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I've Got Five On It: Intriguing bubble teams

Keisei Tominaga
Keisei Tominaga (© Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports)

The 2023-24 college basketball season has entered the home stretch, as just a couple weeks remain before the start of conference tournaments. Because of this, it’s as good a time as any to start taking a look at the NCAA tournament bubble.

Today in I've Got Five On it,'s Rob Cassidy names five bubble teams he personally finds most interesting and explores what each needs to do in order to make the NCAA tournament field.


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Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg
Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg (AP Images)

Why: The Huskers have never won an NCAA tournament game.

Bubble teams don’t come more intriguing than the Huskers, who are attempting to claw their way into the NCAA tournament for the second time since Bill Clinton was in office. Nebraska is the only major conference team to never win an NCAA tournament game. In order to dispatch of that ignominious title, the Huskers will need to sneak into the field despite an underwhelming strength of schedule and a couple of head-scratching losses, including one to 13-10 Rutgers.

That said the schedule sets up nicely for Nebraska, which seems like a good bet to eclipse the 20-win mark well before the Big Ten tournament gets under way and it seems unlikely that a 21- or 22-win Big Ten team is left out of the field, especially when you consider the fact that the Huskers already own three Quad 1 wins, including a victory over then-No. 1 Purdue.




Devin Carter
Devin Carter (© Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports)

Why: The Friars have dealt with a lot of offseason adversity.

The Friars looked like a lock when they were being led by a healthy Bryce Hopkins, but everything changed when the Providence star tore his ACL in a January game against Seton Hall. Kim English’s team has avoided truly bad losses this season, but last week’s big win over NET darling Creighton immediately followed by a loss to Butler is a microcosm of how things have gone without Hopkins.

A home win over fellow bubble dweller St. John’s on Tuesday night was big though not world-changing. Providence has struggled away from home this season, but the schedule still provides opportunity to dispel that narrative, as a Feb. 28 road clash with Marquette looms. Should the Friars win that one along with away games at struggling Georgetown and Xavier, their road record will improve to a respectable 5-6.

Returning to the tournament after an offseason that saw former head coach Ed Cooley ditch his hometown team for Georgetown and create much… uhhh… discussion … would be therapeutic for one of the sport’s most passionate fan bases.



Jerome Tang
Jerome Tang (© Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Why: The Wildcats are formidable when Tylor Perry is at his best.

The Wildcats lost at BYU on Saturday night and have a lot of work to do in order to qualify for the NCAA tournament for a second-consecutive year under head coach Jerome Tang. The good news is the schedule is ripe with opportunity as road games with Kansas, Texas and Cincinnati remain. The Wildcats will also host BYU for the rematch in Manhattan. That kind of gauntlet can allow the losses to pile up, but it can also allow for a quick return to the projected field if erratic guard Tylor Perry finds some consistency from a shooting standpoint and helps K-State get hot down the stretch.

Twenty-one wins seems like a decent benchmark for the 15-9 Wildcats to aim with seven games plus the Big 12 tournament left to play. A 2-5 record in Quad 1 games isn’t ideal but one of those victories came over Big 12 favorite Kansas. An early-season win over a fully healthy Providence squad could loom large if both the Friars and ‘Cats find themselves on the bubble come Selection Sunday.




Kadary Richmond
Kadary Richmond (© Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

Why: The Pirates could be a nightmare for a higher-seeded opponent.

The intrigue surrounding Seton Hall is amplified by the fact that this week’s home game with Xavier feels like a must-win if Shaheen Holloway is to make his first NCAA appearance as the Pirates’ head coach. A loss wouldn’t totally eliminate Hall but it would certainly deal a critical blow to a team coming off of a 26-point thrashing at the hands of an unimpressive Villanova squad.

Victories over No. 1 UConn and No. 4 Marquette are helping to keep the Pirates afloat despite some puzzling losses. Seton Hall is one of the most feast-or-famine teams in the country, which would make it an absolutely terrifying draw for a heavyweight in an elimination game.




Chris Beard
Chris Beard (© Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports)

Why: Chris Beard is a wizard.

One of the great coaching jobs in the country this season may well end with an NCAA tournament bid, as Beard’s Ole Miss squad sits squarely on the bubble. The Rebels are attempting to kick in the door to the tournament for the first time since 2019 and just the third time since 2002.

There is likely going to be wide-ranging interest in Beard from other programs in the coming offseasons, and a tournament run could up the ante.

The Rebels' loaded backcourt consisting of guards Allen Flanigan, Matthew Murrell and Jaylen Murray will be a tough out in March if they can sneak in under the wire. If even Tuesday night’s loss to Kentucky wasn’t ideal, it certainly wasn’t a death blow either, as Ole Miss has remaining games with ranked South Carolina and Alabama as well with NCAA tournament contender Texas A&M left on the schedule.