The bubble is big and soft this year. Lots of teams remain in contention, many of which have left quite a bit to be desired in their play thus far. Let’s take a look at the multi-bid conferences to sort out this mess before championship week hits full stride.
ACC: 6 Locks (North Carolina, Louisville, Florida St, Duke, Virginia, Notre Dame); 4 on the bubble (Miami FL, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Syracuse); Projection: 9 teams in (one of Wake Forest/Syracuse may be left out, unless both make deep runs in the ACC tournament)
American: 2 Locks (Cincinnati, SMU); 1 on the bubble (Houston); Projection: 2 teams in
A10: 2 Locks (Dayton, VCU); 1 on the bubble (Rhode Island); Projection: 2 teams in
Big East: 3 Locks (Villanova, Butler, Creighton); 4 on the bubble (Marquette, Seton Hall, Xavier, Providence); Projection: 7 teams in. Xavier can’t lose to DePaul in the Big East opening round. Seton Hall and Marquette square off and as long as it’s not a blowout both are safe, and Providence just needs to keep it competitive with Creighton to be safe.
Big Ten: 4 Locks (Purdue, Minnesota, Maryland, Wisconsin); 5 on the bubble (Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan St, Illinois, Iowa); Projection: 8 teams in. The loser of Michigan/Illinois on Thursday might need some outside help to get a bid (see: Conference USA below); they’ll be cutting it awfully close.
Big XII: 5 Locks (Kansas, Baylor, West Virginia, Iowa St, Oklahoma St); 1 on the bubble (Kansas St); Projection: 5 teams in. Kansas St went 8-10 in conference play; they’ll need at least two wins in the Big XII tournament to earn an at-large bid. They open with Baylor, then would play West Virginia.
Conference USA: 0 Locks; 1 on the bubble (Middle Tennessee); Projection: 1 team in. Middle Tennessee needs to earn their auto-bid to truly feel safe. They should be good for an at-large at 27 wins (and counting) and their 15 over 2 upset win last year, but the CUSA doesn’t have a strong reputation like the Missouri Valley or West Coast so this is one to keep an eye on.
Missouri Valley: 1 Lock (Wichita St); 1 on the bubble (Illinois St); Projection: 2 teams in. Illinois St won 27 games this year. Even with a weak schedule, that should be good enough out of a mid-major conference with a stellar reputation.
PAC12: 4 Locks (Oregon, UCLA, Arizona, USC); 1 on the bubble (California); Projection: 4 teams in. The top-heavy PAC12 will demand more wins than Cal came up with this year to secure an at-large bid.
SEC: 4 Locks (Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, South Carolina); 3 on the bubble (Vanderbilt, Georgia, Ole Miss); Projection: 4 teams in. Unless Vanderbilt earns the auto-bid, they will have 15 losses on the year, and no team has earned an at-large with more than 14.
West Coast: 2 Locks (Gonzaga, St Mary’s) 1 on the bubble (BYU); Projection: 2 teams in. If BYU can pull an upset Monday night over St Mary’s they’ll have a shot at an at-large, and if they can grab another win Tuesday they’ll have earned the auto-bid.
Total: 33 out of 47 (11 auto plus 36 at-large) are secured with 13 more projected in for a total of 46/47 spots. The ACC and Big Ten tournaments could produce a lot of chaos this week, with each conference having multiple teams on the wrong side of the bubble that could play their way in. Middle Tennessee and Vanderbilt will also be interesting to follow.