THE 2023 NCAA TOURNAMENT IS APPROACHING. OUR BUBBLE WATCH DIVES INTO WHAT TEAMS NEED TO DO TO PROVE THEY BELONG in March Madness.
Reaching the NCAA Tournament is a significant accomplishment for any team in college basketball. Not every path to the Big Dance is created equal, though. The at-large selection process includes finding a balance across results, metrics, and the eye test. As each season progresses, bracketology looks into which teams have the best odds at making the field and how they might be seeded.
The Heat Check CBB Bubble Watch page dives into every team competing for NCAA Tournament at-large bids. The piece categorizes each team by their bubble status and provides individual breakdowns of their resumes. Want to find out what your team needs to do moving forward? The 2023 March Madness Bubble Watch has it covered.
For those who are new to our Bubble Watch column, here is a breakdown of the categories:
To fast-forward to a specific conference, click here:
—Bracketology: Kentucky rising in the projected field
—HC+ Honor Roll, Feb. 13-19: Jalen Pickett, Keisei Tominaga have B1G weeks
—Rauf Report: Purdue’s guards, unappreciated stars and more
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Metrics and resumes are current through the morning of March 1, 2023.
Deadbolt lock: Virginia, Miami FL, Duke
Some perspiration: Pittsburgh, NC State
Double the deodorant: North Carolina, Clemson
NET: 53, Resume: 43.5, Quality: 53.7
Q1: 4-3 | Q2: 3-4 | Q3: 5-0 | Q4: 9-1
Pittsburgh has been through some rough years, and it is great to see it back in the NCAA Tournament conversation. The Panthers entered this season projected to finish 14th in the ACC, and looked poised to do so after a 1-3 start. From that point forward, though, head coach Jeff Capel’s team has rattled off wins in 20 of its last 25 games.
Pitt’s nonconference strength of schedule (No. 161) leaves something to be desired. However, the Panthers are 7-3 in true road games and also boast four Quad 1 victories. Those numbers compare very favorably with the rest of the bubble. A Quad 4 loss holds back Pitt’s seeding, as do the team’s quality metrics that lag behind.
The Panthers did leap into the top 60 of both KenPom and BPI after their blowout victory over Syracuse. With eight wins in their last nine games, Pittsburgh is trending towards a single-digit seed. The Panthers close at Notre Dame and at Miami FL; winning one should be enough to solidify a spot in the field.
NC State Wolfpack
NET: 42, Resume: 39.5 Quality: 44.3
Q1: 2-6 | Q2: 5-3 | Q3: 5-0 | Q4: 10-0
NC State has already notched 22 wins on the season, which is the headlining portion of its resume. The Wolfpack have also picked up solid wins, culminating in a 7-9 record in Quads 1 and 2. All but one of their core six metrics rank inside the top 45. Having a “clean resume” (no Quad 3 or 4 losses) is a plus, especially in a year with so many teams suffering bad losses.
On the downside, NC State only has two wins over the projected field (and five losses). Additionally, a poor nonconference strength of schedule (No. 243) stands out — and not in a good way. NC State’s ability to avoid landmine losses, however, is a good reason for its current placement as a single-digit seed. The Wolfpack’s worst loss is at Syracuse, a Quad 2 game.
NC State was unable to play its way into safe positioning during its regular-season schedule. The Wolfpack enter the ACC Tournament after back-to-back losses to Clemson (by 25) and Duke. They might still dance without a win in the conference tournament, but it would be a risky plan; they’re slipping into double-digit seed territory.
North Carolina Tar Heels
NET: 45, Resume: 46.5, Quality: 38.7
Q1: 1-8 | Q2: 6-3 | Q3: 7-0 | Q4: 5-0
North Carolina is making its push. After a stretch of five losses in six games, the Tar Heels have rattled off three wins in a row. Sure, two of those came over Notre Dame and Florida State but wins are wins, and those came away from home. UNC also added its first Quad 1 win of the year by beating Virginia at home. The Tar Heels remain firmly in the cutline mix.
Not having bad losses can only take a team so far, and UNC still only has one Quad 1 win. It is also worth noting that Virginia has fallen to No. 28 in the NET; if it drops out of the top 30, that win will drop to Quad 2 for the Tar Heels.
Simply put, North Carolina must beat Duke at home in its season finale. It is not a good idea to test how much this selection committee values Quad 2 games, where UNC is 6-3.
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