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2021 College Basketball Bubble Watch - 2-21-21

College Basketball

2021 College Basketball Bubble Watch, Feb. 21: Shocking the Bubble

It’s popping.

The inaugural college basketball bubble watch prior to the 2021 NCAA Tournament may come as a “shock” to you, but perhaps not if you watch the games.

Wichita State, anonymous for most of the season to date, has been noticed for two things: Gregg Marshall’s controversy and subsequent resignation, and their win over Houston this past week. The latter catapulted the Shockers into relevance, but are they going to make the NCAA Tournament this year? Tune in March 14 and find out; we can only tell you the state of the field right now (and check out our bracketology while you are at it).

Bubble Watch, Feb. 21: ACC

  • DEFINITELY: Florida State, Virginia
  • MOST LIKELY: Virginia Tech
  • PROBABLY: Louisville, Clemson
  • POSSIBLY (bubble but in): North Carolina, Syracuse
  • POSSIBLY NOT (bubble but out): Duke
  • PROBABLY NOT: Georgia Tech, NC State, Pittsburgh

North Carolina on the bubble (but rising) and Duke out of the tournament? What sort of ACC is this? Florida State, the leader of the conference, will take it just the way it is. Virginia is going to make the tournament but they are not a lock for a top-four seed anymore. Virginia Tech is in good shape while Clemson is also in the tournament with some room to spare. Louisville falls to just north of the bubble but could have avoided this had they not lost to North Carolina by 45 points. We like Syracuse a little more than most bracketologists but they are nowhere near safe. Duke isn’t a tournament team – yet. Anyone else not named above has no shot.

Bubble Watch, Feb. 21: American

  • DEFINITELY: Houston
  • PROBABLY: None
  • POSSIBLY (bubble but in): None
  • POSSIBLY NOT (bubble but out): Wichita State, SMU, Memphis

The American could be a one-bid conference. Realistically, it could get two two. Three bids are unlikely, and Lord knows what would have to happen to get it to four. Of the three teams on the bubble, expect at most one to make it into the Big Dance. At present, Wichita State is that candidate thanks to their win over Houston. Their resume does not have enough meat on it yet, but a few more wins AND no bad losses could get them there.

Bubble Watch, Feb. 21: Big 12

  • DEFINITELY: Baylor, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kansas, Texas, Texas Tech
  • MOST LIKELY: Oklahoma State
  • PROBABLY: None
  • POSSIBLY (bubble but in): None
  • POSSIBLY NOT (bubble but out): None

If you want to talk about top-heavy conferences, welcome to the Big 12. The good news for them is that their six most prominent teams this year are all in essence guaranteed to make the 2021 NCAA Tournament. The better news is that the top is bigger than the bottom. Oklahoma State would make seven bids for the Big 12 while the remaining teams languish in invisibility. Of all of these, Baylor is a genuine contender to win the tournament.

Bubble Watch, Feb. 21: Big East

  • DEFINITELY: Villanova
  • MOST LIKELY: Creighton
  • PROBABLY: Xavier
  • POSSIBLY (bubble but in): Connecticut, Seton Hall
  • POSSIBLY NOT (bubble but out): St. John’s
  • PROBABLY NOT: Providence

Villanova and Creighton are going to the tournament, and Xavier is more likely than not to get there. The Big East’s bubble is interesting as you have the Huskies and Pirates not in by much, and the Red Storm not out by much. Of the two bubble-but-in teams, Seton Hall is probably better positioned to make the dance than UConn. Providence caught our attention a month ago but they’ve lost it now.

Bubble Watch, Feb. 21: Big Ten

  • DEFINITELY: Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin
  • MOST LIKELY: Purdue, Rutgers
  • PROBABLY: Indiana
  • POSSIBLY (bubble but in): Minnesota
  • POSSIBLY NOT (bubble but out): Maryland, Michigan State

The best conference in college basketball this year will get at least seven bids to the tournament. In a perfect world (for them), this would inflate to something like nine or ten. Michigan and Ohio State played an amazing Sunday afternoon game on February 21 and earned all the praise they deserve. Indiana could have done without the loss to Michigan State, but now Sparty is in thinking they have a shot – and they do, although it will still be a difficult road. Keep an eye on Minnesota: they have yet to win a road game and their resume is weakening. We may get to the point where we like Maryland’s resume better than theirs, and it’s not far away, either.

Bubble Watch, Feb. 21: Pac-12

  • MOST LIKELY: UCLA, Colorado
  • PROBABLY: None
  • POSSIBLY (bubble but in): Oregon
  • POSSIBLY NOT (bubble but out): Stanford, Arizona
  • PROBABLY NOT: Washington State

We know the Pac-12 is at least a one-bid conference (duh), but three would seem to be their minimum in 2021. USC, UCLA, and Colorado do not have much to worry about at this stage. Oregon is endangered but they will take a 10 seed or so over the NIT. Stanford is right on the cut line and we bumped them out with their triple-OT loss to Washington State. Arizona is on the rise but not yet in the field. Wazzu has a nice record but what’s under the hood is not ideal; they have one Quadrant 1 win and one Quadrant 4 loss with a 95 NET.

Bubble Watch, Feb. 21: SEC

  • DEFINITELY: Alabama
  • MOST LIKELY: Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas
  • PROBABLY: LSU, Florida
  • POSSIBLY (bubble but in): None
  • POSSIBLY NOT (bubble but out): Mississippi
  • PROBABLY NOT: Mississippi State, Georgia

The SEC can reasonably expect six teams in the tournament. Their only true bubble team, Ole Miss, doesn’t seem to be all that close to getting into the field. Seven teams is as good as it’s going to get as neither Mississippi State or Georgia have given us much to look at this season.

Bubble Watch, Feb. 21: Other Conferences

  • PROBABLY: San Diego State (MWC)
  • POSSIBLY (bubble but in): St. Bonaventure (A-10), Drake (MVC), Colorado State (MWC)
  • POSSIBLY NOT (bubble but out): Richmond (A-10), Saint Louis (A-10), Utah State (MWC)

Consider that Gonzaga, VCU, and Loyola Chicago are likely to win their conferences, and the above is what’s left. We call Drake a bubble team as that’s what the media consensus seems to be, though we like them perhaps a little more than to consider them in danger of missing the tournament. Of the teams out, we like Utah State’s resume the best and they are perhaps a couple decent wins from positioning themselves back into contention. Saint Louis has gone up and down and Richmond has struggled to get over the hump all year.

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