2024 NCAA Baseball Tournament Bubble Watch (Conference Tournament Week)


Image credit: Devin Taylor (Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Conference tournament week is upon us, and across the country bubble teams are making one frantic, final push to boost their NCAA Tournament resumes.

As Selection Monday fast approaches, I’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. This edition of bubble watch will be updated frequently, as the results roll in from around conference tournaments.

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

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

The differences between Nos. 2 and 3 can be a bit nebulous because there’s personal interpretation to how the field is built. But it offers at least a rough idea for where teams stand.

In the conference records listed, I include any regular-season win against a conference team, whether it counts toward the conference standings or not because that is how the information is presented to the selection committee. So, for instance, Oklahoma State gets credit for a conference win for its mid-week victory against Oklahoma. Conference tournament wins are also included in that tally. Overall records do not include any wins against teams outside of Division I, as those do not appear in the information presented to the selection committee and do not factor into RPI calculation.


The ACC bubble picture is pretty tight. Georgia Tech and Louisville have one more game each in ACC Tournament pool play and are riding close to the bubble. Virginia Tech is likely done after losing its first game of pool play and seeing its RPI slip to 65.

Locks: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, NC State, Virginia Wake Forest

Should be in: None

Work to do: Georgia Tech, Louisville

Georgia Tech (31-23, 15-17; RPI: 47; SOS: 23): The Yellow Jackets went 1-2 over the weekend at Florida State, pulling out a key late win in Saturday’s finale to finish at .500 in ACC play. They then went a quick 0-2 in pool play, ending their stay at the ACC Tournament. That leaves Georgia Tech in a very precarious position. Its metrics are mixed. Working in its favor is its KPI (34) and its nine quad 1 wins, second-most of any team outside the top 40 in RPI. On the flip side, its RPI is in a problematic range, and its non-conference strength of schedule (217) is poor. This all feels a bit like 2023 Notre Dame, which got squeezed off the bubble after finishing 15-15 in ACC play, going 0-2 in the tournament and producing a 200+ non-conference strength of schedule. Notre Dame’s metrics were worse (RPI 54, NC SOS 283) and the bubble shrunk more than is normal, but this figures to be a nervy week in Atlanta.

Louisville (32-24, 16-16; RPI: 60; SOS: 33): The Cardinals last weekend swept Notre Dame to push their conference record above .500. Their RPI remained bubbly after that and it only fell into deeper trouble after going 0-2 at the ACC Tournament. Louisville is also going to be dinged for its poor non-conference schedule (240). Louisville’s best argument is its seventh-place finish in the ACC and winning regular-season conference record – no ACC team with a winning conference record has missed the tournament since 2018 Miami, which ranked No. 62 in RPI. Louisville’s resume now looks pretty similar to that one.

Big 12

I’ve locked Texas up, even as its RPI dropped back out of the top 40 with its 0-2 showing in the Big 12 Tournament. The Longhorns finished third in the conference standings, have 12 quad 1 wins and will still have a top 50 RPI. TCU and UCF feel like a cut above the rest of the Big 12 bubble teams after their opening wins in Arlington pushed them into the top 40 in RPI. Everyone else is in a bit more RPI trouble, but how the regional advisory committee orders the Big 12 teams will be quite interesting and possibly important in the selection committee room.

Lock: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, West Virginia

Should be in: TCU, UCF

Work to do: Cincinnati, Kansas State

Cincinnati (32-25, 18-15; RPI: 61; SOS: 52): The Bearcats played their way into the tournament conversation by winning five of their last seven Big 12 series. But they still had work to do going into the Big 12 Tournament and they went 1-2 in Arlington, finishing with a loss Thursday against Texas Tech. Cincinnati finished fifth in the Big 12 standings and should be commended for its 17-13 regular-season mark. But with an RPI north of 60 and a lack of high-end wins (5-12 in quad 1), it’s probably going to fall a little short. Remember that just last year the selection committee effectively threw out conference standings when it gave at-large bids to teams with strong RPIs but losing conference records like Oklahoma and Arizona and left out Kansas State, Arizona State and Southern California, which had the inverse resume. It’s hard to feel good about where Cincinnati in that context.

Kansas State (32-24, 16-17; RPI: 46; SOS: 26): The Wildcats were left bubble out last year despite going 15-13 against Big 12 competition due to poor metrics. Coach Pete Hughes, to his credit, made some scheduling changes for this season that dramatically improved K-State’s strength of schedule. The trouble is that the Wildcats finished conference play at .500 and after going 1-2 in the Big 12 Tournament, their RPI sits in a concerning range. As the bubble has tightened, K-State is in danger of getting squeezed out again.

TCU (33-21, 16-18; RPI: 40; SOS: 39): The Horned Frogs went 2-2 in the Big 12 Tournament and still have a top-40 RPI. They’re living large on their metrics (their KPI is even better at No. 29), but the rest of the resume is bubbly. Their RPI is strong enough that the rest of it shouldn’t much matter.

UCF (35-18, 16-15; RPI: 32; SOS: 43): After winning a series at Baylor to close out the regular season, UCF opened 2-0 in the Big 12 Tournament, beating Cincinnati and Oklahoma State in extra innings. That should have done it for the Knights, who are now comfortably in the top 40 of RPI and have 16 wins against Big 12 competition.

Big Ten

Illinois last weekend swept Purdue to win the Big Ten title and push its RPI into the top 45. The Illini are in solid shape, particuarly after getting a win in the conference tournament. Indiana is trending in the right direction. Everyone else is playing for the automatic bid.

Lock: Nebraska

Should be in: Illinois

Work to do: Indiana

Indiana (32-22-1, 16-9; RPI: 53; SOS: 45): The Hoosiers have started 2-0 in the Big Ten Tournament to advance to the semifinals. They’re the No. 3 seed in the tournament and with Illinois and Nebraska, the top two seeds, in the loser’s bracket, they have to be considered the favorites to win it. But in the event that they don’t, they’re building a pretty good bubble case. KPI rates Indiana better than RPI and it has solid top-end wins (6-8 in quad 1, 12-12-1 in quads 1 and 2). They’ve also built a pretty compelling case that they are the third-best team in the Big Ten, a conference that pretty typically gets at least three bids. Keep winning and this won’t matter, but the Hoosiers are pushing into a better area of the bubble.

Illinois (34-19, 19-8; RPI: 45; SOS: 64): After sweeping Purdue over the weekend to win its first Big Ten title since 2015, it felt like Illinois is pretty safely in. Any lingering doubts should have been cleared up with the Illinis’ win Thursday against Iowa. I’m not going to lock up Illinois, but it should feel secure.


Things have really tightened in the Pac-12. Arizona and Oregon State are locks. Oregon has a mediocre RPI but should be fine. Cal is trying to make one final push. Everyone else needs the automatic bid.

Lock: Arizona, Oregon State

Should be in: Oregon

Work to do: California

California (36-19, 21-14; RPI: 64; SOS: 116): Cal made a late push, winning five straight games to reach the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals, before losing to Southern California. It has 21 wins against conference competition and that, along with its high-end wins (5-2 in quad 1, 13-11 in quads 1 and 2), are the bright spots on the resume. That loss to USC pushed its RPI out of the top 60, however, and KPI doesn’t rate it much better (57). That likely ends its hopes.

Oregon (37-18, 19-13; RPI: 50; SOS: 98): The Ducks should be fine, but their 0-2 showing in the Pac-12 Tournament has this in a more dangerous range than it should be. KPI (47) rates Oregon better than RPI, but only so much so. The Ducks are clearly the third-best team in the Pac-12 and the conference should get three bids. But falling out of the top 50 in RPI is still not recommended, and that’s a real possibility now. The eye test should take care of Oregon, but that’s an uncomfortable assumption to be relying on.


The SEC is dealing with a logjam of bubbly teams. I think they all end up in the NCAA Tournament due to their outstanding metrics, but some will certainly feel that 11 bids (which would be a record) is too many for any one conference. I explored the issue on Monday and I still feel the same way today.

The buzz around Hoover (which is often wrong and I try my best to ignore it every year) is that Florida is in trouble. I don’t really think that’s true, but I do think that after Wednesday’s games, which saw LSU, South Carolina and Vanderbilt all win again, that the Gators are getting left behind on a tier of their own. That’s a little scary, but their basic resume hasn’t changed.

With the SEC Tournament semifinals set, I’ve locked up LSU, South Carolina and Vanderbilt, which all reached the final four of the tournament. While I’m generally reticent to move teams to locks during conference tournament week, the history is pretty strong for SEC Tournament semifinalists.

Locks: Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt

Should be in: Alabama

Work to do: Florida

Alabama (33-22, 13-18; RPI: 23; SOS: 5): The Crimson Tide insisted on living dangerously. They went 1-3 over the last week, losing a series at Auburn and then losing to South Carolina on Tuesday. That said, Alabama still has a top-25 RPI, a top-five strength of schedule and a 15 quad 1 wins (only four teams have more nationally), including series wins against Arkansas and Tennessee. It lost just two games total outside of quad 1. For context, Georgia has two quad 4 losses. Alabama is out of the SEC Tournament and can only wait, but it should be all right.

Florida (28-27, 13-18; RPI: 27; SOS: 1): The Gators over the weekend rallied to get the series win they needed at Georgia. That not only got them to 13 SEC wins, it also clinched a winning overall record. Florida’s resume is not perfect – it’s one game over .500 overall and it has a losing conference record – but the good looks like it outweighs the bad. It played the hardest schedule in the country, owns series wins against Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Georgia and has 13 quad 1 wins (only six teams have more nationally). Florida is out of the SEC Tournament and its RPI is living a little dangerously (historical precedent says there is a difference for teams with 13 SEC wins between finishing inside the top 30 in RPI vs. 30+). Ultimately, when I look at those high-end wins as compared to other bubble teams, I can’t help but feel that Florida stacks up favorably. I know some can’t get past the overall record and I get that, but the metrics are just so strong when combined with the marquee series wins. I see that carrying the day for Florida.

Sun Belt

The Sun Belt has been a wild ride over the last month, but I think it’s landed in a pretty clear place. Louisiana and Southern Miss are the best two teams in the league and are locks. Coastal Carolina has incredibly strong metrics that should carry the day. James Madison and Troy are still firmly in the mix and the Dukes made a loud statement by winning a series at Troy to end the season. Everyone else is playing for the automatic bid.

Lock: Louisiana, Southern Miss

Should be in: Coastal Carolina

Work to do: Georgia Southern, James Madison, Troy

Coastal Carolina (34-23, 17-16; RPI: 35; SOS: 19): Coastal had its five-game winning streak snapped Wednesday against Southern Miss and it was then bounced from the Sun Belt Tournament on Thursday by Appalachian State. But it’s RPI remains in the 30s and it finished the regular season with a winning conference record. Between its RPI, KPI (19) and strength of schedule, it’s hard to see the Chanticleers getting left out of the tournament.

Georgia Southern (32-25, 19-13; RPI: 55; SOS: 41): The Eagles have won four straight games, including starting the Sun Belt Tournament at 2-0. That’s advanced them to the bracket final, where James Madison will have to beat them twice. If Georgia Southern loses twice on Saturday, it’s done. If it wins, however, things get a bit interesting. Its RPI would be pushing 50 and it’s 12-22 in quads 1 and 2. Realistically, Georgia Southern probably needs to win the Sun Belt Tournament. But it’s at least looking bubbly.

James Madison (33-22, 18-14; RPI: 38; SOS: 37): JMU is riding the bubble. It’s advanced to the Sun Belt Tournament semifinals, where it must beat Georgia Southern twice on Saturday to advance to the title game. It’s looking increasingly likely that the Dukes will have a top-50 RPI on Selection Monday. That’s significant because sorting through the Sun Belt teams is not an easy task. JMU just needs to stay alive as long as possible to keep pushing its RPI closer to 40 than 50.

Troy (37-22, 19-14; RPI: 57; SOS: 95): Troy lost six of its last eight regular-season games, dropped out of the top 50 in RPI and probably fell behind James Madison in the Sun Belt pecking order with a series loss last weekend. It then went 1-2 in the Sun Belt Tournament. There’s good to the resume – series wins against Indiana, Coastal Carolina and Louisiana – but a poor non-conference strength of schedule (223) isn’t going to be viewed well and KPI (56) doesn’t rate the Trojans any better than RPI. Their 3-7 record down the stretch isn’t helping either. It’s hard to see this ending with a tournament bid for Troy.


Lock: Dallas Baptist, East Carolina, Indiana State, Louisiana Tech, San Diego, UC Irvine

Should be in: UConn

Work to do: Charleston, East Tennessee State, Northeastern, Portland, UNC Greensboro, UNC Wilmington, Wofford, Xavier

Charleston (40-12, 22-5; RPI: 41; SOS: 137): The Cougars are 26-3 since March 27, pushing themselves into the top 50 in RPI and to a Coastal Athletic Association championship. They’re pretty clearly the best team in the CAA (they won series against both UNC Wilmington and Northeastern, the two other teams from the conference in the at-large mix) but they did very little in non-conference play. Their non-conference strength of schedule (200) is poor, and they have just three quad 1 wins. Charleston feels like the kind of team that gets left out if it has a bad conference tournament. But it has some compelling elements to its resume and opened postseason play with a win. A date against UNC Wilmington looms Saturday.

UConn (32-23, 17-6; RPI: 43; SOS: 42): UConn had a very bad Thursday at the Big East Tournament, losing to Xavier and Georgetown to go a quick 0-2. I think the Huskies are fine, however. They have a top-45 RPI, a strong schedule and were clearly the best team in a conference that rates seventh in RPI. I think they’ll be fine on Selection Monday.

East Tennessee State (35-19, 16-7; RPI: 52; SOS: 96): ETSU’s RPI has been surprisingly resilient and is still hanging around in the low 50s. The rest of its resume remains uninspiring and it now has to fight out of the loser’s bracket in the Southern Conference Tournament. ETSU’s RPI keeps it in the conversation, but it’s not going to be enough.

Northeastern (38-17, 18-11; RPI: 33; SOS: 114): Northeastern’s RPI says it’s comfortably in the tournament field. The issue is little else about its resume says that. Its record in the first two quadrants (12-9) is good, but KPI (54) rates it a good bit lower and it finished a clear third in the Coastal Athletic Association, losing series to Charleston and UNC Wilmington, the top two teams in the conference. It also went 0-2 in the CAA Tournament with losses to Hofstra and William & Mary. Does RPI and its strong mark in the first two quadrants (including season sweeps of UConn and Boston College) trump conference standings and (presumably) the rankings of the regional advisory committee? It wouldn’t for me, but the selection committee didn’t ask my opinion. Its hopes may hinge on how Charleston and UNCW do this week, because I do not believe the CAA, which ranks 10th in conference RPI, is getting three bids.

Portland (36-18, 20-6; RPI: 58; SOS: 141): Portland lost the critical winner’s bracket game against top-seeded San Diego on Friday. It now has to fight its way out of the loser’s bracket and might well be in auto-bid or bust mode.

UNC Greensboro (33-21, 15-8; RPI: 62; SOS: 59): The Spartans were one of the best stories in the country. Billy Godwin stepped down as head coach in December to take a job with the Yankees and in the wake of that, UNCG was picked sixth in the Southern Conference’s preseason coaches poll. Interim coach Cody Ellis, who had been on staff for 14 months before he was promoted, guided UNCG to the conference title and into the bubble conversation. But a quick 0-2 exit in the Southern Conference Tournament pushed it out of the top 60 in RPI and likely ended its already slim at-large hopes.

UNC Wilmington (37-19, 21-7; RPI: 44; SOS: 70): The Seahawks lost a series to Delaware that dinged their RPI and allowed Charleston to win the Coastal Athletic Association championship. They’re pretty clearly the second-best team in the CAA (they won a series against Northeastern and finished two games ahead in the standings) but rate behind in RPI and KPI (55). A win against Delaware on Thursday pushed UNCW back into the top 45 in RPI and it now has a date with Charleston on Saturday. A win would be a huge boost for the Seahawks.

Wofford (38-17, 12-8; RPI: 51; SOS: 140): The Terriers opened the Southern Conference Tournament at 3-0 including a win Friday against No. 1 seed UNC Greensboro. Wofford has a solid RPI and while little else about the resume says it should be in the field, it’s playing its way into the conversation. The Terriers are just 1-3 in quad 1 and 5-5 in quads 1 and 2. Their non-conference strength of schedule is 235 (they played just one game – a loss to Georgia – against a power conference school) and they finished fifth in the SoCon, a conference that hasn’t gotten multiple bids since 2012. They did, however, win series against UNCG, Samford and East Tennessee State, the conference’s top three teams in the standings. Wofford has made it interesting, but its resume reads like one that usually gets left bubble out.

Xavier (30-27, 13-11; RPI: 39; SOS: 10): Xavier went 1-2 in the Big East Tournament, losing an elimination game Friday against Georgetown. Xavier played a premium schedule and its 9-15 record in the first two quadrants is solid. But the Musketeers finished third in the Big East standings and rate quite poorly in KPI (65). Can RPI and a decent record in the first two quadrants carry the day? That’s what Xavier is banking on at this point.

Download our app

Read the newest magazine issue right on your phone