2023 NCAA Bubble Watch: Teams on the Bubble That Could Make You Money

NCAA Basketball Teams To Watch

Championship week is officially upon us! Some of the smaller leagues around the nation have already jumped headfirst into their end of season brackets, with the rest of the country wrapping up their regular seasons and heading into their respective conference tournaments by tomorrow.

As Selection Sunday looms, just under a week away, the NCAA tournament is set to take center stage. If you ask me, there is no other sporting event in the world that comes close to delivering as much action and excitement as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

And while we are all gearing up to fill out our brackets next Sunday, the field of 68 remains wide open as the bracket is not close to being finalized yet. So, for the next week, all we are going to hear about is which teams are on the NCAA bubble watch.

Let’s take a look at the handful of teams that I believe are on the bubble and their current Conference Tournament odds found at the best March Madness betting sites. These bubble watch NCAA teams could potentially make you some money as they advance throughout March Madness.

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NCAAM Bubble Watch: West Virginia Mountaineers (18-13)

When Bob Huggins’ West Virginia Mountaineers started Big 12 play by losing each of their first five games, it looked like this would be yet another season that was destined to end in heartbreak for the Mountaineer faithful.

After taking the Mountaineers to the NCAA Tournament in nine of his first eleven years in Morgantown, including a trip to the Final Four and five appearances in the 2nd weekend of March Madness, Huggins and West Virginia have fallen on hard times recently.

Since 2019, West Virginia has made just one appearance in the Big Dance, hearing their names called on Selection Sunday back in 2021. But that run ended quickly, with the Mountaineers bowing out in the round of 32, losing to the Syracuse Orange.

Last year, WVU had a losing record and didn’t even sniff the bubble, and this year, they are fighting for their lives, as most Bracketoligists currently have them on the outside looking in.

It has yet to be seen whether the Mountaineers will sneak their way into the Big Dance, but if they do, watch out, as this squad has shown that they have what it takes to beat quality basketball teams.

West Virginia needed a big finish to the regular season, and they got it, as they picked up wins in three of their last four games, with signature wins over the likes of Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and Kansas State.

WVU played the 4th toughest schedule in the nation this year, which tells me that they are going to be battle-tested and ready to take on all comers in the NCAA Tournament.

You hate to ever see a team punished for playing a tough schedule, and I think that West Virginia deserves to get the nod. They have 11 wins over teams ranked in the top 100, and the analytics love the Mountaineers, as Kenpom has them ranked 17th in the county, suggesting they are closer to a Sweet 16 caliber team than to a bubble watch NCAA tournament team[1].

This would be the 20th time that Bob Huggins has led a team to the NCAA Tournament, and if you dismiss them when filling out your bracket, you are going to regret it.

Currently, West Virginia is listed at +1400 to win the Big 12 tournament. Although I don’t see the Mountaineers winning this conference tourney, I do believe they can pick up enough victories to secure a spot in the Big Dance.

NCAAM Bubble Watch: Auburn Tigers (20-11)

Contrary to popular belief, players do not win national championships in Men’s College Hoops, coaches do. Yeah, it certainly helps to have some dudes on the roster, as sometimes it is about the Jimmys and Joes, not the X’s and O’s, but year after year, we see the same elite coaches take their teams on deep runs in March Madness.

One of those elite coaches is Auburn’s Bruce Pearl. Pearl rose to national prominence by taking the Panthers of Milwaukee to the NCAA Tournament twice in three years, culminating with a memorable run to the Sweet 16 in 2005. After his time in Milwaukee, Pearl then bolted to the SEC and led the Volunteers of Tennessee to the Big Dance in each of his six seasons in Knoxville.

Pearl got off to a slow start at Auburn, as he was tasked with turning the football powerhouse into a basketball school, and after missing the tournament in his first three seasons, he has taken the Tigers dancing in four out of the last five years.

This year, Pearl finds his team squarely on the bubble, as after a 16-3 start, they stumbled to the finish line of the regular season with eight losses in their final twelve games.

So, with Auburn struggling so much in the last couple of months, why do I see them as a team to watch in the NCAA Tournament? Because, just like Bruce Pearl, this team is tough as nails.

Auburn found itself in a must-win situation, hosting their bitter rivals, the Tennessee Volunteers, in the final game of the regular season. And with their backs against the wall, the Tigers found a way to gut out a hard-fought victory on their home floor, giving their NCAA Tournament resume a massive boost.

The Tigers play a physical style of ball, and on the defensive end of the floor, few teams in the nation are better, as Auburn holds teams to just 45.2% shooting from the field, 10th best in the country.

They are particularly stingy when it comes to allowing 3-pointers, as teams made just 28.8% of their shots from the perimeter against them this season, good for the 6th best defensive shooting percentage in the land[2].

There are no moral victories in the SEC, but when you see that the Tiger’s losses to Tennessee, Alabama, Vanderbilt, USC, and West Virginia all came either in overtime, or by three points or fewer, the Tigers are a bounce or two away from having a much better record.

Auburn is listed at +1200 to win the SEC tournament, according to BetOnline. They will have to win two games in the conference tournament to have a real shot at making the Big Dance. I expect this team to take it up a notch once the SEC tournament begins.

NCAAM Bubble Watch: Mississippi State Bulldogs (20-11)

We will stay in the SEC for our next NCAAB bubble watch team, as I break down why I like the Mississippi State Bulldogs. It has been a very streaky season for Chris Jans in his first year leading the Bulldogs program.

Mississippi State came out of the gates red hot to start the season with an 11-0 record but hit a rough patch to start SEC play, dropping seven of their first eight games in league play[3].

The Bulldogs have things turned back in the right direction now, though, as they finished the regular season on a tear, winning eight of their final ten games before dropping the season finale at Vanderbilt.

A win over the Commodores would have been a nice addition to their resume, and with the loss, the Bulldogs will have to win at least one game in the SEC tournament, and probably two, if they want to feel confident on Selection Sunday. Currently, they are +4000 to win the SEC tournament.

If you have not watched Mississippi State play a game this year, you have not missed out on much, as they play one of the slowest tempos in the country, and pride themselves on playing white on rice defense. And while that brand of basketball is not the most entertaining, it is certainly effective.

Jans used a similarly slow tempo in his time at New Mexico State, where he turned the Aggies into a WAC powerhouse, and we are seeing that style of play lead to a lot of success here in Starkville.

If you remember watching that Tony Bennet-coached Virginia Cavaliers teams, that played slow and kept games very low scoring when they won a national title back in 2019, then you know what to expect with this Mississippi State team. It will not be all that fun to watch, but you want your money backing the Bulldogs in March, not on the other side.

NCAAM Bubble Watch: North Carolina Tar Heels (19-11)

As Yogi Berra once famously quipped, it is Déjà Vu all over again this season in Chapel Hill. After playing well below their potential for basically all last season, the Tar Heels got their act together towards the end of the regular season and rode that momentum all the way to the Final Four.

North Carolina ended up running out of gas, blowing a huge lead to the eventual national champion Kansas Jayhawks, but nevertheless, it was an immensely successful debut season for Hubert Davis with the Tar Heels.

The Heels came into his season as the consensus number one team in the country, and, again, have underachieved. Things started out well enough, as North Carolina was 15-6 heading into February, but the wheels have fallen off recently for North Carolina.

UNC had a nasty late-season skid that saw them drop 5 out of 6 games, which included bad losses to Pitt and Wake Forrest.

The Heels had a chance to end the regular season on a modest win streak, as they strung together wins over Notre Dame, Virginia, and Florida State but could not close out the season with a win, losing to their arch-rival Duke Blue Devils on their home floor[4].

Despite all of the bad losses and the lack of quality wins, I find it hard to believe that North Carolina will get left out of the dance this year.

They have essentially the same roster that was a second-half collapse away from a national title last season, and this team has shown that they can beat any team in the nation if they play their best.

Maybe I am thinking too much of last year’s team and ignoring how mediocre this year’s squad has been, but something tells me that the Heels are going to get hot again and bust a bunch of brackets this March. 

Oddsmakers at BetOnline are still high on North Carolina as they have them listed at +575 odds to win the ACC Conference tournament, which is 4th behind Duke, Miami and Virginia.

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About the Author
Finn Archer profile picture
Finn Archer
Finn is an experienced writer (having published articles under the name Phil Bowman) and longtime sports enthusiast based in Europe. His particular passion lies in soccer, as both a die-hard fan and seasoned bettor. That said, he’ll dabble in anything involving a ball, bat, or boxing gloves! He’s learned from his share of bad bets over the years and is keen to impart his wisdom so you don’t make the same mistakes. Since joining TSG, Finn has also gained valuable knowledge in the world of online casinos.

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