March Madness Bubble Tracker: Six bid thieves that could cause bracket chaos
Duke and Kentucky could miss the NCAA Tournament in the same year for the first time since 1976. Both blue-blood programs are also good enough to win their conference tournaments and play spoiler to all the remaining bubble teams fighting to squeeze into the field of 68.
Bid thieves always wreak havoc for bubble teams as Selection Sunday nears. But this year, they're taking on a different look.
An examination of the six most likely bid thieves to shake up the projected bracket in championship week.
Duke. The Blue Devils (11-11, 9-9 ACC) played themselves onto the NCAA Tournament bubble in late February but then off it with three consecutive losses to close out the regular season. But coach Mike Krzyzewski still has a team capable of winning the ACC tournament, best proven by a Feb. 20 win over top seed Virginia. Christian Laettner impersonator Matthew Hurt (18.7 ppg) can get hot, exemplified by his 37-point performance in an overtime loss to Louisville on Feb. 27.
Kentucky. The Wildcats (9-15, 8-9 SEC) were never able to find a true identity despite showing flashes of potential. Coach John Calipari can rally this group to pull off a shocker in winning the SEC tournament, though, because there's undoubtedly enough talent here. A 15-point win over No. 2 seed Tennessee on Feb. 20 proves this. Freshman Brandon Boston Jr. is a 6-7 guard with breakout ability who's now got a full regular season under his belt.
Memphis. The Tigers (15-7, 11-4 AAC) just fell off the NCAA Tournament bubble and have been in the hunt for an at-large bid. Coach Penny Hardaway's group is good enough to win the American Athletic tournament and steal a bid. The Tigers had won six in a row before a three-point road loss to the AAC's top seed, Houston. Memphis beat the co-champion of the league, Wichita State, by 20 points Jan. 21.
St. John's. The Red Storm (16-10, 10-9 Big East) draws a No. 4 vs. No. 5 Big East tournament matchup with Seton Hall, a team it beat by 10 points March 6. St. John's is essentially out of the at-large discussion after playing itself onto the bubble thanks to winning nine of the past 12 games. There's an easier pathway to the title game on St. John's side of the bracket because top-seeded Villanova lost its best player, Collin Gillespie, to a season-ending injury last week.
Indiana. It's a long shot, but the Hoosiers (12-14, 7-12 Big Ten) do have pieces to conceivably win the country's toughest conference tournament. Coach Archie Miller's team has shown flashes of success throughout the season, defeating Iowa twice and playing No. 2 seed Illinois close in both losses. Trayce Jackson-Davis (19.1 ppg, 9.0 rpg) is one of the best players in the Big Ten, and he'll need to shine for Indiana to be a bid thief.
Stanford. The Cardinal (14-12, 10-10 Pac-12), a former bubble team, have lost their past four games but as a No. 6 seed in the Pac-12 tournament still have a shot at upsetting better-ranked teams to win the whole thing. They beat UCLA on Jan. 23 and own a really nice Quadrant 1 (top-25 home, top-75 away) victory over Alabama.
Conference outlooks on the updated Bubble Tracker, examining the bubble teams still sweating it out until Selection Sunday on March 14:
Breakdown data, compiled by bracketologist Shelby Mast, is updated through games of March 9.
Locks: N/A | Probable: N/A
► St. Bonaventure (In – No. 11 seed): 15-4 (11-4) 27 NET 107 SoS 236 NonCon SoS
- The Good: Wins against Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth, Davidson (2), Saint Louis
- The Bad: Loss to Rhode Island
► Virginia Commonwealth (In – No. 11 seed): 19-6 (10-4) 35 NET 94 SoS 61 NonCon SoS
- The Good: Wins against St. Bonaventure, Utah State, Memphis, Richmond, Davidson
- The Bad: Losses to Rhode Island, George Mason
► Saint Louis (Out for now): 14-6 (6-4) 44 NET 118 SoS 222 NonCon SoS
- The Good: Wins against St. Bonaventure, LSU, Richmond, North Carolina State
- The Bad: Losses to Dayton (2), LaSalle
Locks: Houston | Probable: N/A
► Wichita State (In - No. 10 seed): 13-4 (11-2) 65 NET 86 SoS 213 NonCon SoS
- The Good: Wins against Houston, Mississippi
- The Bad: No bad losses
► SMU (out for now): 11-4 (7-4) 56 NET 101 SoS 319 NonCon SoS
- The Good: Wins against Dayton, Memphis
- The Bad: Loss to Cincinnati
► Memphis (out for now): 15-7 (11-4) 52 NET 121 SoS 169 NonCon SoS
- The Good: Wins against SMU, Saint Mary’s, Wichita State
- The Bad: Losses to Tulsa (2)
Locks: Virginia, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Clemson, North Carolina | Probable: Louisville, Georgia Tech
► Syracuse (Out for now): 13-8 (7-7) 49 NET 67 SoS 170 NonCon SoS
- The Good: Wins against Virginia Tech, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Clemson
- The Bad: Losses to Pittsburgh (2)
Locks: Villanova, Creighton | Probable: Connecticut
► Xavier (In for now - No. 12 seed): 13-7 (6-7) 57 NET 84 SoS, 251 NonCon SoS
- The Good: Wins against Oklahoma, Toledo, St. John’s, Creighton
- The Bad: Losses to Georgetown, Marquette
► Seton Hall (Out for now): 13-12 (10-9) 57 NET 37 SoS 28 NonCon SoS
- The Good: Wins against Penn State, Xavier, Connecticut, St. John’s
- The Bad: Losses to Providence, Rhode Island, Butler
► St. John's (Out for now): 16-10 (10-9) 68 NET 73 SoS 124 NonCon SoS
- The Good: Wins against Villanova, Connecticut, Xavier
- The Bad: Losses to Marquette, Butler, Georgetown, DePaul
Locks: Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue | Probable: Rutgers, Maryland, Michigan State
Locks: Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, West Virginia | Probable: Kansas, Oklahoma State
Locks: N/A | Probable: San Diego State
► Boise State (In - No. 12 seed): 17-7 (14-6) 43 NET 102 SoS 11 NonCon SoS
- The Good: Wins against BYU, Colorado State, Utah State (2)
- The Bad: Loss to Fresno State
► Colorado State (In - No. 12 seed): 16-5 (14-4) 50 NET 116 SoS 207 NonCon SoS
- The Good: Wins against San Diego State, Utah State, Boise State
- The Bad: Loss to Nevada
► Utah State (Out for now): 17-7 (15-4) 48 NET 123 SoS 72 NonCon SoS
- The Good: Wins against San Diego State (2), Colorado State
- The Bad: Losses to UNLV, South Dakota State
Locks: USC, UCLA, Oregon, Colorado | Probable: N/A
Locks: Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri | Probable: Arkansas, Florida, LSU
Assume these teams do not win their conference tournament to secure the automatic bid.
Locks: Gonzaga, BYU, Loyola-Chicago | Probable: N/A
► Drake (In - No. 12 seed): 23-4 (15-3) 47 NET 170 SoS 93 NonCon SoS
- The Good: Win against Loyola-Chicago
- The Bad: Losses to Valparaiso, Bradley
► Western Kentucky (In - No. 12 seed): 18-6 (11-3) 86 NET 127 SoS 37 NonCon SoS
- The Good: Wins against Alabama, Marshall (2), Memphis
- The Bad: Losses to Louisiana Tech, Charlotte
NCAA Tournament language explainer:
- Quadrant 1 wins: Home games vs. 1-30 NET teams; Neutral-site games vs. 1-50 NET; Away games vs. 1-75 NET
- Quadrant 2 wins: Home games vs. 31-75 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 51-100 NET; Away games vs. 76-135 NET
- Quadrant 3 wins, losses: Home games vs. 76-160 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 101-200 NET; Away games vs. 136-240 NET
- Quadrant 4 wins, losses: Home games vs. 161-plus NET; Neutral-site games vs. 201-plus NET; Away games vs. 241-plus NET
Note: Most statistical data is used from WarrenNolan.com. The NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) rankings also are a reference point.
About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 on his website, Bracket W.A.G. He joined USA TODAY in 2014. In his eighth season as our national bracketologist, Mast has finished as one of the top three bracketologists in the past seven March Madnesses. He’s also predicted for The Indianapolis Star, collegeinsider.com and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson