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NCAA Tournament Projections, Bubble Watch and Key Games

Bill Self

Bill Self

The NCAA Tournament field is ever-evolving at this time of year.

A week or so ago, Arkansas was barely on the NCAA Tournament radar. After Thursday’s win over Kentucky, the Razorbacks can claim a spot in the field barring a major loss. Minnesota has enjoyed the same turnaround after defeating Iowa.

Five of six ranked teams in action Thursday night lost, perhaps signaling a wild two weeks before the major conference tournaments begin.

Here are the games that will determine the field, plus projections of the bubble teams under pressure in the final weeks.

Key Games with NCAA Tournament Implications this Weekend

Providence at Seton Hall (Friday, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
The Friars once looked like an NCAA Tournament team, but their only three wins in the last month are against DePaul twice and Butler once. With two wins over Georgetown and one over Xavier, Seton Hall is relishing its spoiler role.

Vanderbilt at Tennessee (Saturday, noon, ESPN2)
While the fans in Knoxville scream for a Bruce Pearl return, Cuonzo Martin is still on the edge of NCAA Tournament consideration. Not with a home loss to Vanderbilt, though.

Texas Tech at Baylor (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Big 12 Network)
Texas ended Baylor’s four-game winning streak with a 74-69 win on Wednesday. Baylor can’t afford to take losses in bunches again like it did back in January.

Louisville at Memphis (Saturday, 2 p.m., CBS)
The possibility of a repeat won’t seem too far-fetched for Louisville if the Cards win in Memphis.

Related: Louisville-Memphis Game Preview

Missouri State at Wichita State (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN)
The only thing standing between Wichita State and an undefeated regular season is the last team to truly challenge the Shockers this season.

LSU at Florida (Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS)
A win in Gainesville may be one of the last hopes for LSU to get an at-large bid. Good luck. The Gators have won 30 in a row at home.

Syracuse at Virginia (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN)
The Orange draw their second consecutive road game against a delirious crowd, this time against a Cavaliers team with an ACC title on its mind.

Related: Syracuse-Virginia Game Preview

Texas at Oklahoma (Saturday 4 p.m., Big 12 Network)
The two teams are jockeying for seeding in the Big 12 tournament. The Longhorns are still looking to buck the trend of dismal road play.

Creighton at Xavier (Saturday, 5 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
The Musketeers are seeking their first RPI top 50 win since defeating Cincinnati on Dec. 14.

Minnesota at Michigan (Saturday, 6 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Welcome back to the bracket projections, Minnesota. The Gophers’ win over Iowa on Tuesday puts Richard Pitino’s team in a better spot. Winning in Ann Arbor might seal a bid.

Cal at Arizona State (Saturday, 6 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
The Bears defeated Arizona the first time around but lost by 28 in the return trip. Not a great look for a team trying to build an NCAA resume.

Iowa State at Kansas State (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPNU)
The Cyclones keep rolling while Kansas State is 2-2 since the upset of Kansas. The Wildcats’ two wins were over TCU and Texas Tech.

Kansas at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN)
Oklahoma State roared back in the second half against Kansas during the first meeting in Lawrence before coming up short. Seems like ages ago.

Related: Oklahoma State bubble watch profile

NCAA Tournament Projections and Bubble Watch

ACC (5)
Feeling good: Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia
Bubble in: Pittsburgh
Bubble out: Clemson

American (5)
Feeling good: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Memphis
Bubble in: SMU
Bubble out: None

Atlantic 10 (5)
Feeling good: George Washington, Saint Louis, UMass, VCU
Bubble in: St. Joseph’s
Bubble out: Richmond, Dayton

Big 12 (7)
Feeling good: Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas
Bubble in: Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma State
Bubble out: West Virginia

Big East (4)
Feeling good: Creighton, Villanova
Bubble in: St. John’s, Xavier
Bubble out: Georgetown, Marquette, Providence

Big Ten (6)
Feeling good: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Bubble in: Minnesota
Bubble out: Nebraska

Mountain West (2)
Feeling good: New Mexico, San Diego State
Bubble in: None
Bubble out: Boise State

Pac-12 (7)
Feeling good: Arizona, Stanford, UCLA
Bubble in: Arizona State, Cal, Colorado, Oregon
Bubble out: None

SEC (4)
Feeling good: Florida, Kentucky
Bubble in: Arkansas
Bubble out: LSU, Missouri, Tennessee

West Coast (2)
Feeling good:
Bubble in: BYU, Gonzaga
Bubble out: None

Favorites in one-bid leagues (22)
America East:
Atlantic Sun: Mercer
Big Sky: Weber State
Big South: High Point
Big West: UC Santa Barbara
Colonial: Delaware
Conference USA: Southern Miss
Horizon: Green Bay
Ivy: Harvard
MAAC: Iona
MAC: Toledo
MEAC: North Carolina Central
Missouri Valley: Wichita State*
Northeast: Robert Morris
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Patriot: Boston University
Southern: Elon
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
Summit: North Dakota State
Sun Belt: Georgia State
SWAC: Texas Southern
WAC: New Mexico State
*Wichita State would be an at-large if the Shockers lose in the MVC tournament