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Bubble Watch 2024: Brace yourself for NCAA tournament drama

Josh Oduro and Providence have "work to do" at Bubble Watch HQ, and. as of Friday, land inside the cut line as projected First Four participants in Joe Lunardi's Bracketology. Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Bubble Watch's mission each February and March is to track a suspenseful and beloved but nevertheless tiny slice of Division I men's college basketball. Not counting locks, a mere 30 to 35 teams on any given day are being scrutinized here at the Watch.

Drilling down further still, eight teams in particular fall into one of two high-drama categories when the field is announced. These most bubbly teams of all will be either one of the last four at-large entrants in the bracket or one of the first four out.

Each Selection Sunday, the NCAA releases both a seed list for Nos. 1 to 68 and, in recent years, a ranked listing of the first four teams that didn't make the field. The Big East is the one major conference that has been almost entirely missing at the heart of the bubble over that time.

The league has put just one team on either the "Last Four In" or "First Four Out" lists since the tournament was canceled in 2020. Providence was one of the last four at-large teams to make the field last year. The Friars' close call a year ago notwithstanding, bubble drama has avoided the Big East in the 2020s.

Until now. On Selection Sunday 2024, the Big East could flood the zone at the cut line. Providence, Butler and Seton Hall have all been mainstays in the "Work to do" category throughout February. At the same time, Villanova, St. John's and Xavier have either joined all of the above in "Work to do" or have dropped out and are doing their best to return.

While there's plenty of basketball left to be played from now to Selection Sunday on March 17, it appears the Big East might well be as bubbly as the ACC was last year. In the 2023 bracket, NC State earned a No. 11 seed, Pitt was sent to the round of 68, and the official "First Four Out" list included both North Carolina and Clemson.

Bubble status in this year's Big East is the common denominator behind a range of trajectories. For Providence the suspense might call to mind the very end of last season. A year ago, the Friars fell unwittingly into "Last Four In" status as a Bubble Watch lock. In particular, PC's season-ending 24-point loss at home to Seton Hall made for a nervous wait until Selection Sunday.

The Seton Hall Pirates, on the other hand, have taken a step forward to be here. By this time last year, Shaheen Holloway's team had fallen out of Bubble Watch entirely.

Butler might have grounds to be the most grateful Big East bubble team of all. The Bulldogs have missed the past four tournaments and entered the year with a 38-52 record over the past three seasons.

The Big East lacked bubble drama in recent seasons, but the league is more than making up for lost suspense in 2024. We'll continue to follow every twist and turn in the conference here at Bubble Watch.

Here is our current projection of the bubble: