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NCAA tournament bubble breakdown: Projecting which teams are in and which are out

NCAA tournament bubble breakdown: Projecting which teams are in and which are out

The drama on Selection Sunday this season will come from the bubble.

A glut of bubble teams with eclectic, unusual resumes will force the NCAA tournament selection committee to make some tough choices.

Will the Bonzie Colson factor save Notre Dame? Will a bloated RPI sink Oklahoma State? Can Arizona State and Oklahoma really make the field despite collapsing over the course of the second half of the season?

The answers to those questions and more are below as we project which bubble teams will make the field and and which will be out.

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• Kansas State (21-10, 10-8, RPI: 53, KenPom: 44, Q1 record: 4-9, Q2 record: 5-1, Sub-100 losses: 0)

There are two reasons why Kansas State is this close to the cutline despite a 10-8 record in the nation’s deepest conference. One is the Wildcats are 0-7 against Kansas, West Virginia and Texas Tech, the three teams ahead of them in the Big 12 standings. The other is that Kansas State played a tissue-soft non-conference schedule that did not include a single true road game. Kansas State will surely hear its name called on Sunday in spite of those flaws — it has two wins apiece against Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma State and TCU after all — but the Wildcats may not get as favorable a seeding as they’re expecting because of that. Look for Kansas State to wind up on either the No. 9 or 10 line.

• Oklahoma (18-13, 8-10, RPI: 48, KenPom: 47, Q1 record: 6-9, Q2 record: 3-3, Sub-100 losses: 1): 

Get ready for Oklahoma to secure a bid with room to spare and people to be outraged. The Sooners still have an NCAA tournament-caliber resume even though they collapsed down the stretch, falling in 11 of their final 15 games. The reason Oklahoma is still in surprisingly good position relative to other bubble teams is that the Sooners have twice as many quadrant 1 wins as some other fellow bubble teams. Not only do they boast marquee wins over Kansas, Wichita State, Texas Tech, USC and TCU, they also have only lost one game against a non-NCAA tournament contender. Selection committee chairman Bruce Rasmussen has frequently said during interviews that he and his colleagues will weigh early-season results just as heavily as those from March. If Rasmussen sticks up to that promise, expect Oklahoma to be a 9 or 10 seed. And expect whatever team draws the Sooners in the opening round to be ecstatic.

• UCLA (21-11, 11-7, RPI: 36, KenPom: 49, Q1 record: 3-7, Q2 record: 5-3, Sub-100 losses: 1) 

Had UCLA managed to upset top-seeded Arizona in the Pac-12 semifinals, the Bruins would have almost certainly secured an NCAA tournament bid. They instead ran out of gas in overtime and guaranteed themselves a couple of sleepless nights before Selection Sunday. Bolstering UCLA’s case are four big wins, a road win at Arizona, a neutral-court win over Kentucky and a sweep of crosstown rival USC. Hampering UCLA’s case are a trio of bad losses, two against Colorado and one at Oregon State. UCLA certainly looked like an NCAA tournament team over the past week in winning at USC, outclassing Stanford and pushing Arizona to the brink, but the Bruins could not finish the deal. As a result, they leave Las Vegas optimistic but far from certain of what Selection Sunday will bring.>
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