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Big 12, SEC trump Big East

The NCAA tournament selection committee doesn’t look at conference standings to determine which teams are good enough to make the field of 68. 

But a league’s overall strength certainly comes into play when assessing teams on the bubble line. The Big 12 has three bubble teams at .500 or below in league standings. Oklahoma, which is 5-9 in the conference, currently owns a No. 9 seed in today’s bracket. TCU and Texas are on the No. 10 line.

Because the trio did enough in the non-conference slate (OU and Texas both had top 15 non-league strength of schedules), they’re currently safer than most fringe teams. The Big 12’s top ranking in the NET — the NCAA’s new metric in place of the RPI (that assesses in-game prowess) — also gives these teams a huge leg up on other borderline teams.

Only Oklahoma has a chance to stain its résumé in the final weeks of the regular season with a March 2 home game against West Virginia (119 NET). 

The SEC offers much more opportunity for résumé stains. Florida faces Vanderbilt and Georgia down the stretch. But the SEC’s bubble teams are still getting a boost from the league’s top-three NET standing. Alabama just slipped into the field as one of the “last four in.” Helping the Tide’s chances is a marquee victory over Kentucky. The Gators benefit from ample opportunity to add eye candy to its portfolio. They just beat LSU on the road to vault from a No. 12 seed to a safer No. 10 and close out the regular season with games against the Tigers (a projected No. 3 seed) and Kentucky (a projected No. 1 seed). 

The same cannot be said for the Big East, which had two teams — Butler and Georgetown — pushed to the “first four out” category on today’s bracket. Fellow bubble team Seton Hall is barely hanging on as one of the last four teams as a No. 12 seed. The issue Big East bubble teams run into is the league is top-heavy yet and not that strong near the top. While Marquette is a No. 3 seed, Villanova has slipped to the No. 6 line (and in jeopardy of falling to a No. 7 seed) after losing three in a row, including Sunday’s loss to Xavier. 

Georgetown beat the Wildcats last week for a victory that catapulted the Hoyas into the field. But it was short-lived with a weekend loss to Creighton and now that ‘Nova win doesn’t stack up as much. Both Butler and Seton Hall also face Villanova to close out their Big East schedules, but unfortunately that win won’t hold as much weight anymore.

Come Selection Sunday, when teams’ overall body of work is under a microscope, blind résumé tests will erase how bubble teams finish in their respective power conferences. But the way the bubble is unfolding shows how a conference’s strength near the top and on the bubble line largely affect borderline teams’ hopes of squeezing into the field. Don’t be surprised if the Big 12 and SEC get all their bubble teams get in, while simultaneously boxing out weaker Big East fringe teams. 

**

CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN

Results/records shown are against Division I opponents only. Breakdown data, compiled by bracketologist Shelby Mast, is updated through games as of Feb. 25.

Temple (In for now, No. 11 seed)

Profile: 20-7 (10-4) 50 NET, 69 SoS, 235 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Houston, Davidson, South Florida (twice), Memphis
  • The Bad: Loss to Penn

UCF (In for now, No. 12 seed — play-in)

Profile: 20-6 (10-4) 40 NET, 80 SoS, 160 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Alabama, Temple, Connecticut, South Florida, Memphis
  • The Bad: Loss to Florida Atlantic

North Carolina State (In for now, No. 11 seed)

Profile: 20-8 (8-7) 32 NET, 212 SoS, 352 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Auburn, Clemson, Syracuse, Penn State
  • The Bad: Loss to Wake Forest

Clemson (Out for now)

Profile: 16-11 (6-8) 43 NET, 34 SoS, 118 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Virginia Tech, Lipscomb
  • The Bad: No bad losses

Seton Hall (In for now, No. 12 seed — play-in)

Profile: 16-11 (7-8) 63 NET, 47 SoS, 86 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Kentucky, Maryland, St. John’s, Creighton (twice), Butler
  • The Bad: Losses to Xavier, DePaul, Saint Louis

Georgetown (Out for now)

Profile: 16-11 (6-8) 73 NET, 87 SoS, 244 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. St. John’s, Butler, Liberty, South Florida, Providence, Villanova
  • The Bad: Losses to SMU, Loyola Marymount

Butler (Out for now)

Profile: 15-12 (6-8) 49 NET, 19 SoS, 61 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Florida, Georgetown, St. John’s, Ole Miss, Creighton, Seton Hall
  • The Bad: Loss to Saint Louis

Ohio State (In for now, No. 9 seed)

Profile: 17-9 (7-9) 42 NET, 53 SoS, 128 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Cincinnati, Nebraska, Creighton, Minnesota, Indiana
  • The Bad: Loss to Rutgers, Illinois

Minnesota (In for now, No. 12 seed — play-in)

Profile: 17-9 (7-8) 50 NET, 62 SoS, 173 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Wisconsin, Iowa, Washington, Nebraska, Indiana
  • The Bad: Losses to Illinois, Boston College

Indiana (Out for now)

Profile: 13-14 (4-12) 57 NET, 39 SoS, 158 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Michigan State, Louisville, Marquette, Butler, Penn State
  • The Bad: Loss to Rutgers

Nebraska (Out for now)

Profile: 15-13 (5-12) 46 NET, 81 SoS, 199 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Clemson, Indiana, Seton Hall, Creighton, Minnesota 
  • The Bad: Losses to Illinois, Rutgers

Oklahoma (In for now, No. 9 seed)

Profile: 17-10 (5-9) 39 NET, 13 SoS, 25 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Wofford, Florida, TCU (twice), Creighton, Texas
  • The Bad: Loss to West Virginia

TCU (In for now, No. 10 seed)

Profile: 18-9 (6-8) 41 NET, 31 SoS, 94 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Iowa State (twice), Baylor, Texas, Florida
  • The Bad: No bad losses

Texas (In for now, No. 10 seed)

Profile: 15-12 (7-7) 35 NET, 9 SoS, 16 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. North Carolina, Purdue, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma 
  • The Bad: Losses to Providence, Radford, Georgia

Arizona State (In for now, No. 11 seed)

Profile: 19-8 (10-5) 62 NET, 86 SoS, 42 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Kansas, Washington, Mississippi State, Utah State, Arizona, Oregon
  • The Bad: Losses to Southern California, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Utah, Princeton, Washington State

Ole Miss (In for now, No. 9 seed)

Profile: 19-8 (9-5) 37 NET, 92 SoS, 165 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Auburn (twice), Mississippi State, Baylor, Arkansas
  • The Bad: No bad losses

Auburn (In for now, No. 9 seed)

Profile: 17-9 (7-7) 23 NET, 22 SoS, 24 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Washington, Florida, Alabama, Murray State, Arizona
  • The Bad: Loss to South Carolina

Florida (In for now, No. 10 seed)

Profile: 16-11 (8-6) 33 NET, 31 SoS, 117 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Arkansas, Ole Miss, Butler, Alabama, LSU
  • The Bad: Loss to South Carolina

Alabama (In for now, No. 12 seed — play-in)

Profile: 16-11 (7-7) 55 NET, 32 SoS, 58 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Kentucky, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Liberty, Murray State, Arizona
  • The Bad: Losses to Northeastern, Texas A&M (twice), Georgia State

Wofford (In for now, No. 8 seed — automatic qualifier Southern)

Profile: 24-4 (16-0) 19 NET, 111 SoS, 130 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. UNC-Greensboro (twice), East Tennessee State (twice), Furman (twice)
  • The Bad: No bad losses

VCU (In for now, No. 10 seed — automatic qualifier Atlantic 10)

Profile: 21-6 (12-2) 34 NET, 41 SoS, 2 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Texas, Temple, Hofstra, Dayton
  • The Bad: Loss to Charleston

Belmont (In for now, No. 11 seed — at large)

Profile: 21-4 (12-2) 58 NET, 218 SoS, 97 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Lipscomb (twice), UCLA, Murray State
  • The Bad: Losses vs. Jacksonville State (twice), Green Bay

Lipscomb (Out for now as at-large — in as Atlantic Sun automatic qualifier No. 12 seed)

Profile: 21-6 (12-2) 45 NET, 225 SoS, 64 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. TCU, Liberty, Vermont
  • The Bad: Loss to Florida Gulf Coast

UNC-Greensboro (Out for now)

Profile: 23-5 (12-3) 61 NET, 125 SoS, 159 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. East Tennessee State (twice), Furman
  • The Bad: No bad losses

Murray State (Out for now as at-large  in as Ohio Valley automatic qualifier No. 12 seed)

Profile: 23-4 (14-2) 56 NET, 289 SoS 204 NonCon Sos

  • The Good: No good wins
  • The Bad: Loss to Jacksonville State

Furman (Out for now)

Profile: 22-6 (11-5) 48 NET, 205 SoS 311 NonCon Sos

  • The Good: Wins over Villanova, UNC-Greensboro, East Tennessee State
  • The Bad: Loss to Samford

Saint Mary’s (Out for now)

Profile: 19-10 (10-4) 38 NET, 44 SoS, 77 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. New Mexico State, San Francisco
  • The Bad: Losses to Western Kentucky, UC-Irvine, Harvard, Pepperdine

Utah State (Out for now)

Profile: 22-6 (12-3) 36 NET, 135 SoS, 21 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Saint Mary’s, Fresno State
  • The Bad: Loss to San Diego State

***

NCAA tourney Language Explainer:

  • Quadrant 1 wins: Home games vs. 1-30 NET teams; Neutral-site games vs. 1-50 NET; Away games vs. 1-75 NET
  • Quadrant 2 wins: Home games vs. 31-75 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 51-100 NET; Away games vs. 76-135 NET
  • Quadrant 3 wins, losses: Home games vs. 76-160 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 101-200 NET; Away games vs. 136-240 NET
  • Quadrant 4 wins, losses: Home games vs. 161-plus NET; Neutral-site games vs. 201-plus NET; Away games vs. 241-plus NET

Note: Mostly all statistical data is used from WarrenNolan.com. The NCAA’s new NET rankings are also considered; that was rolled out at the beginning of 2018-19

About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 on his website, Bracket W.A.G. He joined USA TODAY in 2014. In his sixth season as our national bracketologist, Mast has finished as one of the top three bracketologists in the past five March Madnesses. He’s also predicted for The Indianapolis Star, collegeinsider.com and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.




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