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NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch: Games on March 1 that will determine who’s in and out

We take a look at some of Wednesday’s make-or-break games.

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

A few conferences have already set the stage for their tournaments, but the Power 5 and a few others wrap up regular season play this week. With March now here and everything on the line, several teams right on the bubble for a coveted spot in the NCAA Tournament play today. A win could push them in, while a loss could spell disaster. We’ve broken down a few of the best games to watch on Wednesday that will see teams make one final push to prove themselves ahead of conference tournament time.

Bubble Games to watch on March 1

No. 2 Alabama vs. Auburn

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Alabama (25-4, 15-1 SEC, 2 NET) is set and will likely get a No. 1 seed, but Auburn (19-10, 9-7, 36 NET) is listed in ESPN’s Last Four Byes. The Tigers are projected to get a No. 10-11 range spot as things stand, but they face a tough opponent in the Crimson Tide before finishing the season against another challenging opponent in No. 12 Tennessee.

With so many teams joining them right on that bubble, back-to-back bad losses here could push Auburn out, even if they would be facing two of the best teams in the country. If they can’t pull one of these off, the pressure is on for the SEC Tournament. They bring a defense ranked in the top 20 in adjusted efficiency at KenPom.

Utah State vs. UNLV

Time: 11:00 p.m. ET

Utah State (22-7, 11-5, 30 NET) currently rests in ESPN’s Next Four Out. Do they have a shot at worming their way in at this point? They could as the Aggies take on UNLV (17-11, 6-10 MWC, 90 NET) and Boise State to finish off the season. A pair of wins in those games could propel them to the right side of the bubble.

The Aggies have won their last three games in a conference that will receive several at-large bids into the tournament, and they will try to make themselves one of those bids in the coming week. They rank ahead of several Big Ten teams who are nearly guaranteed to make the tournament in the NCAA NET and are two spots behind No. 15 Indiana and one behind No. 13 Virginia, and their adjusted offensive efficiency ranks in the top 20 at KenPom.

Penn State vs. Northwestern

Time: 9:00 p.m. ET

The Nittany Lions (17-12, 8-10 B1G, 60 NET) sit in CBS’ First Four Out and ESPN’s Next Four Out. As part of a Big Ten that will likely send the most at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament of any other conference, Penn State has faced some tough opponents, and close out the season against Northwestern (20-9, 11-7, 41 NET) and No. 21 Maryland.

Does Penn State control their own destiny here? It’s going to be something of an uphill climb, but beating one of the Big Ten’s top teams on the road would be a start to making a statement that they deserve to dance. If they lose today, though, their hopes may be dashed barring a deep run in the conference tourney.