We are now just two weeks removed from Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament, so here is our latest forecast for the last four teams in and first four out as of February 26th.
The excitement is building as Selection Sunday for the NCAA Basketball Tournament is now just two weeks away on March 13th, thus making our projections of which teams will be in the NCAA Tournament and which teams will have to settle for NIT bids or lesser tournaments or not make any tournaments at all more solid. So here we are again with our Friday, February 26th NCAA Basketball picks on who should make the field for the Big Dance.
To be more accurate, we are predicting who the last four teams in the NCAA Tournament will be as well as who will be the first four teams out. And even though these projections are starting to become a bit less liquid with Selection Sunday almost here, they could still be affected by conference winners getting automatic bids to the Big Dance, since some major upsets in the conference tournaments would mean sub-par teams stealing at-large NCAA berths.
Thus, one big conference tournament upset by a team that would otherwise not have made it to the Big Dance could knock out the last of our last four teams in, while two big upsets could cut the last four bids in half while simultaneously increasing our odds of being correct on the first four teams out. Still, we are making these predictions two weeks in advance with full knowledge that bid stealing by suddenly hot teams is certainly possible.
So without any further ado, here are our current projections as of February 26th for the last four teams in the NCAA Tournament field, as well as our picks for the first four teams out of the Big Dance.
Last Four In
VCU Rams: The Atlantic 10 has underperformed in the NCAA Tournament the last two years, when a grand total of nine teams made it to the Dance but Dayton was the only one to make it beyond the round of 64. That could make the selection committee a bit apprehensive about selecting too many A-10 teams for at-large berths this year, although we do feel that three teams in Dayton, St. Joseph’s and this VCU team are now in. However, Virginia Commonwealth is at the biggest risk of the three of falling out of the committee’s favor after going just 3-3 the last six games, losing at home to George Washington and suffering a pair of bad road losses at Massachusetts and George Mason.
Butler Bulldogs: Butler seems to be in good shape to get in despite losing two of its last three games, as those two losses did come to the two premier teams in the Big East after all in Villanova and Xavier. However, that does not mean that the Bulldogs cannot become victims of a numbers game in a Big East where Seton Hall and Creighton are the only other two teams besides the Big Two to be over .500 in conference, as Butler is now just 7-8 during Big East play. The good news is that the Bulldogs finish with three winnable games at Georgetown and at home vs. Seton Hall and Marquette, and winning at least two of those games to finish no worse than 9-9 in conference should be good enough to get Butler in hailing from a Big East ranked fourth in the country as a whole on the Pomeroy Ratings.
BYU Cougars: BYU looks good on paper at 22-8 overall and 13-4 inside the West Coast Conference, but the question becomes does the committee want three teams from the WCC in the tournament? Saint Mary’s now appears safely in after sweeping the season series from Gonzaga, and now BYU also gets a chance to sweep Gonzaga as the Cougars end the regular season at home vs. the Bulldogs after posting an upset win at Spokane earlier. A win in that finale should get BYU in while putting Gonzaga on the bubble instead, but a loss could make things a bit precarious for BYU, which has been one of the best home teams in the country but lacks another big road win to go along with the win over the Zags.
Syracuse Orange: We thought that the Orange had done enough since Coach Jim Boeheim returned from his nine-game suspension to be safely in the tournament as of a couple of weeks ago, but now suddenly Syracuse has lost two straight games, first on the road to a Louisville team that has a self-inflicted post-season ban this year and then at home to Pittsburgh. So suddenly, the Orange are only 8-7 inside the ACC and in eighth place in the conference standings, and even ignoring Louisville, that still means there are six teams ahead of them in a conference ranked second on Pomeroy behind only the Big 12. Normally a .500 mark in such a conference would probably be enough, but that may not be the case if there are eight teams at .500 or better other than ineligible Louisville, so that last home loss to Pittsburgh could ultimately prove crippling.
First Four Out
UCLA Bruins: The only reason that UCLA is still in the discussion for an NCAA bid with a 15-13 record is because it had some big wins over Kentucky at home and on the road at Gonzaga out of conference, and it also beat an Arizona team ranked 16th in the country overall inside a Pac-12 ranked third as a whole on Pomeroy. It also helps that the Bruins recently beat another bubble team in conference in Colorado. Still, we have the Bruins out though and we will probably continue to keep them out unless they sweep their last three regular season games, including a big home game vs. 18th ranked Oregon, and then win a game or two in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane: The Golden Hurricane made their first appearance in our first four teams out last week and they did nothing to hurt their cause while going 2-0 over the last seven days. However, we are not so sure beating a bad UCF team on the road and a mediocre Temple at home is cause for much celebration either, as with the AAC ranked seventh as a conference on Pomeroy, we are opting to keep Tulsa behind some major conference schools for now. And unfortunately, the Hurricane will not get a chance to help their resume over the last two games vs. Memphis and South Florida, although a loss in either of those games would probably eliminate them from consideration. So Tulsa must win its last two games and then hopefully spring an upset in the AAC Tournament.
George Washington Colonials: Remember what we said earlier about the Atlantic 10 underperforming over the last two tournaments? Well, the Colonials are probably the fourth choice in the A-10 as of now thanks to a current three-game winning streak and a recent road win at VCU, and the Colonials have a chance to put even more pressure on the committee by completing a season sweep of those VCU Rams, this time at home on Saturday where a win would leave the Colonials at 22-7 overall including an excellent early non-conference win over Virginia and another very solid non-conference triumph over Seton Hall that looks a lot better now that the Pirates have gotten hot in the Big East.
Colorado Buffaloes: The Pac-12 is the third ranked conference on Pomeroy and Colorado is currently 20-9 overall and in fifth place in the conference at 9-7, so surely the Buffaloes are locks to be in right? Well, the problem there is that the 20 wins were padded by an easier non-conference schedule than a lot of other Pac-12 teams, and now recent losses to UCLA and USC, which both faced a stronger SOS than Colorado, also hurts. And on top of all this, we are not so sure the third ranking for the Pac-12 is justified as while it does have more good teams than a lot of other conferences, we feel that it also lacks that one great team.