College Basketball Bubble Watch

Updated: February 5, 2016, 9:26 AM ET
By Eamonn Brennan |

With massive bubble, Kansas is one of few locks

The top-five upsets, the turnover at the top, the difficulty separating national title contenders from the 10th- or 15th-best team in the country (if that's even possible): This has been a crazy year. This premise is not in dispute.

You'd assume, then, that the Bubble Watch would agree. In other words, the teams grouped into each totally-super-important category we use in this space -- locks, should be in, work to do -- would echo the gulf between 2014-15 and 2015-16. So: After finishing this week's Watch, we tallied things up. Then we dug into the Bubble Watch Library and Records Department (which may or may not be a folder in Dropbox) and found the Feb. 6, 2015, edition of the Bubble Watch. The results:

Feb. 6, 2015
Locks: 8
Should be in: 13
Work to do: 38

Feb. 5, 2016
Locks: 6
Should be in: 12
Work to do: 38

Wait. Huh?

Where are the locks? 2015 should have more locks, or more teams we felt more certain about. And fewer teams with work to do. Right? Last season wasn't crazy! This season -- this is the one that's crazy! So why aren't the numbers crazy?

One caveat here: If we had compared Tuesday's debut (before we added two more teams today) the lock disparity (four to eight) would appear much more narratively satisfying. Also, relative to last year, this year's resumes really do feel more brittle, with less distance between (say) a No. 7 seed and the bubble morass below. (We'll eventually double-check that one, too.)

More than anything, though, these numbers are a reminder of an essential bubble truth, which is that competition is always self-contained. All we have are this year's teams, and the number required to stage an NCAA tournament hasn't changed. On the bubble, everything is relative.