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2024 NCAA Tournament bubble watch: 10 teams that need a strong finish

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The Super Bowl is officially in the rearview mirror, and while Patrick Mahomes was celebrating on Sunday night, other coaches and players in a different sport were going to bed sweating and thinking about the five weeks to come. 

That sport is college basketball, as we are just 34 days away from Selection Sunday and the start of March Madness. This is the time of year when the margin for error is so thin, and the scoreboard watching is real for those teams trying to boost their NCAA Tournament résumés.

If you’re just jumping into college hoops and need a primer on the best teams, here’s our latest top 25.

As for those teams that are battling life on the bubble without it popping, here’s my top 10 to monitor this week. You’ll notice a common theme: The Big East is quite bubbly, with six teams hovering around the cut line. 

1. Providence (15-9 – NET: 57) 

The Friars bolstered their résumé with a dramatic win over a Creighton team with a NET ranking of 16 this past week, but they gave back that momentum with a tough loss to a Butler team that is currently on the right side of the bubble. Providence doesn’t have any bad losses, as I don’t think the team’s home defeat to Seton Hall (NET: 76), which dropped to a Quad 3 result, will stay that way. The issue with the Friars is that they’re just 3-7 away from Amica Mutual Pavilion. 

Devin Carter is having an All-American season, but whether this team hears its name called on Selection Sunday is dependent on what happens around him. A 2-0 week is essential in more ways than one, with a home game against St. John’s coming before an easy one against DePaul. If the Friars can get by the Red Storm, they will feel a lot better about themselves. If they lose to the Johnnies, they’re going to have to win at either Xavier or Marquette the following week to have a shot at a bid.

Devin Carter throws down a NASTY windmill jam to seal Providence’s victory over Georgetown

2. Cincinnati (15-8 – NET: 34) 

The good news for the Bearcats is that they own two marquee Quad 1 road wins over BYU and Texas Tech, a pair of tournament teams. The other good news is that there’s no shortage of chances to continue to bolster their résumé in the daunting Big 12. But that’s the flip side of the equation, as the Bearcats have seen in their new league. The off days are few and far between from The American. With a 4-7 combined record against Quad 1 and 2, and a Quad 3 loss, this team has some more work to do. A home game against No. 10 Iowa State on Tuesday is a precious opportunity for the Bearcats. A win would catapult them, but a loss could be tough to swallow with the next résumé-boosting chances coming at Houston and at TCU, two spots where they would be an underdog going in. 

3. Gonzaga (18-6 – NET: 24) 

The Bulldogs are back on the radar for an at-large bid after leaving Rupp Arena with an 89-85 victory over Kentucky in what was a must-win game for their résumé.  Now, would I put the Zags in today? No. They are still just 1-5 against Quad 1. The committee is all about who you’ve beaten, but there’s not enough meat on the bone at this moment. However, with a top-25 NET and a road win in Lexington, I am now considering Mark Few’s team more so than before. Winning the WCC Tournament would obviously eliminate the bubble issues, but for right now, winning out and beating an NCAA Tournament team in Saint Mary’s on March 2 is the priority. 

4. Seton Hall (15-9 – NET: 76) 

The Pirates moved to the wrong side of the bubble with an 80-54 blowout loss at Villanova on Sunday. Those type of results are a killer in the metrics, as it dropped them nine spots. But Seton Hall still owns wins over Connecticut and Marquette, and has an opening to accumulate more victories down the stretch. For some bubble teams, accumulating wins is most important right now when you have the quality to accompany that count, and Seton Hall has that as one of only two teams to beat the Huskies. That being said, Wednesday night’s matchup against Xavier feels like a must-win for the Pirates.

5. Florida (16-7 – NET: 31) 

The Gators entered Saturday’s home contest against Auburn with just one win against Quadrant 1 competition. That changed in Gainesville in a big way over the weekend. Riley Kugel and Walter Clayton Jr. combined for 42 points in an 81-65 rout over the Tigers. It’s the type of win that gets Todd Golden’s team on the right side of the equation, but now, it’s about sustaining it and not getting it washed away. The Gators’ next two games are home against LSU and at Georgia, two teams outside the top 90 of the NET. For the Gators, the upcoming slate is about stacking wins. 

6. Nebraska (17-8 – NET: 53) 

I like this Huskers team and their star, Keisei Tominaga, leading a group that possesses good experience. Here’s what I don’t like about them: they are 1-7 on the road. They own three Quad 1 wins and have a precious jewel against Purdue, but they have work to do to ensure they get selected for what would be the program’s first NCAA Tournament since 2014. The Huskers have a week off before hosting Penn State in a game they need on Saturday. Losing to the Nittany Lions at home would be a blemish. 

7. Kansas State (15-9 – NET: 77) 

I know what you are thinking. How could the Wildcats be on the bubble with that low of a NET ranking? The NET is one of many factors in selecting the field of 68, and the Wildcats are in the Big 12. What does that mean? There are more résumé-boosting chances on the way. This team has a 4-3 record against Quad 2, but is just 2-5 against Quad 1. They helped themselves with a big overtime win over Kansas last week, but then fell at BYU on Saturday. This weekend presents a big home game against TCU, one Kansas State would like to have to continue the push. 

8. Boise State (16-8 – NET: 49) 

I think the Mountain West, which is having a sensational season, will get five bids to the NCAA Tournament. Six bids is possible, but the Broncos need to make sure they’re not the odd man out. They are 5-6 against Quad 1 and have only played four Quad 4 games, a good sign for a résumé. However, back-to-back losses are not encouraging and have this team going in the wrong direction. Home opportunities against New Mexico and Nevada late in the year will be huge. They have a midweek bye before a must-win game Saturday against Fresno State

9. Mississippi State (16-8 – NET: 36) 

At first glance, it might look like all is well with this team, but the Bulldogs own a dreaded Quadrant 4 loss and are just 3-6 against Quad 1. I still think they’d be part of the last eight in the field today, but they’ve got work to do to shore that up. They have a week to prepare for a home game against Arkansas before hosting Ole Miss in a bubbly game next week. 

10. St. John’s (14-10 – NET: 46) 

Time is running out for the Red Storm. They’re just 2-7 against Quadrant 1 and own a home loss to Michigan. A 5-2 record against Quad 2 is a good place to be, so what needs to happen from here? Rick Pitino’s team needs to break through. It looked like that was going to happen on Saturday at Marquette, but Tyler Kolek had other plans with 27 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds in an 86-75 comeback win for the Golden Eagles. 

The Johnnies need to win Tuesday at Providence to save their season. Could they still make it if they lose that game? That’s a large maybe, but this team needs this game in Friartown. The dramatic part: so do the Friars!

Pitino Chronicles: Rick Pitino on the magnitude of basketball in New York City

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on X at @John_Fanta.


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