NIT Bracketology: The paper tiger

By mid-January the college basketball analyst comes out to hunt for Bubble Teams. It’s an exercise dependent on looking through RPI table, the “eye test” and other glorious means of trying to determine which teams will make the NCAA tournament. In particular, the analysts – some of who are very well respected – are trying to separate out the paper tigers.

Those paper tigers are a rare breed. They look great on paper and have a strong record in non-conference play, but their resume doesn’t mean much at all. They come in a few varieties. The major conference paper tiger is a team whose record isn’t going to hold up through the entire stretch of a Power 6 schedule. Wake Forest and Providence strike me as solid bets to fill those roles this season. But the trickier ones – and the ones you see when sorting out the NIT – are the paper tigers from smaller conferences. What do you do with the teams with a 12-4 record and no good wins to speak of?

In my opinion, you penalize them for their schedule, not reward them for their wins. That’s why in this edition of NIT Bracketology you won’t see Georgia State. Ron Hunter has a great thing going at GSU. They’re 11-4 and 3-1 in conference, but the Panthers have an RPI of 187 and a strength of schedule of 343. They still haven’t beaten a Top 100 team and their best win is at conference mate VCU. On the other hand, I’ve included the Rams. They’re 11-5 with a 101 RPI and a 175 SOS. Shaka Smart’s team has four wins over decent teams and even though they lost the head-to-head one, I still think VCU has a better chance of escaping the season intact.

But a few of those teams with the potential to fall apart have snuck into the bracket this time. The bubble spots (6-8 seeds) in particular are occupied by teams I don’t expect to see there once the season concludes. Another team I have serious concerns about right now is Pittsburgh. The Panthers just lost to Rutgers 62-39 at home. Wednesday night’s games aren’t included in the bracket, but that’s a bad loss. Jamie Dixon’s team is now 0-4 in the Big East and could be headed towards irrelevancy this season.

A few other tigers? Massachusetts (13-4, best win home against Davidson) and Wyoming (14-2, best win home against Bradley). Also, there’s no way that the NIT would make Maryland play at Charleston. If that was the actual match up I assume the seeds would be (unjustly) swapped. The Terrapins definitely have the ability to move up during ACC play. They beat Wake Forest on Wednesday night.

A few rules:

  • You must have an above .500 record against Division I opponents at this time to be in the bracket (sorry Butler).
  • Last 8 Bubble Teams into NCAA (not in order): Minnesota, Xavier, NC State, Northwestern, Memphis, LSU, Iowa State, Saint Joseph’s.
  • If you’ve got a question about why your team isn’t in the NIT let me know.
  • There are at least 39 teams that could be in a CBI/CIT situation this season. We’ll start sorting it out later.

The Bracket:

1. Florida State
8. Wagner
4. Massachusetts
5. Indiana State
3. Charleston
6. Maryland
2. Northern Iowa
7. Wake Forest

1. Arkansas
8. Wyoming
4. Charlotte
5. Ohio
3. Cincinnati
6. Duquesne
2. Missouri State
7. La Salle

1. New Mexico
8. New Mexico St
4. Denver
5. Drake
3. Pittsburgh
6. Illinois State
2. Colorado State
7. Oklahoma

1. Mississippi
8. Kent State
4. UCF
5. Buffalo
3. Miami (FL)
6. VCU
2. Virginia Tech
7. Providence

If you’ve got a problem with the bracket leave a comment or drop me an email.

8 thoughts on “NIT Bracketology: The paper tiger

  1. Hi New Mexico fans! I think in retrospect I’d put your team in the NCAA tournament, especially considering what’s transpired over the past days since this bracket was compiled. I’m sure next week when I do a new iteration they’ll be back on the bubble and far away from here.

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    1. So this bracket was compiled over a week ago, and most likely longer? They haven’t done anything in the past week and a half to really affect this bracket one way or the other. I think someone emailed the author….

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      1. The bracket was compiled on Tuesday and Wednesday evening. Since then a few of the teams on the NCAA side at the bottom of the bubble have lost some rough ones. Northwestern at Michigan, NC State at home to Georgia Tech, LSU by 16 at Alabama, Gonzaga by 21 at St. Mary’s would all make me reinspect some resumes. This bracket just recently received some attention and I wanted to note that it’s a few days old. That’s all. They’ll be a new one next week.

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    1. Yeah, I put Iowa State in the NCAA in this edition. I considered Oklahoma State, but they just didn’t have the resume. They’re a really tough case though because Cowboys are 8-7 against DI teams, but 31st hardest schedule. Two Top 100 wins over Oklahoma and at Missouri State and no bad losses. If they can keep their head above water in the Big 12 it’s quite possible they end up in the bracket soon. They’re right on the NIT bubble at the moment though.

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    1. Nope, 10-8 vs. DI, 139 RPI, 129 SOS. 2 good wins though over Florida and Connecticut. Another decent one over Pittsburgh and no bad losses. They’re certainly being considered. If the Scarlet Knights can keep their head above water in Big East play they’ll be considered but I’d guess they end up in the CBI.

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