In or Out: Where are Michigan, Memphis, Florida on the bubble?
The calendar has officially turned to March, and life on the NCAA Tournament bubble is becoming more nerve-racking by the day. Rivals.com’s Rob Cassidy and Travis Graf will spend the two weeks ahead attempting to save some fan bases anxiety by predicting the future in a handful of installments of “In or Out.”
In this season's first interaction, the duo takes their stab at the fates of Michigan, Memphis and Florida, as they attempt to project where the trio of programs will stand when the smoke clears on Selection Sunday.
In or Out is not a reflection of where things currently stand. Instead, it’s a projection of how things may shake out when all the games are played.
2023 Rankings: Rivals150
2024 Rankings: Top 40
Cassidy: IN. If there’s something to be said for momentum, it should be said about Memphis. The Tigers have won eight of their last nine games, with the sole loss in the stretch coming to an SMU team that may sneak into the tournament itself. The Tigers kicked in Wichita State’s front door and billy-clubbed the Shockers from whistle to whistle on Sunday, claiming a lopsided 81-57 victory.
Penny Hardaway’s team boasts a NET ranking of 45 and has just two more regular-season games left on the docket, a meeting with 8-20 USF and an all-important game against No. 14 Houston. The committee should take into account the fact that the Tigers look like a different squad than they did early in the season. The fact that star freshman Jalen Duren has rounded into form in the last couple of months and is essentially willing his team to the brink of the NCAA Tournament is also notable.
Ultimately, I think the Tigers have at least three wins left in them, and, even if they lose to Houston in the regular-season finale, that should be enough to lock up a spot in the bracket.
Graf: OUT. This one is probably the toughest projection out of these three teams as it stands today, but the Tigers have enough opportunities left to cement themselves in the tournament. They play Wichita State on Sunday, which is a Quad 3 matchup as of now. They’re one spot removed from being a Quad 2 team, however, which would help the Tigers. Memphis then plays South Florida, which doesn’t bolster their stock at all. To wrap up the regular season, they play Houston at home, which is projected as a loss at this time.
To me, the Tigers would have to make it to the finals of the AAC Tournament to get into the field.
Cassidy: OUT. I’m not confident either way with this one. The Wolverines would be in the field if the season ended today. And while the remaining schedule is full of potential losses, it’s also full of resume boosters. Michigan’s NET ranking sits at 34, and meetings with tournament teams Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State remain.
An 0-3 finish to the regular season is unlikely, but 1-2 isn’t out of the question whatsoever, as Michigan didn’t look particularly inspired in a weekend loss to Illinois that saw the Wolverines trail from wire to wire. If Michigan limps to the finish and enters the Big Ten tournament with a .500 conference record, there might be some tense moments in Ann Arbor.
Graf: IN. Michigan has probably done enough up to this point to be a few spots off of the right side of the bubble, but there’s still work to do. The Wolverines have remaining games against Illinois, Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State. Wins against any of those squads would be résumé boosters heading into the Big Ten tournament. I’ll predict that Michigan goes 2-2 in this stretch and wins a conference tournament game to give itself enough cushion.
Cassidy: OUT. The Gators can certainly find a way to get into the field of 68. This isn’t a lost cause by any means, but I’m playing the odds. The margin of error for Mike White’s team is incredibly small down the stretch, as one more bad loss could slam the door on its face. Tuesday’s meeting with 14-14 Vanderbilt is exactly the kind of high-risk, low-reward game a bubble team hates to play late in the season. And while beating Kentucky in the regular-season finale would certainly provide a boost, it’s not a game Florida is projected to win. Florida probably isn’t as much of a long shot to make the field as a lot of people think, but I’ll play it safe and say it falls just short.
Graf: OUT. Barring an SEC Tournament run which would probably have to result in a championship, I’m not sure the Gators can do enough to get in at this point. They’ve got Kentucky at home next weekend, but would a win there be enough to get them over the hump? I don’t think so, personally. The only other regular season game remaining is at Vanderbilt, which doesn’t do much to positively affect their résumé.