You can also hear from Western Kentucky’s Charles Bassey, UCLA guard Chris Smith and former assistant to Temple’s legendary coach Jon Chaney, Dan Leibowitz.
Here are Katz’s top 10 bubble teams to watch with about a month left in the regular season. These are not necessarily in order of how he thinks they’ll get in, but instead are the most intriguing teams to watch to see on which side of the bubble they end up.
Although a 3-7 in-conference record doesn’t necessarily scream NCAA tournament bound, Maryland is in the toughest conference in the country — the Big Ten. The Terps have garnered key wins against Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois and will look to finish the regular season strong to be one of the many teams out of the Big Ten to make the tournament.
2. Penn State
The Nittany Lions were paired with Maryland at the top of Katz’s rankings. Penn State is 3-6 in the Big Ten and 6-7 overall with notable wins over Wisconsin, Rutgers and Virginia Tech. They have another matchup with Wisconsin on Feb. 2 and one against No. 8 Iowa on Feb. 21 — two opportunities to make their March Madness case.
3. Saint Louis
The Billikens were 6-0 with wins over NC State and LSU. Now they are 7-2 with a loss to Dayton after a more than one-month pause due to COVID-19 protocols. Saint Louis looks to get back into its early-season form in the heart of A-10 play.
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4. St. John’s
St. John’s is 5-6 in the Big East and 11-7 overall. The Red Storm burst out to a 5-1 record before conference play. They struggled right after that — going 2-7. Now, the Red Storm have now won four straight and have a date with No. 3 Villanova on Feb. 3.
The Buffs broke out to a 6-1 record to start the season. They now sit in the thick of the Pac-12 with a 7-4 conference record and 13-5 overall mark. They’ll get a shot to improve their resume against conference-leading UCLA on Feb. 27 — Colorado’s last game of the regular season.
6. Seton Hall
Seton Hall is 9-8 overall and 6-5 in the Big East. They had a great win at the beginning of the season against another team on this list — Penn State — and also had a couple chances to upset No. 3 Villanova but fell short both times. Katz thinks the Pirates could end up on either side of the bubble come Selection Sunday but a few more Big East wins are crucial to their chances.
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7. Loyola Chicago
If the Missouri Valley conference is really a two-bid league this season, then can Loyola Chicago claim that second spot without winning the MVC tournament? That’s the question the Ramblers face right now, but they also have a chance to make the tournament outright — they just have to get past undefeated Drake. The Ramblers will get a chance at the Bulldogs on back-to-back nights starting Feb. 13.
8. San Diego State
The Aztecs got a huge win against UCLA to start the season as they jumped out to a 5-0 start. SDSU settled down though with a loss to BYU, Colorado State and back-to-back losses against Utah State. Now San Diego State is 13-4 overall and will be fighting with three other teams atop of the Mountain West to snag a potential automatic or at-large bid.
Providence is the third team on this list right in the middle of the Big East standings. The Friars recently lost to Georgetown, which knocks them down a peg according to Katz, but they still have plenty of opportunities. Providence faces Seton Hall on Feb. 3 for a chance at a season sweep and has No. 3 Villanova to close out the regular season on March 6.
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10. Utah State
Similar to San Diego State, Utah State is in that grouping of four with Colorado State and Boise State atop of the Mountain West. Katz thinks two of those four teams can make the tournament. The Aggies are already 2-0 against SDSU and are 1-1 versus CSU. They will take on Boise State in back-to-back games starting Feb. 17.