Last year, eleven teams who won their conferences in the regular season failed to win their conference tournament and were left out of the Big Dance (thanks to this article for that fact – I remembered it was a high number, but couldn’t remember the number exactly). Last night, Belmont became 2017’s first victim of the Madness, losing by six to Jacksonville State in the Ohio Valley Conference’s semifinal matchup. As a result, Belmont now automatically qualifies for the NIT, and a clearly weaker team will go to the NCAA tournament.
Fair, or no? There is a great debate about that. I love the conference tournaments because they add to the chaos of college basketball in March, but I think a Belmont squad that went 15-1 in the Ohio Valley’s regular season deserves a bid to the NCAA tournament. So, I’m not sure what the solution is, but I am sure we will have several more of these situations over the next few days.
With that, I’m going to continue the bubble analysis I started yesterday. Today, we start with…
Wichita State (28-4, 17-1, current 8 seed): Is Wichita State really on the bubble? Of course, if they win the Missouri Valley conference tournament, they get an auto bid. But what if they don’t?
Wichita State could be the hardest team to seed in the entire field right now. Why? Their metrics are all over the place. Strength of schedule is poor for a tournament team – 150th overall, 169th non-conference. Their RPI is a middling 41. They really only have one quality win, against Illinois State (by 41 points).
But, Wichita State ranks 10th in KenPom. And the eye test? The Shockers ace that, as they have been absolutely obliterating teams. Take their margin of victory in their last five games: 26, 19, 26, 29, and 19 points. None of those were against good teams, but go back a couple games before that stretch, and you have a 41-point destruction of Illinois State. Proving my point about how tough it is to seed Wichita State, bracketologists on the Bracket Matrix who updated their projections yesterday have the Shockers anywhere from a 5 seed to a 12 seed.
We all remember last year, when a Wichita State team with a better resume than this year’s squad (SOS 105th overall, 12th non-conference, RPI 46, and a win against a very good Utah team) was comically underseeded as an 11. Will history repeat itself this year? I really think that as it stands today, the Shockers are better than a double-digit seed.
Here are nine other teams I want to analyze today. First, a table showing various metrics for these teams.
|Team||Record (Overall/Conf)||RPI||SOS||KenPom||Best Win||Worst Loss|
|A||26-4, 16-1||30||147||53||Vs. Vanderbilt||At UTEP|
|B||26-5, 16-2||32||140||45||Vs. Wichita St.||At Murray St.|
|C||24-6, 14-3||34||144||71||At St. Mary’s||At Troy|
|D||26-5, 15-3||37||135||58||At Charleston||At Elon|
|E||27-5, 18-2||43||165||78||Vs. Princeton||Vs. Rider|
|F||24-6, 13-4||42||133||60||At Boise St.||At Utah St.|
|G||20-6, 13-0||54||151||67||At Bucknell||Vs. St. Joe’s|
|H||27-5, 16-0||50||187||68||At Stony Brook||Vs. Northeastern|
|I||25-6, 15-3||74||231||116||At Illinois||Vs. Radford|
What do you think? I think teams A, B, and C deserve an at-large bid. Team D has a case as well. Note that these teams all have RPIs in the 30s (whether people like it or not, the Committee uses it a lot). Team C’s best win is over a team who is certain to get an at-large bid, Team B’s best win is over a team that would likely get one, and Team A’s best win is over a team that has a good shot at one.
Teams E and F could make an argument too. Their best win is over a decent opponent. However, at this point, I would not give these teams an at-large bid. The argument isn’t as strong for teams G, H, or I. We see the KenPom and the RPI numbers get lower for these teams. Team G is undefeated in its conference, impressive no doubt, but has a very bad loss to St. Joe’s and their best win is over a team that has no shot at an at-large bid. The same can be said of Team H (except Northeastern isn’t quite as bad at St. Joe’s). Team I has a very strong win at Illinois, but a very bad loss to Radford and by far the weakest RPI, strength of schedule, and KenPom numbers of the bunch.
Have you figured out who these teams are? A is Middle Tennessee, B is Illinois State, C is Texas-Arlington, D is UNC-Wilmington, E is Monmouth, F is Nevada, G is Princeton, H is Vermont, and I is Winthrop (a special shout out to Winthrop for having TWO players with the last name Broman). With the exception of Illinois State, all of them have won their regular season conference championship. All, including Illinois State, are mid-majors.
Many people expect this to be the year where we see fewer at-large bids than ever from the mid-major conferences. So, what will happen to any of these squads who don’t win their conference tourneys? Will they have the same fate as Belmont? Let’s say all of these teams lose in their conference tourneys. I think it would be an absolute snub if at least a couple of them don’t receive at-large bids. These are all quality squads.
With that said, let’s see where these teams and others fall in today’s projection. As always, moves up or down are in parentheses after the team’s name, and projected automatic qualifiers are in bold.
In since yesterday’s update: Tennessee-Martin
Out since yesterday’s update: Belmont
1s: Kansas, Villanova, North Carolina, Gonzaga
2s: Baylor, Oregon, UCLA, Louisville
3s: Arizona, Butler, Kentucky, Duke
4s: Florida, Florida State, Purdue, West Virginia (+1)
5s: Virginia (-1), Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Minnesota
6s: SMU, Saint Mary’s, Creighton, Iowa State
7s: South Carolina, Oklahoma State, Miami, Maryland
8s: Dayton, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Wichita State
9s: Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State, Providence
10s: Seton Hall, VCU, Arkansas, Xavier
11s: Southern California, Marquette, Wake Forest, Middle Tennessee, Illinois State
12s: Texas-Arlington, Rhode Island, Vanderbilt, UNC-Wilmington, Monmouth
13s: Nevada, Princeton, Vermont, Winthrop
14s: Bucknell, Oakland, Florida Gulf Coast (+1), Akron
15s: UNC-Greensboro, Cal-Bakersfield, Eastern Washington, South Dakota (+1)
16s: Texas Southern, Tennessee-Martin (new), UC-Davis, Mount Saint Mary’s, New Orleans, North Carolina Central
Last Four In: Wake Forest, Illinois State, Rhode Island, Vanderbilt
Having won the Ohio Valley regular season conference championship, Belmont is an auto qualifier for the NIT. This pushes Colorado out in today’s projection.
1s (First Four Out of NCAA tournament field): Kansas State, California, Syracuse, Illinois
2s (Next Four Out): Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Georgia, Utah
3s (Third Four Out): Iowa, TCU, Houston, Indiana
4s: Texas Tech, Alabama, BYU, Charleston
5s: Clemson, Colorado State, Valparaiso, Richmond
6s: Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Boise State, Ole Miss
7s: Arkansas State, Auburn, San Francisco, Central Florida
8s: Belmont (new), East Tennessee State, Memphis, Texas A & M
Thanks for reading, and look for my next projection and analysis tomorrow. In the meantime, check out the Bracket Matrix for over 100 other projections!