No automatic bids were earned on Thursday, but a full day of basketball produced a few more locks and a number of other impactful results.
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 today’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 3-9 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 (20-12) – Thursday’s game against Baylor was essentially a must-win for the Wildcats, and they came through with a critical victory. They now have three Top 25 wins but are just 6-10 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 and would almost certainly be safe with a win over West Virginia in the semis.
TCU (18-14) – The Horned Frogs took advantage of Josh Jackson’s absence to spring the upset of Kansas and get back into the bubble conversation. As it stands, they are just 3-10 against the Top 50 and 4-11 against the Top 100 with a trio of sub-100 losses. If they can make it three wins in three days by knocking off Iowa State, things could start to get interesting for Jamie Dixon’s club.
Locks (4): Butler, Creighton, Seton Hall, Villanova
Marquette (19-12) – A home win over Villanova carries some serious weight, which is great news given Marquette’s ugly non-conference strength of schedule. Even with Thursday’s loss to Seton Hall, the Golden Eagles have eight Top 50 wins (a number of them against injury-depleted foes), but they are just .500 against the Top 200. Ultimately I think they’ll be in, just aren’t quite a lock for me right now.
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. Similar to Marquette, I think the Friars are in.
Xavier (21-12) – I’m not sure there was a bigger win on Thursday than Xavier’s victory over Butler. The Musketeers’ RPI is decent 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 40 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 three Top 50 wins plus sweeps of Northwestern and Iowa, but they are just 12-14 against the Top 200 with two losses to Penn State and another at the hands of Rutgers. It’s tough to see the Illini making it after Thursday’s loss.
Indiana (18-14) – There is still work to do for the Hoosiers, but Thursday’s blowout of Iowa was the first step in what they need to be a deep Big Ten Tournament run. Wins over Kansas and North Carolina are terrific, though they came with a healthy OG Anunoby. Overall, Indiana does have nine Top 100 victories. IU has to knock off Wisconsin on Friday to remain in the picture.
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 (21-11) – The Bears held on to beat Utah to earn a trip to the Pac-12 Semi-Finals where they will get another crack at Oregon, who they seemed destined to beat just a few weeks ago. Cal blew a late lead in that game, and 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
Georgia (18-13) – Selfishly I’d love to see J.J. Frazier get the Bulldogs to the tournament, but that seems like a long shot thanks to a 1-8 mark against the Top 50 and no wins over surefire at-large teams. They probably need to win the SEC Tournament at this point, but a win over Kentucky on Friday would make things interesting.
Mississippi (20-12) – The Rebels beat South Carolina at home on Saturday to get into the bubble conversation. At this point they have just two Top 50 wins and a 3-12 mark against the Top 100, but the lack of sub-100 losses works in their favor. Still, they need to get to the SEC Final to have any shot at an at-large.
Vanderbilt (18-14) – Vandy blew out Texas A&M to set up a matchup with Florida, who they’ve already beaten twice this year. They boast the nation’s toughest non-conference schedule, which coupled with five Top 40 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’d be left out with another win over the Gators.
Locks (2): Cincinnati, SMU
Locks (2): Dayton, VCU
Rhode Island (21-9) – The Rams now boast a pair of Top 25 victories, but they are just 7-7 against the Top 100 with two sub-100 losses. They took care of business last week, and a win in the semis against Dayton would enhance their at-large profile. But first, they need to beat St. Bonaventure on Thursday.
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 (27-4) – If not for a loss at sub-200 UTEP, the Blue Raiders would be close to a lock thanks to a 4-1 mark against the Top 100 and a great non-conference strength of schedule. They finished C-USA play at 17-1 and get a rematch with UTEP in the Conference USA semis. If they can get to the conference finals, I give them a solid chance.
Nevada (26-6) – On paper the seven Top 100 wins look nice, but a sweep of Boise State accounts for their only victories over Top 70 teams. In the end I don’t think the resume is strong enough to get an at-large, but I suppose winning out until the MWC Finals could make things interesting.
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