2023 NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch

Image credit: NC State RHP Sam Highfill (Photo courtesy of NC State)

We’ve made it to conference tournament week. There are just a few days left until Selection Monday and already the NCAA Tournament field is taking shape.

Until the selections are announced, we’ll be tracking the development of the Field of 64 and, most importantly, what every team needs to do to secure an at-large bid.

For these purposes, we’ll sort teams that are in at-large contention into three groups:

1) Locks. Reserved for teams that could lose out and still make the NCAA Tournament. That’s a bit nit-picky, but when we say lock, we mean it.

2) Should be in. Generally, a team that would be solidly in if the field was selected today.

3) Work to do. Nothing is guaranteed for these teams.

Throughout the week, this post will be updated regularly. Records are updated as often as the post is, RPI and schedule strengths are updated daily when the official NCAA numbers refresh. Keep this page bookmarked so you can check in all week.


Lock: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia, Wake Forest
Should be in: None
Work to do: North Carolina State, Notre Dame

North Carolina State (35-19, 13-16; RPI: 22; SOS: 19): The Wolfpack were one of the first four teams out of last year’s NCAA Tournament, after going 14-15 in conference play despite an RPI of 33 and a run to the ACC Tournament championship game. A year later and NC State again finds itself on the bubble. This time, it looks like it might end better for NC State. Its RPI is significantly better, as is its non-conference strength of schedule (99). NC State went 1-1 in the ACC Tournament and was eliminated after pool play. Its top-25 RPI looks like it will be enough to overcome its losing conference record. But until NC State pops up on the screen on Monday, it’s a nervy time. 

Notre Dame (30-24, 15-15; RPI: 55; SOS: 51): The Fighting Irish look to be squarely on the bubble. Notre Dame went 15-15 in conference play and while an exactly .500 ACC record has been rare over the last decade, just two of the 13 teams that hit that benchmark missed the NCAA Tournament and both had an RPI north of 70. A few things are working against Notre Dame, however. One is that the official selection committee metrics include conference tournament results in conference record. That’s applied a bit haphazardly (see NC State last season), but it does mean that when they look at Notre Dame, the report says 15-17 against ACC opposition. Perhaps the bigger issue is that Notre Dame’s non-conference strength of schedule is 286, a very unsightly mark. Non-conference strength of schedule was heavily cited last year by the committee and if this year’s group takes a similar approach, that number could push Notre Dame to the wrong side of the bubble. 

Big 12

Locks: Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech, West Virginia
Should be in: None
Work to do: Kansas State, Oklahoma

Kansas State (35-24, 13-11; RPI: 54; SOS: 47): Kansas State’s tournament hopes are going to go right down to the wire. The Wildcats finished poorly, losing six of their last nine games, and fell to fifth in the Big 12 standings. K-State has some real positives to its body of work. It has a winning record in the Big 12 (which rates third in conference RPI), went 12-14 vs. top-50 opponents, has series wins against Texas Tech and UC Irvine and went 2-2 against Texas. But K-State’s RPI is north of 50 and it’s probably fallen to sixth in the Big 12 pecking order. Is that enough? It’s going to be tight.

Oklahoma (31-26, 11-13; RPI: 39; SOS: 14): Oklahoma made a run down the stretch to put itself in the tournament conversation, but it looks like it’s not going to be enough. It went 12-16 vs. conference opponents and has an RPI above 35. That’s generally not a winning combination, even if the Sooners have a strong strength of schedule and went a solid 12-13 vs. top 50 opponents. If Oklahoma gets in, it’s because of it’s aggressive scheduling and some big wins. If it gets left out, it’s because it simply took on too many losses.

Big Ten

Locks: Indiana, Iowa, Maryland
Should be in: None
Work to do: None


Locks: Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington
Should be in: Southern California
Work to do: Arizona, Arizona State

Arizona (33-24, 12-18; RPI: 45; SOS: 25): The Wildcats have put themselves on the bubble with an incredible run the last couple weeks. They won seven of their last nine games and advanced to the Pac-12 Tournament championship game before falling to Oregon. That run helped Arizona push its RPI into the top 50 and, combined with strong overall metrics, the Wildcats have an intriguing case. The real problem is that Arizona went 12-18 in conference play and, even including the Pac-12 Tournament and its midweek destruction of Arizona State, it still is just 16-19 against conference competition. A team with that Pac-12 record getting in the tournament would be unprecedented. It’s not impossible and it’s eight top-50 wins are good for a bubble team (especially considering a 4-4 record vs. top-25 opponents), but Arizona is in a nervous position. 

Arizona State (32-23, 16-13; RPI: 51; SOS: 40): The Sun Devils last weekend got a critical series win against UCLA and split their two pool-play games at the Pac-12 Tournament, getting blown out by Arizona and then beating Oregon State. They’ve lost 11 of their last 15 games, which has pushed them to the bubble. ASU’s conference record is solid, and it finished fifth in the standings, but its resume is a bit lacking. The Sun Devils are 8-14 against top-50 competition and have a losing record on the road (8-13). The RPI number is probably the most concerning part of the package for ASU.

Southern California (34-23-1, 17-13; RPI: 53; SOS: 46): The Trojans last weekend lost their series at Arizona but got a pivotal win in the finale. No Pac-10/12 team in the super regional era (starting in 1999) has been left out of the NCAA Tournament with at least 17 conference wins. For good measure, USC beat UCLA on Tuesday in its Pac-12 Tournament opener. There are still clear issues with the Trojans’ resume—their non-conference strength of schedule is low (161), they’re 5-15-1 against top-50 competition and they’re 7-15-1 on the road. But USC also finished in fourth place in the conference and has several series wins against other Pac-12 contenders. The Trojans look like they’ll make their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2015.


Remarkably strong RPI numbers and conference records throughout the SEC has the intrigue for the conference wrapped up in the hosting and top-eight seed races. In fact, after Tuesday’s first round of the SEC Tournament, the conference seems all but locked into 10 bids.

Locks: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt

Sun Belt

The Sun Belt this year has emerged as a high-level baseball conference, as was expected when it added James Madison, Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss. It ranks fifth in conference RPI and is positioned to be rewarded on Selection Monday with multiple at-large opportunities.

Locks: Coastal Carolina, Southern Miss
Should be in: Louisiana-Lafayette, Troy
Work to do: Texas State

Louisiana-Lafayette (40-21, 18-12; RPI: 46; SOS: 76): The Ragin’ Cajuns had a big week at the Sun Belt Tournament and reached the championship game with two wins Saturday against Coastal Carolina. Those wins, which pushed Louisiana to 40 on the season and its RPI into the top 50, likely sealed the deal for an NCAA Tournament bid.

Texas State (36-23, 17-13; RPI: 60; SOS: 66): The Bobcats’ hopes took a big hit down the stretch. They went 3-7 over the final three weeks and lost five times to Louisiana to fall behind the Cajuns in the Sun Belt pecking order. With an RPI of 60, Texas State is going to fall off the bubble.

Troy (39-20, 18-12; RPI: 38; SOS: 53): The Trojans came into the Sun Belt Tournament in good shape and despite a 1-2 showing in Montgomery are still holding steady. Their top-40 RPI and third-place finish in the standings should carry the day.


Locks: Campbell, Connecticut, Dallas Baptist, East Carolina, Indiana State
Should be in: Northeastern
Work to do: Elon, Kent State, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, UNC Wilmington

Elon (33-22, 19-9; RPI: 58; SOS: 45): The Phoenix finished second in the Colonial Athletic Association standings and their RPI has edged back into the top 60 going into Sunday. There are pieces to like there (7-9 vs. top 50, No. 24 non-conference strength of schedule) but its RPI is still too low. A loss Sunday to Northeastern in the semifinals of the CAA Tournament likely was the end for Elon.

Kent State (40-16, 24-6; RPI: 47, SOS: 171): The Golden Flashes last weekend swept Ball State to secure the Mid-American Conference title and home-field advantage in this week’s tournament, but the Cardinals got revenge in the MAC Tournament championship game. Ball State’s upset leaves Kent State on the bubble and, as 2021 Ball State can tell you, that doesn’t usually end well for MAC teams. The Golden Flashes have a top-50 RPI, which is enough to keep them in this conversation, but their schedule strength is going to be tough to overcome. Kent State played just one game this season agains a team in the top 50 (a loss to Indiana) and went 3-6 against NCAA Tournament teams.

Northeastern (43-13, 20-10; RPI: 32; SOS: 154): The Huskies are looking good, having advanced to the CAA Tournament championship game. Northeastern did slip to third in the CAA standings over the final few weeks and it has one of the worst strength of schedules of any team in the at-large discussion, and its non-conference mark (218) isn’t any better. That’s not a primary factor and being 7-0 against BC, UConn, Duke, Indiana State and Maryland helps cancel that out, particularly as it’s held on to a top-35 RPI.

UC Irvine (38-17, 19-11; RPI: 50; SOS: 129): The Anteaters have done all that they can over the last two weeks, sweeping UC Davis and UC Riverside. UCI has the best RPI in the Big West and some strong non-conference wins, including a sweep of Arizona State (part of an 8-1 mark against Pac-12 teams). Its positioning in the Big West standings (fourth) isn’t ideal and the Anteaters played just one game against top-50 competition (a loss to Arizona). On its face, that doesn’t sound much different from Kent State. But UCI will be hoping that its wins against fellow bubble competitors can carry the day.

UC Santa Barbara (35-20, 18-12; RPI: 57; SOS: 92): While UCI made a strong, late push, UCSB backed up and lost four straight games to end the season, including getting swept at Hawaii this weekend. That left its RPI in a tough spot and saw the Gauchos get passed by the Anteaters in the standings. UCSB’s hope at this point is that the committee looks past its RPI (a courtesy that West Coast teams sometimes get) and focuses instead on its 6-4 record against top-50 opponents (which includes a sweep of Oregon). But getting three teams from the Big West into a field that’s seen the bubble tighten could be tough.

UNC Wilmington (33-21, 20-8; RPI: 43; SOS: 37): The Seahawks won the CAA regular season title and could completely clear up the bubble talk with a win in the tournament championship game against Northeastern. Even with a loss, however, UNCW may well have done enough. UNCW looks an awful lot like Grand Canyon did a year ago. GCU last year got in with an RPI of 50 thanks in large part to its high-end wins (7-5 vs. top 50) and non-conference strength of schedule (17). UNCW is 7-10 vs. top-50 competition (although 2-7 vs. top 25) and its non-conference strength of schedule is 10. The Seahawks can’t feel totally secure if they lose the title game, but it feels like they should be safe.

Comments are closed.

Download our app

Read the newest magazine issue right on your phone