Bubble losses hurt Big Ten

Shelby Mast and Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
Published 7:37 a.m. ET Feb. 18, 2019 | Updated 8:47 a.m. ET Feb. 20, 2019


LeBron James has nothing but good things to say about Zion Williamson and thinks this year’s Duke team is something special.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the latest NCAA tournament projections through games on Feb. 19.

Indiana’s postseason fate might’ve been sealed with a last-second tip-in basket by Purdue’s Matt Haarms on Tuesday night. The 48-46 loss cost the Hoosiers a much-needed Quadrant 1 (top-30 home) win, giving them 11 losses in their last 12 games.

Now, Indiana (13-13, 4-11 Big Ten) has been pushed to the last team of the “first four out” category of the latest bracket projection. 

Traditional Big Ten bottom-feeders Illinois and Rutgers have better league records than the Hoosiers. But five Q1 wins and a 55 score in the NET (the NCAA’s new version of RPI) keep Archie Miller’s group in the hunt. Indiana also has two wins that will likely be looked at favorably by the committee — against Michigan State and Marquette. 

Another Big Ten team that lost Wednesday night won’t be so lucky.

Nebraska’s 95-71 loss to Penn State (the worst team in the Big Ten) all but secured the Cornhuskers’ NIT seed considering there’s just not enough on the résumé. Nebraska (15-12, 5-11) has a better NET ranking than Indiana at 38, but also only has two Q1 wins on its profile to pair with a non-conference strength of schedule in the 180s. This result came after they had snapped a seven-game losing streak last week with wins over Minnesota and Northwestern. Now two road games at Michigan and Michigan State await, along with home games against Iowa and Purdue. Yikes. 

Alabama, which is also on the bubble line, played itself out of the projected field with a road loss to Texas A&M — an outcome the Tide couldn’t afford. That counts as a Quadrant 3 résumé stain, a bubble team’s worst enemy at this time of year. 

Baylor probably played itself off the bubble with a huge road win at Iowa State. Meanwhile, Clemson, a borderline team, came up short of a much-needed profile boost by falling to Florida State. 


► No. 1 seeds: Duke, Tennessee, Virginia, Gonzaga

► Last four in: Central Florida, Butler, North Carolina State, Florida

► First Four out: Alabama, Furman, Georgetown, Indiana


Others considered for at-large bid (in no particular order): Nebraska, UNC-Greensboro, Clemson, Saint Mary’s, Utah State, Arkansas.

•  On life support: Oregon State, Texas A&M, Miami (Fla.), UCLA, Connecticut, DePaul, Missouri, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Fresno State, Notre Dame, Boston College, Georgia, Liberty, Xavier, Saint Louis, San Francisco, Memphis, Southern California, South Carolina, Georgia State, East Tennessee State, Pittsburgh, Dayton, Northwestern, Arizona, Oregon, Providence, Creighton, Davidson. 


Multi-bid conferences: ACC (8), Big Ten (8), Big 12 (8), SEC (7), Big East (5), American (4), Ohio Valley (2), Pac-12 (2).

Leaders or highest RPI from projected one-bid conferences — (24 total): VCU (Atlantic 10), Vermont (America East), Lipscomb (Atlantic Sun), Montana (Big Sky), Radford (Big South) UC Irvine (Big West), Hofstra (CAA), Old Dominion (Conference USA), Northern Kentucky (Horizon), Yale (Ivy), Canisius (MAAC), Buffalo (MAC), Norfolk State (MEAC), Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Nevada (Mountain West), St. Francis-Pa. (Northeast), Bucknell (Patriot), Wofford (Southern), Sam Houston State (Southland), Prairie View A&M (SWAC), South Dakota State (Summit), Texas State (Sun Belt), New Mexico State (WAC), Gonzaga (WCC). 

  • Transition schools ineligible to participate: Cal Baptist, North Alabama.


Note:  Mostly all statistical data is used from The NCAA’s new NET rankings are also considered; that was rolled out at the beginning of 2018-19

About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 on his website, Bracket W.A.G. He joined USA TODAY in 2014. In his sixth season as our national bracketologist, Mast has finished as one of the top three bracketologists in the past five March Madnesses. He’s also predicted for The Indianapolis Star, and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.

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