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NCAA Tournament Projections and Bubble Watch

Johnny O'Bryant III

Johnny O'Bryant III

The season has reached that stage of the year where one question is inevitable: How is the selection committee going to find 68 teams to play in this Tournament?

Teams we thought were in good shape weeks ago are working their way out. Colorado’s resume might be fine now, but we know the selection committee will take into account that the Buffaloes are lost without injured point guard Spencer Dinwiddie. Baylor looked like a Big 12 contender at one point, but the Bears are 1-6 after Tuesday’s home loss to West Virginia.

Meanwhile, that Baylor win over Kentucky earlier this season is less and less of a statement game after the Wildcats have dropped SEC games to Arkansas and LSU.

At least this week, the SEC provided our projections with the final teams in the field. Tennessee looked listless against Florida, but the Volunteers’ resume includes a major win over Virginia and wins over fellow SEC bubble teams LSU (on the road) and Arkansas.

For now, LSU is in our projections. The Tigers’ case is flimsy, but wins in the last week over Kentucky and Missouri work in their favor. No, a home loss to Rhode Island is a good look, at the end of the bracket, no one looks great.

NCAA Tournament Projections and Bubble Watch: Jan. 29

ACC (6)
Feeling good: Duke, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Virginia
Bubble in: Florida State, North Carolina
Bubble out: Wake Forest
Notes: Seeding for Duke and Virginia will be great if both can continue hot streaks. ... Pittsburgh is probably safe, but the Panthers’ lack of a big win will hurt seeding. ... A season sweep to Virginia isn’t a great look for Florida State, but the Seminoles have few blemishes on the resume. ... North Carolina’s rout of Clemson allows Roy Williams to exhale a little.

American (5)
Feeling good: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Memphis
Bubble in: SMU
Bubble out: None
Notes: Since defeating SMU and Memphis in back-to-back games in early January, Cincinnati has played the dregs of the AAC. A huge game at Louisville looms Thursday. ... The Mustangs’ loss to USF on Tuesday is troublesome. ... UConn’s December losses to Stanford and Houston cut down on the Huskies’ margin for error.

Atlantic 10 (4)
Feeling good: George Washington, Saint Louis, VCU
Bubble in: UMass
Bubble out: Richmond
Notes: Saint Louis’ last loss came Dec. 1 to Wichita State, but the Billikens have yet to hit the meat of their league schedule. ... VCU’s win in Charlottesville over RPI No. 21 Virginia is one of the better ones for the league. The Rams also defeated Belmont, Dayton and La Salle on the road. ... The non-conference resume for UMass is looking more and more suspect. The Minutemen’s only real chance for a big road statement is at George Washington. ... Richmond is on the fringe after a home win over UMass on Jan. 22.

Big 12 (6)
Feeling good: Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas
Bubble in: Kansas State
Bubble out: Baylor
Notes: Baylor, 1-6 in the Big 12 after losing at home to West Virginia, is going to play itself out of the Tournament if the Bears don’t turn things quickly. ... The Sooners are the league’s biggest riser in the last month. ... Kansas should be a No. 1 seed if the Jayhawks can win the tough Big 12. ... Texas has defeated three consecutive AP ranked teams. ... The Cowboys’ last good win was Jan. 8 against Texas.

Big East (4)
Feeling good: Creighton, Villanova
Bubble in: Providence, Xavier
Bubble out: Georgetown
Notes: Providence has won five in a row, including wins over Georgetown, Creighton and Xavier. ... Georgetown has lost five in a row.

Big Ten (7)
Feeling good: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Bubble in: Indiana
Bubble out: Illinois
Notes: Minnesota’s loss to Nebraska wasn’t a great look, but the Gophers have four RPI top-100 wins. ... Anyone remember Michigan’s loss to Charlotte? Didn’t think so. ... Iowa so far has been able to avoid a loss to a below-average team, but the Hawkeyes have few elite wins. ... Indiana and Illinois are close. They split head-to-head meetings, and both lost to Northwestern. The Hoosiers lost at home, but at least they have a Wisconsin win.

Missouri Valley (1)
Feeling good: Wichita State
Bubble in: None
Bubble out: Indiana State
Notes: Indiana State was the Valley’s best hope for a second at-large candidate before losing by 20 to Wichita State on the road. Perhaps the only way the MVC is a multi-bid league is if the Shockers lose in the conference tournament.

Mountain West (3)
Feeling good: San Diego State, New Mexico
Bubble in: Boise State
Bubble out: None
Notes: San Diego State will have a record befitting of a high seed but not the RPI and schedule strength. ... New Mexico is by no means a lock with road trips against Utah State, Boise State, UNLV, Nevada and San Diego State looming. ... Boise State needs to pick up a good conference win, but at least the schedule strength is strong.

Pac-12 (5)
Feeling good: Arizona, UCLA
Bubble in: Cal, Oregon, Stanford
Bubble out: Arizona State, Colorado
Notes: Arizona plays seven of the last 11 regular season games on the road. ... Cal’s road win over Oregon is less and less impressive but not nearly as damaging as last week’s loss at USC. ... The Sun Devils’ marquee win is at home over a wounded Colorado team. ... The Ducks stopped the bleeding of a five-game losing streak by defeating lowly Washington State on Sunday. ... Stanford’s pair of road wins (UConn and Oregon) are keeping the Cardinal in the mix.

SEC (5)
Feeling good: Florida, Kentucky
Bubble in: Missouri, LSU, Tennessee
Bubble out: Arkansas, Ole Miss
Notes: Florida may be in the conversation for a No. 1 seed. ... Tennessee and Ole Miss are on the fringe. Their matchup Wednesday is huge for both. Meanwhile, LSU has lost to both. ... Missouri’s road win over Arkansas on Tuesday was huge. ... With loss to LSU on Tuesday, Kentucky is sliding. ... Stop us if you’ve heard this before: Arkansas needs to win a road game.

West Coast (1)
Feeling good:
Bubble in: None
Bubble out: BYU, Saint Mary’s
Notes: Both BYU and Saint Mary’s lost on the road to Gonzaga, so marquee wins for both are dwindling. ... BYU’s neutral site win over Texas is looking better and better, but it probably won’t be enough to overcome a 6-4 record against teams ranked between 101-200 in the RPI.

One-bid leagues (21)
America East: Stony Brook
Atlantic Sun: Mercer
Big Sky: Northern Colorado
Big South: UNC Asheville
Big West: UC Santa Barbara
Colonial: Delaware
Conference USA: Southern Miss
Horizon: Green Bay
Ivy: Harvard
MAAC: Manhattan
MAC: Toledo
MEAC: North Carolina Central
Northeast: Robert Morris
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Patriot: American
Southern: Davidson
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
Summit: North Dakota State
Sun Belt: Georgia State
SWAC: Southern
WAC: Utah Valley

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