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Bubble Watch: Who’s Playing With March Madness Fire?

Big 12, Big East, Big Ten Lead Bracketology Battle

Now or Never For Bubble Teams

It is bracketology time as the regular season is winding down and the NCAA Tournament field starts to be finalized.

A quick look at the national polls will provide a glimpse of the team expected to compete for what should be a wide-open run to the national title.

Reggie Chaney #32, Jarace Walker #25, and Tramon Mark #12 of the Houston Cougars
Reggie Chaney #32, Jarace Walker #25, and Tramon Mark #12 of the Houston Cougars | Mitchell leff/getty images/afp

The more intriguing part of the process is the teams straddling the line of being included in the March Madness bracket or coming up just short. It is going to make for some difficult March Madness picks.

When looking at the March Madness odds, Houston (+700), Alabama (+800), and Purdue (+1000) have the best odds to win the national title.

The field will be announced on March 12 with the First Four games starting two days later. It will culminate with the national champion being crowned on April 3 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

Here is a conference-by-conference look at how things could shake out.


This is certainly not the best season in the proud history of the ACC and that will become evident when the March Madness expert picks start rolling in.

Virginia is eyeing a top-16 seed. After that, there is plenty of work to be done.

Duke fell from 26th to 29th in the NCAA NET rankings. Not only are the Blue Devils 2-6 in Quad 1 game, there are some ugly losses mixed in. Still, barring a collapse down the stretch, expect the Blue Devils to be a part of the March Madness bracket.

Miami, which like Duke is undefeated at home, also has done enough to be a part of the field. The 6-4 mark in Quad 1 games should result in the Hurricanes being seeded higher than Duke.

  • Bubble Watch: North Carolina State is sitting 36th in the NET rankings with just two Quad 1 wins. The Wolfpack end the regular season against Wake Forest, Clemson and Duke so there is a chance to improve their situation. A recent win over North Carolina should be helpful when Selection Sunday rolls along.

Pittsburgh is just a game out of first place in the ACC. However, a 3-3 record in Quad 2 games is troubling so the Panthers would be well advised to keep on winning.

Could the ACC be limited to just four teams in the March Madness bracket? Clemson, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina all seem to be on the wrong side of the bubble.

Big East

It could be argued that only the Big 12 is ahead of the Big East in the conference power rankings with the odds for March Madness showing plenty of love for the Big East.

Creighton and Marquette, who play on Tuesday, are 13th and 14th in the NET rankings while UConn comes in eighth. The Huskies have played two additional Quad 1 games so that gives them the edge, as well as the blistering start to the season. Xavier comes in at No. 25 in the NET rankings and Providence also seems set as an NCAA Tournament team,

  • Bubble Watch: It might take a run to the Big East tournament title for a sixth conference team to make it into the field of 68.

Seton Hall is 71st in the NET rankings with a 5-11 record in Quad 1 and Quad 2 games while Villanova is under .500 on the season.

Take a Look at These Special Articles For March Madness

Big Ten

Purdue is eyeing a No. 1 seed. However, the recent results might prevent that from happening. The odds to win the NCAA Tournament are heading in the wrong direction at the current time for the Boilermakers.

Indiana could earn a top-16 seed, especially if the Hoosiers can beat Purdue once again. There is one bracket that has seven Big Ten teams in the field and other March Madness predictions have similar projections.

Maryland is in pretty good shape at No. 24 in the NET rankings. Northwestern might only be 37th in the NET rankings, but a win over Purdue and a 6-4 mark in Quad 1 games will look good to the NCAA Selection Committee. Rutgers is sitting in the top 30 in the NET rankings and that should be enough to receive a March Madness invitation. The Scarlet Knights are 4-2 in Quad 2 games and have a pair of Quad 3 losses so it might not be a done deal yet.

  • Bubble Watch: Illinois, Iowa, and Michigan State would probably be a part of the field. However, all three have losing records in Quad 1 games and have combined to lose four Quad 2 games, with Michigan State adding a Quad 3 loss.

That should be pretty much it for the Big Ten with Michigan, Penn State, and Wisconsin on the outside looking in.

Big 12

What a season it has been for the Big 12.

Kansas, fresh off a run to the national title, is in contention for a No. 1 seed while Texas, Baylor, Iowa State, and Kansas State are all in the top 20 in the NET rankings. TCU isn’t far behind at No. 22.

  • Bubble Watch: While the top six teams don’t have much to worry about, there are questions surrounding Oklahoma State and West Virginia as both are under .500 in conference play.

Though West Virginia leads the nation with 11 Quad 1 losses, playing in the competitive Big 12 might be enough to get the Mountaineers into the field even if they are just 5-10 in the conference. They wrap up the regular season facing ranked Kansas, Iowa State, and Kansas State teams so West Virginia has a chance to help itself.

Oklahoma State fell five spots to No. 42 in the NET rankings after dropping three straight games. If the Cowboys miss the tournament, an 18-point loss at West Virginia might be the culprit.


UCLA and Arizona are not only in the field, but a figure to be no worse than No. 2 seeds. After that?

  • Bubble Watch: Southern California is very much on the bubble with the Trojans at No. 56 in the NET rankings. USC has a Quad 4 loss on its record and there will be some anxious moments come Selection Sunday. A less-than-stellar non-conference slate won’t help the Trojans.

Oregon and Utah will be in the discussion as well but both seem to be trending in the wrong direction at the current time.

Arizona State is on the verge of a 20-win season. However, five Quad 2 wins figure to be too much to overcome.


It wasn’t that long ago that both Alabama and Tennessee looked like No. 1 seeds. Alabama is still on the top line and was the No. 1 overall seed in the first reveal of the top 16 seeds by the NCAA Selection Committee. A slumping Tennessee team would be lucky to remain as a No. 2 seed. They might be the only two sure things in the SEC.

  • Bubble Watch: Missouri, Kentucky, Auburn, Arkansas, and Texas A&M could all land in the field while Mississippi State could use some additional quality wins.

Arkansas is at No. 19 and Texas A&M is at 27th in the NET rankings so a strong finish could remove them from the list of bubble teams. Kentucky’s two wins over Tennessee might be enough to get the Wildcats in as well.

A 2-7 record in Quad 1 games is concerning for Auburn while Mississippi State is currently two games under .500 in conference play.

Missouri is showing up in most of the projections as a tournament team. The Tigers are just 51st in the NET rankings while Florida is 2-11 in Quad 1 games and that could keep the Gators out of the field. Vanderbilt is a great story as the Commodores are currently tied for fifth in the SEC but, unless they win the SEC tournament, they are likely headed to another tournament.

Best of the Rest

In the American Athletic Conference, Houston is in a position to earn a No. 1 seed. Will the American Athletic Conference join the Big East, Mountain West, and West Coast Conference with multiple teams in the March Madness bracket?

Memphis is currently at No. 40 in the NET rankings with a strength of schedule in the top 50 so the Tigers have a chance to make it in. The final game of the regular season is at home against Houston so a win in that game would probably seal the deal.

Keep an eye on the Mountain West Conference. San Diego State figures to make it in. The Aztecs could easily be joined by Boise State, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah State as they are all in the top 50 in the NET rankings.

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