College Basketball Bubble Watch

Updated: March 4, 2010, 12:43 PM ET
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com


Make-or-break time for bubble teams as regular season enters stretch run

Editor's note: This file has been updated to include all games through Wednesday, March 3.

More than the ACC and Big Ten championships will be on the line during the final weekend of college basketball's regular season.

There are more than a dozen games involving teams fighting for few available at-large bids to the NCAA tournament.

Bubble Insider

Time is running out for bubble teams. For some, like Mississippi State and Illinois, Saturday may present a make-or-break scenario. Bubble Insider Insider

With only four days left in the regular season, there might be as few as nine at-large spots available for 21 teams.

For the sake of argument, let's assume the following (even though the odds of it all holding up during Championship Week are probably pretty slim):

• One of the teams that already has earned "lock" or "should be in" status wins the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC tournaments.
• Butler wins the Horizon League tournament.
• Gonzaga wins the West Coast Conference tournament.
• UTEP wins the Conference USA tournament.
• Northern Iowa wins the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
• Richmond, Temple or Xavier wins the A-10 tournament.
• New Mexico or BYU wins the Mountain West Conference tournament.

If all of the above actually happen, and we add those 12 automatic bids to the 19 automatic bids that will be awarded to conferences not represented in Bubble Watch, we'll have our 31 automatic bids. After we include the remaining teams with "lock" or "should be in" designation, we'll be at 56 bids.

That would leave only nine available at-large bids for the 21 teams currently sitting in "work to do."

Hang on. It will get interesting this weekend. Here's a list of must-see TV bubble games during the next three days:

Thursday:
LSU at Ole Miss (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET)
Beating the Tigers probably wouldn't help the Rebels' at-large chances very much, but it's obviously a game they can't lose.

Saturday:
Cincinnati at Georgetown (ESPN360, noon ET)
A victory over the Hoyas would give the Bearcats some at-large life and momentum heading into the Big East tournament.

Connecticut at South Florida (ESPN360, 2 p.m. ET)
The Huskies are in trouble after a two-game losing streak; a loss to the Bulls would all but end their at-large chances.

Notre Dame at Marquette (ESPN360, 2 p.m. ET)
The Fighting Irish are red-hot without star forward Luke Harangody and need this one over another red-hot team, the Golden Eagles.

Syracuse at Louisville (ESPN, 2 p.m. ET)
The Cardinals already have beaten the Orange on the road; a home win would lock up an at-large bid.

Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech (ESPN360, 4 p.m. ET)
The Hokies are two games better than the Yellow Jackets in the ACC standings but probably need this victory more.

Tennessee at Mississippi State (ESPN, 6 p.m. ET)
After losing at Auburn on Wednesday night, it's almost time to put a fork in the Bulldogs. Will the Vols oblige?

New Mexico State at Utah State (ESPN360, 9:05 p.m. ET)
Utah State already has lost to New Mexico State this season and can't afford to fall again.

Sunday:
Florida at Kentucky (noon ET)
The Gators have lost two games in a row to put themselves in a precarious spot, but beating UK would lock up a bid.

Wisconsin at Illinois (ESPN, noon ET)
The Illini probably have to beat the Badgers at home to have any shot at an at-large bid.

Clemson at Wake Forest (6 p.m. ET)
The Demon Deacons are suddenly in trouble after losing four games in a row.

Here's Thursday's Bubble Watch: