How Texas men’s basketball compares to NCAA Tournament bubble teams

Brendan Long

On Saturday, the Texas men’s basketball team had a chance to assure the selection committee they were fit for the NCAA tournament. After a blowout loss, Texas is squarely back on the bubble, with ESPN’s Joe Lunardi projecting them as one of the last four teams in the tournament. While Texas’ upcoming Big 12 tournament matchup against Texas Tech is most likely a must-win, what may be more important is how they compare to other teams on the edge of the tournament. Let’s take a look at the bubble.

Arizona State Sun Devils 20-11 (11-7 PAC-12)

The Sun Devils went on a winning streak of their own earlier this year, winning seven consecutive conference games in February. Then came a three-game losing streak, highlighted by a home loss to last-place Washington. Arizona, led by junior guard Remy Martin, lacks a defining out-of-conference victory — which may prove to be crucial. Since the Pac-12 went 0-3 in the 2018 NCAA tournament, the conference has had to shake a reputation of being underachievers.

Cincinnati Bearcats 20-10 (13-5 AAC)

Entering the year, most of the hype in the American Athletic Conference surrounded Memphis and top recruit James Wiseman. However, after Wiseman was ruled ineligible by the NCAA, the race for the conference title was wide open. The Bearcats are in a three-way tie atop the conference but may get an automatic bid by winning the AAC tournament. Even if they only make the final, they’ll most likely have beaten another quality team and added to their resume. If not, Cincinnati will have to hope there aren’t any “stolen bids” in other conference tournaments.

Indiana Hoosiers 19-12 (9-11 Big 10)

The Big 10 is far and away the best conference in college basketball this season, with 10 of its members projected to make the Big Dance. That includes the Hoosiers, who have the most conference losses out of any of these bubble teams. A win on Feb. 23 against a then-No. 9 Penn State team seemed to seal the Hoosiers grip on a tournament bid. However, after finishing the regular season losing three of their last four games, they’re right back on the bubble.

North Carolina State Wolfpack 19-12 (10-10 ACC)

Surprisingly, the ACC has had an unusually weak year. Although its top four teams are all ranked, there’s not much behind that besides the Wolfpack. The ACC will almost certainly be graded on an unfavorable curve this year. With that in mind, it makes sense that NC State’s season has been unremarkable despite their presumptive status as the fifth-best team in the conference. However, resounding home victories over Duke and Wisconsin may be the separating factor in what has been a chaotic college basketball season.

Oklahoma Sooners 19-12 (9-9 Big 12)

Ironically, the team with the most similar resume to the Longhorns is their biggest rival. Not only do the Sooners share the same overall and conference record as Texas, but they also split their two games in the regular season. While one might think the most recent result would give the tie-break to the Longhorns, the committee may write off Matt Coleman’s last-second heave as a fluke. Also, the Sooners have no losses by more than 20 points, as opposed to the Longhorns four.

Richmond Spiders 24-7 (14-4 A10)

Normally, this Spider squad would already be assured tournament status. Richmond has a victory over Big 10 champion Wisconsin, a star player in redshirt junior guard Blake Francis and no glaring losses on their résumé. However, this year the Atlantic 10 conference may be as stacked as ever. Regular-season champion Dayton is led by sophomore forward Obi Toppin and is on the edge of being a one seed. The selection committee usually doesn’t hand out too many bids to mid-majors, and for that reason, Texas might get the edge.

UCLA Bruins 19-12 (12-6 PAC 12)

UCLA got off to a poor start this season. After losses to Cal State Fullerton and an underwhelming North Carolina, the Bruins entered conference play as afterthoughts. However, a late-season surge saw the Bruins sweeping both Colorado and Arizona — two teams that are projected safely in the tournament. The Bruins share a similar season storyline to Texas but have the edge in marquee wins. Also, the program’s historic status as one of college basketball’s best certainly doesn’t hurt their chances.

Xavier Musketeers 19-12 (8-10 Big East)

Although Xavier suffered a crushing buzzer-beater loss to Butler over the weekend, it still has a case to make the tournament. The Musketeers will face a DePaul team that’s better than its record in the first round of the conference tournament, and with a win, Xavier will have a chance to take down powerhouse Villanova. The Musketeers also have a head-to-head advantage over crosstown rival and fellow bubble team Cincinnati. However, Xavier doesn’t have much to show outside of that.