NIT Bracket Thoughts: Feb. 25, 2018

About half of the teams in Division I have finished their regular season (or will shortly). As Joe Lunardi tweeted on Sunday night the brackets are starting to look like the real thing.

The NIT bracket will continue to take shape during the next three weeks to Selection Sunday due to the unique nature of how automatic bids are handed out. Here are some additional thoughts about this week’s bracket.

There could be abnormally large number of automatic bids.

I went and looked at the chances of each No. 1 team winning their conference tournament. There are 23 conferences where the No. 1 seed might need an automatic bid to the NIT. This includes a few teams, such as Nevada and Loyola (IL), that would be on the NCAA Tournament bubble if they were to lose, but would also be guaranteed an NIT spot.

If you use TeamRankings conference tournament simulations, those 23 tournaments would be expected to generate 13 or 14 automatic bids to the NIT. Then there are the Atlantic 10 and Pac-12 conference tournaments that could also generate potential bid thieves. All of this could lead to a lot of madness. That’s why you’ll see that I’ve italicized every team to through the 6 seeds. They could be the victims of automatic bids. (In the 9 seasons this system has been in place the highest number of automatic bids was 15 in 2015-16, but the average is around 11 per season.)

This of course means that teams off of the current NIT bracket may be even further away from making the postseason than they appear.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 will struggle to get NCAA bids.

I placed four Pac-12 (Arizona, USC, UCLA and Arizona St.) and four Big Ten (Michigan St., Purdue, Ohio St., Michigan) teams in the NCAA Tournament bracket. And then there are four Big Ten (Nebraska, Penn St., Maryland, Indiana) and four Pac-12 (Utah, Oregon, Washington, Stanford) teams in the NIT. Indiana and Stanford are on the bubble, but there will easily be three teams from those conferences in the bracket.

The most controversial team I currently have out of the NCAA Tournament might be Nebraska. The Cornhuskers finished 22-9 (13-5 Big Ten) and in most seasons would be an NCAA Tournament lock. But unbalanced schedules left Nebraska with a 1-5 record against Quadrant I and a 2-3 record against Quadrant II. Nebraska’s best win is at home against Michigan and that’s about it. Due to the down season in the Big Ten, the Cornhuskers didn’t get many chances to test themselves against NCAA Tournament foes and when they did they didn’t pass the test. Barring a victory over one of the Big Ten’s four NCAA Tournament bound teams in New York I would expect to see Tim Miles’ team on the wrong side of the bubble.

Where will the mid-majors end up?

There are teams from every conference that have question marks on their resume, otherwise they wouldn’t be slated for the NIT. The most interesting though are just beyond the top six conferences. Where the committee seeds teams like Old Dominion, BYU, Belmont, Western Kentucky, Davidson and the entire contingent of teams from the American Conference will be something to watch. Temple and UCF have some great wins and questionable losses whereas ODU played very few games against postseason teams.

Davidson is one of the most fascinating teams in the bracket. The Wildcats will play at St. Bonaventure and host Rhode Island to finish the regular season. Winning either would basically lock up an NIT bid. The predictive metrics think Davidson is a postseason team. They’re 39th in BPI, 57th in KenPom, 60 in Sagarin as I write this. The resume metrics though are much more skeptical, placing Davidson around 100.

Have other questions? Feel free to post them in the comments or on the NIT bracket page. If any of those No. 1 seeds do go down in Week 1 I will incorporate them into the bracket. Otherwise I’ll publish a full new bracket next Sunday.

6 thoughts on “NIT Bracket Thoughts: Feb. 25, 2018

  1. “the Cornhuskers didn’t get many chances to test themselves against NCAA Tournament foes and when they did they didn’t pass the test.”
    How many teams passed these tests?
    @ Michigan State
    @ Purdue
    @ Ohio State
    vs. Kansas (one-point loss)
    vs. Michigan (20-point win)

    NU didn’t get many chances, when they did, they were on the road in places where virtually no visiting teams win, and at home, they lost a heartbreaker to Kansas in which the Huskers had a chance at victory but didn’t sink a last-second shot and they crushed Michigan by 20. It would have been nice to have had a home game against the other three Big Ten powers.


    1. It sure would’ve been. Just another example of how this season’s Big Ten schedule (compressed and unbalanced as it was) did nobody any favors.


  2. Davidson took SBU to 3 OT’s on their court, then came back just 3 days later and beat RI. They have an improving RPI (80) and a steady BPI at 39. How do they look now?


    1. The number of (potential) automatic bids is a bit worrying for Davidson. I have the Wildcats as a 6, which means they could be bumped. Their 2 best wins (URI, SBU) came at home. I still think it’s likely they get in, but an A-10 tournament run would certainly help. BPI loves Davidson, but the strength of record metrics (RPI, KPI, BPI SOR) are wishy washy. That’s because most of Davidson’s non-conference wins came in Quad IV games. Obviously they’ve been better lately and I wonder if the committee takes that into account.


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