The two most bubblicious days of Championship Week are Thursday and Friday. We just went through Thursday, and it definitely cleared things up a bit. With California, Southern Miss and Texas moving more firmly into the Field of 68, there are now only 9 spots left on the bubble. That number will shrink on Friday.
We had no automatic bids given out today, but we did get one more lock. By beating South Florida, Notre Dame moves in as the 36th team locked into the NCAA Tournament. There are 8 more teams that are "safe", as well as at least 7 more conferences that will give out their auto bid to a team that is not currently "safe", so those are at least 15 more spots that are more or less taken. So effectively, there are only 17 spots left for potential at-large teams to fight over these next three days.
For now, here is where the bubble stands:
Tournament locks (36 teams):
Duke, North Carolina, Belmont, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Montana, UNC-Asheville, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Baylor, Kansas, Missouri, VCU, Detroit, Harvard, Loyola-Maryland, Creighton, Wichita State, UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State, LIU, Murray State, Lehigh, Kentucky, Davidson, South Dakota State, Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, St. Mary's
Automatic bids yet to be awarded (16, of which 10 are not projected to be won by teams currently locked into the Tournament):
America East, ACC, A-10, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Big West, CUSA, MAC, MEAC, MWC, Pac-12, SEC, Southland, SWAC, WAC)
Teams that look safe (8):
Florida State, Temple, Cincinnati, Purdue, Iowa State, Kansas State, Memphis, Florida
Teams definitely in the Tournament... for now (9):
Virginia, St. Louis, UConn, Texas, Southern Miss, California, Alabama, Vanderbilt, BYU
The Bubble (13 teams for 9 bids):
Miami (Fl), NC State, Xavier, Seton Hall, South Florida, West Virginia, Northwestern, Long Beach State, Drexel, Colorado State, Washington, Tennessee, Middle Tennessee
Best of the rest (8):
St. Joseph's, Central Florida, Iona, Arizona, Oregon, Mississippi State, Oral Roberts, Nevada
Maryland, Dayton, UMass, Marshall, Akron, Ohio, Colorado, LSU, Ole Miss
Key Bubble games to be played on March 9th (all times are ET):
NC State vs Virginia (2PM, ESPN2): Neither of these teams is totally in the NCAA Tournament. If the season ended now, Virginia would be an at-large team, but not with a ton of room to spare. NC State would be right on the bubble - one of the first teams either in or out. If Virginia wins then they'll basically wrap up an at-large bid, and NC State will probably be heading for the NIT. If NC State wins then they'll put themselves into the Field of 68... for the time being. Virginia, meanwhile, will have to sweat out the next couple of days hoping for no more upsets.
St. Joseph's vs St. Bonaventure (2:30PM, CBS/Comcast Sports): St. Joe's isn't really in the bubble conversation yet, but with so many bubble teams losing this week there's no reason that St. Joe's can't get in the thick of things with a win or two. This is a must-win game, though.
Marshall vs Southern Miss (4PM, CBS College Sports): Neither of these teams has their fate sealed yet. Southern Miss is not a Tournament lock yet, though they can make themselves "safe" if they win here. Marshall would be NIT-bound if the season ended now, but they might be able to claw their way onto the bubble if they pull the upset of Southern Miss. I think Southern Miss will be an at-large team even if they lose here, but they'd be at the mercy of other conference tournaments.
La Salle vs Saint Louis (6:30PM, CBS/Comcast Sports): St. Louis should be in the NCAA Tournament, but they could be in a little bit of trouble if they lose here. A win here should be enough for them to be able to relax on Selection Sunday.
Tennessee vs Ole Miss (6:30PM, SEC Network): With so many bubble teams losing today, Tennessee has somehow gotten themselves onto the NCAA Tournament bubble. This is a must-win for them, though. A loss will send them to the NIT. It's not inconceivable for Ole Miss to get on the bubble as well, if they win this game and then one more to get to the SEC finals.
Miami (Fl) vs Florida State (9PM, ESPN2): Miami is right on the bubble at the moment. They could lose this game and still earn an at-large bid, but they'd have to sweat out Selection Sunday. A win here would really put them firmly into the Field of 68.
Colorado State vs San Diego State (9PM, CBS College Sports): Colorado State would most likely be in the NCAA Tournament if the season ended now, but the bubble always could tighten up over the next few days. If Colorado State wants to feel good about their chances on Selection Sunday, they need to win this game.
Arizona vs Oregon State (9PM, Fox Sports): Arizona would be NIT-bound if the season ended now, but they're not eliminated from at-large contention yet. This is a must-win for them, though. The winner of this game will be in the Pac-12 tournament finals, so the winner of this game will be one game from the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens to the rest of the bubble.
Dayton vs Xavier (9PM, CBS/Comcast Sports): Xavier is right on the bubble at the moment. I think they need to win this game to make the Tournament, though. Dayton isn't considered a bubble team yet, but a win here and some help in some of the other games on Friday could get them there.
California vs Colorado (11:30PM, Fox Sports): California is in pretty good shape for an at-large bid, but they'll still be stuck in the bubble discussion if they lose here. Winning this game will make Selection Sunday a much more relaxing day for Cal Bears fans. Colorado doesn't have a realistic path to an at-large bid, but with a win here they'll only be one (very winnable) game away from an automatic bid. Fans of other bubble teams should be rooting for Cal here. If Cal wins the Pac-12 tournament, the Pac-12 will probably be a one-bid league. If anybody else wins, Cal will probably make the Pac-12 a two-bid league.