. Well, the Ducks started off pretty hot (13-0) but are still trying to recover from a disastrous January that included five consecutive losses. Oregon has hit the urgency button, rattling off five wins in a row.
The Cougars (21-10) could be the only legitimate mid-major to earn at at-large bid, but that will be contingent upon their finish in the West Coast Conference Tournament. BYU's RPI of 35 and SoS of 35 make this an easy pick for the selection committee right now.
Back-to-back losses to Arizona and Arizona State have set the Bears back, but as far as their full body of work goes, a Feb. 1 win vs. Arizona provides a big lift. Home games against Utah and fellow bubble team Colorado are left on Cal's regular-season schedule.
The Gophers have lost three of their past four, and that's not exactly a recipe for an at-large bid for bubble teams, but signature wins against Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa help Minnesota's cause. With a 7-10 Big Ten Conference record, one last home game against Penn State and then the Big Ten Tournament, the Gophers will be under a magnifying glass by the committee.
The Flyers (20-9, 8-6) picked up a pivotal win against UMass on Saturday to catapult into the projected field of 68. But looming tests at Saint Louis and against Richmond are now the next most important games. The A-10 has seven teams that could reach the field, so it's vital for Dayton to have a solid run in the conference tournament to separate itself from the pack.
9. Tennessee: The Volunteers (18-11) find themselves in an eerily similar position to the one they were in last year — hanging around the tournament bubble with a need to avoid any hiccups. The last two SEC games on Tennessee's slate include a road game at Auburn and an important home game against Missouri. Tennessee's SoS of 18 plays in its favor.
A road loss to Illinois snapped a five-game winning streak and waves of momentum for the Cornhuskers (17-11, 9-7). Nebraska plays Indiana on the road and hosts Wisconsin to close out the regular season. It will be interesting to see how the committee grades Nebraska's win against an injury-riddled Michigan State squad.
The Friars (19-10) have beaten Xavier, St. John's and Creighton in Big East play. And they most recently avenged a previous loss to Seton Hall with a Feb. 28 road win. But a tough two-game stretch is up next vs. Marquette and at Creighton. If Providence can split those games and muster a decent finish in the Big East Tournament, that should do the job.
The Tigers' lack of a marquee win could prove costly, with a victory against UCLA currently serving as the best on their résumé. That means finishing the season strong (Texas A&M and Tennessee to close out the SEC slate) and a deep run in the SEC Tournament will be needed for Frank Haith's group to go dancing.
Close calls: Florida State, Richmond, St. John's, Georgetown, West Virginia, Indiana.
Bubble Tracker conference-by-conference breakdowns of the strength and weaknesses of borderline teams. Data as of March 3.