With Selection Sunday now less than three weeks away (seriously!), the bubble population is pretty well set. A quick breakdown of where we stand:
Locks, or close to it:
Gonzaga: Gonzaga is now an actual, literal lock. As in, the Bulldogs could lose their remaining two regular season games and in the first round of the West Coast Conference tournament (they won’t) and still be in the field. That said, with games against San Diego and BYU remaining on the schedule, the Bulldogs can still play themselves up a seed line.
Rhode Island: The Rams don’t have anything to worry about after their loss at St. Bonaventure. With no losses outside of Quadrant 1 and wins over Providence and Seton Hall in the non-conference, Dan Hurley has his club hurtling toward a bid and, maybe, a protected seed.
Should be in:
Nevada: Nevada is inching closer to lock territory and can get there with two should-be-wins at home this week. The Wolf Pack have just two Quadrant 1 wins, but one of them is against possible top-four seed Rhode Island.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels move from virtual lock status to “should be in” because of their unexpected loss to San Francisco. I have a hard time imagining them being left out of the field, but a weak non-conference schedule makes their margin for error unnecessarily slim.
Work left to do:
Middle Tennessee: Points FOR the Blue Raiders: A 12-1 record on the road, a 17-1 record against Quadrants 3 and 4 (so teams that they SHOULD beat), and wins over Ole Miss and Vanderbilt in the non-conference. Points against: Their two Quadrant 1 wins aren’t exactly against name brands and their conference is ranked 12th in KenPom — in other words, there are few opportunities to move the needle.
St. Bonaventure: The Bonnies took a HUGE step forward last week by beating Rhode Island at home. KenPom now projects them to win each of their remaining regular season games, and if they can do so, they will be in the Should Be In category by the start of A-10 Tournament play.
Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers have more (and worse) losses than Middle Tennessee and trail the Blue Raiders in the conference standings, but their win over Purdue carries a ton of weight. They’ve taken care of business since our last check-in, but finish with three Tier A/B games, per KenPom.
It’ll take a lot, but you never know:
Boise State: The Broncos have lost a couple, but I’m not ready to give up on them entirely. For one thing, they don’t have a single loss on their resume that isn’t a Tier A or Tier B game, per KenPom, and their two worst losses were on the road. The big concern: Boise State has no Quadrant 1 victories and their only chance to get one might be in the Mountain West title game against Nevada. Boise should play it safe and just steal the auto-bid.
New Mexico State: The two-bid WAC campaign was fun for a while, wasn’t it? Now that NMSU has dropped a couple, we can stop with that nonsense. The Aggies are far and away the favorite to win the WAC Tournament, so you should still expect to see them in the NCAAs and they can certainly make noise.