Now this gets real. A number of mid-majors have determined their league champion. There’s only one week of major conference play remaining and the bracket is getting much clearer.
Well, sort of. The NCAA Tournament bubble is still very much a work in progress. It’s unclear to me why people think this is a “bad” bubble. There are a number of strong teams with different weaknesses on their resume, which is what happens every season.
I’ve had particular trouble figuring out what to do with the Big East teams hanging out around the cutline. (And fading Xavier could be there soon.) Right now I have both Marquette and Seton Hall in the First Four. Another team that’s fading is Northwestern. The Wildcats have lost five of their past seven games. Their last two—hosting Michigan and Purdue—offer two more opportunities for key victories. Even if Northwestern was to lose both, the Wildcats would most likely make the tournament barring an early flameout in the Big Ten Tournament.
Near the NCAA bubble though the biggest outlier decisions I made were to include Houston and Illinois St. in the bracket. Houston is probably the most controversial. UH is 38th in KenPom and 5-0 against “B” games and 0-5 in “A” games. My concern is eventually that might not be good enough. Though if the Cougars beat Cincinnati on the road on Thursday that would be a big step in the right direction. Quite frankly, Illinois St. should be in the bracket, even if the schedule wasn’t ideal. If you’re putting TCU in the bracket above ISU based on a game played on Nov. 21 you’re crazy. I think the Redbirds are clearly one of the nation’s 36 best at-large teams.
The bottom of the NIT is a little messy too. That’s partly because teams like UNC Asheville and Valparaiso have been added to the bracket. Both narrowly missed out on winning their conference titles and will have to play on the road to take home a tournament championship. They have resumes that definitely will be intriguing for the committee. College of Charleston, the second best team in the CAA and a serious contender for the tournament title, and New Mexico St. are two other mid-majors that nobody might be talking about, but are quite deserving.
Then there’s BYU. The Cougars were starting to fall out of the bracket, but their victory over previously undefeated Gonzaga is an excellent capstone to the season. Despite some questionable losses it seems highly unlikely that BYU would get left out at this point.
The updates will be coming to the Current NIT Bracketology page on a more regular basis now, including when teams are granted automatic bids to the tournament. Stay tuned later in the week.
NCAA Tournament (In Order): Syracuse, Illinois St., USC, Northwestern, Providence, Marquette, Seton Hall, Wake Forest, Houston
1. Rhode Island
8. Texas A&M
4. Georgia Tech
6. Colorado St.
7. UNC Asheville
8. San Francisco
4. Boise St.
5. Texas Tech
7. New Mexico St.
5. College of Charleston
3. Ohio St.
7. Fresno St.
8. San Diego St.
2. Kansas State
7. Arkansas St.