Busting Brackets

Bracketology 2024: Safety level of bubble teams entering Selection Sunday

North Carolina v Pittsburgh
North Carolina v Pittsburgh / Greg Fiume/GettyImages

We're just hours away from Selection Sunday and thanks to at least one bid thief (A-10 Tournament winner), the Bracketology bubble may have gotten smaller before the teams are announced. For a certain group of teams, they have to feel more nervous now. But which ones should feel a bit better after this past week's results? Here's a "safety level" for some key teams.

Indiana State Sycamores

After losing in the first half of “Championship Week”, no team has been under more and longer stress than Indiana State, who lost in the Missouri Valley title game to Drake. That wasn’t a bad loss and the only true blemish on their resume is a Quad 4 setback at home to Illinois State.

The problem for them is that they only have one Quad 1 win on the season, beating Bradley on the road. They have a top-30 NET ranking and 4-1 against Quad 2 teams. But considering how many big wins other bubble teams got in the past week, it’s hard to make a good case for the Sycamores. 

Safely level: Mortal danger

Michigan State

One of Indiana State’s losses this season was to Michigan State, who had a season filled with ups and downs. They lost to James Madison but the Dukes proved to be a very good team and just a Quad 2 loss. However, the Spartans have a ton of them, 14 total after losing 5 of the last 7 games.

A 9-14 record against Quad 1/2 teams isn’t great and a blowout win over Baylor is the only meaningful victory they can boast. No bad losses and a top-25 NET ranking likely is good enough to have them on the right side of the bubble but they could be closer to a trip to Dayton than a 10-seed.

Safely level: Fine but could be some motion sickness

Pittsburgh Panthers

There’s a lot to like about Pitt’s resume. They have seven true road wins, including signature ones over NC State, Virginia, and Duke. The Panthers have favorable metrics that are better than a year ago when they ended up being one of the last teams in the NCAA Tournament field.

But besides a much better overall bubble picture this time, Pitt has the massive problem of its non-conference strength of schedule, which is one of the worst in all of college basketball at 347. Those kinds of numbers have historically left bubble teams out during the process and with the ACC not getting a ton of love, that metric alone could doom them.

Safety level: Looking very rough

Florida Atlantic Owls

What’s funny is that this spot was supposed to be for New Mexico, before they won the Mountain West title and secured the autobid. Replacing them is FAU, who finds itself now on dangerous grounds after losing in the AAC Tournament to Temple, a Quad 3 defeat. Considering that they already have a pair of Quad 4 losses already, that’s tough to overcome.

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Yes, the Owls do have a 9-5 record against Quad 1/2 opponents but only two of them are in the Quad 1 range. Can a win over Arizona be good enough to get FAU in the NCAA Tournament field? We’ll find out. One thing is clear, FAU shouldn’t feel 100% safe at all.

Safety level: Suddenly very nervous