We are now about one month away from Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament. Here is our look at the last four teams in and first four out of the Big Dance as of February 12th.
We are drawing closer to Selection Sunday for the NCAA Basketball Tournament as it is now just about on month away on March 13th, so projections of which teams will be in the NCAA Tournament and which teams will have to settle for NIT bids or lesser tournaments or miss the post-season entirely are starting to become more clear. And here we are again with our Friday, February 12th NCAA Basketball picks on who will make the NCAA Tournament field.
More on point, we are taking a look at who we feel will be the last four teams in and the first four teams out of the Big Dance. While these projections are starting to become a bit less liquid as Selection Sunday gets closer, they are still affected by conference winners getting automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament, as some upsets in the conference tournaments by teams that would not have otherwise qualified for at-large NCAA berths could potential steal these bids.
Thus, one conference tournament upset could knock out the last of our last four teams in and two upsets could cut our last four bids in half, while also simultaneously increasing our odds of being correct on the first four teams out. Still, we could live with that risk fully knowledgeable that it exists, so possible berth thefts are not enough to hold us back from making these predictions one month in advance!
So without any further ado, here are our current projections as of February 12th for who the last four teams selected for the NCAA Tournament field will be, as well as our first four teams out of the Big Dance.
Last Four In
Florida State Seminoles: This is the first appearance for Florida State in our last four teams in this year because, frankly, we had them a tad higher until now and thus not in jeopardy of missing the NCAA Tournament. That could be starting to change though as the Seminoles failed in a chance to basically cement their berth, losing their last game 85-72 at Syracuse to drop to 16-8 overall and to 6-6 in the ACC. Now, the Seminoles might need to go 4-2 the rest of the way to get to 20 wins and finish above .500 in the conference to claim their spot, although we personally think 19 wins and a 9-9 conference mark might be enough too in an ACC that is ranked second on the Pomeroy Conference Ratings behind only the Big 12, just ahead of the enormously improved Pac-12 in third.
Syracuse Orange: Syracuse has been moving up our rankings pretty rapidly since Coach Jim Boeheim returned to the bench following his nine-game suspension, and we hold them steady this week with the aforementioned easy win over Florida State being the only action for the Orange in the past seven days. Once 10-7, Syracuse has now won seven of its last eight games to get to 17-8 with the only defeat being a “good” road loss at Virginia, and that has allowed the Orange to move up to 32nd in the country overall on the Pomeroy Ratings. The current hot streak includes a great road upset win over Duke at Cameron Indoor Arena, and the Orange also had a nice resume helper during non-conference play with an earlier win over Texas A&M. The stifling Syracuse zone defense is as stiff as ever, as the Orange still lead the country in longest average opponents’ possession length this season at 19.3 seconds despite the new 30-second shot clock.
Wisconsin Badgers: This is a rebuilding year for the Badgers as they lost a ton of veteran talent after losing to Duke in the National Championship Game last year, and there was a question as to whether or not Wisconsin would be competitive this year. And things did not look good when longtime coach Bo Ryan retired on December 16th with the team sitting at 7-5 including home losses to Western Illinois, Milwaukee and Marquette, and Wisconsin then went 2-4 in its first six games under interim coach and former Ryan assistant Greg Gard to even their record at 9-9. However, the Badgers have made a powerful charge since then winning six straight games including beating the likes of Indiana, Michigan State and Ohio State, and we now have Wisconsin as the third of our last four teams in while Gard is staking his claim to becoming the permanent head coach, shedding the “interim” label.
UCLA Bruins: We had UCLA in this precarious position as literally our last team in last week, and thus the team most vulnerable to losing its bid to a big upset winner in some conference tournament, and we are keeping the Bruins in the very same spot because, well, they have not played a game since our last update! We will learn a lot more about UCLA tonight though when it travels to Tucson to take on Arizona for the second time this year. The Bruins are hanging on a ledge with a 13-10 record, but beating Arizona in the first meeting as well as a couple of other huge wins over Kentucky at home and Gonzaga on the road has us keeping them in for now. Still, UCLA is trending in the wrong direction by losing three of its last four games, so the next few games starting with the Arizona game are huge as we gauge where this often enigmatic club stands approaching tournament time.
First Four Out
Creighton Bluejays: The Big East may no longer exist in college football, but it remains prominent in NCAA Basketball as the fourth ranked conference as a whole in the country on Pomeroy, ahead of a couple Power 5 conferences in the Big Ten and SEC. And Creighton is now a new face from that conference in our first four out on the verge of crashing the NCAA Tournament thanks to improving to 7-5 in the conference and 16-9 overall with a 2-0 week. That 7-5 record in the Big East has the Bluejays in a three-way tie for third along with Seton Hall (17-7 overall) and Georgetown, behind only two locks to make the tournament field in Villanova and Xavier. If the Bluejays can go 4-2 the rest of the way with tough games vs. Butler, Providence and Xavier all on the road on the docket, it would become difficult to leave them out.
Clemson Tigers: We are dropping Clemson one spot to our second team out after an 0-2 week with losses to Notre Dame at home and Virginia Tech on the road, with the home loss to the Irish possibly being the death blow to the Tigers’ NCAA hopes. The only reason we are not dropping Clemson further is because it still has a winning 7-5 record in the ACC, although it may now need to go at least 5-1 the rest of the way to have any hope of cracking the field. It would help if the Tigers beat Virginia at home in the second to last game of the season, as the other five teams remaining all seem beatable although the games vs. North Carolina State, Georgia Tech and Boston College are all on the road.
Saint Joseph’s Hawks: At first glance, the assumption would be that the Hawks are easily in right now at 20-4 overall and 9-2 inside the Atlantic 10, but we actually have them out for the time being with the belief that the selection committee will be reluctant to select too many teams from this conference after tabbing a grand total of nine Atlantic 10 teams for the NCAA Tournament the last two years and then watching Dayton be the only team to advance past the Round of 64 each year! Yes, St. Joseph’s is at 20 wins with seven games remaining, but still the current highest ranked team that the Hawks have beaten on the Pomeroy Ratings is 69th ranked Princeton out of the Ivy League, so for now we feel compelled to give tiebreaking nods to major conference teams ahead of St. Joe’s.
Seton Hall Pirates: If you recall, we had both Seton Hall and Georgetown of the Big East among our first four teams out as of last week and we said at the time that the winner of the head-to-head meeting between those two schools last Saturday would still be alive while the loser would be in dire straits. Well, Seton Hall won that game 69-61, and although the Pirates followed up with a home loss to Butler, we are keeping them as the last of our first four out after losing to a good Bulldogs team that should almost certainly be in the NCAA field. The Pirates still need help, but they could also help themselves with four of their final six games being against teams ranked in the Pomeroy Top 60.