College basketball bubble watch: Pac-12 racing for more than two NCAA tournament teams

Colorado Buffaloes forward Cody Williams (10) drives past Utah Utes forward Jake Wahlin (10) in the second half at the CU Events Center. Both Colorado and Utah are among the first teams out of the projected NCAA Tournament field.
Colorado Buffaloes forward Cody Williams (10) drives past Utah Utes forward Jake Wahlin (10) in the second half at the CU Events Center. Both Colorado and Utah are among the first teams out of the projected NCAA Tournament field.

In its final year of existence, will the Pac-12 really only send two teams into the NCAA men's tournament?

It's looking to be a dud of a season when it comes to sending teams to the tournament for the conference. It is projected to send Arizona and Washington State into the bracket in the latest USA TODAY Sports Bracketology prediction, which would be the fewest amount of Pac-12 teams in the tournament since 2012.

In the Bracketology prediction, Colorado, Utah and Oregon all sit on the outside looking in, and its all thanks to each team not finding enough consistent play to warrant a tournament berth. Since Jan. 24, the teams are a combined 11-14, and playing just below average ball won't cut it in what has been a mostly lackluster conference.

Arizona and Washington State are certainly capable of making noise in March with some deep tournament runs. But if no bubble teams are able to move themselves into the field, it will be a sad swan song for a storied conference that is coming off a spectacular football season while women's basketball is having one of its best seasons and could send up to eight teams into March Madness.

The Pac-12 is one of several conferences with a bunch of teams hanging on the bubble, and with the regular season coming to a close, time is running out for those trying to insert themselves into the projected field. Here is where teams on the bubble sit tournament, and what could result in them making − or missing − the tournament with just two weeks of regular season play left.

American Athletic

Florida Atlantic

Record: 21-7 (11-4). NET: 37. Quad 1 record: 1-1.

What seemed as a tournament lock is no longer for Florida Atlantic with South Florida leading the conference by three games. The Owls have been inconsistent with a 3-3 record in their last six games, but despite having two Quad 4 losses, they should be in the field as long as they handle the last three games of the regular season.

Projection: No. 9 seed.



Record: 21-8 (12-6). NET: 46. Quad 1 record: 3-4.

Virginia has fallen into bubble territory after losing three of its last four games, including a beatdown from Virginia Tech and then lackluster effort against North Carolina, before bouncing back Wednesday at Boston College. The matchup at Duke this weekend may determine whether the Cavaliers boost their stock or remain right on the bubble.

Projection: No. 9 seed.

Wake Forest

Record: 18-10 (10-7). NET: 27. Quad 1 record: 1-4.

No team had a better weekend than the Demon Deacons, who jumped into the projected field with a Quad 1 win over Duke, but following it up with a loss to Notre Dame isn’t pretty. Another Quad 1 opportunity awaits Wake Forest at Virginia Tech this weekend, which should keep it in the field with a win.

Projection: No. 11 seed (last four in).


Record: 18-10 (9-8). NET: 49. Quad 1 record: 3-6.

Pittsburgh has cooled off a bit from its five-game winning streak, but it's in a much better position than it was in just one month ago. Still, it lost its last two Quad 1 games, and there aren’t any opportunities left in the regular season, so winning out and a good run at the ACC tournament are likely needed to jump into the field.

Projection: First four out.

Big 12


Record: 18-10 (7-8). NET: 34. Quad 1 record: 5-7.

It was the beginning of December when Texas was a top 16 team in the country. The inability to beat some of the top teams in the country pushed the Longhorns down the seed line and had their tournament hopes in jeopardy. They turned things around Tuesday by winning at Texas Tech which improved their NET ranking up seven spots and got them on more solid footing.

Projection: No. 9 seed.


Record: 16-12 (5-10). NET: 45. Quad 1 record: 3-8

Is there much hope left for Cincinnati? The Bearcats have lost three in a row and five of their last six. With only Quad 1 game left – against Oklahoma – Cincinnati has to hope it wins out and teams ahead of them tumble if they want to move in the projected field.

Projection: Next four out.

Big East

Seton Hall

Record: 18-10 (11-6). NET: 64. Quad 1 record: 5-6.

Seton Hall has emerged as the best bubble team in the Big East, but its biggest week of the season started with a loss to Creighton. A trip to Connecticut comes Sunday. By the end of the weekend, Seton Hall’s projected spot can look much better, or much worse.

Projection: No. 10 seed.


Record: 18-10 (9-8). NET: 56. Quad 1 record: 5-7.

Three wins in a row against the bottom half of the Big East had Providence trending into a tournament spot before Wednesday's loss at Marquette. Home dates against Villanova and Connecticut remain on the schedule, providing opportunity solidify its place in the field.

Projection: No. 11 seed.


Record: 16-12 (9-8). NET: 32. Quad 1 record: 3-8.

Having one of the best NET rankings in the Big East is keeping Villanova alive in the tournament hunt, but with the last three regular-season games all coming against Quad 1 opponents, it could leapfrog other teams into a tournament spot or be completely out of the running by the start of the Big East tournament.

Projection: First four out.


Record: 16-13 (7-11). NET: 68. Quad 1 record: 3-11.

Butler is down to its final chances. The Bulldogs have lost five consecutive games and the amount of Quad 1 losses isn’t what you’d expect out of a tournament team. There are no Quad 1 opportunities left in the regular season, so Butler needs to win out if it wants to stay alive heading into the conference tournament.

Projection: Next four out.

Big Ten


Record: 20-8 (11-6). NET: 48. Quad 1 record: 5-6.

Injuries haven’t deterred Northwestern from being a Big Ten contender, with the only thing hurting the team right now is its high NET ranking. The Wildcats have a chance to boost its 11-7 Quad 1 and 2 record, which is highly impressive.

Projection: No. 10 seed.


Record: 20-8 (10-7). NET: 41. Quad 1 record: 4-7.

The Cornhuskers have won four in a row with the only issue that three of them came against Quad 3 opponents. Not really much to boost them out of the First Four but avoiding a bad loss is still beneficial at this stage. Win a Quad 1 game Thursday against Ohio State, Nebraska may avoid playing in Dayton.

Projection: No. 11 seed (last four in).

Mountain West

Colorado State

Record: 20-9 (8-8). NET: 30. Quad 1 record: 5-6.

Things aren’t looking right in Fort Collins, as Colorado State has gone from Mountain West title hopeful to just hanging onto a tournament spot with three consecutive losses. The last two games of the regular season are Quad 4 games against Wyoming and Air Force, so it has avoid a bad loss to feel comfortable ahead of the Mountain West conference tournament.

Projection: No. 10 seed.


Record: 23-6 (10-5). NET: 39. Quad 1 record: 6-5.

The Wolfpack are hot, and the half-court buzzer-beater from Jarod Lucas to beat Colorado State on Tuesday propelled them out of the First Four as they now have the most Quad 1 wins in the Mountain West. Tuesday's game against Boise State will be big, but if Nevada can secure home defeats of Fresno State and UNLV between the visit to the Broncos it can breathe easier.

Projection: No. 10 seed.



Record: 19-9 (10-7). NET: 29. Quad 1 record: 1-5.

Colorado has recovered from a poor stretch by defeating fellow bubble team Utah last weekend. The Buffaloes then dispatched California ahead of a visit from Stanford this weekend. A sweep of the Northern California schools should keep them among the first teams waiting to get a spot with games at Oregon and Oregon State to close the regular season.

Projection: First four out.


Record: 16-11 (7-9). NET: 53. Quad 1 record: 4-7.

Losing four of five games isn’t going to help this late in the season, and Utah failed to jump Colorado in the bubble chase after getting blown out by the Buffaloes on Saturday. It’s going to take a sweep of the last four regular season games for the Utes to jump back into consideration.

Projection: Next four out.


Record: 19-9 (11-6). NET: 63. Quad 1 record: 2-4.

After being out of consideration for much of the season, Oregon is back in the tournament talk after getting back into the top three of the Pac-12 standings. After being rival Oregon State this week, the Ducks head into a make-or-break game this weekend with a trip to Arizona.

Projection: Next four out.


Mississippi State

Record: 19-9 (8-7). NET: 31. Quad 1 record: 4-6.

Had Mississippi State not lost to Kentucky in the final seconds, it probably would have moved up and off of the bubble into lock territory. Still, the Bulldogs are in a good spot when it comes to being in the field, and it has another chance to get an impressive win when visiting Auburn this weekend.

Projection: No. 9 seed.


Record: 19-9 (6-9). NET: 77. Quad 1 record: 2-7.

The poor resume and low NET rankings are really starting to hurt Mississippi as it has lost six of the last seven games, capped Wednesday by a home defeat to Alabama in the Rebels’ last chance to pick up a quality win,. It's going to take a perfect finish to the regular season and wins in the SEC tournament to get into the field.

Projection: Next four out.

West Coast


Record: 21-6 (12-2). NET: 21. Quad 1 record: 1-5.

Gonzaga has handled its business, but here comes the biggest test this season. The Bulldogs have Quad 1 games on the road against San Francisco and Saint Mary’s. Win those, and Gonzaga can likely assure itself a tournament selection. Lose them both, and it’ll have to hope for a conference tournament title to get in.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: March Madness bubble watch: Pac-12 fighting for NCAA tournament spots