Now that we’re on the morning of Selection Sunday, I wanted to share some thoughts about the current bracket and NIT selection.
As always, the current bracket is available here. And here are some extended thoughts on a few of the quirks of this season’s NIT bracket.
The NCAA At-Large Situation Is A Mess
I don’t know if this is really the case, and we won’t actually know until after the bracket is revealed, but there does seem to be a lot of uncertainty around the bubble this season. Wichita State, Monmouth, St. Mary’s, San Diego State, Temple and Hofstra all lost in their conference tournaments and were added to the at-large pool. Figuring out which ones to take along with the typical bubble teams like Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Cincinnati, Vanderbilt, Michigan and Syracuse is an absolute nightmare.
I currently lean towards Vanderbilt and Monmouth as my last two teams in, though the consensus on BracketMatrix.com sees San Diego State and Temple taking those slots. (I wonder if that will change as brackets are updated?)
Why do I ultimately think Monmouth will get in? I’m not sure what else the Hawks could’ve done to set themselves up for an at-large berth. It’s not the Hawks’ fault that UCLA and Georgetown faded badly down the stretch. King Rice built a challenging schedule that should’ve been enough. Ironically, for me at least, is that the committee’s incorporation of margin-based metrics could harm Monmouth’s chances. The Hawks are 81st in Sagarin and 67th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, well below some of their competition. An at-large bid for Monmouth would be a win for the RPI, for better or worse.
The NIT Bubble Has Fewer Questions (At Least In My Mind)
The NIT bubble has also tightended up due to teams losing their conference tournaments. There are 10 automatic bids sitting on my bottom three seed lines. The competiton then for the spots right above them (all the way into the five line) is especially fierce. In particular, the five power conference teams I currently have in those slots (Alabama, Washington, Creighton, Mississippi, LSU) all have questions. Let’s run through them really quickly:
- Washington: Personally, I think Washington is the safest of these five teams. The resume is pretty traditional for an NIT team. Despite going 2-11 against the Top 50 (thanks to a ridiculously strong Pac-12), they should be in even if an 18-14 record isn’t that pretty.
- Alabama: Another team the advanced metrics don’t like. The Crimson Tide are ranked 83rd in Sagarin and a whopping 94th in Pomeroy. RPI though thinks Alabama played an extremely difficult schedule. Neutral site wins over Notre Dame and Wichita State should be enough.
- Creighton: The Blue Jays have an RPI nearing 100 thanks to a horrific non-conference schedule. They have exactly 3 wins against Top 100 RPI opponents and 10 games against RPI 201+ teams (which is a lot for a power conference team). But their advanced metrics are strong. Creighton ranks 47th in Pomeroy and 50th in Sagarin. They should be in.
- Mississippi: Ole Miss has the non-conference strength of schedule problem Creighton has without the same advanced metrics. Also, Mississippi’s best win is against Vanderbilt, the only other NIT at-large with that weak a signature victory is Georgia. (Side note: That Georgia bubble talk was absolutely wackadoodle.) There’s definitely a chance that the NIT committee could decide to take someone else.
- LSU: ESPN wanting Ben Simmons on their TVs isn’t going to save the Tigers. What might are home wins against Kentucky and Texas A&M. Considering though that LSU is just 6-6 against teams ranked 101-200 in the RPI and ranked in the high-70s or 80s in advanced metrics and coming off an embarrassing loss in the SEC semifinals, and… well… I wouldn’t be surprised if they missed the cut.
Who could replace these teams? Kansas State (17-16 against a schedule that included 15 top 50 games), William & Mary, UC Irvine or Evansville. In fact, by the time my final pre-Selection Show bracket is posted you might see K. State in there and either Mississippi or LSU out.
Geography and (NIT) Principles
A few quick reminders. Part II. Principle 3 of the NIT Principle and Procedures for Establishing the Bracket states: “The bracket-placement principles adopted by the committee may preclude a team from being placed in its “true” seed (in accordance with the “seed list”).”
And Part III. Principle 1 states: “The priority for the committee will be to achieve the best-possible competitive balance in each region, while placing teams as close to their areas of natural interest as possible.”
And then 4 states: “An institution may be moved one bracket line from its true seed line (e.g., from a No. 6 seed to a No. 7 seed) when it is placed in the bracket if necessary to meet the principles.”
The final note is that regular season rematches should be avoided if possible.
Anyways, I took this all into account last night and that’s why the bracket might be slightly off from my true seed lines.