Louisville and NC State are locks, but the rest of the ACC is bubbling over

Louisville and NC State are both No. 1 seeds in this week's women's Bracketology and will almost certainly be among the top seed lines come Selection Monday. But no other team in the ACC is a sure thing.

Despite each narrowly escaping upsets on Sunday, the gap between the Cardinals and Wolfpack and the rest of the conference is stark. They are Nos. 3 and 4, respectively, in this week's 1-64 ranking. No other ACC team is in the top 20.

Georgia Tech checks in at No. 24 as the ACC's next highest team. The Yellow Jackets are riding a four-game winning streak and playing well, but they are the league's only other team that is upwardly mobile and can feel comfortable right now about its NCAA tournament status.

It's not that the ACC is top heavy so much as it is thick in the middle. That's why this year's bubble is home to so many teams in the conference. Five ACC teams -- Clemson, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech -- reside on the bubble this week and two more -- Syracuse and Florida State -- are trending downward in that direction. The ACC might ultimately have as few as five teams in the NCAA tournament -- or could have as many as nine. No other conference is looking at that big of a swing.

And the margins for inclusion are narrow, swaying on a weekly basis. Last week's projection included Notre Dame and Wake Forest. But then North Carolina beat the Irish and essentially replaced them in the field. The Demon Deacons were blown out by Georgia Tech early in the week and narrowly lost an upset bid against Louisville. An 0-2 week means they are on the wrong side of the bubble this week.

Clemson lost in double overtime to Florida State and then beat Syracuse in overtime. The fickle nature of the bubble -- made even more unpredictable by fewer games and teams missing big chunks of time due to COVID-19 pauses -- allowed the Tigers entry into this week's projection (after being the first team out last week) and even one spot better than the Last Four In category. It's also the reason Wake Forest didn't fall too far on the wrong side of the bubble despite the two losses.

No team illustrates the ACC's complicated relationship with the bubble this season more than Notre Dame. Since the beginning of December, the Irish have alternated weeks in and out of the field. That's six projections -- three in, three out. This bubble tap dance is more significant in the case of the Irish because, due to the cancellation of last year's NCAA tournament, Notre Dame still has a streak of 24 consecutive appearances in the Big Dance. That's the fourth longest active streak in the country.

As much of a roller-coaster ride as the Irish have had in Bracketology so far this season, the bubble might not be Notre Dame's problem by the middle of next month. The Irish's next four games include two against Syracuse and one each against Louisville and NC State. With an upset or two, it's possible the Irish safely settle into the field as a No. 7 or No. 8 seed. Losing all four would put them at 8-10 with a huge hill to climb for a 25th consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.

Still, that would make the Irish the exception. For most of the rest of the ACC, the bubble will be a way of life all the way until March 15.