Welcome to this season's debut edition of Bubble Watch, the daily look at the day's action featuring teams near the cut line to make the NCAA Tournament's field of 68 and also a review of the effect the previous day's results had on bubble teams in action.
There will also be two new sections to this column this season. A list of teams I consider to be locks for the NCAA Tournament. For me, a team is a lock only if I believe it would still make the NCAA Tournament even if it lost all of its remaining games. That is a more strict definition than is widely used.
Also, this page will also show the teams closest to the cut line in my most recent bracket. Those are the Last Four In, First Four Out and also the Next Four Out. That last group is the only listing that does not also appear on the Bracketology page.
Almost all of Tuesday's games are "Double Bubble" games and three big names are among those in action.
Kentucky, Michigan State and last season's NCAA runner-up North Carolina all find themselves on the bubble this late in the season. We also have action in the very bubbly Mountain West.
NCAA Tournament locks
Locks based on resume: 5 | Bids secured: 0 | At-large spots remaining: 31
On the cut line
|Last Four In||Record||NET|
|First Four Out||Record||NET|
|Next Four Out||Record||NET|
Check out all the teams on Palm's Bubble Watch, the field of the 68 and the entire bracket on the Bracketology hub
'Double Bubble' games Tuesday
North Carolina at Wake Forest
7 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free)
|North Carolina is not in as perilous of a position as it was last season at this time. The Tar Heels had to get red hot just to make the NCAA Tournament as a No. 8 seed in 2022 and then, of course, stayed hot and got all the way to the national championship game. This season, UNC is already a No. 8 seed in my bracket, so it is playing to hold its position. The Tar Heels need higher quality wins to get off the bubble. As of this morning, their only Quad 1 win is over Ohio State and the Buckeyes are currently 11-12.|
|This is a much more important game for Wake Forest because the Demon Deacons are currently off the bracket and because the game is at home. Wake does get a couple more games against teams that are currently in the bracket, but those will be on the road.|
Auburn at Texas A&M
9 p.m. | ESPN2, fuboTV (Try for free)
|Auburn is in better shape for the bracket at the moment because the Tigers only have one questionable loss, which came at Georgia. They are lacking in quality wins though, especially away from home. The win over Arkansas is Auburn's only Quad 1 victory and a win tonight would add to that total.|
|This is another game that is more important for the home team. The Aggies took some bad losses in nonconference play and are trying to make up for them. TAMU won the first meeting between these two, so a season sweep could be big should the selection committee be in a position of choosing between these two.|
Arkansas at Kentucky
9 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free)
|Arkansas has not been the same without star freshman Nik Smith and forward Trevon Brazile, who is out for the year. Still, the Razorbacks are fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Like many teams at the bottom of the bracket, the Hogs are lacking in quality wins. They beat San Diego State back in November, but have no Quad 1 wins since.|
|Recently, I had these two teams paired in a First Four game in my bracket, although Kentucky's win over the weekend against Florida has moved the Wildcats up a bit for now. UK is 1-6 against Quad 1 opposition, but that win is at Tennessee. Kentucky needs more of those but that cannot happen Tuesday.|
Nevada at New Mexico
10:30 p.m. | FS1, fuboTV (Try for free)
|The Mountain West is the one non-major conference that could put multiple at-large teams in the NCAA tournament. These two are in the best shape of those behind league leader San Diego State. The Wolfpack is a home-court hero, having beaten all four of the other MWC NCAA Tournament contenders on their home floor. They play four of their next six on the road, so it is important that they get a couple of wins away from home in this part of their schedule.|
|If not for a couple of Quad 3 losses, New Mexico might not be on the bubble at all. The Lobos have road wins over the Aztecs and Saint Mary's, which gives them a leg up on many of their competitors in this part of the bracket. However, they also lost at Nevada in their previous meeting.|
Other bubble teams in action Tuesday
|vs. Maryland, 9 p.m. | ESPN2, fuboTV (Try for free) – Michigan State has been fighting injury most of the season, particularly with Malik Hall, who has been in and out of the lineup. Hall is back, having made his most recent return against Iowa on Jan. 26. The Spartans need to start stacking wins, especially in Quad 1, where they have a 3-7 record.|
All references to NCAA Tournament selection records and trends refer to pre-pandemic tournaments. Due to shortened schedules and a relatively small number of nonconference games in 2021, those rankings were not reliable enough to be considered.