Happy New Year! We’ve made it to 2018 and with the turning over of the calendar comes a new NIT bracket projection.
There’s a time where my bracket has the potential to look radically different than others because I project out to the end of the season, instead of the current state of things. But the brackets have started to converge now because we’re more than halfway through the season. Conference play has started up and brought with it tougher games for major conference foes and must wins for the mid-majors hanging in and around the bracket.
A few conferences though have already made it extremely difficult on themselves. Take for instance the Big Ten. A down season from Wisconsin coupled with a drop back to earth for Northwestern has left the conference with fewer chances for quality victories. My current projection has just four Big Ten teams in the NCAA Tournament (Michigan State, Purdue, Maryland, and Michigan), and four in the NIT (Minnesota, Ohio State, Northwestern, Penn State). Beyond that, any of the bottom five have a lot of work to do in conference play to even get close to making the postseason.
It’s also around this time of year that we can start identifying the mid-majors that might crash the party. Unfortunately, depending on your opinion of the American Athletic Conference, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see any true non-automatic bid mid-majors high in the NIT bracket. The potential contenders for those spots currently fill the seven and eight seed lines, with Northern Iowa in a dangerous slump (losing four in a row) that threatens to derail their entire season. After the Panthers lost 72-53 to Bradley yesterday I moved them down the bracket a bit more. It’s not that UNI lost, but the troubling margin of defeat.
Of course mid-majors could also join the party by getting snubbed off the bubble. Saint Mary’s put itself in another precarious position with its non-conference schedule, but if the Gaels can find a way to beat Gonzaga once I believe they’d get into the Big Dance. St. Bonaventure has a decent NCAA Tournament resume but needs to avoid any bad losses during Atlantic 10 play (and there will be many chances for a bad loss).
Bracket updates should be a little more regular moving forward. You can find all my changes on the Current NIT Bracketology page.
NCAA Bubble (In Most to Least Safe Order): Louisville, Baylor, Virginia Tech, Missouri, Michigan, USC, St. Bonaventure, Saint Mary’s
NIT Tournament Bracket (italics for bubble):
1. Kansas State
3. Oklahoma St.
2. Boise St.
8. Old Dominion
3. San Diego St.
6. Mississippi St.
7. Northern Iowa
8. South Dakota St.
4. South Carolina
5. Western Kentucky
7. Loyola (IL)
5. Ohio St.
3. St. John’s
6. Boston College
7. Penn St.