The NCAA tournament bubble has turned blue: Carolina Blue, Duke Blue, Navy Blue of Yukon and a dark shade of green that embellishes Michigan State uniforms.
Yes, green is a shade of blue, so as long as there is a Spartans basketball player, he is wearing it.
These college basketball Blueblades, for various reasons in this most unusual college basketball season, are fighting themselves for the last few NCAA tournament bids that selections will be awarded on Sunday, March 14.
Which, for some of them, represents significant progress.
More: Projecting a field of 68 for the 2021 NCAA tournament.
Duke, 500 as recently as Feb. 9, has won four in a row and has forced himself into NCAA tournament negotiations. After losing six times to fall 10-9 in eight-games, Michigan State earned a Quad 1 win over Indiana and Illinois in a span of four days and revived their ability to bid.
On the other hand, North Carolina and Indiana have often stumbled enough that neither can approach the march with a sense of security about being involved with the “madness” part of the month.
Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, there is the added complexity of not knowing exactly what is expected from the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. How much can they rely on net rankings when there is little data available to be processed through their formula? Can they really depend on schedule-strength rankings, when just appearing on the court was a challenge for everyone? While coaches in previous years had a general idea of what they could achieve in the tournament, recognizing that the standard was a challenge in 2021.
And for coaches like Tom Izzo, Mike Kreiszski and Roy Williams, the bubble is not a familiar field anyway.
Here they are against everyone as the intensity of competition temperature increases on the NCAA tournament bubble:
Vs Quad 1: 2-3
Vs Tractor 2: 4-4
Net Ranking: ४ 48
Best Wins: Vs No. 15 Virginia
Worst loss: Miami at number 168
Schedule: Louisville, Saturday; At Georgia Tech, 2 March; In North Carolina, 6 March.
Overview: It sets up so well for the Blue Devils that it almost looks like they are drafted to keep alive an episode of the NCAA tournament that dates back to 1996. These are all resulting games, with Louisville fighting to stay away from the bubble zone and the other two. Both need a win to either enter the discussion (Tech) or avoid slipping (UNC). Both road games will be a Quad 1 opportunity for the Blue Devils. They are 1-2 against these opponents, but Duke has played like a different team as freshman Jaylen Johnson has left the program.
Possibility to make it: Want better listeners than Duke.
Vs Quad 1: 4-8
Vs Tractor 2: 2-1
Net Ranking: .5
Best Wins: Vs. No. 4 Illinois
Worst loss: Northwest at number 96
Schedule: At Ohio State, Thursday; In Maryland, February 28; Indiana, March 2; In Michigan, March 4; Michigan, 7 March.
Overview: The funny thing about the Spartans’ resume is that they actually have almost the same record against Quad 1 as Quad Tech (4-7), and the Red Raiders are still ranked in the top 20 by Associated Press voters being given. A recent change in MSU’s approach with veteran wing Aaron Henry, with more frequent offense and freeing guard Rocket Watts to focus on scoring, has made the team more effective. But to get through this program would require a monumental effort. At the very least, the Spartans should win the Maryland and Indiana games, and taking one of the other three would be very rewarding. If they do this, they will probably make it. And they will deserve it.
Possibility to make it: Winning half a game in that stretch is not a 50/50 proposition.
Vs Quad 1: 1-6
Vs Tractor 2: 6-1
Net Ranking: 33
Best Wins: Vs No. 49 Duke
Worst loss: Number 86 market
Schedule: Florida State, Saturday; At Syracuse, 1 March; Duke, 6 March.
Overview: In an effort to set the Tar Heels record, credit Roy Williams for arranging a Marquette trip for Wednesday and a pause in the Boston College schedule that kept him from sitting all week, a game scheduled for Tuesday Smashed. But the Tar Heels went out and lost the game, dominating Marquette freshman Dawson Garcia with 24 points and 11 rebounds. The Tar puts the Heels in a challenging position, as each of those three remaining games is a challenge; For a team trying to make their way into the bracket, this can be a good thing. For the team trying to stay there, some more vex might be welcome.
Possibility to make it: It was not long before Wojo came to town.
MORE: Nine most winning wins of Roy Williams’ career
Vs Quad 1: 2-3
Vs Tractor 2: 2-2
Net Ranking: 4
Best Wins: Vs No. 13 Southern California
Worst loss: Vs No. 77 St. John’s
Schedule: Marquette, Saturday; At Seton Hall, 3 March; Georgetown, 6 March.
Overview: Ucino is 7-2 with star guard James Buchen in the lineup; He missed eight games with an elbow injury. So a lot of Hawkeyes fans feel that should be the deciding factor. However, he lost two of the three toughest games in which he played (home against Crayton in Villenova). If UConn is going to say, “We are a tournament team with Buchenite,” then it has to make its case in court. That meant concluding with three straight wins, including one against bubble-bound Seton Hall.
Possibility to make it: It could land Seton Hall games – or work its magic at Madison Square Garden in the Big East tournament.
Vs Quad 1: 2-9
Vs Tractor 2: 6-1
Net Ranking: 58
Best Wins: Number 5 on iowa
Worst loss: V. No. 96 northwest
Schedule: Michigan, Saturday; At Michigan State, March 2; At Purdue, 6 March.
Overview: Because of their highly challenging schedule, a season sweep of Iowa and a fair number of wins that flirt with descriptive “quality”, the Hoosiers were in good shape to make the field as Michigan State toured last Saturday. IU headed to the first big-half lead, slowly watched that gap and then was overwhelmed in the final 10 minutes. The 0-for-13 slump in the last two games with point guard Robert Finici in a 0-for-13 slump, including a blowout loss Wednesday at Rutgers, has not been able to get enough points to win the offense. The Hoosiers are 0-2 through the “easy” part of their final stretch. Turning it in this direction is not beyond reach, but it is unlikely.
Possibility to make it: They probably have a better chance of finishing at a 0-5 skid.