March is here and through six days, we have already witnessed a handful of game-winners, upsets, conference tournaments and more. College hoops is a frenzy right now and as the NCAA Tournament nears, we take a look at the top six conferences and who is safe to make the cut, as well as what teams still with work to do.
The six conferences covered are the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and the SEC. I predict these six conferences will make up 33 of the 68 team field. There are eight squads entering their conference tournaments that I have circled with a shot to make the cut. What they do in the next week will determine whether they go dancing or not with spots being filled up by automatic qualifiers the next seven days.
Let's get started with the ACC as everyone continues to ask what will happen to Duke and North Carolina.
Editor’s Note: All NET rankings and Quad are updated by Vaughn, but based on the NCAA.com's latest edition (3/5).
The ACC Tournament field is set for Tuesday through Saturday (March 9-13) at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC. The top six seeds receive byes. The ACC appears to have at least six teams set to make the NCAA Tournament and more likely a seventh depending on how the conference tournament pans out...and spoiler it is not Duke.
Safe to make the field: Virginia, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Clemson and Louisville
Despite all the talk of North Carolina and Georgia Tech, both teams should be safe to make the tournament. For Duke, I am out on them after three straight losses. Louisville is the only ACC team that is on the spectrum of making the field. However, Louisville's losses this season have come to Wisconsin, Miami, Florida State, Clemson, North Carolina and Virginia. Besides the Miami loss, Louisville has won the games they should and that more than likely will be enough to give them somewhere between a No. 9-12 seed at the worst.
Syracuse: The Orange lacked signature wins this season as the two best victories they have are over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, both at home. However, the last two games of the regular season, they swept beating North Carolina and Clemson. Two huge victories for this Syracuse team. At 5-2 over the last seven games, they are making a run for a tourney bid.
North Carolina is a team that was talked about on the fringe. However, they could go as high as a No. 5 seed depending on how they finish out the ACC Tournament, but the clear favorites are Virginia and Florida State once again. They could be considered the dark horse of the ACC.
Out of the NCAA Tournament: Duke, NC State, Notre Dame, Pitt, Miami, Wake Forest and Boston College
The Big East
The Big East field is set to wrap up Sunday, March 7 and as the conference tournament begins, the field became a little more open. Providence upset Villanova in their first game without Collin Gillespie and Creighton just suspended their head coach. There are a couple of teams getting hot in the Big East and depending on what happens over the next week, we could see more than a few teams earning a bid. The Big East Conference Tournament is March 10-13 in Madison Square Garden, so expect some old-fashioned Big East ball with three teams locked in no matter what happens.
Safe to make the field: Villanova, Creighton and UConn
Providence: The Friars were ranked No. 3 in the Big East Preseason Coaches Poll entering the season, but have had their issues. Providence has gone through a ton of road stretches. They have had three separate stretches of three games or more away from home this season. With a win over Villanova in the final regular-season game, Providence has somewhat saved their season, now going 4-2 over the last six games. They still have plenty of work to do and the committee would probably give the nod to Xavier or St. John's before them unless they string together a a few wins in the conference tourney.
Xavier: The Musketeers started the season 8-0, but 5-6 over the last 11 games. Xavier is 2-4 over the previous six games, winning the last two at home. Xavier has a road game at Marquette to finish the regular-season. The Musketeers need to win that contest in pursuit of a tournament bid. Xavier and Providence have the best chances at being the fourth and fifth team selected, if the Big East gets that many in. Xavier has lost four straight road games and 1-5 in conference road trips this season. The Musketeers likely will not make it far if they do make the big dance.
St. John's: The Red Storm are going to need a big run in the conference tourney to earn an NCAA bid. St. John's won their last two games, both home matchups over Providence and Seton Hall. St. John's has also won nine of the previous 12 games to end the season with an OT loss and a five-point loss in two of the three games. With a 5-8 record versus Quad 3 and 4 teams, plus a 4-6 record in true road games, they may not have done enough away from home to make the cut. Only time will tell, but do not count out St. John's just yet.
Out of the NCAA Tournament: Seton Hall, Georgetown, Marquette, Butler and DePaul
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The Big Ten
The Big Ten is making a bid for two No. 1 NCAA Tournament seeds as Michigan and Illinois are on tears. There are a few teams on the fringe for First Four In and First Four Out, regarding the NCAA Tournament. Each game will be crucial for each team outside Michigan as they have more than likely locked up a No. 1 seed. This will set up for an entertaining conference tourney as it is everyone versus the two favorites starting March 10-14 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN.
Safe to make the field: Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights pretty much locked themselves into an NCAA Tournament bid as they beat Minnesota in OT. Rutgers has won two of the last three games limping into the Big Ten Tournament. Rutgers ia 4-3 over their last seven games and 14-10 (10-10) on the season. Rutgers seems safe based on the new Quads and NET rankings. They were an impressive 10-1 in Quad 2, 3 and 4 games this season. The Scarlet Knights now rank 38th in NET and an NCAA bid will mark 30 years since the NCAA Tournament (1991). A first round conference loss could be the only thing to keep them out, but it is unlikely.
Maryland: The Terps are getting love as a No. 8 seed or worse and to be frank, that would be overshooting on this team, but they did turn the season around in February. Since the start of February, Maryland is 6-3, but two of their losses were upsets by Penn State and Northwestern. The Terps can get their revenge on senior night as they host Penn State in a must-win. If Maryland loses to Penn State or in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, they will be in trouble. As of now, count the Terps in somewhere between a No. 8-12 seed.
Out of the NCAA Tournament: Michigan State, Indiana, Penn State, Minnesota, Northwestern and Nebraska
The Big 12
The Big 12 field is the clearest field of the main conferences. The only team that could be considered toeing the line is Oklahoma at 14-9 (9-8), but the Sooners are 9-2 in Quads 2, 3 and 4 games this season. They have lost four straight games, so they are going cold at the worst time. If they make the field, a first round exit could be likely if they do not fix their play in the conference tournament. Baylor will be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and the Big 12 Tournament. The rest of the field is up for grabs anywhere from a No. 2-9, as far as the NCAA Tournament. The Big 12 tourney is March 10-13 in Kansas City, MO.
Safe to make the field: Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma
Oklahoma State awaits an NCAA decision on whether or not they can play in the Big 12 and NCAA Tournament. They face a postseason ban after former Assistant Coach Lamont Evans was reported taking thousands of dollars in bribes. According to the NCAA, Evans received between approximately $18,150 to $22,000 from April 2016 through July 2017.
The NCAA has yet to decide on Oklahoma State, and if they do not by Wednesday, Oklahoma State is in. Speaking from the angle of someone who has a preseason bet on Oklahoma State at +1800 to make the Final Four, this is a big week for the Cowboys and their supporters aka me.
Out: TCU, Kansas State and Iowa State
The Pac-12 has four teams above the rest of the field, with Arizona and Oregon State fighting for their lives. Both teams have struggled versus the top four seeds for the conference tournament and that will be their downfall if they do not get in. With the Pac-12 Tournament set for March 10-13 in Las Vegas, NV, expect March to live up to its name. I expect the highest-seeded Pac-12 team to be a No. 3 or 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, if USC or Oregon win the conference.
Safe to make the field: USC, Oregon, Colorado and UCLA
Oregon State: The Beavers have won four of the last five games, getting hot as March begins. Oregon State has won three straight on the road, and if they continue this play, they could be the fifth or sixth team in the field from the Pac-12. The Beavers are 3-5 in Quad 1 games and 1-4 in Quad 2 matchups. However, they are 10-2 in Quad 3 and 4 contests. Oregon State is 2-4 against USC, UCLA, Colorado and Oregon. An early exit in the Pac-12 Tournament could be the nail in the coffin for the Beavers.
Arizona: Arizona was 2-6 against USC, UCLA, Oregon and Colorado. Unfortunately the Wildcats are banned from 2021 play. They should return all five starters next year and only have two active seniors this season. They had the upper hand this year beating Oregon State twice and could be a sleeper next season.
Out: Arizona, Stanford, Utah, Arizona State, Washington State, Washington and California
Only two teams appear in the race to make the NCAA Tournament out of the obvious five. Missouri and Ole Miss are set up for a big week when they try to earn at least two wins in the SEC Tournament starting March 10-14 in Nashville, TN. I think Missouri is safe despite going 2-5 in the last seven games. The Tigers are 7-5 against Quad 1 opponents and 6-0 versus Quad 3 and 4 teams. Alabama has a chance to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with an SEC Conference Title and I like the chances the Crimson Tide make a deep run.
Safe to make the field: Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Florida, Tennessee and Missouri
Ole Miss: The Rebels are on life support, winning the last two games and seven of the previous nine. At 15-10 (10-8) on the season, Ole Miss adds value to that record going a combined 8-8 in Quad 1 and 2 matchups this season. They are an encouraging 7-2 against Quad 3 and 4 teams this season. Ole Miss does not have many impressive wins, so the SEC Tournament will determine whether or not they receive a bid. As of now, Ole Miss can be considered either IN, but a first-round SEC exit would put them in a pickle.
Out: Mississippi State, Kentucky, Georgia, Auburn, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt
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