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Bubble Banter: The SEC-Big 12 Challenge is a big chance for a number of teams

Duke v North Carolina State

RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 06: Head coach Kevin Keatts of the North Carolina State Wolfpack reacts during their game against the Duke Blue Devils at PNC Arena on January 6, 2018 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Saturday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.


N.C. STATE (RPI: 70, KenPom: 74, NBC seed: First four out): The Wolfpack will go down as Saturday’s big winner, as they landed a road win over North Carolina, who is currently 5th in the RPI. Kevin Keatts’ club now has wins over Duke (1), Clemson (6) and Arizona (15), the latter of which came on a neutral floor. Losses to UNC Greensboro at home and Northern Iowa on a neutral floor are not ideal -- both are Quadrant 3 losses -- but I challenge you to find any program with four wins as good as N.C. State’s four wins.

ALABAMA (RPI: 33, KenPom: 58, NBC seed: 11): Alabama added another excellent win to a profile that already looks like it is strong enough to earn the Crimson Tide an at-large bid as they knocked off Trae Young and Oklahoma on Saturday. Alabama now has three Quadrant 1 wins -- which could become four if Texas A&M rights their ship -- and nothing worse than a Quadrant 2 loss. The big concern? Alabama’s five-best wins all came at home. They’ve only beaten BYU (69) and Memphis (107) on a neutral and LSU (84) on the road. They still have work left to do, but as of today, the Tide are in a really good spot.

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 54, KenPom: 31, NBC seed: 10): Is there a hotter team in the country than Kansas State right now? The Wildcats have won four games in a row -- including Oklahoma (9) and TCU (16) -- and it would be six if Barry Brown hadn’t missed a game-winner at Kansas. The Wildcats have just two Quadrant 1 wins right now, and the combination of a non-conference strength of schedule that ranked 344th (before Saturday’s win over Georgia) and a home loss to Tulsa (122) keeps Kansas State less safe than they feel like they should be.

VIRGINIA TECH (RPI: 77, KenPom: 48, NBC seed: Next four out): Has anyone had a better week than Virginia Tech? Six days ago, they were barely in consideration for an at-large bid. Now, after beating North Carolina on Tuesday and winning at Notre Dame (60) on Saturday, they now have four Quadrant 1 wins. They’ll need more with a non-conference SOS of 319, but seven of their last nine games come against RPI top 20 teams.

TEXAS (RPI: 41, KenPom: 39, NBC seed: 9): The Longhorns took care of business at home on Saturday afternoon against an Ole Miss (75) team that is better than their 11-10 record would indicate. With four Quadrant 1 wins and nothing worse than a Quadrant 2 loss to their name, the Longhorns are in a great spot. The Big 12 is a bear, which means that there are going to be plenty of chances for big wins ... and more than a few opportunities to take a loss.

UCLA (RPI: 65, KenPom: 59, NBC seed: Out): I think the Bruins are closer to the NCAA tournament than they are getting credit for right now, but it’s really going to come down to the next two weeks: USC (38), at Arizona (15), at Arizona State (42). I think they need to win at least two of those games.

FLORIDA STATE (RPI: 39, KenPom: 24, NBC seed: 8): The Seminoles picked up a Quadrant 1 win on Saturday, knocking off Miami (14) at home in overtime. That’s the third Quadrant 1 win that FSU has to their name. Throw in a 16-5 record with four Quadrant 1 losses and a Quadrant 2 loss, and Leonard Hamilton’s club is in a really good spot. The one thing to keep an eye on: Their non-conference SOS is 308th. That’s bad enough that it could be the difference between a couple seed lines.

ARKANSAS (RPI: 22, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: 9): The Razorbacks landed a home win over Oklahoma State (79), which isn’t a great win. The Hogs are 15-6 on the season now, and their toughest remaining games on the schedule are at home. They’re in a good spot.

BUTLER (RPI: 29, KenPom: 35, NBC seed: 9): Butler smoked St. John’s, which is relevant for one reason and one reason only: Losing to St. John’s would be bad, as would losing to DePaul or Georgetown at home.

BOISE STATE (RPI: 43, KenPom: 49, NBC seed: Play-in game): Boise State did not lose at Air Force (239). Their only chance of getting an at-large is to win out, which includes Nevada (18) at home.

SYRACUSE (RPI: 34, KenPom: 41, NBC seed: First four out): Syracuse beat Pitt. Pitt is terrible. A loss could have been a killer for the Orange because they don’t have much in the way of good wins. Buffalo (26) at home is the only Quadrant 1 win, and Georgetown (163) is their only road win.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: 28, KenPom: 51, NBC seed: 11) and WESTERN KENTUCKY (RPI: 47, KenPom: 47, NBC seed: Next four out): The Conference USA foes both won on Saturday. WKU has the better win while Boise State doesn’t have losses that are nearly as bad. I honestly don’t think either ends up being an at-large bid by the end of the year.

NEBRASKA (RPI: 63, KenPom: 63, NBC seed: Out): I think Nebraska is drawing dead tight now. They don’t have a top 100 win away from home, they don’t have a Quadrant 1 win and they only play one top 100 team the rest of the season. Congrats on beating Iowa (139), though.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (RPI: 74, KenPom: 79, NBC seed: Out): The Bulldogs landed themselves a nice win at home on Saturday, knocking off Missouri (40). They have so much more work to do, however. MSU has just one win away from home -- Southern Miss (194) on a neutral -- and just two top 85 wins.


TEXAS A&M (RPI: 31, KenPom: 33, NBC seed: First four out): There really is no shame in losing at Kansas, like the Aggies did on Saturday. The bigger issue is that they have now lost seven of their last nine games and have not won on the road since picking off USC (38) on Nov. 26th. The good news? None of their losses are terrible, and a win over West Virginia (21) on a neutral and that win at USC will both age well.

NOTRE DAME (RPI: 60, KenPom: 29, NBC seed: Next four out): The Irish lost their fifth straight on Saturday. They’re now 12-8 on the season with three sub-100 losses, only one of which is a Quadrant 2 loss. Six of their last ten games are on the road. They need Bonzie Colson back.

SOUTH CAROLINA (RPI: 52, KenPom: 68, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Gamecocks wasted a great opportunity to add another Quadrant 1 win to the résumé, as they blew a late lead at home against Texas Tech. The good news for Frank Martin’s club is that those wins over Kentucky and at Florida aren’t going anywhere, and they will have plenty of chances to add to their profile in SEC play.

LSU (RPI: 84, KenPom: 57, NBC seed: Next four out): The Tigers are in the midst of a three-week stretch that will determine their tournament chances. They started it with a blowout loss at Auburn (7), their fourth loss in five games. Their next five games: at Tennessee (12), Arkansas (22), at Florida (37), Ole Miss (75) and at Alabama (33).

GEORGIA (RPI: 55, KenPom: 69, NBC seed: First four out): The Bulldogs were in a great spot three weeks ago. Since then, they’ve lost five of their last six games to drop to 12-8 on the season, not a good thing when you’ve lost to San Diego State (121) on a neutral and at UMass (184). They’re not all that far from the cut line right now, but this thing is trending the wrong way.

MISSOURI (RPI: 40, KenPom: 40, NBC seed: Play-in game): Losing at Mississippi State on Saturday certainly didn’t help matters for the Tigers, but that’s not devastating. That’s a Quadrant 1 opponent, and Mizzou has three Quadrant 1 wins and two more Quadrant 2 wins. The biggest issue? That neutral court loss to Illinois, a Quadrant 4 loss.

UTAH (RPI: 49, KenPom: 70, NBC seed: Out): Already well on the wrong side of the bubble, Utah lost at Arizona, which is their last game against an elite team this season. They are going to need to win games in the Pac-12 tournament to have a chance.

OKLAHOMA STATE (RPI: 79, KenPom: 64, NBC seed: Out): Losing at Arkansas (22) is hardly a bad loss. But with just two Quadrant 1 wins and one other Quadrant 2 win and a non-conference SOS of 322 (before the game at Arkansas), they have ground to make up.

BAYLOR (RPI: 86, KenPom: 42, NBC seed: Out): The Bears can certainly play their way back into contention, but after losing at Florida on Saturday, they’ve lost five of six and seven of nine. They have a lot of ground to make up.

IOWA STATE (RPI: 81, KenPom: 100, NBC seed: Out): As of today the Cyclones are in a tough spot. Beating Tennessee at home would have helped; they lost by 23. But there are eight Quadrant 1 wins left on their schedule. It would be a helluva, but there is a road to get there.