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Bubble watch: Which college basketball teams need to make a statement this week?

In Sports
February 26, 2024

The 2024 NCAA tournament is quickly approaching.

With the tournament a matter of weeks away, it’s time to take stock of some of the teams that could find themselves on the bubble come Selection Sunday.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll highlight a handful of teams facing significant weeks for their tournament status. An upset win for a team like Cincinnati or Seton Hall this week could go a long way to securing a berth in the field of 68.

(Games this week are listed in italics)

Cincinnati (16-11, 5-9 Big 12)

(@ Houston, vs. Kansas State)

The Bearcats are on the wrong side of the bubble after losing four of their last five games. Cincinnati lost at home to Oklahoma State during the week before losing at TCU by 18 on Saturday.

Asking for a win at Houston on Tuesday night is unfair, but never say never. Assuming Cincinnati loses its third consecutive game, a home win against Kansas State on Saturday is imperative. And the Bearcats will likely have to get wins over both Oklahoma and West Virginia as well. The Bearcats have road wins over BYU and Texas Tech, but those alone aren’t enough to get them into the tournament, especially if they finish the season with 12 or more losses.

AUBURN, ALABAMA - JANUARY 20: Head coach Chris Beard of the Mississippi Rebels during their game against the Auburn Tigers at Neville Arena on January 20, 2024 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)

Ole Miss and new coach Chris Beard started the season 13-0 before SEC play began. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)

Ole Miss (19-8, 6-8 SEC)

(vs. Alabama, @ Missouri)

The Rebels took advantage of a manageable non-conference schedule to start the season 13-0 and were one of the surprise teams of the season as the calendar switched to 2024.

Conference play has been a harsh dose of reality for Ole Miss in its first season under coach Chris Beard. The Rebels have lost five of their last six games after a 72-59 loss at home to South Carolina on Saturday. While four of the five losses have been to ranked teams, the only win in that stretch is over a Missouri team that is 0-14 in conference play.

A home win over an Alabama team that got blown out by Kentucky on Saturday will be a massive boost for Ole Miss’ tournament resume. And it must not be followed by a loss to Missouri. The Tigers aren’t likely as bad as their conference record indicates, but you can’t lose in March to a winless team in conference play and also say you’re worthy of making the NCAA tournament.

Seton Hall (18-9, 11-5 Big East)

The Pirates got a 12-point win over Butler on Saturday and currently sit in fourth in the Big East standings with four conference games to play. A 3-1 finish to the season should leave no doubt that Seton Hall belongs in the NCAA tournament for just the second time in the past five seasons.

Heck, a split this week would go a long way to solidifying the Pirates’ tournament status. Seton Hall can give itself a chance for third in the conference with a win over Creighton and while an upset of UConn is highly unlikely, it could happen. The season ends with home games against Villanova and a DePaul team that fell to 0-16 in the Big East on Saturday night.

Texas (17-10, 6-8 Big 12)

(@ Texas Tech, vs. Oklahoma State)

The Longhorns did themselves no favors with a blowout loss at Kansas on Saturday evening. Texas wasn’t expected to win the game by any means, but KU seized control in the first half and made the final 20 minutes a formality.

Texas hasn’t won back-to-back games since beating Baylor and Oklahoma in late January. That’s a stretch that dates back eight games and it’s hard to see where Texas could get back-to-back wins again this regular season. After Oklahoma State comes to town, Texas visits Baylor before its final regular season matchup against Oklahoma as members of the Big 12.

A win at Texas Tech will go a long way to solidifying Texas’ NCAA tournament spot. The Longhorns are probably in the tournament with a 2-2 finish to the regular season. But anything worse than that will mean UT will need a strong Big 12 tournament performance.

LAWRENCE, KANSAS - FEBRUARY 24: Head coach Rodney Terry of the Texas Longhorns reacts on the bench during the 1st half of the game against the Kansas Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse on February 24, 2024 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Rodney Terry’s Texas Longhorns haven’t won back-to-back games in over a month. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Texas A&M (15-12, 6-8 SEC)

The NCAA tournament could be slipping away from the Aggies barring another strong SEC tournament run.

After an 0-2 start to conference play, Texas A&M reeled off six wins in eight games to get in the thick of the SEC race. Now after a blowout loss on the road at No. 5 Tennessee on Saturday night, Texas A&M has lost four straight games and is tied for eighth in the SEC.

The schedule is favorable the rest of the regular season, but that could also be a detriment. The Gamecocks are A&M’s only chance for a great win before the SEC tournament. The other three teams remaining on the Aggies’ schedule are in the bottom half of the conference.

Villanova (15-12, 8-8 Big East)

(vs. Georgetown, @ Providence)

The Wildcats are viewed favorably by Ken Pomeroy’s advanced rankings despite their record. Villanova is inside the top 35 and ahead of numerous teams that likely have much safer tournament statuses. The NET rankings like the Wildcats too. That could push the committee in Villanova’s direction.

But the reality is that Villanova is .500 in the Big East after a five-game losing streak earlier this season and the schedule the rest of the way isn’t easy. Georgetown is at the bottom of the Big East, but the three remaining teams on Villanova’s regular season schedule are all above the Wildcats in the standings. A 3-1 finish to the season could go a long way.

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