The complete USC bubble guide for the first weekend of March
USC remains on the bubble after failing to punch its ticket to the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night. The Trojans would have sealed up a bid by beating Arizona, but they were underdogs to the Wildcats. The 40 minutes of play in the Galen Center confirmed as much. It’s a bad matchup for USC, made worse by Kobe Johnson’s early foul trouble.
The Trojans simply have to get back in the saddle and beat Arizona State on Saturday night in Los Angeles. The Sun Devils need this game more than USC does, but USC very badly needs the game, to be sure.
Before looking at the national bubble picture, you surely want the inside read on this game. Is the winner in? Is the loser out?
This is more of a “winner in” game than a “loser out” game, but if USC wins and Arizona State loses, ASU is in big trouble. USC would very likely be in the field. ASU would still have a chance with multiple wins at the Pac-12 Tournament, but the Sun Devils’ odds would definitely drop. USC, should it lose to ASU, would absolutely need one win at the Pac-12 Tournament. It might need two.
In truth, then, this could be both a winner-in bubble game and — not or; and — a loser-out bubble game. It’s huge. There’s no other way to say it.
Now that we’ve looked at the bubble implications for USC-ASU, let’s look at the rest of the bubble picture and the bubble teams and games you need to monitor on Saturday, March 4, and Sunday, March 5:
SATURDAY: OKLAHOMA STATE AT TEXAS TECH
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – MARCH 27: CBS broadcasters Jim Nantz and Billy Packer stand in front of the St. Joseph’s Hawks mascot and the Oklahoma State Cowboys mascot before the Elite 8 game of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament at Continental Airlines Arena on March 27, 2004 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Cowboys advanced to the Final 4 winning 64-62. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Is this a winner-in bubble game or a loser-out game?
Answer: It’s more of a loser-out game, but if Oklahoma State wins, the Cowboys would move very close to an at-large bid.
The ideal scenario for USC and other non-Big 12 bubble teams is for Texas Tech to win here, and for both teams to then lose their first game in the Big 12 Tournament. That could keep both teams out of the field.
Texas Tech definitely has to win at least one game at the Big 12 Tournament in addition to this game against OSU. The Red Raiders might need two wins at the Big 12 tourney. Oklahoma State probably needs this and one win at the Big 12 Tournament just to be safe, but the Cowboys might be able to squeeze into the field of 68 with a win here.
SATURDAY: BOISE STATE AT UTAH STATE
Feb 22, 2023; Boise, Idaho, USA; New Mexico Lobos guard KJ Jenkins (0) drives during the first half against the Boise State Broncos at ExtraMile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports
Utah State needs this game and at least one game at the Mountain West Tournament next week. USU might get in if it beats Boise State and loses its first game at the MWC Tournament, but the Aggies probably need two wins. Bubble teams will be rooting hard for Boise State, which should be in the field after its win over San Diego State. The Broncos are almost certainly in but would fully lock up a bid with a win here or next week in Las Vegas.
SATURDAY: DUKE AT NORTH CAROLINA
Feb 13, 2023; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Hubert Davis reacts in the second half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
If North Carolina wins this game, it is probably in, but it would be in trouble if it won here against Duke and then lost its first ACC Tournament game. UNC would feel comfortable with two more wins. It would have a decent chance with a win over Duke and nothing else, but it would be at the mercy of other bubble results. Follow Tar Heels Wire for more on North Carolina.
SATURDAY: NOTRE DAME AT CLEMSON
Clemson forward Hunter Tyson (5) and Clemson sophomore forward PJ Hall (24) celebrate in the closing second of the second half against Wake Forest at Littlejohn Coliseum Friday, December 2, 2022.
Clemson must win this game and at least two games at the ACC Tournament. Follow Clemson Wire for more coverage.
SATURDAY: PITTSBURGH AT MIAMI
Mar 18, 2022; Greenville, SC, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Charlie Moore (3) reacts against the Southern California Trojans during the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh needs at least one more win to lock up a bid. This game will be tough for the Panthers, so if they lose, they would need to win at least one win at the ACC Tournament to feel safer.
SATURDAY: TENNESSEE AT AUBURN
Dec 18, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans guard Boogie Ellis (5) controls the ball against Auburn Tigers guard K.D. Johnson (0) during the second half at Galen Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Auburn is a bubble team. Theoretically, USC should want all bubble teams to lose. However, USC beat Auburn. The Trojans would benefit from an Auburn win over Tennessee.
However: USC lost to Tennessee. The Trojans want that loss to mean more, not less.
At any rate, Auburn needs one more win to be absolutely safe. The Tigers could be in trouble if they don’t get at least one more win, but they’re probably in the field. Follow Auburn Wire for more coverage.
SATURDAY: MISSISSIPPI STATE AT VANDERBILT
Feb 21, 2023; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers guard Nick Honor (10) celebrates with team mates against the Mississippi State Bulldogs after scoring the game winning three point shot at Mizzou Arena. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
If Mississippi State wins, it should be in the field. If MSU loses, it will need at least one and maybe two wins at the SEC Tournament. This is a very important bubble game.
SATURDAY: UNLV AT NEVADA
Feb 26, 2022; Laramie, Wyoming, USA; The Wyoming Cowboys bench celebrate after a three point shot against the Nevada Wolf Pack during the second half at Arena-Auditorium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports
Nevada should crush UNLV at home. However, if the Wolf Pack do suffer a shocking upset loss, they’re in real trouble. Nevada is likely in the field with a win, but a loss would bump the Wolf Pack several spots lower on the seed list.
SATURDAY: FLORIDA ATLANTIC AT LOUISIANA TECH
Brooklyn Cardoza, 6, and her sister Lyla Cardoza, 3, chase bubbles as Central Valley Christian students started the new school year Wednesday, August 10, 2022.
Bubble team Florida Atlantic is an at-large candidate, but let’s remember that an at-large candidate does not win its conference tournament. Florida Atlantic, should it lose to Louisiana Tech, would take another hit to its resume. If FAU loses here and then loses again in the Conference USA Tournament, that might not be enough to get an at-large bid. FAU needs to win here and then make the C-USA Tournament final to secure an at-large bid if it doesn’t win the C-USA Tournament.
SUNDAY: HOUSTON AT MEMPHIS
Dec 10, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Auburn Tigers guard Wendell Green Jr. (1) dribbles past Memphis Tigers guard Elijah McCadden (0) in the first half at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Memphis is very likely in the field, but a win here locks up a bid. One more win for Memphis should be good enough.
SUNDAY: MARYLAND AT PENN STATE
Mar 1, 2023; Evanston, Illinois, USA; The Penn State Nittany Lions celebrate the game winning shot during overtime at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Penn State is probably in the field with a win here. The Nittany Lions must get at least one more win, maybe two. Follow Nittany Lions Wire for more coverage.
SUNDAY: WISCONSIN AT MINNESOTA
Nov 25, 2022; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; USC Trojans forward Kobe Johnson (0) reacts in front of Wisconsin Badgers guard Isaac Lindsey (10) during the second half at Imperial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Wisconsin lost to Purdue after losing to Michigan. The Badgers are going in the wrong direction. Beating a bad Minnesota team wouldn’t improve their profile, but losing would be a disaster. Wisconsin would be out of the field with a loss and would need at least two wins at the Big Ten Tournament to get back into the field.
If Wisconsin wins here, it will need at least one more win at the Big Ten Tournament to feel somewhat comfortable. If UW wins here, getting two wins at the Big Ten Tournament would lock up a bid. Follow Badgers Wire for more coverage.
SUNDAY: MICHIGAN AT INDIANA
Mar 2, 2023; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Matthew Mayer (24) looks to the basket as he moves around Michigan Wolverines guard Jett Howard (13) during the first half at State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Michigan needs this game badly. If it wins, it is on the good side of the bubble and could lock up a bid with one more win at the Big Ten Tournament. If Michigan wins two more games, it will have a good chance of getting in.
If Michigan loses to Indiana on Sunday and wins just one game at the Big Ten Tournament, that probably won’t be enough. This is a great chance for other bubble teams to gain ground. Follow Wolverines Wire for more coverage.