February 26, 2024

2024 NCAA Tournament bubble watch: 10 teams needing a strong finish

The Super Bowl is officially in the rearview mirror, and while Patrick Mahomes celebrated Sunday night, other coaches and players in another sport went to bed sweating and thinking about the next five weeks.

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 slim, and looking at the scoreboard is real for the teams trying to boost their NCAA Tournament resumes.

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

As for the teams battling life in the bubble without it bursting, here are my top 10 to watch this week. You’ll notice a common theme: The Big East is quite vibrant, with six teams hovering around the cut line.

1. Providence (15-9 – NET: 57)

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

Devin Carter is having an All-American season, but whether this team hears his name called on Selection Sunday depends on what happens around him. A 2-0 week is essential in more ways than one, with a home game against St. John’s preceding an easy matchup against DePaul. If the Brothers can weather the Red Storm, they’ll feel a lot better about themselves. If they lose to the Johnnies, they will have to win against Xavier or Marquette the following week to have a chance to earn a bid.

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

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 big Quad 1 road wins over BYU and Texas Tech, a pair of tournament teams. The other good news is that there is no shortage of opportunities to continue to strengthen their resume in the tough Big 12. But that’s the other side of the equation, as the Bearcats have seen in their new league. Days off are few and far between at The American. With a combined record of 4-7 against Quad 1 and 2, and a loss in Quad 3, this team still has some 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 would be hard to swallow as the next opportunities for a resume boost would come in Houston and at TCU, two places where they would be underdogs.

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 on their resume. Would I put the Zags in today? No. They are still only 1-5 against Quad 1. What matters to the committee is who you beat, but there is not enough meat on the bone at the moment. However, with a top-25 NET and a road win in Lexington, I now think more about Mark Few’s team than before. Winning the WCC Tournament would obviously eliminate the bubble issues, but right now the priority is winning and beating an NCAA Tournament team at Saint Mary’s on March 2.

4. Seton Hall (15-9 – NET: 76)

The Pirates moved to the wrong side of the bubble on Sunday after an 80-54 loss at Villanova. Those kinds of results are a killer in the statistics, because they dropped nine places. But Seton Hall still has wins over Connecticut and Marquette, and has an opening to pick up more wins down the road. For some bubble teams, getting wins right now is most important if you have the quality to back up that count, and Seton Hall calls that one of only two teams that can beat the Huskies. That said, Wednesday night’s game against Xavier feels like a must-win for the Pirates.

5. Florida (16-7 – NET: 31)

The Gators entered Saturday’s home game against Auburn with just one win against Quadrant 1 competition. That changed in a big way this weekend in Gainesville. Riley Kugel and Walter Clayton Jr. combined for 42 points in an 81-65 loss to the Tigers. It’s the kind of win that puts Todd Golden’s team on the right side of the equation, but now it’s about holding on to it and not letting it wash away. The Gators’ next two games are at home against LSU and at Georgia, two teams outside the NET’s top 90. For the Gators, the upcoming list is about piling up wins.

6. Nebraska (17-8 – NET: 53)

I like this Huskers team and their star, Keisei Tominaga, who leads a group that has 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 gem against Purdue, but they have work to do to ensure they are 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 Saturday. Losing at home to the Nittany Lions would be a bummer.

7. State of Kansas (15-9 – NET: 77)

I know what you’re thinking. How could the Wildcats be in the bubble with such a low 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 even more opportunities to improve your resume. This team has a 4-3 record against Quad 2 teams, but is just 2-5 against Quad 1 opponents. They helped themselves to a big overtime win over Kansas last week, but fell to BYU on Saturday. With a big home game against TCU scheduled for this weekend, Kansas State should be keen to continue this move.

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 are possible, but the Broncos must ensure they are not the odd ones out. They are 5-6 against Quad 1 and have only played four Quad 4 games, a good sign for a resume. However, the back-to-back losses are not encouraging and have this team heading in the wrong direction. Home chances against New Mexico and Nevada late in the year will be huge. They have a midweek bye before a win against Fresno State on Saturday.

9. The state of Mississippi (16-8 – NET: 36)

At first glance it may seem like everything is going well for this team, but the Bulldogs are coming off a feared defeat in Quadrant 4 and are only 3-6 against Quad 1. I still think they’ll be in the last eight today in the field would hear. , but they have work to do. They have a week to prepare for a home game against Arkansas before hosting Ole Miss in a buzzing match next week.

10. St. John’s (14-10 – NET: 46)

Time is running out for the Red Storm. They are just 2-7 against Quadrant 1 and have a home loss to Michigan. A 5-2 record against Quad 2 is a good place to be, so what happens from here? Rick Pitino’s team needs to break through. It looked like that would happen 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 at Providence on Tuesday to save their season. Would they still survive if they lost that match? That’s a big one maybe, but this team needs this game in Friartown. The dramatic part: that goes for the brothers too!

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

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

John Fanta is a national basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in various 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 @John_Fanta.

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