Here is our January 30th look at the NCAA Tournament bubble as teams try to make the field. These are our last four teams in and first four out for now, but check back for future updates.
It has now been just about a full month since conference play began in earnest in college basketball, as we continue our weekly projections for which teams will be in the NCAA Tournament and which teams will have to settle for the NIT, CIT or CBI bids, or worst, will not be participating in any post-season tournaments at all. So here are our latest educated guesses on our NCAA Basketball picks to make the NCAA Tournament as of January 30th.
More specifically, we are attempting to predict both who the last four teams in will be and who the first four teams out of the Big Dance will be, which is obviously a tough task at this still early stage. Remember too that most conference winners get automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament, so these predictions could be affected by some upsets in conference tournaments by teams that would not have made the NCAA Tournament otherwise.
In other words, one conference tournament upset could knock out the last of our last four teams in and two upsets could cut those last four bids in half, while at the same time increasing our odds of being correct on our first four teams out. Those are the challenges of making these predictions before the conference tournaments begin, especially this early in the regular conference season. But then again, we are always up for a good challenge!
So with all of that in mind, here are our early predictions for the last four teams selected for the NCAA Tournament field, as well as our selections of the first four teams out of the Big Dance.
Last Four In
Texas A&M Aggies: The Aggies are currently ranked 47th overall on the Pomeroy Ratings, which would put the right on the fringe of an at-large position if they maintain that position, but we see them climbing further as they are playing excellent basketball right now. Texas A&M added two more wins in the past seven days to runs its winning streak to five games, and most impressively three of the five wins came on the road including a very nice win over an LSU team that we have in the NCAA Tournament field at Baton Rouge. And remember that right before this winning streak began the Aggies gave top ranked Kentucky a scare before losing in double overtime by just a 70-64 score!
Mississippi Rebels: If we like Texas A&M to make the Big Dance, then we feel compelled to make Mississippi our next team in as the Rebels also hail from the SEC and they are actually ranked higher than the Aggies in Pomeroy at 38th overall. Yes Mississippi opened the season with a shocking home loss to 219th ranked Charleston Southern, but the Rebels have probably done enough since then to get back in the committee’s good graces while beating five teams in the Pomeroy Top 100 in Cincinnati on a neutral court and Oregon on the road in non-conference play as well as South Carolina, Arkansas (on the road) and most recently Florida last Saturday inside the conference. Through it all Mississippi is 19th n the country in offensive efficiency and this is one team you do not want to put on the foul line as the Rebels are shooting almost 80 percent while leading the country in free throw shooting (79.9 percent).
Davidson Wildcats: The Wildcats were in this very same position last week as the third of our last four teams in, and we are holding them constant after winning their only game in the last seven days 80-73 on the road at George Mason in overtime. Davidson continues to rank highly on the Pomeroy ratings at 30th overall, making the Wildcats the second highest ranked Atlantic 10 team after 17th ranked VCU. They may be lacking in high quality non-conference wins, but Davidson did beat 37th ranked Dayton and 55th ranked Richmond both by double-digits in conference thanks to ranking third in the entire country in offensive efficiency, a ranking enhanced by raking 12th in effective field goal percentage at 55.8 percent and an amazing sixth in offensive turnover percentage at 15.1 percent vs. a national average of 19.5 percent.
St. Mary’s Gaels: Obviously Gonzaga is the cream of the crop of the West Coast Conference this season, but the other two parts of the so-called Big Three, BYU and St. Mary’s are also vying for NCAA Tournament bids. And right now we feel that the Gaels are the more deserving of those other two teams at 9-1 inside the WCC losing only to, you guessed it, Gonzaga. St. Mary’s made it 11 wins in their last 12 games by going 2-0 this past week, and it also shows a home win over BYU on its resume. If the Gaels can win again in the rematch at BYU, which is obviously not an easy place to visit, it could go a long way toward cementing this bid.
First Four Out
Seton Hall Pirates: Seton Hall was off to a great start this season going 10-2 in non-conference play losing to only Wichita State and Georgia and then starting Big East play 2-0 including a very nice upset of Villanova, but we fear the Pirates have played their way out of the Big Dance for now by going 2-4 since then including a three-game losing streak. Sure two of those losses were to a good Butler team, but the loss in between to a DePaul squad 137th on the Pomeroy Ratings could be their costliest loss of the season when the NCAA Committee makes its selections. Of course there is still time to turn things back around, but Seton Hall could probably use another nice upset to offset that DePaul loss.
NC State Wolfpack: Can it be that a team that upset Duke while scoring 87 points vs. the Blue Devils can miss out on the Big Dance this season? Well, sadly yes as that Duke shocker notwithstanding the Wolfpack have not exactly been poster children for consistency this year. In fact that have mow dropped to 13-9 by losing their last three games, and the most recent one could be a killer as it came at home to a Clemson team ranked 103rd on Pomeroy. Furthermore, besides Duke, the next two best wins for NC State have come vs. 55th ranked Richmond, 72nd ranked Boise State and 78th ranked Louisiana Tech, all out of conference. Meanwhile the Wolfpack also show a non-conference loss to 99th ranked Wofford.
George Washington Colonials: We had George Washington in last week by virtue of being one of only two teams to beat Wichita State this season, but we did felt that the Colonials were on a short leash with a couple of questionable losses to Penn State and La Salle on their resume and we decided to drop them after losing their most recent game at VCU. Yes, VCU is the class of the Atlantic 10 and losing to the Rams in their own building is not a deathblow in its own right, but the issue is the lack of competitiveness George Washington showed in the 72-48 defeat, going a disastrous 14-for-52 from the field. The Colonials may also get hurt by the Atlantic 10 sending six teams to the Big Dance last season and yet Dayton being the only team doing any damage, which may prompt the committee to send less teams this year.
St. John’s Red Storm: The Red Storm were flirting with a Top 10 ranking on the AP Poll earlier this season as they finished the non-conference portion of their schedule at 11-1 losing only to Gonzaga. However the St. John’s stock has fallen considerably by going just 2-5 inside the Big East with two of the losses coming to a DePaul team ranked 137th on Pomeroy and to 116th ranked Creighton. The Red Storm also had a non-conference loss to Duke in the middle of their conference slate to make them 13-7 overall, and the only team they have beaten currently ranked in the Pomeroy Top 50 was 46the ranked Providence. We just do not feel that is enough to go Dancing for now.