Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament has almost arrived as it is next week, March 13th. Here are our latest picks for the last four teams in and first four out as of March 4th.
The big day has almost arrived as Selection Sunday for the NCAA Basketball Tournament is next week on March 13th, thus making our current forecast 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 appear more solid. So we are back again with our Friday, March 4th NCAA Basketball picks on who should make the NCAA Tournament field.
More accurately, we are predicting who will be the last four teams in the Big Dance and who will be the first four teams out. Keep in mind that even with these projections starting to become much less liquid with Selection Sunday just about here, they could still be affected by conference winners getting automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament, since major upsets in the conference tournaments could result in teams that would have otherwise been out getting at-large berths.
Therefore, one big conference tournament shocker by a team that would otherwise not have made it to the Dance could knock out the last of our last four teams in, while two major upsets could cut our last four bids in half while also increasing our odds of being correct on the first four teams out. Still, we accept the challenge of making these predictions before most conference tournaments have even started, with full knowledge that some bid-stealing is possible.
So without further ado, here are our current predictions as of March 4th for the last four teams in the Big Dance, as well as our first four teams out of the NCAA Tournament.
Last Four In
Butler Bulldogs: The Big East is rather strong this year as it is ranked fourth as a whole on the Pomeroy Ratings, ahead of a couple of power conferences in the Big Ten and the SEC, and Butler is in a three-way tie for fourth in the conference at 9-8 in addition to being 20-9 overall. The problem is that while the Bulldogs have been fine at home, they have failed most of their major road tests and that could hurt them in potential tiebreakers with other teams, as could the fact that they opened up the season facing a schedule ranked just 279th in non-conference SOS according to Pomeroy. Unfortunately the Bulldogs finish up at home vs. Marquette, but perhaps a deep run in the upcoming Big East Tournament could erase any lingering doubt.
Michigan Wolverines: Michigan had a much needed marquee win when it beat Purdue at home on February 13th, a win we felt had them rather safely in the NCAA field. Unfortunately the Wolverines have lost three out of four games since then with the lone win coming at home over Northwestern and the three losses coming on the road. Granted Michigan is 20-10 overall and 10-7 inside the Big Ten, but its position has now become tenuous, especially with a lack of road success. We still have the Wolverines in the field as the second of our last four teams in for now, but a home win over Iowa in the regular season finale plus a couple of wins in the Big Ten Tournament would certainly help their cause.
South Carolina Gamecocks: So, can a team that started the year 15-0 and that still stood at 21-3 as recently as three weeks ago really be in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament? Well, very much so considering that a home loss to Kentucky on February 13th began a stretch that has seen the Gamecocks lose four of their last six games to fall to 23-7, and the fact that the SEC is ranked sixth in the country as a whole and is the lowest ranked of the major conferences does not help matters. Perhaps most damning was the most recent loss coming at home to Georgia. Now, South Carolina may need to win its season finale on the road at Arkansas and then do no worse than advancing to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament to begin breathing a little bit easier.
Providence Friars: Providence is another team that has had a sudden fall from grace after beginning the season at 14-1, and while the Friars are still 21-9 and boast perhaps the best point guard in the country in Kris Dunn, they are now part of that three-way tie for fourth in the Big East along with Butler and Creighton at 9-8 and they have been trending in the wrong direction as of late, especially with bad losses to DePaul and Marquette. If the Fryers do not reach at least the semifinals of the Big East Tournament, they could be in trouble although having the star power in Dunn could allow them to sneak in as around a 12-seed even if they are eliminated early in their conference tournament. Providence has higher hopes than that though, making the Big East Tournament crucial to their NCAA seeding (if they get in).
First Four Out
Tulsa Golden Hurricane: We have had the Golden Hurricane among our first four teams out ever since they joined our bubble watch a few weeks ago, and unfortunately we are forced to keep them on the outside looking in this week following their most recent 10-point road loss at Memphis. A win there over a Tigers’ team ranked 107th overall on the Pomeroy Ratings would have meant a four-game winning streak and some serious consideration for moving them to the right side of the bubble, but instead Tulsa is now fifth in the AAC with an 11-6 conference mark and it hopes the committee could put some heavy weight in an early non-conference upset over Wichita State, as it is lacking in real quality wins otherwise.
George Washington Colonials: George Washington is another team that we have perpetually had on the wrong side of the bubble, and the Colonials missed a chance to make a statement when they lost at home to VCU last weekend. They regrouped to thrash a bad George Mason team to improve to 22-8 overall, but they are 11-6 and in fifth place in an Atlantic 10 that has burned the selection committee over the last two years, sending a total of nine teams to the Big Dance and yet having only Dayton advance past the round of 64 each season. If the committee is gun-shy about taking so many A-10 teams this season, then George Washington is in trouble barring a very deep run that would include some upsets in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
LSU Tigers: It is starting to look more and more like the nation will be deprived of the chance to see the best freshman in the country and a legitimate Player of the Year candidate despite his class in Ben Simmons on the sport’s biggest stage. Things were looking up for the Tigers when they sat at 16-9 with one loss being by two points to then top-ranked Oklahoma, but then came a three-game losing streak to some questionable opponents in Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas, and now LSU may need to end the season with a huge road win over Kentucky at Rupp Arena to complete a season sweep of the Wildcats just to re-enter NCAA consideration.
Ohio State Buckeyes: We get the feeling that the number of Big Ten teams in the field will be capped at seven, and with Michigan State, Maryland, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa and Purdue all most likely in, that probably leaves Michigan and these Buckeyes battling for one last spot. It did not help that the Buckeyes were recently blown out at home by 19 points by Michigan State, and they now have a brutal regular season finale vs. that same Spartans team on the road at East Lansing. A loss there would leave Ohio State at 19-12 overall and 11-7 inside the Big Ten, and that just may not be enough to offset beating Michigan in the lone head-to-head meeting this year.