Well today is the end of the journey for bracketology. The bracketologists who project the NCAA tournament and the few of us that toil away with the NIT will learn the answers to the test in a few hours. This is my final shot at NIT bracketology for 2014.
Most people like to release their NIT bracketology after the NCAA tournament Selection Show. The better to know what teams are actually available, but that feels a little bit like cheating. Doesn’t it? Thus I’m sticking with my guns and releasing this now that there’s nothing left that could impact the bracket.
The biggest change? I’ve moved Green Bay into the NCAA tournament and Southern Methodist (SMU), into the NIT. If anyone is going to get bumped to make way for the Phoenix it is Larry Brown’s team. Their resumes are comparable and while GB has a non-conference strength of schedule of 56, SMU’s is 296. That’s a great way to get left at the altar with the NCAA tournament. Conveniently, if SMU does get in and Green Bay is left out it’s an easy substitution considering there is no other Horizon League team in the NIT bracket and Robert Morris would have approximately the same distance to travel.
The bottom of the bracket has been extremely difficult. The higher than normal number of automatic bids that were handed out to (quite good) regular season champions means that the 7- and 8-seed lines are filled with autos. So is half the 6-seed line. If you’re wondering why your favorite team got left out this season that’s probably why.
In the end the final decision came down to eight teams for three spots. I chose Saint Mary’s, strong RPI and non-conference strength of schedule, and Richmond, similar qualifications (in 80s in RPI and non-conference SOS). Five hours ago the final team into the bracket was Ole Miss. They had the advantage of having beaten Middle Tennessee, Missouri and LSU this season, but that point is now moot as Georgia State became the 13th mid-major team potentially needing an NIT automatic bid with its overtime loss to UL Lafayette in the Sun Belt championship. Honestly, if the NIT committee takes any of my last five out over Richmond or Saint Mary’s when the bracket is announced at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU I wouldn’t be particularly surprised. They’re incredibly close. I know MTSU is lobbying for inclusion. Sometimes that works.
Last 5 Out: Ole Miss, Middle Tennessee St., San Francisco, LSU, Boise St.
Other notable omissions and some quick reasons why:
- Indiana St.: Non-Con SOS of 204, MVC way down
- Indiana: Non-Con SOS of 220, all good wins at home
- Ohio: Lost in MAC quarterfinals, not enough good wins
- St. Bonaventure: Under .500 in A-10, weaker schedule
- Washington, Oregon St.: Other Pac-12 teams above them, 90s in RPI, too many automatic bids
- UNLV: Non-Con SOS 255, two good wins, down MWC
If you wanted to play in the NIT this season you had to challenge yourself during non-conference play or be play quite well in conference – think Utah. That’s one reason why Maryland – non-conference strength of schedule of 13 – made the field despite its middling record. The other is that the Terrapins, unlike almost every other team considered or in the bracket, have no bad losses on their resume. We’ll see how this goes.
Update Sunday, March 16 at 7 p.m.: I’ve updated the bracket to
remove N.C. State and add Green Bay. The easiest way (and the right way) to do that was by moving Southern Methodist down a line and putting the Mustangs into the game against Davidson and then putting Green Bay against Robert Morris. This is the end of my NIT bracketology.
Final NIT Bracketology (automatic bids in BOLD CAPS):
SMU GREEN BAY
8. ROBERT MORRIS
4. Southern Miss
5. West Virginia
6. Saint Mary’s
7. GEORGIA ST.
1. Florida St.
8. HIGH POINT
4. Marquette %%
3. St. John’s
7. BOSTON UNIVERSITY
8. UTAH VALLEY
3. LOUISIANA TECH
7. UC IRVINE
8. FLORIDA GULF COAST
4. Illinois %
N.C. State %% SMU
% Illinois can’t host. Maryland would.
%% It’s unclear if Marquette
and N.C. State can host due to their NCAA tournament hosting responsibilities.
There are some awesome match ups in this bracket. The entire Georgetown regional is just one humongous ball of fun from the first round onwards. I’d also be looking forward to St. John’s vs. Iona, Southern Miss vs. West Virginia, and Utah vs. Saint Mary’s. There’s certainly enough intrigue in this bracket to get some eyeballs for ESPN. We’ll see what the committee ultimately decides.
If you’re team didn’t make it. I have some notes around the CBI and CIT here.
UPDATE 9 p.m. Sunday: The official bracket is out and below.
IN: Indiana St., San Francisco, LSU
OUT: Marquette, Maryland, Richmond
8. High Point
4. Saint Mary’s
3. Southern Miss
1. Florida St.
8. Florida Gulf Coast
5. West Virginia
3. Louisiana Tech
1. St. John’s
8. Robert Morris
4. Green Bay
6. Georgia St.
7. Boston U.
8. UC Irvine
4. San Francisco
6. Indiana St.
7. Utah Valley