Here is our February 13th look at the NCAA Tournament bubble as teams try to earn a bid. These are our last four teams in and first four out for now, but check back for future updates.
It is now Friday, February 13th, the first of two Triskaidekaphobia Days in back-to-back months this year, but more importantly it is time for our newest weekly projections for which teams will be in the NCAA Tournament and which teams will have to settle for NIT, CIT or CBI bids, or even worse 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.
More specifically, we are attempting to predict both who the last four teams in the field will be and who will be the first four teams out of the Big Dance, which obviously remains a tough task at this relatively early stage. Also keep in mind that most conference winners will get automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament, so these predictions could be affected by some major upsets in conference tournaments by teams that would not have made the NCAA Tournament otherwise.
Thus, one conference tournament upset could knock out the last of our last four teams in and two upsets could cut those projected last four bids in half, while at the same time increasing our odds of being correct on the first four teams out. Those are the challenges of making these predictions about a month before Selection Sunday, which is on March 15th this year, but it is those kinds of challenges only makes doing these projections so much fun!
With all of this in mind and with no further ado, here are our still 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 as of February 13th.
Last Four In
UCLA Bruins: The Bruins may have just a 15-10 record and they are still a very suspect team on the road, but they get a bump by facing a schedule ranked 10th in the country in SOS according to the Pomeroy Ratings and they appeared to turn their season around with a home upset of fifth ranked Utah on January 29th. Granted UCLA took a step backwards with a 64-62 road loss at 131st ranked California last Saturday, but the Golden Bears have gotten better as the season has gone on and have now won five straight games, and the Bruins recovered from that loss with a fairly easy 75-59 win over Oregon State, the same Oregon State team that earlier handed Arizona one of its three losses this season.
LSU Tigers: We have been waffling back and forth with the Tigers with these weekly updates, and as fate would have it they may have strengthened their position with a loss this week. You see, after beating Alabama 71-60 last Saturday, LSU went head-to-toe with the best team in the country and lost just 71-69 to a Kentucky team that now appears to be on its way to an undefeated season with its toughest games seemingly out of the way. Thus the Tigers are back in our good graces after some recent bad losses to Mississippi State and Auburn, and LSU never dropped that much in the Pomeroy Ratings as they are currently ranked 41st overall. The win over Alabama gave LSU nine wins this season vs. teams in the Pomeroy Top 100.
Boise State Broncos: The Broncos are obviously still in the running for the Mountain West Conference title and can avoid the tournament bubble by winning their conference tournament, but should they fail to do so, we still have them in as at-large right now as the Broncos are on a eight-game winnings streak as of this writing including two wins in the last seven days, first a surprisingly easy 61-46 win over San Diego State and then a 67-42 win over Air Force in a potential letdown spot. Boise is now up to 47th overall on the Pomeroy Ratings and the win over San Diego State marked its second win over a Pomeroy Top 100 team in the last four games along with a win over Colorado State, and the Broncos also had another such win during non-conference play earlier over St. Mary’s in a true road game.
Green Bay Phoenix: Similar to Boise State, the Phoenix can make things a lot easier on themselves by winning the Horizon League Tournament and they have a huge game tonight on the road at Valparaiso that could go a long way toward determining the seeding for that tournament. Also like Boise State though, we have Green Bay in the Big Dance for now even if they come up short in the conference, except this time as literally our last team in. Green Bay is already at 20 wins at 20-5 and it plays defense as well as many major conference teams, ranking 19th in the land in adjusted defensive deficiency while limiting teams to a 45.9 percent effective field goal percentage.
First Four Out
St. John’s Red Storm: The Red Storm improved their position relative to last week by going 2-0 the last seven days with both wins avenging earlier losses. First, St. John’s avenged a three-point loss at Creighton by demolishing the Bluejays 84-66 at Madison Square Garden, and they then avenged an earlier four-point overtime loss in Chicago by defeating DePaul 86-78 in the rematch. That moved the Jonnies up to 43rd overall on Pomeroy while ranking 51st in offensive efficiency and 63rd in defensive efficiency, but in spite of all that we only move them up to being out first team out for now. Our biggest knock against the Red Storm is that their best two best wins remain a sweep of a Providence team ranked 46th on Pomeroy, although they will now have ample opportunities to prove their worth with five of their last seven games being vs. teams ranked in the Pomeroy Top 25.
Old Dominion Monarchs: We had Old Dominion as one of our last four teams in last week, but we are dropping the Monarchs to this First Four Out group after first have a tougher time than they should have beating a Charlotte team ranked 140th on Pomeroy 61-57 at home and then suffering a shocking loss to 174th ranked Texas-San Antonio on the road. Granted 20 wins seems like a given, but we thought this team would finish with at least 25 regular season wins before those last two games, and they still might, although they would need to regain their form heading into those games rather quickly. The Monarchs still show nice wins over VCU and LSU, but they cannot afford any more slip-ups and their seemingly easy remaining schedule could work against them.
Miami Hurricanes: The Hurricanes are having a yo-yo season as they seemed to be safely in the NCAA field six games into the ACC season when they were 4-2 but with one of the wins being extremely impressive when they went into Cameron Indoor Stadium and shockingly routed Duke like few other teams ever have there 90-74 while the two losses were both “good” ones as they were in overtime to second ranked Virginia and on the road by five points at Notre Dame. However, Miami later had a three-game losing streak that began with a home loss to a Georgia Tech team ranked 76th on Pomeroy and was followed up by a road loss at 131st ranked Florida State. The last week began with some promise as the Canes first snapped that losing streak with a nice win over 85th ranked Clemson, but they then went on the road and lost at 114th ranked Wake Forest. Miami may be saved in our first four out by Wake also beating NC State recently, so that last loss may have been to an improving team.
Oregon Ducks: We did not even have Oregon as an NCAA candidate until now, but the Ducks are starting to turn some heads with six losses in the last seven games with the only loss in that span coming to an Arizona team ranked fourth on Pomeroy. And with wins over UCLA, Arizona State and Washington during this recent run, the Ducks are now up to seven wins this season over Pomeroy Top 100 teams, with the win over Arizona State coming on the road. To give you an idea of how difficult playing in Tempe can be, the Sun Devils just upset Arizona there last Saturday. It could be that a loss to 196th ranked Washington State is the only thing keeping the 18-7 Ducks out of out last four teams in, as the other six losses all came vs. the Pomeroy 100.