- Selection Sunday 2019 is three days away, and bids to the NCAA tournament are vanishing left and right as a pivotal day of action begins.
The SI.com Bubble Watch updates every day until Selection Sunday, breaking down the biggest bubble games that day, the cases for all remaining bubble teams to get a bid to the 2019 NCAA tournament, and any movement that took place the previous day. For an up-to-the-minute look at who's in the field of 68, check out our Bracket Watch.
Biggest bubble games for Thursday, March 14 (all times ET)
Kansas vs. Texas, 9 p.m., ESPN2
This is pretty simple for the Longhorns. They enter this game at 16–15. The committee has never taken a .500 team as an at-large, and it isn’t going to start now. A loss makes Texas one of the most dangerous teams in the NIT. A win may get them a bid, though they’d still be a tough sell if they lost their next game, which would have them at 17–16 to end the season. They definitely stay alive with a victory, which is all they can ask for after losing 15 games in the regular season.
Georgetown vs. Seton Hall, 9:30 p.m. FS1
Seton Hall may have played its way off the bubble and into the field by beating Marquette and Villanova in the final week of the regular season, but the Pirates would remove all doubt with a win over Georgetown. The Hoyas, meanwhile, need a win to stay alive and give themselves a shot at the one or two more victories they must have to get into the dance.
Other bubble games: Marquette vs. St. John’s; Penn State vs. Minnesota; Mississippi vs. Alabama; Utah State vs. New Mexico; Arizona State vs. UCLA
Syracuse: On the Bubble to Near-Lock
All records and NET rankings are accurate as of Thursday morning. We assume that one of our locks or near-locks will win their conference’s automatic bid.
Spots Remaining: 11 (68 Spots — 47 Locks — 10 Unaccounted For Automatic Bids = 11)
Locks (47): Auburn, Baylor, Bradley, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Colgate, Duke, Fairleigh Dickinson, Florida State, Gardner-Webb, Gonzaga, Houston, Iona, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Liberty, Louisville, LSU, Marquette, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Murray State, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota State, Northeastern, Northern Kentucky, Purdue, Saint Mary’s, Seton Hall, Syracuse, Tennessee, Texas Tech, UCF, VCU, Villanova, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Washington, Wisconsin, Wofford
On the Bubble
Teams listed in order of current seed in SI.com Bracket Watch seed list.
Seton Hall (19-12, NET: 62, Q1: 6-7, Q2: 7-3, Q3+Q4 Losses: 2)
Seton Hall kept rolling after beating Marquette and Villanova in the final week of the regular season, crushing Georgetown in the Big East quarterfinals on Thursday. The Pirates are only here so they get their moment in the Bubble Watch sun. They have earned themselves an at-large bid.
Utah State (25-6, NET: 30, Q1: 2-2, Q2: 2-3, Q3+Q4 Losses: 1)
New Mexico pushed Utah State to the brink on Thursday night, but the Aggies came out of it with a win, avoiding a bad loss they may not have been able to afford. There’d likely have to be a couple of bid thieves pop up over the weekend for the Aggies to fall out of the field, but they can secure their place by winning on Friday and advancing to the Mountain West championship game.
Minnesota (20-12, NET: 56, Q1: 4-9, Q2: 7-3, Q3+Q4 Losses: 0)
Minnesota trailed for most of its opening game in the Big Ten tournament against Penn State but fought its way back late in the second half and won in overtime. That wouldn’t have qualified as a bad loss—Penn State was in the top 50 in NET entering the game—but it would’ve forced the Gophers into a nervous weekend. At this point, they’re all but guaranteed to hear their names called on Selection Sunday. They could remove the “all but” from the previous sentence by beating Purdue on Friday.
Oklahoma (19-13, NET: 40, Q1: 4-10, Q2: 6-2, Q3+Q4 Losses: 1)
Oklahoma needed to beat West Virginia on Wednesday to secure an at-large bid, but it was unable to accomplish that seemingly simple goal. The Sooners remain in our field of 68, but they’re now vulnerable to bid stealers, teams just barely on the wrong side of the bubble making a run, or the Selection Committee siding with top-tier mid-majors that fell short in their conference tournaments, like Belmont or UNC-Greensboro.
TCU (21-12, NET: 48, Q1: 3-9, Q2: 6-4, Q3+Q4 Losses: 0)
All’s well that ends well, we suppose, but TCU didn’t inspire much confidence in its win over Oklahoma State on Wednesday, letting a 14-point lead slip away in the final minutes and falling behind by two with less than a minute left before being bailed out by a Desmond Bane three. Nevertheless, a win is a win, and that was likely the last one the Horned Frogs needed to secure an at-large bid. They stuck with Kansas State in the Big 12 quarterfinals on Thursday, but ultimately came up just short. Still, this should be a tournament team.
Temple (23-8, NET: 50, Q1: 2-6, Q2: 6-1, Q3+Q4 Losses: 1)
Temple got a huge win Saturday, taking down UCF for its second win over a guaranteed or likely tournament team. The Owls still need to avoid bad losses in the AAC tournament but are in much better shape for the dance than they were one week ago. A run to the AAC championship game would almost certainly include a win over Houston or Cincinnati, which would be enough for the Owls to lock up a spot in the field of 68.
Ohio State (19-13, NET: 55, Q1: 5-9, Q2: 4-3, Q3+Q4 Losses: 1)
Ohio State got Kaleb Wesson back against Indiana on Thursday and picked up what will likely go down as the win that locked it into the field of 68. The Buckeyes nearly let a 20-point second-half lead slip away, but held on for a 79-75 win. They’re not going to feel safe on Selection Sunday unless they beat Michigan State in the Big Ten quarters, but they now have better than even odds to receive an at-large bid.
NC State (22-11, NET: 32, Q1: 3-9, Q2: 6-0, Q3+Q4 Losses: 2)
If NC State’s game with Clemson in the second round of the ACC tournament felt like a play-in game for the NCAA tournament. that’s because it likely was. The Wolfpack rallied from a 16-point halftime deficit to win by one, which could place them into the field of 68 for good.
St. John’s (21-12, NET: 64, Q1: 5-7, Q2: 5-3, Q3+Q4 Losses: 2)
A 32-point loss isn’t the last data point you want to give the committee, but the Red Storm should still be on solid ground heading into Selection Sunday. Even after getting waxed by Marquette in the Big East quarterfinals, the Red Storm have five Q1 victories and 10 combined Q1 and Q2 wins. They could find themselves in Dayton for the First Four, but they are far more likely than not to be dancing.
Florida (18-14, NET: 33, Q1: 3-11, Q2: 4-1, Q3+Q4 Losses: 2)
Florida took care of business against Arkansas on Thursday, advancing to face LSU in the SEC quarterfinals on Friday. The Gators remain firmly on the bubble, but would guarantee themselves a spot by upsetting the Tigers.
Arizona State (22-9, NET: 67, Q1: 3-3, Q2: 8-2, Q3+Q4 Losses: 4)
The Sun Devils are the No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 tournament, which, in most years, would necessarily mean that they’re nowhere near the bubble. In what will likely go down as the worst basketball season in the conference’s history, that is not the case. They handled UCLA with ease on Thursday, and that has them one step closer to an at-large bid. If they advance to the Pac-12 championship, it likely won’t matter if they win it or not, at least in terms of getting into the dance. Win or lose, they will be there. Of course, they have to get to the Pac-12 championship first.
Belmont (25-5, NET: 46, Q1: 2-2, Q2: 3-1, Q3+Q4 Losses: 2)
After losing to Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference championship game, Belmont now has to sit and wait and hope it did enough to earn an at-large bid. The Bruins beat Murray State during the regular season and beat Lipscomb twice, but they aren’t going to show the committee a résumé that includes any wins over at-large teams. Could Belmont win a game or two if it made the tournament? Absolutely. Unfortunately, the committee hasn’t shown much of an appetite for taking similar teams in recent years. Still, with early-round tournament losses by Clemson, Indiana and Creighton, the door is open for one of the four mid-majors in the at-large discussion to buck that trend. We see Belmont's as the strongest résumé.
Indiana (17-15, NET: 51, Q1: 6-10, Q2: 2-5, Q3+Q4 Losses: 0)
Indiana remains one of the most interesting teams on the bubble, which we wrote about last week. After losing to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament, though, the Hoosiers are a much tougher sell as an at-large bid. Those six Q1 wins, including two over Michigan, and one apiece over Wisconsin, Louisville and Marquette, have them in the discussion, but 15-loss teams that are just two games over .500 typically don’t get invites from the Selection Committee. Their road could be even tougher in a season that has four mid-majors—Belmont, UNC-Greensboro, Lipscomb and Furman—with legitimate at-large cases.
Clemson (19-13, NET: 35, Q1: 1-10, Q2: 6-3, Q3+Q4 Losses: 0)
Everything was going beautifully for Clemson in the first half against NC State in the opening game of the ACC tournament’s second round. The Tigers took a 16-point lead into the locker room at halftime and looked ready to claim an at-large bid. And then they didn’t score a field goal for a stretch longer than 10 minutes in the second half, allowing NC State to climb back into the game. The Wolfpack ultimately won by one point after two Markell Johnson free throws with 2.6 seconds left on the clock. Now, the Tigers have to hope they did enough in the regular season to get in. The thought here is they didn’t. But hey, they could be a No. 1 seed in the NIT.
Alabama (18-14, NET: 59, Q1: 3-9, Q2: 7-3, Q3+Q4 Losses: 2)
Alabama made things very uncomfortable for its fellow bubble teams by beating Ole Miss in the SEC tournament on Thursday. A loss in that game would’ve knocked the Crimson Tide out of at-large contention. Now, not only are they still alive, but they have an opportunity to get a huge win on Friday against Kentucky, a team they beat in the regular season. A loss in that game likely keeps them out of the field, but a win would make them awfully compelling on Selection Sunday.
UNC-Greensboro (27-6, NET: 58, Q1: 2-6, Q2: 2-0, Q3+Q4 Losses: 0)
After losing to Wofford for the third time this season, this time in the Southern Conference championship game, it’s likely that UNC-Greensboro will be on the outside looking in at the field of 68. If the committee does opt to take the Spartans, they will have some second-weekend juice, but it simply hasn’t smiled on teams like them in recent memory. The Spartans lost by six at LSU and led Kentucky in the second half in Lexington, but couldn’t finish off either of those games. If they had equality of opportunity, they may have won the types of games that typically get teams into the dance, but that’s the uphill battle mid-majors fight. It may not be fair, but it is their reality.
Creighton (17-14, NET: 54, Q1: 3-10, Q2: 6-4, Q3+Q4 Losses: 0)
Does anyone want these last four bids to the tournament? Creighton fell to Xavier in the Big East quarterfinals Thursday, effectively ending their quest for an at-large bid. The total body of work does not hold water against fellow power-conference bubblers like Indiana and Clemson, and it’s likely that the committee will prefer at least one of the mid-major quartet of Belmont, UNC-Greensboro, Furman and Lipscomb.
Xavier (18-14, NET: 70, Q1: 4-8, Q2: 5-4, Q3+Q4 Losses: 2)
Xavier kept its slim at-large hopes alive by beating Creighton in the Big East quarterfinals on Thursday. That sets up a matchup with Villanova on Friday. If the Musketeers win that one, they’re going to have an interesting at-large case. If they don’t, they’ll be headed to the NIT.
Furman (22-7, NET: 41, Q1: 1-5, Q2: 3-1, Q3+Q4 Losses: 1)
Furman’s loss to UNC-Greensboro in the SoCon semifinals all but dashed its hopes for an at-large bid. The Paladins do have a great win over Villanova on the résumé, but they face the same problems as Belmont. What’s more, if the committee does opt for a mid-major that fell short in its conference tournament, UNC-Greensboro and Belmont are almost surely ahead of Furman in the pecking order.
Lipscomb (23-7, NET: 47, Q1: 2-3, Q2: 2-3, Q3+Q4 Losses: 1)
Lipscomb led the Atlantic Sun from wire to wire but fell to Liberty in the conference championship game. Now, the Bisons have to hope they did enough in the regular season to earn an at-large bid. While we’d like to see more teams like Lipscomb get at-large bids, we don’t see it happening for them this season. They have one win over a team on the at-large radar (TCU), two losses to another mid-major that lost in its championship game (Belmont), and one loss to a team nowhere near the at-large radar (Florida Gulf Coast). That has not added up to an at-large bid in recent years.
Memphis (20-12, NET: 53, Q1: 1-8, Q2: 2-3, Q3+Q4 Losses: 0)
Memphis is nothing more than a blip on the at-large radar, but has an opportunity to make a run that gets them into the dance by winning two more games in the AAC tournament. The Tigers play UCF on Friday and, if they win and the chalk holds, would play Houston on Saturday. If they win both of those games, they’ll suddenly become a team the committee has to talk about this weekend. If they don’t, they’ll have to settle for a bid to the NIT.
Off the Bubble
Texas (16-16, NET: 38, Q1: 5-10, Q2: 4-5, Q3+Q4 Losses: 1)
No .500 team has ever earned an at-large bid, and we don’t think the committee is going to make history, at least in that way, this season. Texas may have wins over North Carolina, Purdue and Kansas this season, but it will not be putting on its dancing shoes.
Georgetown (19-13, NET: 78, Q1: 5-6, Q2: 6-5, Q3+Q4 Losses: 2)
Georgetown made an impressive run at the end of the season to get on the bubble, but after Thursday’s drubbing at the hands of Seton Hall, the Hoyas will have to settle for a trip to the NIT.
Providence (18-15, NET: 69, Q1: 4-8, Q2: 6-5, Q3+Q4 Losses: 2)
Providence hung with Villanova through most of their Big East quarterfinal, but the Wildcats kept them at arm’s length and ultimately came away with an 11-point win. The Friars have been hanging around the fringes of the at-large picture for most of the last two months, but they really needed this one to have a realistic shot at a happy Selection Sunday. They’ll be one of the most dangerous teams in the NIT.