Jaelen House and the New Mexico Lobos won the Mountain West.

Conference Tournaments Reshape the NCAA’s Field of 68

The competition for spots in the men’s NCAA Tournament is heating up.

Several teams secured their spots through conference tournament automatic bids on Saturday, with more decisions coming on Sunday. This is shaping the men’s NCAA Tournament bracket, but some teams are still in limbo. Their performances in the conference tournaments have been crucial, yet for a few, their fate is still in their own hands. This weekend’s surprises have also shaken up the at-large bid landscape.

With Selection Sunday just around the corner, let’s dive into the major developments affecting the NCAA Tournament bubble and what might unfold when the bracket is announced Sunday afternoon.

One team making headlines is New Mexico, thanks to their victory in the Mountain West tournament.

The surest way to escape the bubble? Clinch your conference tournament. New Mexico did just that, overcoming San Diego State on Saturday. The Lobos started strong, and despite a comeback from the Aztecs, a decisive 10-0 run in the last five minutes secured New Mexico’s spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014.

Before this week, New Mexico was seen as a borderline team, possibly one of the “last four in.” Their impressive performance in Las Vegas ensured their place in the tournament, sparing them from potentially missing out. Now, not only are they in, but they also avoid the First Four games in Dayton, Ohio. This victory pushes other bubble teams down a notch, complicating their path to the tournament.

The American Athletic Conference tournament has also thrown a wrench into the works.

Bubble teams initially rejoiced when UAB upset No. 1 seed South Florida in the American Athletic Conference tournament. However, subsequent events have reset expectations. Despite a stellar season and a 15-game winning streak, South Florida’s tournament loss and lack of significant wins have put their NCAA hopes in jeopardy. Meanwhile, Florida Atlantic, a Final Four team last season, had a strong first season in the AAC, likely securing their tournament spot regardless of the conference tournament outcome.

UAB’s win over South Florida in the semifinals was a shocker, advancing them to the title game and leaving South Florida unlikely to secure an NCAA bid, given their No. 73 NET ranking and absence of Quad 1 victories.

After the upset, it seemed Florida Atlantic would take the automatic bid, potentially making the AAC a one-bid league and opening a slot for another bubble team. However, an unexpected loss by the Owls to No. 11 seed Temple has complicated matters. Now, the American Athletic could see both UAB or Temple and likely Florida Atlantic in the NCAA Tournament, a scenario that spells trouble for other bubble teams.