Popping the Bubble 

March 10, 2023

By: Carlos Alvarez

Happy Friday 

There’s plenty for everyone this weekend in sports, but we’re officially knee-deep in the madness. The next 48-plus hours will pop the bubble for a number of teams and bring to light the NCAA Tournament bracket. The No. 1 team in the preseason likely won\’t be there.

Letter Rip!


Popping the Bubble

Photo: Grant Halverson / Getty Images

UNC Takes Knockout Punch With Loss to #13 Virginia; Other Bubble Team Updates With 2 Days to Selection Sunday

Bubbles are popping! Fifteen of the 16 highlighted “bubble” teams played on Thursday with Wisconsin as the lone outlier after they fell out of the Big Ten on Wednesday. Two of Thursday’s games actually pitted bubble teams against each other with Rutgers-Michigan and NC State-Clemson going head-to-head. And North Carolina — last year’s tournament darling and preseason No. 1 overall — lost to Virginia in a likely knockout punch. The Tar Heels\’ tournament hopes are effectively finished.

Apologies in advance for the mass download of game scores, but it’s March, baby! That’s what we do. Here’s a look at the bubble drama from Thursday as the committee gets one final eye-test weekend before revealing the NCAA Tournament bracket.

Bubble Winners: Five teams inside the bubble were victorious on Thursday — Boise State, Mississippi State, Utah State, Penn State and Rutgers. All five of those teams were projected “IN”, and while last night’s wins bolstered their chances, nothing is certain. Four teams on the outside of the bubble also claimed big wins to keep their tourney hopes alive for another day — Arizona State, Clemson, Oregon and Vanderbilt.

Bubble Losers: North Carolina stands out as the biggest bubble-bursting loser from Thursday. The Tar Heels are almost certainly finished after a disappointing season. Big Ten dropouts Wisconsin and Michigan are likely toast, too. Oklahoma State’s loss puts the Cowboys in limbo. Nevada suffered a costly loss in the Mountain West, but another big ACC storyline brought a new team onto the bubble. Pittsburgh was once securely in the field, but they got thwacked by Duke in an ugly blowout.

Bubble Watch (Updated)

Last Four Byes: Miss. State, Pittsburgh, NC State, Penn State

Last Four In: Rutgers, Boise State, Utah State, Oklahoma State

First Four Out: Arizona State, Clemson, North Carolina, Nevada

Next Four Out: Oregon, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, Michigan

Making Sense of the Bubble

If there’s too much going on here to keep track, think of it this way: Four teams outside the bubble can still work their way in over the next two days — Arizona State, Clemson, Oregon and Vanderbilt. Teams who could be replaced include Oklahoma State, Boise State and Utah State. 

NCAA Scoreboard (Teams on the Bubble)

#13 Virginia def. North Carolina (68-59)

#7 Texas def. Oklahoma State (61-47)

#21 Duke def. Pittsburgh (96-69)

Rutgers def. Michigan (62-50)

Penn State def. Illinois (79-76)

Clemson def. NC State (80-54)

Vanderbilt def. LSU (77-68)

Miss. State def. Florida (69-68)

Oregon def. Washington State (75-70)

Boise State def. UNLV (87-76)

San Jose St. def. Nevada (81-77)

Arizona State def. USC (77-72)

Utah State def. New Mexico (91-76)

Today’s Games With Bubble Implications

Rutgers vs. #5 Purdue (Noon ET)

Miss. State vs. #4 Alabama (1:00 pm ET)

Penn State vs. Northwestern (6:30 pm ET)

Oregon vs. #2 UCLA (9:00 pm ET)

Vanderbilt vs. #23 Kentucky (9:00 pm ET)

Clemson vs. #13 Virginia (9:30 pm ET)

Arizona State vs. #8 Arizona (11:30 pm ET)

Today’s Men’s NCAA Basketball Schedule

Additional Storylines

ESPN: Bubble Watch 2023: Brace Yourself for NCAA Tournament Drama

USA Today: Kansas Coach Bill Self to Miss Big 12 Tournament With Illness

B/R: Georgetown Part Ways With Head Coach Patrick Ewing After Big East Defeat



The Players: Round 1

Photo: Ben Jared / Getty Images

Chad Ramey (-8) & Collin Morikawa (-7) Lead the Field at TPC Sawgrass; Rory McIlroy (+4) on Brink of Cut Line

Round 1 is in the books at TPC Sawgrass, and one of the toughest courses on the PGA Tour proved its strength to many of the game’s top players. Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay all finished even-par or worse while a lot of surprise names were near the top of the leaderboard. Round 1 saw only two marquee players making waves on Thursday — Collin Morikawa (-7) and Scottie Scheffler (-4). Chad Ramey (-8) holds the outright after a bogey-free round with four birdies on the front and back. We’re back at it again today as The Players Championship heads towards a weekend that could see McIlroy get cut.

Round 1 Leaderboard

C. Ramey (-8)

C. Morikawa (-7)

S. Scheffler (-4)

J. Rose (-3)

V. Hovland (-3)

J. Spieth (-3)

Other Notable Scorecards: J. Rahm (-1), P. Cantlay (E), R. Fowler (E), X. Schauffele (E), M. Homa (E), J. Thomas (+1), R. McIlroy (+4) | Full Leaderboard

Watch: Round 1 Highlights at The Players Championship

Round 2 Tee Times (Featured Groups)

7:34 AM: M. Fitzpatrick, V. Hovland, S. Lowry

7:45 AM: K. Kitayama, W. Zalatoris, X. Schauffele

7:56 AM: M. Homa, J. Thomas, J. Spieth

12:34 PM: T. Finau, T. Kim, P. Cantlay

12:45 PM: C. Morikawa, A. Scott, R. Fowler

12:56 PM: J. Rahm, S. Scheffler, R. McIlroy

1:07 PM: J. Rose, B. Horschel, H. Matsuyama

*All Times ET

Additional Storylines

USA Today: Hayden Buckley Aces 17th Island Green at TPC Sawgrass

Yahoo! Sports: Rory McIlroy in Danger of Missing Players Championship Cut After Dismal Opening Round

CBS Sports: Aaron Wise Cards Sextuple Bogey 10 on 18th Hole at Players Championship



 NHL: Oilers Snap Bruins’ 10-Game Win Streak

Eleven NHL games took the ice on Thursday, but the league’s top team hosted the league’s top player in Boston. The Oilers overcame a two-goal deficit to snap the Bruins’ 10-game win streak (3-2) thanks to Darnell Nurse’s game-winner late in the 3rd period. 

 NBA: Grizzlies Grapple With Golden State

The growing Grizzlies-Warriors rivalry got some extra substance last night with the beef between Draymond Green and Dillon Brooks. Memphis whacked the Warriors (131-110) without Ja Morant, but the chippy trash talk was laced throughout.



 The Bruins Chasing History

The 2022-23 Boston Bruins are no longer competing against their opponents for the duration of the regular season; they’re competing against the ghosts of years past. They’re currently on pace to top the 1976-77 Canadiens for most points in a season (132). (Yahoo! Sports)

 2023 NBA Mock Draft

Big moments on the biggest stages of college basketball could be what break this year\’s young prospects into tiers of team draft boards. But for NBA teams and fans, some of the top players in this draft will not be participating in the NCAA tournament. (ESPN+)

 Top 50 NFL Free Agents

The start of the 2023 NFL free agency is nearly here. The market is slated to open at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 15, and the legal tampering period begins on Monday. Here\’s a look at our initial top 50 rankings. (Bleacher Report)