(CBS Sacramento/CBS Local) — With Selection Sunday now just two days away, the NCAA Tournament field is coming into better focus. Twelve teams have already secured a spot via conference tournament wins, and 20 more will lock up their bids between today and 6 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.
That leaves 36 at-large bids to be filled. But in all likelihood, we’re really looking at the last four slots in the tournament. That is where bracketologists like CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm make their living. Divining which of the “bubble” teams will make the tournament and which will be left on the outside looking in keeps fans refreshing those pages each day as results come in.
So, of Palm’s current “bubble” teams, six still have a game (or potentially, games) left to play. We’ll start there.
Seton Hall Pirates 19-12 (9-9 Big East)
Temple Owls 23-8 (13-5 AAC)
Washington Huskies 25-7 (15-3 P12)
Alabama Crimson Tide 18-14 (8-10 SEC)
Arizona State Sun Devils 22-9 (12-6 P12)
Florida Gators 18-14 (9-9 SEC)
All six of those teams will be playing in their conference tournaments at some point today, and their tournament outlook depends on the outcome of those games, to varying degrees. Seton Hall, Temple, and Washington seem to be slightly more safe in their positioning, based on Palm’s projections. All three find themselves on the 10-line in his bracket, which means they’re ahead of the “Last Four In” crew and a loss wouldn’t automatically drop them out, though it would put them in precarious position. A win in their games tonight would likely secure their spot in the field.
All three play tonight. Here are the matchups and where to watch:
Seton Hall vs. Marquette, 9:00 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
Temple vs. Wichita State, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Washington vs. Colorado, 9:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
>>MORE: Latest on NCAA Tournament
The other three teams — Alabama, Arizona State and Florida — are all currently listed in the First Four games of Palm’s bracket heading into today’s action. That makes their position very unstable, as a loss likely puts them outside the field of 68. Each has a dangerous opponent to deal with in their conference tournaments as well. The Tide faces Kentucky, a team that will likely want some revenge for the 77-75 loss they suffered to Avery Johnson’s team back in January.
Arizona State faces Dana Altman’s Oregon squad, which walloped them last time out, 79-51, and needs to win the conference title in order to make the field.
And Florida may have the toughest of the matchups, facing an LSU team that has been strong all season and one that CBS Sports analyst Swin Cash told us could make a Final Four run. Here is their schedule of games for today.
Florida vs. LSU, 1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Alabama vs. Kentucky, 7:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Arizona State vs. Oregon, 11:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Now, while all six of the teams mentioned above can still play their way into the field of 68, several teams will be rooting for most, if not all of them to lose. Let’s take a quick look at five of those teams that find themselves on the bubble, with the best shot of getting in if someone falters.
UNC-Greensboro Spartans, 28-6 (15-3 Southern)
The Spartans have the Top 25-ranked Wofford Terriers in their conference battling for the automatic bid, which is why they find themselves anxiously awaiting Sunday. Their resume doesn’t feature a strong record against Quadrant 1 teams (2-6), but they were undefeated against the rest of their schedule and rate highly in NCAA’s new NET rating (58) and the traditional RPI (30). Ken Pom isn’t as favorable, rating the Spartans the 80th best team in the country. Palm has the Spartans in his “Last Four In” section, playing a “First Four” game in Dayton next week.
Creighton Bluejays, 18-14 (9-9 Big East)
The Bluejays were knocked out of the Big East tournament by Xavier on Thursday, leaving them waiting. Their Quad 1 record is similarly rough (3-10), but they were 6-4 against Quad 2 and undefeated against everyone else. They are rated in mostly similar areas by all three metrics, 54th in NET, 60th in RPI and 50th in Ken Pom. Palm has them at the top of his First Four Out list, which means they could be ready to pounce should one of the teams mentioned above falter.
North Carolina State Wolfpack, 22-11 (9-9 ACC)
The Wolfpack knocked off fellow bubble team Clemson in the ACC Tournament earlier this week before getting bounced themselves by UVA yesterday. For that reason, they likely have the edge over Clemson in any discussion between the two. Plus, they rate highly in the new NET rating system (32nd), and Ken Pom loves them as well (32nd). RPI doesn’t love them as much (95th), but that is likely due to their abysmal non-conference strength of schedule (352nd).
Belmont Bruins, 26-5 (16-2 OVC)
The Bruins, like UNC-Greensboro, find themselves in this spot because of another team in their conference that had a dominant season. Murray State, led by NBA prospect Ja Morant, beat the Bruins for the league’s automatic bid. They did beat the Racers earlier in the year, and in all three ratings systems, they would be within the field of 68. NET has them at 46th, RPI at 41st and Ken Pom at 53rd. But, the committee hasn’t been kind in past years to non-Power 5 schools when deciding at-large bid. The Bruins could find themselves on the outside, regardless of the results above.
Furman Paladins, 25-7 (13-5 Southern)
Another Southern conference team on the list, and it’s not by accident. The Paladins finished third in the Southern, but their resume overall is pretty strong, with wins over Villanova, UNC-Greensboro, Loyola-Chicago and Gardner-Webb. They rate 41st in NET, 55th in RPI and 54th (ahead of fellow SoCon member UNCG) in Ken Pom.