College Basketball Bubble Watch

Updated: February 22, 2010, 4:03 PM ET
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com


Bubble contracting as time runs out for at-large hopefuls

Editor's note: This file has been updated to include all games through Sunday, Feb. 21.

BracketBusters weekend took its toll on many of college basketball's bubble teams.

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Teams such as Northeastern, Siena and Wichita State are left hoping they win their respective conference tournaments after suffering deflating nonconference losses over the weekend.

Teams such as Charlotte, Cincinnati, Dayton and Seton Hall are also looking for their second wind after enduring backbreaking losses in conference play.

With two weeks to go in the regular season, the NCAA tournament bubble is contracting more than ever.

If Selection Sunday were to take place today, there would be 30 teams that have probably done enough to earn a spot in the NCAA's 65-team field, including 25 that have earned "lock" status and five more that are sitting in the lesser "should be in" status.

The NCAA tournament will include 31 conference champions, which receive automatic bids. But if teams such as Duke, Kansas, Purdue, Syracuse and Kentucky -- those that are already considered "locks" -- win their respective power conference tournaments, the number of available at-large bids will increase for the 31 teams that have "work left to do."

Over the next three weeks, bubble teams also will be pulling for Cornell to win the Ivy League regular-season championship (the Ivy has no conference tourney) and for teams like Gonzaga and Butler and Northern Iowa to take the title in their conference tourneys.

Let's assume a few things while trying to calculate the number of available at-large bids:

• One of the teams listed in "lock" or "should be in" status wins the Atlantic 10, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Mountain West and SEC tournaments, taking seven already-safe teams out of the equation.

• UTEP wins the Conference USA tournament.

• Butler wins the Horizon League tournament.

• Northern Iowa wins the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

• Gonzaga wins the West Coast Conference tournament.

If we predict those aforementioned teams will win their respective conference tournaments -- and we all know anything and everything seems to happen during Championship Week -- there will be 11 fewer "lock" teams. With 31 conference champions and 19 other "lock" or "should be in" teams filling 50 spots in the 65-team field, there would be 15 available at-large spots for 31 remaining bubble teams.

Of course, the available allotment can change as soon as a team like Saint Louis wins the A-10 tournament.

Here's the latest Bubble Watch: