Defining SFN’s Bubbleology

With NC State’s Basketball season teetering “on the NCAA Tournament Bubble” (again), I decided that I would attempt to QUANTIFY how the bubble really looks. (It’s worth a try, right?)

I get so frustrated (and confused) when talking heads on television (and fans on internet message boards) just blanketly say, “Team A is in. Team B is out.” Such statements are so static, and are never made within the context of a 65 team Tournament field. Just because a team lost today, doesn’t mean much by itself if every other team against whom they were being compared also lost (to similar competition).

So, I give you — Bubbleology.

Please note that I did not say “Bracketology”. The purpose of this exercise was NOT to try to project the Field of 65 and create a bracket; this would be Bracketology, like the kind of work that Joe Lunardi does at or Jerry Palm at

Even though there is a fixed number of 34 at-large bids available, the rationing of those bids remains a dynamic exercise until next Sunday night. I think Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports put it best, “The key to the bubble is how many spots are really available. The one thing that gobbles up spots the most are upsets in the Conference Tournament.”

The position of individual teams cannot accurately be assessed the without assessing the position of all teams in the context of the Field of 65. My mission is to attempt to accurately QUANTIFY how the bubble really looks and provide a resource that frames the picture in a single snapshot that is provided below. This snapshot helps keep teams directly compared to each other while also forcing you to keep in mind that for every team that you “drop” out of the projected tournament, then another team enters the field.

— The 1st column lists the teams who are locks for the NCAA Tournament. These teams can literally lose any/all remaining games (including in the first round of their conference tournaments. This column also includes the conferences that will only obtain one bid.

— The 2nd column highlights “9 To Watch”. These 9 teams represent 9 conferences that have shots at more than one NCAA bid – either because of multiple teams deserving of a bid or because the projected conference champion gets upset

— The third column is where the action happens. There are some teams that are not yet locks, but are considered “safe bets” unless a lot of things move against them. Then there is – “The Bubble.” Teams shaded in yellow are generally considered to be fighting for a certain number of open slots. Teams in red are not considered for bubble opportunities, but have outside shots at making noise in their conference tournaments and advancing into contention for bubble spots.

Generally, the list aims to be constructed as “if the selections were made today”. And, the teams in yellow are definitely the tough ones to call. Although teams on the bubble are listed in order…this order is not designed to 100% accurate. Generally, a team ranked a few spots higher than another team would be higher on my projected bid list, but I am not representing that I have studied all the teams enough to argue the merits between #63 and #64.

General NCS Basketball

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