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I've Got Five On It: Five chaotic teams on bubble watch

With fewer than 25 days until Selection Sunday, the NCAA Tournament bubble is starting to take shape. Some of the schools that find themselves in postseason limbo are more interesting than others, though.

We here at I've Got Five On It thrive on chaos, so this week,’s Rob Cassidy has a look at the five most unpredictable and chaotic teams that might find themselves squarely on the bubble in the weeks to come.


MORE CASSIDY: Rankings newcomers who could rise further

2022 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2023 Rankings: Rivals150

2024 Rankings: Top 40



Emoni Bates
Emoni Bates (AP Images)

REMAINING GAMES: SMU, Temple, Wichita State, South Florida, Houston

WHAT’S THEIR DEAL? The wildest ride in college basketball, Memphis’ up, down and sideways journey to the bubble has been a blast to observe. First there was a loaded recruiting class. Then, there was a four-game losing streak featuring Ls to such juggernauts as UCF, Tulsa and East Carolina. The head coach f-bombed reporters in late January and led the Tigers on their current six--game winning streak shortly thereafter. Freshman Emoni Bates was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 15-year old, and the publication suggested he might be the next LeBron James. That prophecy won’t be fulfilled, but Bates still creates intrigue everywhere he goes. He’s averaged 10.4 points per game this season, and there have been unsubstantiated rumors that he’s unhappy at Memphis. Still, this high-level talent is undeniable. Put all this together, and Memphis becomes an alluring cocktail of chaos.

WILL THEY GET IN? The Cassidy Crystal Ball says yes. Is that because, selfishly, I want to see Bates and fellow freshman star Jalen Duren on the big stage? Partly, but also the Tigers are playing well at the right time and the youth on the roster could be maturing in unison. Freshman-laden teams tend to improve rapidly, and we could be seeing that here.




Nijel Pack
Nijel Pack (AP Images)

REMAINING GAMES: Oklahoma State, No. 6 Kansas, Iowa State, No. 10 Texas Tech, Oklahoma

WHAT’S THEIR DEAL? That’s a hell of a question. K-State has five Quadrant 1 wins and has won four of its last five Big 12 games. Sometimes, the players and coaches all get COVID and they play with seven scholarship players. Sometimes, at full strength, they shoot 30 percent from the floor and lose by double digits to Ole Miss. Sometimes they dig themselves a 15-point hole on the road and come back to win. Sometimes the fans want Bruce Weber fired. Other times he’s hailed as a player development master whose rosters click at the right time. Either way, few teams in the country are more unpredictable than the Wildcats.

WILL THEY GET IN? Maybe? I guess? I have no idea. The Wildcats would possibly get an opening-round game if the season ended today. Unfortunately for Weber and company, that’s not the case. Could another three-game losing streak be around the corner? Maybe. Will the whole team contract COVID-19 again? Perhaps. Will a giant anvil drop from the sky and crush Bramlage Coliseum? Can you really rule it out? K-State is probably a better team than its resume suggests because of losses that came when COVID impacted the roster … probably.




Dana Altman
Dana Altman (AP Images)

REMAINING GAMES: Arizona State, No. 3 Arizona, No. 13 UCLA, No. 17 USC, Washington, Washington State

WHAT’S THEIR DEAL? What happens in the Pac-12 typically takes place late at night and, frankly, rarely seems like any of my business. That said, Oregon packs plenty of intrigue. The Ducks just lost to an abysmal 11-15 Cal team by 14 just before rebounding to beat a mediocre Washington State squad. The Ducks now hold three Quadrant 3 home losses, but they also have Dana Altman, whose track record suggests he shouldn't be counted out in crunch time. This team is capable of rattling off big victories, after all, as it won road games at Oregon State, UCLA and USC just last month.

WILL THEY GET IN? My gut says no, but if my gut had a positive track record I’d be a better gambler. The Ducks aren’t playing particularly well at the moment, and a three-game stretch featuring games with No. 3 Arizona, No. 13 UCLA and No. 17 USC awaits. Winning two out of three of those games would do wonders for Altman’s blood pressure and his team’s tournament resume, but the Ducks are sub .500 in Quadrant 1 games for a reason. Oregon has already beat both USC and UCLA, however, so stranger things have certainly happened. Either way, Oregon’s fate will be all but sealed on the final day of February.




Hubert Davis
Hubert Davis (AP Images)

REMAINING GAMES: Virginia Tech, Louisville, NC State, Syracuse, No. 9 Duke

WHAT’S THEIR DEAL? Well, to start, the Tar Heels can't stop losing Quadrant 1 games. UNC is 0-7 in such contests, which will give the committee an excuse to overlook the blueblood program in a down year for the ACC. Season one of the Hubert Davis era has not gone as planned, as UNC declines to play defense at times and has beat up on the bottom half of a disappointing ACC on its way to an 18-7 overall record. The Tar Heels don't have any particularly bad losses, which could play in their favor if it’s close.

WILL THEY GET IN? I lean toward yes, but I’m not quite ready to say it with my chest. If today were Selection Sunday, the Tar Heels would be in without question, but the opportunity for UNC to play its way onto the bubble exists. Davis’ bunch has another Quad-1 opportunity on the road against Duke. Finding a way to win would probably help lock up its spot in the tournament. Dropping it would move UNC to 0-8 in Quad-1 games and, depending on how the rest of the schedule shakes out, possibly banish them to the bubble as we head toward the ACC Tournament. There may be some nervous moments ahead in Chapel Hill.




Hunter Dickinson
Hunter Dickinson (AP Images)

REMAINING GAMES: Iowa, No. 15 Wisconsin, Rutgers, No. 12 Illinois, No. 19 Michigan State, Iowa, No. 18 Ohio State

WHAT’S THEIR DEAL? The nation’s top recruiting class simply hasn't produced the results for which Michigan fans had hoped, which makes Juwan Howard’s group one of the more intriguing and baffling bubble teams. The freshman-reliant Wolverines have regressed significantly from last season and struggled mightily away from Ann Arbor. The optimistic view, however, is that the Wolverines have looked able to rise to the occasion in flashes, most recently in a blowout win over then-No. 2 Purdue, which saw Michigan big man Hunter Dickinson score 22 points while looking like the All-American he was a season ago.

WILL THEY GET IN? Probably not. Michigan is firmly on the outside looking in as things stand, but the talent necessary for a late-season spark is there in spades. Could Howard’s team pull a 2020-21 Syracuse and play its way into the field in the final few weeks? Michigan’s remaining schedule includes four ranked opponents and provides ample opportunity to collect impact victories.