Bubble Watch winners and losers: Oklahoma, Virginia Tech resuscitate NCAA Tournament at-large hopes

One simple recipe for a NCAA tournament bubble team that's way on the outside looking in is to win in the conference tournament against a top-tier team. 

Enter Oklahoma. 

The Sooners began the day on life support but then resuscitated their profile by upsetting Baylor in the Big 12 tournament. That vaulted Oklahoma all the way to the "first four out" category and positions them close to the projected field of 68. 

Also on Thursday, Indiana got the best of Michigan in a clash between two Big Ten bubble teams. That win pushes the Hoosiers slightly ahead but they're still one of the "first four out." It also subsequently shoves Michigan into less safe waters as one of the "last four in." Florida went down to the wire in an overtime loss to Texas A&M – an outcome that will likely push the Gators from "the first four out" to out of contention to make the field of 68.

  • Last four in: SMU, Michigan, Dayton, Xavier 
  • First four out: VCU, Indiana, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma 
  • Next four out:  Wake Forest, BYU, St Louis, St Bonaventure

A look at the winners and losers of the bubble (full bracket at the bottom):


Thursday's games

Oklahoma. The Sooners (18-14, 7-11 Big 12) upset Baylor 72-67 in the Big 12 tournament, earning a matchup with Texas Tech in the semifinals. Win that and Oklahoma is in, lose it and it'll be serious sweating on Selection Sunday. Four Quadrant 1 wins help offset a non-conference strength of schedule in the 200s. First four out.

Oklahoma Sooners forward Jacob Groves (34) makes a three point shot against the Baylor Bears in the second half at T-Mobile Center.

Virginia Tech. The Hokies (21-12, 11-9 ACC) knocked off Notre Dame in the ACC tournament 87-80 a day after escaping Clemson in overtime on a Darius Maddox buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Beating the Irish was almost a Quadrant 1 victory (the Irish rank 53rd in the NET score) this team was needing. A NET score in the 30s is appealing, but a Quad 1 win against North Carolina in the ACC semis would solidify an at-large bid. First four out. 

Indiana. The Hoosiers (19-12, 9-11 Big Ten) started Thursday as one of the "first four out," but a 74-69 win against Michigan in the Big Ten Conference tournament could be the antidote to what was missing on their profile. That gives Indiana four Quadrant 1 victories, which helps offset a non-conference strength of schedule of 237. First four out. 

Saint Louis. The Billikens (22-10, 12-6 Atlantic 10) began the day as one of the "next four out" but took care of business by handily dispatching LaSalle 71-51 in the A-10 tournament opener on Thursday. A NET score in the 60s and just one Quadrant 1 victory are hurting Saint Louis' chances currently. Next four out.

Miami (Fla.). The Hurricanes (23-9, 14-6) clipped Boston College 71-69 at the buzzer in overtime, keeping their NCAA tournament at-large hopes in solid contention in the process. A loss would have led to some obvious sweating heading into Selection Sunday. A NET score in the 60s isn't ideal, but there are enough Quad 1 wins (four) on the profile to get Miami in. In the projected field, No. 10 seed.

Colorado. Another team to resuscitate its résumé, the Buffaloes (21-10, 12-8 Pac-12) eliminated a former bubble team in Oregon 80-69 in the Pac-12 tournament quarters. There's still more work to be done, however, meaning a win over Arizona is necessary to garner an at-large bid. A NET score in the 70s and just one Quadrant 1 victory are hurting this team's cause. Others considered for at-large bid.


Thursday's games

St. John's. The Red Storm (17-15, 8-11 Big East) narrowly fell to Villanova 66-65 in the Big East tournament quarters and now find themselves on wrong side of the bubble with nothing to do about it but watch other fringe teams to see if they stumble. A NET score in the 60s and a Quadrant 4 loss stand out in the wrong way on this team's tourney portfolio so a win over Villanova would've done this team many favors. If only. Others considered for at-large bid.

Florida. With the postseason on the line, the Gators (19-13, 9-9 SEC) rallied to force overtime vs. Texas A&M but ultimately fell 83-80 on Thursday in the SEC tournament. That likely shoves coach Mike White's team out of NCAA tourney contention and closer to the NIT. Florida's NET in the 50s, poor non-conference strength of schedule and a Quadrant 4 loss will stand out too much for the selection committee. Others considered for at-large bid.

South Carolina. The Gamecocks (18-13, 9-9 SEC) needed a win in the SEC tournament to have a shot on Selection Sunday. They laid an egg instead with a 73-51 loss to Mississippi State. Even though the team's credentials look otherwise solid, a NET score in the 90s will stand out to the selection committee. Others considered for at-large bid.

Virginia. The Cavaliers (19-13, 12-8 ACC) are likely NIT bound after a 63-43 beatdown vs. North Carolina in the ACC tournament. Virginia's postseason had been in jeopardy since it lost on a buzzer-beater to Florida State on Feb. 26. But coach Tony Bennett's barely survived Louisville in a 51-50 win Wednesday in the ACC tourney. UVA needed a deep push to offset its NET score in the 70s and an ugly Quad 4 loss. On life support.

Wednesday's games

Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons (23-9, 13-7 ACC) got upset in overtime vs. Boston College 82-77 to get eliminated from the ACC tournament in the second round. It's the worst outcome for a team that started the day as one of the "last four in." Now Wake Forest has been pushed to the wrong side of the bubble. There's just one Quadrant 1 victory on the credentials and a non-conference strength of schedule that ranks 345. First four out. 

Xavier. The Musketeers (18-13, 8-11 Big East) lost to Butler in the 89-82 to exit the Big East tournament in the first round. The selection committee will be relying on Xavier's body of work from November-January to be included in the field of 68. There are still five Quadrant 1 wins on this résumé and a NET in the 40s. Last four in. 



NCAA Tournament language explainer:

  • NET stands for the NCAA Evaluation Tool, which is the barometer for the selection committee. It includes game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin (capping at 10 points per game), and net offensive and defensive efficiency.
  • 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: Home games vs. 76-160 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 101-200 NET; Away games vs. 136-240 NET
  • Quadrant 4 wins: 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 rankings (NCAA Evaluation Tool) also are a reference point. 

About our college basketball reporter: Scott Gleeson has covered men's college basketball for USA TODAY since 2012, contributing to bracketology and running Bubble Tracker before tackling everything March Madness following Selection Sunday. He correctly forecasted Virginia would win the national championship in 2019 before the season began and also picked Loyola-Chicago as a Cinderella mid-major in 2018. Follow him on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.