No automatic bids were earned on Friday, but the bubble has largely sorted itself out with only a handful of teams in play for the final few at-large bids.
This provides a snapshot into the current state of locks and bubble teams for each conference, and it will be updated throughout Championship Week.
Automatic Bids (12): Jacksonville State, Winthrop, Wichita State, Florida Gulf Coast, UNC-Wilmington, East Tennessee St., Iona, Northern Kentucky, Mount St. Mary’s, Gonzaga, South Dakota State, Bucknell
Locks (8): Duke, Florida State, Louisville, Miami (FL), North Carolina, Notre Dame, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Syracuse (18-14) – I wrote quite a bit about the Orange in Friday’s bracket projections, but in short the Orange are hanging their hat on six Top 50 wins being enough to overshadow other elements of their profile that have historically led to exclusion.
Wake Forest (19-13) – The Demon Deacons improved their at-large profile dramatically over the past two weeks, but they came up short against Virginia Tech on Wednesday night. That loss leaves them at 3-10 against the RPI Top 50, but solid KenPom numbers and an impressive non-conference strength of schedule bolster their chances. I wouldn’t necessarily consider them a lock, but I think Wake is in good shape overall.
Locks (5): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma State, West Virginia
Kansas State (20-13) – Thursday’s game against Baylor was essentially a must-win for the Wildcats, and they came through with a critical victory. They nearly pulled off another upset but lost by one point to West Virginia in the semis. K-State now has three Top 25 wins but are just 6-11 against the Top 100, were recently blown out by 30 at Oklahoma, and have a less than impressive non-conference strength of schedule. K-State does boast strong KenPom numbers, but Dayton is the likely destination if they make the field.
Locks (4): Butler, Creighton, Marquette, Seton Hall, Villanova
Providence (20-12) – The good news is the Friars have six Top 50 wins. The bad news is they’ve lost to St. John’s, DePaul, and Boston College, although eight Top 100 wins help to offset those blemishes. While they may end up in Dayton, I think the Friars are in.
Xavier (21-13) – I’m not sure there was a bigger win on Thursday than Xavier’s victory over Butler, and they lost a thriller to Creighton in the semis. The Musketeers’ RPI is solid with no sub-100 losses, but a poor record since losing Edmond Sumner to injury had doubt creeping in. They now have four wins against the RPI Top 50 with a good non-conference strength of schedule. They may not be in lock status quite yet, but I feel good about Xavier’s chances at this point.
Locks (7): Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin
Illinois (17-14) – Just when you thought Illinois was playing its way in, the Illini lost at Rutgers on Saturday and then got hammered by Michigan in their Big Ten Tournament opener. They have five Top 50 wins plus a sweep of Iowa, but they are just 12-14 against the Top 200 with two losses to Penn State and in addition to that Rutgers loss. It’s tough to see the Illini making it after Thursday’s loss.
Iowa (18-14) – Much like Illinois, the Hawkeyes had played their way onto the bubble, but they were basically run off the floor in the second half against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament. Five Top 50 wins will keep Iowa in the conversation, but a sub-.500 mark against the Top 200, including a trio of sub-100 losses, make their inclusion unlikely.
Locks (3): Arizona, Oregon, UCLA
California (21-12) – The Bears lost Jabari Bird to an injury early in their semi-final matchup against Oregon, and they wound up losing by eight points. As a result they still have just one win over an at-large caliber team, which came against fellow bubbler USC by a single point.
USC (24-9) – A pair of Top 20 wins over UCLA and SMU are fantastic, but there isn’t much else on their profile. They took care of business against Washington in their first Pac-12 Tournament game but came up short against UCLA in the Quarterfinals. For now I think they’re in, but a trip to Dayton is likely in the cards.
Locks (4): Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina
Vanderbilt (19-14) – Vandy needed overtime but picked up their third win over Florida to reach the SEC semis. They boast the nation’s toughest non-conference schedule, which coupled with six Top 50 wins gives them a compelling case. That said, a 20-point loss at Mizzou, as well as the 14 total losses are potential issues, but I find it hard to believe they’ll be left out.
Locks (2): Cincinnati, SMU
Locks (2): Dayton, VCU
Rhode Island (22-9) – The Rams took care of business against St. Bonaventure to reach the A-10 semis, but they won’t get another crack at Dayton after the Flyers were upset by Davidson. URI beat Davidson twice during the regular season, and another win will but the Rams one victory away from the auto-bid. As it stands, they boast a pair of Top 25 victories, but they are just 7-7 against the Top 100 with two sub-100 losses.
Locks (1): Saint Mary’s
Illinois State (26-6) – The Redbirds finished 17-1 in the MVC, but they have just one Top 50 win and are 2-4 against the Top 100 after getting blown out by Wichita State in the Missouri Valley Championship. A sub-200 loss at Murray State certainly doesn’t help matters, and if I had to guess, I think they wind up getting left out.
Middle Tennessee (28-4) – If not for a loss at sub-200 UTEP, the Blue Raiders would be close to a lock thanks to a 4-2 mark against the Top 100 and a great non-conference strength of schedule. They finished C-USA play at 17-1 and will take on Marshall for the auto-bid. I tend to think they are in either way.
Nevada (27-6) – On paper the nine Top 100 wins look nice, but none of those came against Top 65 teams. In the end I don’t think the resume is strong enough to get an at-large, but making the MWC Finals at least makes it possible I suppose.
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