BUBBLE WATCH: Big Ten strong up top but several bubble teams
The Big Ten has three teams that should have NCAA Tournament spots all but locked up. No. 6 Michigan, No. 11 Michigan State and No. 12 Purdue have done enough so far and their spots in the field of 68 are pretty much assured.
The rest of the teams in the conference keep beating up on each other, leaving several with work to be done the final month of the season.
No. 20 Wisconsin (17-8, 9-5) should be in good shape despite losing to Michigan and Michigan State its past two games. The Badgers were a No. 4 seed in the NCAA selection committee’s initial rankings and have an easier road to close the season, facing one team (Iowa) that has a winning conference record.
No. 24 Maryland (19-6, 10-4) is in a similar near-lock situation after knocking off Purdue on Tuesday. The Terps lost to Illinois, but their only others in conference were to Purdue, Michigan State and Wisconsin.
Iowa (19-5, 8-5) is solid as well with no truly bad losses on its resume. The Hawkeyes avoided what would have been a hurtful loss by rallying to beat Northwestern on Sunday.
Ohio State had a rough start to Big Ten play, losing its first five games, including to Rutgers. The Buckeyes (16-8, 6-6) have been better of late, but Thursday’s loss to Illinois leaves less margin for error.
Minnesota (16-9, 6-8) suffered a tough setback against Nebraska, stretching its losing streak to four games. The Gophers need to avoid more slipups and have opportunities for resume-building with games against Michigan and Purdue still on their schedule.
Once on the path to its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2016, Indiana (13-11, 4-9) has veered off the path since the start of the new year. The Hoosiers lost seven straight, their longest since 2010-11, and have dropped nine of 10. The one win was against Michigan State, but Indiana has some work to do between now and March Madness.
Nebraska’s win over Minnesota at least kept the Cornhuskers (14-11, 4-10) in the NCAA Tournament conversation, but they really need to make an impression to close out the regular season and in the Big Ten Tournament.
ON THE RISE
Ole Miss (17-7, 7-4 SEC). The Rebels put a dent in their NCAA chances with four straight losses, but moved away from the bubble’s edge with a second victory over Auburn — on the road this time — on Wednesday.
Furman (21-5, 10-4 Southern). The Paladins made some waves early in the season by knocking off Villanova and Loyola-Chicago, Final Four teams a year ago. Furman had a couple dips, including a loss to Samford, but picked up a huge win against UNC Greensboro on Thursday for its fifth straight victory.
Belmont (20-4, 11-2 OVC). The Bruins’ win over Tennessee State on Thursday will do little for their resume, but they have a win over Murray State and swept two games against fellow bubble team Lipscomb.
VCU (18-6, 9-2 Atlantic 10). The Rams are going on a run at the right time. They’ve won five straight with Wednesday’s victory over Richmond and have a road win over Texas on their resume.
Arizona State (16-8, 7-5 SEC). The Sun Devils bounced back from an ugly loss to Washington State by beating Pac-12 leader Washington. Arizona State dipped back onto the bubble with a disappointing loss to Colorado Wednesday night.
Clemson (15-9, 5-6 ACC). The Tigers moved toward the bubble with four straight wins, but Wednesday’s loss to Miami hurts. Clemson still has potential resume-building wins within reach with No. 16 Louisville, No. 17 Florida State and No. 8 North Carolina left on the schedule.
Oklahoma (15-10, 3-9 Big 12). The Sooners seem to be playing their way out of the bubble picture with five straight losses. There are still opportunities ahead with No. 23 Iowa State, No. 18 Kansas State and No. 14 Kansas coming up.
Alabama (15-9, 6-5 SEC). Losing at Mississippi State is by no means awful, but doing it by 19 points isn’t great for a team looking to solidify its NCAA Tournament standing. A win over fellow bubble team Florida on Saturday could help the Crimson Tide’s case.