Bubble Watch winners and losers: North Carolina, Miami surge as Indiana and Florida tumble – USA TODAY



In regular-season finales for major conferences in men’s college basketball, a handful of teams greatly capitalized in must-win matchups. Other teams likely saw their NCAA Tournament at-large hopes crash.

ACC bubble teams North Carolina and Miami (Fla.) surely fall in the capitalizing group, with the Tar Heels stunning Duke to pick up the Quadrant 1 victory their profile was drastically lacking. UNC might’ve been the villain on coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game, but it clearly had its own motivation in making the résumé look impressive enough for the selection committee. Mission accomplished.

It took an epic charge in the final two minutes vs. Syracuse for the Hurricanes to pull off a crucial road victory. Trailing by eight points with two minutes left, Miami picked up the win that has the potential to shove this team to the right side of the bubble. A loss would’ve likely pushed them out of the projected field ahead of the ACC tournament. 

Florida and Indiana, meanwhile, fall into the latter group that failed to capitalize. The Gators hosted Kentucky at home with a Quadrant (top-25 home, top-75 road) win on the line but couldn’t pull off the upset. Starting the day on the “first four out” list on USA TODAY Sports’ latest bracketology, Florida now is in hot water heading into the SEC tournament. Indiana was in desperate need of a win and almost knocked off Purdue on the road but ultimately couldn’t pull it off. The Hoosiers also were in the “first four out” category and now will likely stay put or fall to the “next four out.” 

A look at the biggest winners and losers from Saturday’s jampacked game slate. 


North Carolina. The Tar Heels (23-8, 15-5 ACC) made a statement in dismantling Duke, 94-81. The outcome against their archrival will serve as an impressive road victory against a potential top-2 seed. UNC still only has two Quadrant 1 wins (which is better than just one) to go with a decent NET score in the 40s and résumé-staining Quadrant 4 loss. If coach Hubert Davis’ team wins one game in the ACC tournament, it’ll be a shoo-in on Selection Sunday. 

Miami (Fla.). The Hurricanes (22-9, 14-6 ACC) stormed back from an eight-point deficit with two minutes left and went down to the wire in a 75-72 win over Syracuse. Miami can likely avoid serious sweating heading into Selection Sunday and can secure an at-large ticket to the NCAAs with an opening-round win in the ACC tournament next week. A projected No. 11 seed at the start of the day, this outcome could push the team closer to the safety zone. 

Virginia. The Cavaliers’ NCAA tournament hopes are on life support right now, meaning Saturday’s 71-61 over Louisville was needed for them to have a chance at garnering an at-large bid. It’ll still take some key wins in the ACC tournament next week for Virginia (18-12, 12-8 ACC) – where anything short of reaching the title game could mean it’s an NIT campaign for this UVA group. Just three Quadrant 1 wins, a Quadrant 4 loss and a NET score in the 70s won’t appeal to the selection committee.  

Wyoming. The Cowboys (24-7, 13-5 Mountain West) avoided a loss to Fresno State that would’ve put them into the danger zone, escaping 68-64 at home in overtime. Wyoming has four Quad 1 wins on the profile and a NET score in the 40s, keeping it in the No. 10 or No. 11 seed range – for now.  

Xavier. The Musketeers (18-12, 8-11 Big East) steamrolled Georgetown, 97-75, an easy win they needed to stay in the conversation for an at-large bid. That snapped a five-game losing streak that led them to slip to the bubble. A NET score in the 30s keeps this team safe, as does three Quadrant 1 wins. But the more wins, the better, at this point. 

Dayton. The Flyers (22-9, 14-4 Atlantic 10) started the day as one of the “next four out” but likely vaulted up on the outside of the bubble thanks to taking down fellow borderline team Davidson 82-76. It’s a home win so only qualifies as Quadrant 2 – meaning this program still needs more quality wins on its profile if it wants to go dancing. That’s in conjunction with three eye-popping Quadrant 4 losses. 


Indiana. The Hoosiers (18-12, 9-11 Big Ten) hung tight with Purdue before falling 69-67. That win was needed after losing to fellow bubble team Rutgers earlier in the week. Coach Mike Woodson’s group will need to win in the Big Ten tournament to be in the mix on Selection Sunday. A NET score in the 40s is decent, but just two Quadrant 1 wins on its profile isn’t cutting it. 

Florida. The Gators (19-12, 9-9 SEC) needed a Quadrant 1 victory and came up short, falling at home against a surging Kentucky team 71-63. Coach Mike White’s team has just two Quadrant 1 wins to go with an ugly Quadrant 4 loss and a NET score in the 50s on its résumé, so there’s major work to do in the SEC tournament if Florida wants to hear its name called on Selection Sunday. 

VCU. In a clash between two Atlantic 10 bubble teams, the Rams (21-8, 14-4 Atlantic 10) were bested by Saint Louis, 69-65. As one of the “first four out” at the start of the day, now VCU likely will fall further to the wrong side of the bubble. Just two Quad 1 wins is what’s hurting this team’s credentials and Saturday’s road loss serves as a missed opportunity in that regard. 

Virginia Tech. The Hokies (19-12, 11-9 ACC) had a tough task in taking on Clemson on the road and they came out on the wrong side of a 63-59 outcome. Now, it’s looking like this team will need to win several games in the ACC tournament to even be considered by the committee, with its tourney profile officially on life support. A NET score in the 30s is highly appealing but just one Quadrant 1 win won’t get it done. 

Creighton. The Bluejays (20-9, 12-6 Big East) started the day relatively safe as a projected No. 9 seed but a 65-60 loss to Seton Hall could affect that or at least make it so this team needs one more win in the Big East tournament to feel comfortable. What aiding this team’s credentials are six Quad 1 wins. That’s more than just about any bubble team at this point. 

South Carolina. The Gamecocks (18-12, 9-9 SEC) began the day on life support but had an outside chance to vault to the right side of the bubble because of Saturday’s clash vs. Auburn. South Carolina played the Tigers close but eventually fell to Auburn 82-71. This means the Gamecocks likely need to win the SEC tournament for the auto bid since at-large chances are essentially shot now. A NET score in the 90s and just two Quad 1 wins is too hard to overlook.

NCAA Tournament language explainer:

  • NET stands for the NCAA Evaluation Tool, which is the barometer for the selection committee. It includes game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin (capping at 10 points per game), and net offensive and defensive efficiency.
  • Quadrant 1 wins: Home games vs. 1-30 NET teams; Neutral-site games vs. 1-50 NET; Away games vs. 1-75 NET
  • Quadrant 2 wins: Home games vs. 31-75 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 51-100 NET; Away games vs. 76-135 NET
  • Quadrant 3 wins: Home games vs. 76-160 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 101-200 NET; Away games vs. 136-240 NET
  • Quadrant 4 wins: Home games vs. 161-plus NET; Neutral-site games vs. 201-plus NET; Away games vs. 241-plus NET

Note: Most statistical data is used from WarrenNolan.com. The NET rankings (NCAA Evaluation Tool) also are a reference point. 

Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.