Here is our March 6th 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.
The big day has almost arrived as Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament is now just as a tad over one week away, and some conference tournaments have now already kicked off! That means it is time for our second to last weekly projections for which teams will be in the NCAA Tournament and which teams will have to settle for NIT, CIT or CBI bids, as we present our latest NCAA Basketball picks for the NCAA Tournament field.
To be more specific, we are actually attempting to predict who will be the last four teams in the field and who will be the first four teams out of the Big Dance, and these selections are becoming more relevant now with Selection Sunday fast approaching. Do not forget, conference winners get automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament, so these picks could be affected by some major upsets in conference tournaments by teams that would not have made it otherwise.
Therefore one conference tournament upset could knock out the last of these last four teams in and two upsets could cut our last four bids in half, while also increasing our odds of being correct on the first four teams out. Those are the challenges of making these predictions before the conference tournaments come to an end, especially since the major conference tournaments are next week and most will not ne over before our final projections next week.
Nonetheless and without further ado, here are our March 6th predictions for the last four teams selected for the NCAA Tournament field, as well as our selections for the first four teams out of the Big Dance.
Last Four In
Colorado State Rams: We continue to bounce back and forth with the Rams this year, as they have played well on the court while going 25-5 overall and 12-5 in the Mountain West Conference and they won their only game over the past seven days 78-62 over Nevada. Our main problem with Colorado State is that the committee may elect not to take more than two teams from the Mountain West Conference and the Rams are third behind San Diego State and Boise State. Nonetheless we are moving up Colorado State from one of our first four teams out last week to the last four in this week, not necessarily due to anything the Rams did this week but mostly because three teams we had in our last four in, namely Purdue, Stanford and Pittsburgh, played their ways out of that group with losing weeks.
Temple Owls: The Owls are also beneficiaries from those three teams in our last four in last week not holding up their ends the last seven days. We still have concerns about the Temple offense, but that unit has looked better lately particularly in a 70-56 win over East Carolina in its only game this past week. There are no issues with the defense though as the Owls are eighth in the country in defensive efficiency and 14th in effective field goal percentage allowed at 44.0 percent. Granted the AAC is only ranked ninth among all conferences as a whole according to the Pomeroy Ratings, but Temple overcomes that with its huge win over Kansas during non-conference play.
Texas Longhorns: Texas has not lived up to its preseason hype and the Longhorns are still surprisingly eighth in the Big 12 with a 7-10 conference mark as well as a pedestrian 18-12 overall. However, Texas got the much needed big win that it had been lacking by beating a Baylor team ranked ninth on Pomeroy last game, and that came on the heels of playing Kansas close in Lawrence in a 69-64 loss its previous game. Add in an excellent schedule ranked ninth in the country in SOS overall according to the Pomeroy Ratings and we tentatively have Texas as the third of our last four teams in for now, but we would still like to see a nice run by the Longhorns in the Big 12 Tournament to solidify their position.
UCLA Bruins: We get that UCLA is just 19-12 overall and 11-7 inside a Pac-12 that is the lowest ranked of the six major conferences as a whole according to Pomeroy, but the Bruins may be saved by facing a good non-conference schedule that leaves them facing the 26th ranked SOS in the country overall. And that is not to mention a noticeable improvement of their play that began with a home upset of Utah on January 29th, and that fine play continued with a 2-0 week just when UCLA needed it most, with wins over Washington State and USC. The Bruins are 8-3 beginning with that win over Utah, and they even played well in the three losses, covering the spread in a 10-point loss at Arizona and losing the other two games by two points each on the road at Arizona State and California respectively.
First Four Out
LSU Tigers: The Tigers seemed to be sitting cushy about a month ago and ironically enough they even appeared to strengthen their NCAA Tournament position with a loss, as it was by just two points 71-69 to undefeated and top-ranked Kentucky. However LSU has been plagued by inconsistency despite being 21-9, and losing its last game at home to a Tennessee team ranked 87th on Pomeroy may go down as the loss that keeps it out of the Big Dance, especially combined with three earlier losses to teams ranked 162nd or worse in Auburn (162nd), Mississippi State (170th) and Missouri (200th). LSU is just 10-7 in the SEC, and if it were not for Kentucky, this may be the weakest of the major conferences especially with Florida in a down year.
Purdue Boilermakers: We had Purdue as one of our last four teams in last week as they were coming off of eight wins in nine games with some of those wins coming over Ohio State, Iowa and Indiana twice. However, except for the second Indiana win, all the other wins were at home at that helped put the Boilermakers in a second place tie with Maryland entering this past week in a Big Ten that is one of the best conferences in the land. And Purdue would probably still be in the last four in if it had managed to at least split its two tough road games this week at Ohio State and Michigan State, but instead the Boilermakers went 0-2 to move down. Granted they played good enough in both games losing 65-61 to Ohio State and 72-66 to Michigan State, but “close” may not be good enough for a team that lost to Gardner Webb and North Florida both at home during non-conference play.
Indiana Hoosiers: The Hoosiers appeared to be safely in the NCAA Tournament when they got off to a 5-1 start inside the Big Ten including impressive wins over Ohio State and Maryland, and this team can shoot lights-out every time ranking 10th in the country in offensive efficiency thanks to being second in three-point shooting at 41.1 percent. However Indiana has been gradually dropping by going 4-7 since that 5-1 conference start and we now finally dropped them out of the tournament after a 77-63 home loss to Iowa to make it three losses in the last four games with the only win in this stretch coming over a Rutgers team that has lost 13 straight games.
Miami Hurricanes: The Hurricanes are another team that has fallen from grace since early in the conference season, when they shockingly went on the road and routed Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium like few teams have ever done before 90-74. Miami has dropped all the way to 9-8 in the ACC since then with three of those conference losses coming to a Georgia Tech team ranked 92nd on Pomeroy, 108th ranked Wake Forest and 111th ranked Florida State. Then it appeared the Canes were all but totally buried to begin this past week when they lost at home to North Carolina in a game they probably had to have. The only reason we still list the Hurricanes as the last of our four teams out is because they then rebounded with a nice road win at Pittsburgh on Wednesday, probably taking Pittsburgh’s place in this very spot in our rankings.