By Mike Bachini, CBS Connecticut
Selection Sunday is here. The wait that was once months, then weeks, then days is now down to hours. In just over an hour, the field of 68 will be announced on TBS. Championship week has set the bar extremely high with buzzer-beaters, upsets, star players performing at a high level and relative unkowns making names for themselves. It’s what makes March Madness so great and in only a few short days, actual tournament games will be played starting with the games in Dayton on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The important question, is which teams will make up the field of 68? One last time, I will try my best to provide some insight as to which teams you can expect to hear called, what their seed will be and who they will be playing.
In (7) – Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State
Bubble In (2) – Florida State, Louisville
Bubble Out (2) – Syracuse, Notre Dame
Louisville’s RPI of 38 would be the highest RPI for a power conference team left out of the tournament in NCAA history. While I do question whether or not their 5-13 record versus quadrant 1/2 teams is enough to get them in the field, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Cardinals will be the last at-large team this year. Just as recently as last night I had them out and St. Mary’s in, but as I went deeper and deeper in to their resume’s, Louisville won out. They don’t have any bad losses and the advanced metrics love the Cardinal. They’ll be in Dayton and can prove their worth there.
In (6) – Villanova, Xavier, Seton Hall, Creighton, Butler, Providence
Bubble Out (1) – Marquette
It’ll be interesting to see where the committee seeds teams from the Big East. Seton Hall, Creighton, Butler and Providence all feel like 8/9 seeds, but when you take into account the fact that they can’t all play each other in the first round (NCAA rule) and that Villanova and Xavier are 1-seeds (the committee also likes to avoid conference re-matches in the 2nd round at all costs as well) there will be some shuffling. Seton Hall is the beneficiary of this, moving up to a 7-seed while Creighton moves down to a 10-seed.
In (5) – Texas Tech, Kansas, West Virginia, TCU, Kansas State
Bubble In (2) – Texas, Oklahoma
Bubble Out (2) – Oklahoma State, Baylor
Oklahoma has been downright awful the past 5 weeks, but their overall body of work at the beginning of the season gets them into the field. They’ll be sent to Dayton in a “prove that you belong” type game against Louisville in my projection below. Texas was avoiding Dayton as recently as last night. Davidson’s win over Rhode Island pushes Arizona State out of the field and Texas from a solid 11-seed to a “first four” match up on Tuesday or Wednesday.
On the flip-side, Oklahoma State has some extremely impressive wins that other teams don’t and made a solid run of it late in the season, but a little too late in my estimation. Their RPI sits at an astronomically high number (89) and while RPI isn’t the be all end all anymore, their advanced metrics aren’t all that impressive either. Baylor exited the Big-12 tournament in the quarterfinals without a win and are 4-10 away from home and 2-9 in true road games. Those are ugly numbers that will keep the Bears out.
In (4) – Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan
Bubble Out (2) – Nebraska, Penn State
There’s nothing new in the Big 10 as their season wrapped up last Sunday in New York City. Nebraska and Penn State will be sweating it out, and ultimately they will both be headed to the NIT. You could make a case for either of them last week, but as the bubble shrunk by way of Davidson and San Diego State winning automatic bids into the tournament, their cases weakened.
In (3) – Arizona, UCLA, USC
Bubble Out (4) – Arizona State, Oregon, Utah, Washington
Arizona State was the last team in the field and were big Rhode Island fans earlier today. Unfortunately for Bobby Hurley and the Sun Devils, Danny Hurley’s team lost to Davidson, a loss that in my opinion knocked Arizona State from the field. It’s crazy to think that this would be the case considering their 12-0 start this season with wins over Kansas, Xavier and Kansas State, but they were less than impressive down the stretch and eventually will be forced out.
In (7) – Auburn, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, Florida, Texas A&M
Bubble In (1) – Alabama
Alabama went on a nice little run in the SEC tournament which should solidify their place in the tournament after a poor end to the regular season. Alabama has 10 Quadrant 1/2 wins which should be more than enough.
In (3) – Cincinnati, Wichita State, Houston
In (2) – Nevada, San Diego State
San Diego State stole a bid when they trounced Nevada in the Mountain West semifinals on Friday night. It’ll be the Aztec’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2015.
In (1) – Gonzaga
Bubble Out (1) – St. Mary’s
I had St. Mary’s projected as an 8-seed just a week ago. That was a mistake. St. Mary’s only has 3 Quadrant 1/2 wins and has 2 Quadrant 3 losses at Washington State and at San Francisco. They have a very nice win over Gonzaga and have 12 road wins, but the majority of those came against far inferior opponents. St. Mary’s was always assumed to be in for me, but as I dive deeper into their resume and as the bubble got smaller, they ended up on the outside looking in. There is still an outside shot that they make it, considering they have extremely good advanced metrics rankings. They will be a fascinating case study in advanced metrics versus overall body of work.
Bubble Out (1) – Middle Tennessee
Right beside St. Mary’s on the outside is Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders fell not in their conference final, not in their conference semifinal, but in their conference quarterfinal to a Southern Miss team that was below .500 on the season. Couple that with their home loss to Marshall to end the regular season and there’s just not a great case to be made them to be included in the field. This is a tough one, because they would have scared many teams as Michigan State and Minnesota can attest to.
In (2) – Rhode Island, Davidson
Bubble In (1) – St. Bonaventure
St. Bonaventure lost to eventual Atlantic 10 tournament champion Davidson in the semifinals. They avoided a terrible loss to Richmond in the quarterfinal and that win locked the Bonnies in. The loss to Davidson hurts their seeding a bit, as they fell from being one of the final at-large teams to receive a bye to having to make the trek to conference rival Dayton’s home floor for a “first four” game.
Final Bracket Projection
16. Texas Southern/NC Central
8. Kansas State
5. Wichita State
12. New Mexico State
4. West Virginia
14. Stephen F. Austin
15. Georgia State
16. Cal-State Fullerton
4. Texas Tech
13. UNC Greensboro
10. Florida State
8. Texas A&M
9. Virginia Tech
12. South Dakota State
11. San Diego State
7. Rhode Island
2. North Carolina
9. North Carolina State
5. Ohio State
13. Murray State
11. Texas/St. Bonaventure
3. Michigan State
14. Wright State
7. Seton Hall
LAST 4 IN AVOIDING DAYTON – Creighton, Alabama, Florida State, USC
HEADED TO DAYTON – Texas, St. Bonaventure, Oklahoma, Louisville
FIRST 4 OUT – Arizona State, St. Mary’s, Middle Tennessee, Oklahoma State
NEXT 4 OUT – Syracuse, Baylor, Marquette, Notre Dame
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