We are getting closer to that phenomenon we all know as March Madness. The 2018-19 college basketball regular season is winding down and a handful of conferences – the Atlantic Sun and the Big South, for example – will be playing their conference tournaments as early as next week. March 17, aka Selection Sunday, will be upon us before you know it. Knowing that, here’s the latest on the bubble watch.
The Last Four In Barring upsets in their respective conference tournaments, look for Seton Hall, Temple, Clemson, and Utah State to be the last four teams to make the Big Dance. Temple is 20-8 and is the only team to beat American Athletic Conference leader Houston. The Owls have three very winnable games – Tulane, Connecticut, UCF – remaining on the schedule.
Seton Hall (16-11) has done its best to stay afloat in the Big East, but the Pirates have a huge win over Kentucky earlier in the season. Seton Hall will finish the season with No. 10 Marquette and Villanova and if the Pirates win one or both of those games, they are in for sure.
If it wasn’t for 12th-ranked Nevada, Utah State would be the class of the Mountain West. Instead, the 23-6 Aggies are going to cross their collective fingers and hope that they are one of the last four in. They should be as should Clemson (17-11) if it can go at least 2-1 in its last three games. A boost would be provided by a weekend upset of No. 5 North Carolina. The Tigers close the season on March 9 with Syracuse.
Mid-Major Snubs Nevada could lose in the Mountain West Conference tournament (not likely) and still make the NCAA tourney as an at-large team. The same holds true for Buffalo. One could make the case for Wofford, which is 25-4 with the four losses to North Carolina, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi State. The Terriers beat South Carolina by 20 and are a perfect 17-0 in Southern Conference play.
Still, if Wofford loses in the Southern Conference tournament, their chances of making the NCAA tournament are slim at best. The SoCon has never sent an at-large team to the Big Dance.
One of Belmont or Murray State will get a tournament snub should they lose in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. Belmont (24-4, 15-2), which has a win over UCLA, beat Murray State (24-4, 15-2) in the only meeting of the season between the two teams.
Lipscomb (22-6, 13-2) will need to win the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament or the Bisons will be spending March playing in the NIT. Lipscomb’s biggest threat comes from Liberty (24-6, 13-2). After beating Liberty by 20 earlier in the season, Lipscomb lost to the Flames by 18 at home in mid-February. The Bisons also have an ugly loss to Florida Gulf Coast, which is just 13-17 overall.
Saint Mary’s (20-10, 11-4) likely needs to upset Gonzaga for the West Coast Conference tournament title to make it to the NCAA tournament. The Gaels face the Bulldogs in the season finale for both teams on Mar. 2. A win there would help, but a tournament title guarantees Saint Mary’s a spot in the NCAAs. The Gaels biggest win of the season is over New Mexico State.