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Bracketology 2023: One Final Look at the Bubble

With no bid thieves lurking around on this Selection Sunday, the Cut Line picture is solid as we wait for the real bracket at 6 p.m. Eastern.

The Cut Line picture for Selection Sunday, March 12, 2023.
Graphic by Chris Dobbertean using logos from

Today’s full bracket (text-only version)

All records only reflect games played against Division I opposition through Saturday, March 11, 2023. All team data from‘s team sheets. All graphics created by me, using logos from

Last Four Byes: Illinois, Providence, Mississippi State, Utah State

Last Four IN

Nevada Wolf Pack

Record against DI opposition: 21-10 (12-6 Mountain West)
Record vs. Quads 1 and 2: 7-8
Record vs. Quad 1 Alone: 4-5 (1-4 vs. Q1A, win vs. San Diego State (H))
Quad 3 or 4 Losses: 2 Q3 (UNLV (H) and Wyoming (A))
Road/Neutral Record: 8-9
NET: 37
KenPom: 42

The Wolf Pack picked the worst time to play their worst basketball of the season—closing with a three-game skid that saw them lose by nine to a depleted Wyoming club in Laramie, then drop two in a row in OT, to UNLV at home and San José State in the Mountain West quarterfinals. One wonders what Nevada’s prospects would be had it defeated Kansas State in the Cayman Islands Classic semifinals. Now, Steve Alford’s team most notable non-conference wins came over Sam Houston State at home and Tulane in the Caymans’ quarterfinals. Of their four Quad 1 wins, only a 77-76 victory over a fading New Mexico came away from Reno. Still, when you combine the Pack’s Quad 1 and 2 record with the difficulty Mountain West teams have in lining up good non-conference games, this seems like a profile the Committee would like.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Record against DI opposition: 22-12 (11-9 Pac-12)
Record vs. Quads 1 and 2: 9-11
Record vs. Quad 1 Alone: 5-6 (2-4 vs. Quad 1A, wins over Arizona (A) and Creighton (N))
Quad 3 or 4 Losses: 1 Q4 (Texas Southern (A))
Road/Neutral Record: 12-7
NET: 66
KenPom: 68

The Sun Devils were unable to win their season rubber match with Arizona on Friday night, which was bad enough. Making matters worse, a lack of competitiveness on the evening cost them six spots in the NET. Curiously, Arizona State has among the worst losses of any bubble team—a 67-66 setback at Texas Southern—a result only made possible by the Pac-12’s praiseworthy attempt to boost the basketball programs of the SWAC while playing a few road games other power conferences would never agree to. It would truly be something if a defeat in the series ended up costing a Pac-12 team an at-large bid.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Record against DI opposition: 19-14 (10-10 Big Ten)
Record vs. Quads 1 and 2: 10-10
Record vs. Quad 1 Alone: 4-7 (1-7 vs. Quad 1A, win over Purdue (A))
Quad 3 or 4 Losses: 3 Q3 (Seton Hall (H), Nebraska (H), Temple (N), Minnesota (A))
Road/Neutral Record: 5-9
NET: 40
KenPom: 35

Based on metrics and the Quad 1 and 2 record alone, the Scarlet Knights should be safely in the field. However, there’s enough negative content on this selection sheet to make the Scarlet Knights sweat. Steve Pikiell’s team didn’t play all that well away from the RAC—their potentially season-making 65-64 win at Purdue notwithstanding. They also failed to take care of business at home (Iowa, Northwestern, Michigan) on more than one occasion, which deflates both their Quad 2 and 3 records. I don’t think Rutgers will be snubbed, but playing the extra game in Dayton is a real possibility because of all of the résumé clutter.

NC State Wolfpack

Record against DI opposition: 23-10 (12-8 ACC)
Record vs. Quads 1 and 2: 8-10
Record vs. Quad 1 Alone: 1-6 (0-4 vs. Quad 1A, best win over Duke (H))
Quad 3 or 4 Losses: None
Road/Neutral Record: 8-8
NET: 45
KenPom: 55

Back on February 19th, State had just defeated neighbors North Carolina 77-69 at PNC Arena with two further home games to come before an early regular-season finale at Duke. At this point, some doofus with a keyboard anointed the Wolfpack as a lock. And while they handled their business against Wake in the middle contest of the homestand, the wheels came completely off the bus against Clemson—resulting in a 96-71 defeat. Kevin Keatts’ squad couldn’t manage to win in Durham, and while it hammered Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament’s second round, the Tigers were waiting in the quarters, where they administered another thrashing—80-54. The Wolfpack would have been much better served had they managed to beat Brad Brownell’s team at least once.

Other than the home win over Duke, NC State’s best victories came against Miami and North Carolina at home and Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. The ‘Pack’s best non-league wins were over Dayton and fellow bubble team Vanderbilt. Really, the only thing State has going for it at this point is a perfect 15-0 record against Quads 2 and 3. That may not be enough when comparing the Wolfpack’s profile to others on this list. However, they do seem like a good compromise ACC at-large team given the flaws on both Clemson and Pitt’s profiles.

First Four OUT

Pittsburgh Panthers

Record against DI opposition: 22-11 (14-6 ACC)
Record vs. Quads 1 and 2: 7-9
Record vs. Quad 1 Alone: 4-4 (0-3 vs. Quad 1A, best wins over Virginia (H), Northwestern (A), NC State (A), North Carolina (H and A), Miami (H))
Quad 3 or 4 Losses: 1 Q3 (Notre Dame (A)) and 1 Q4 (Florida State (A))
Road/Neutral Record: 8-8
NET: 67
KenPom: 78

It’s not just you. All of these teams’ profiles look similar and kind of run together at this point. For the Panthers, their season turning point may have come one week ago in Coral Gables, where Miami edged them 78-76 to claim the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament. That loss combined with the day’s other results dropped Pitt to the 5 seed, meaning it wouldn’t get a bye to the quarterfinals. Jeff Capel’s team rebounded to defeat Georgia Tech in the second round, 89-81, but got absolutely thrashed in the quarters against Duke, 96-69, yet another instance of a bubble team picking up a key late win only to get blown out the next day. While Pitt has decent road wins, including one in non-conference against Northwestern, dropping both games at the Legends Classic in Brooklyn to Michigan and VCU look likes a major missed opportunity.

Ultimately, all of the ACC’s bubble teams may want to point their fingers at the conference office’s direction if they’re snubbed on Sunday. This is particularly true for Pitt and Clemson, who had to play eight games against the bottom five, with each losing two. NC State at least manage to win all six such games it played. And that’s the same number of games against the bottom third that perceived preseason contenders such as Duke, UNC, and Virginia Tech had on their schedules.

Oregon Ducks

Record against DI opposition: 19-14 (12-8 Pac-12)
Record vs. Quads 1 and 2: 9-13
Record vs. Quad 1 Alone: 2-9 (1-6 vs. Quad 1A, win over Arizona (H))
Quad 3 or 4 Losses: 1 Q3 (UC Irvine (H))
Road/Neutral Record: 6-9
NET: 47
KenPom: 40

While the metrics still like Oregon after Friday night’s 75-56 semifinal loss to UCLA, that result was symptomatic of the Ducks’ struggles away from Eugene, particularly against top-tier competition. Other than that win over the Wildcats, the Ducks’ best results are wins over fellow bubble squads Arizona State, Nevada, and USC—with Dana Altman’s club only defeating the Sun Devils away from Matthew Knight Arena.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Record against DI opposition: 18-15 (8-10 Big 12)
Record vs. Quads 1 and 2: 10-14
Record vs. Quad 1 Alone: 6-12 (1-11 vs. Quad 1A, win over Iowa State (A), other good wins over Iowa State (H), West Virginia (H), TCU (H))
Quad 3 or 4 Losses: 1 Q3 (Southern Illinois (H))
Road/Neutral Record: 7-10
NET: 43
KenPom: 38

Thanks to the quality of the Big 12, the Cowboys are among the strongest bubble teams metrics-wise. However, they had so many opportunities to grab marquee victories this season—failing all but once, at Iowa State. The final one of those 11 Quad 1A losses came against Texas in the Big 12 quarters the night after Mike Boynton’s club defeated Oklahoma for a third time this season. While Oklahoma State managed to win five of the six games it played against its rivals in the conference’s bottom four, it only won three other Big 12 games. That’s not optimal when your best non-conference results came against Sam Houston State and Wichita State.

Vanderbilt Commodores

Record against DI opposition: 20-14 (11-7 SEC)
Record vs. Quads 1 and 2: 10-11
Record vs. Quad 1 Alone: 5-11 (3-6 vs. Quad 1A, wins over Tennessee (H), Kentucky (A and N))
Quad 3 or 4 Losses: 2 Q3 ((Southern Miss (H) and LSU (A) and 1 Q4 (Grambling State (H))
Road/Neutral Record: 8-9
NET: 81
KenPom: 80

If the Committee still used finishing record as a metric, the Commodores would be in at this point based upon going 8-2 in its last 10 games, with the losses coming at LSU, the team Vandy handled in Thursday’s SEC second round, and against Texas A&M in Nashville. In that span, Jerry Stackhouse’s club has defeated Tennessee, Auburn, and Mississippi State at Memorial Gym and Kentucky both at Rupp Arena and Rupp South (Bridgestone Arena). The ‘Dores’ lack of non-conference success may keep them out should they fail to win the auto bid. Their best non-conference win came at home against fellow bubble team Pitt, and there are two bad losses in that record. Much like one of Utah State’s two bad losses, however, the NET rankings of those particular opponents would undoubtedly be higher in a more flexible system.

Next Four Out: Clemson, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Sam Houston State