Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament is now three weeks away, and here is our current look at the last four teams in and first four out of the Big Dance as of February 19th.
Well, Selection Sunday for the NCAA Basketball Tournament keeps drawing closer as it is now just three weeks away on March 13th, so our projections 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 tournament at all are starting to solidify. Thus here we are again with our Friday, February 19th NCAA Basketball picks on who should make the NCAA Tournament field.
More specifically, we are trying to predict who will be the last four teams in the NCAA Tournament and who will be the first four teams out. While these projections start to become a bit less liquid as Selection Sunday draws near, they could still be affected by conference winners getting automatic bids to the Big Dance, as some upsets in the conference tournaments by teams that would not have otherwise qualified for at-large NCAA berths would steal some bids.
Therefore, one conference tournament upset could knock out the last of our last four teams in and two upsets could cut the last four bids in half, while also simultaneously increasing our NCAA Basketball odds board of being correct on the first four teams out. Still, that possible uncertainty does not faze us very much as we accept the challenge of making these predictions three weeks in advance with full knowledge that bid stealing by teams getting hot at the right time could wreck a bid or two.
So with no further ado, here are our current projections as of February 19th for the last four teams selected for the NCAA Tournament field, as well as our picks for the first four teams out of the Dance.
Last Four In
Saint Mary’s Gaels: The reason why you have not seen Saint Mary’s in earlier updates of this series is because we have had them safely in the tournament field until now, and they would probably clinch a spot in the Big Dance if they can finish off a season sweep of Gonzaga on Saturday. Still, the Gaels are limping into that contest and falling down our rankings in the process, as in their last three games they first suffered a shocking home loss to Pepperdine and then followed that up with a couple of unimpressive, non-covering wins, first beating a Loyola Marymount team currently rankled 246th overall on the Pomeroy Ratings by just a 68-62 score at home, and then nipping 217th ranked Portland 74-72 on the road.
Michigan Wolverines: Yes, the Wolverines come off of a 76-66 loss at Ohio State in their last game, but this is still a team that is currently 19-8 overall and 9-5 inside the Big Ten and Michigan may have gotten the statement win it needed to go along with an earlier triumph over Maryland when it beat Purdue last Saturday. We have the Wolverines in as of now but they may be in a very liquid situation bubble-wise as their last four games include tough road tests at Wisconsin and at Maryland for a rematch, as well as a tough home game vs. Iowa to end the season. If the Wolverines could win two of those three games, they should be in the field for sure (provided they do not slip up in the home game vs. Northwestern), whereas just one win in the three big games could leave Michigan at the mercy of what some other teams do.
Florida State Seminoles: If not for the ACC being the second ranked conference in the country as a whole on the Pomeroy Ratings behind only the Big 12, we would have Florida State out of the tournament right now. As it stands, the Seminoles have quickly gone from being safely in the field to now hanging precariously as our second to last team in after losing its last three games in a row. Granted losing to Syracuse and the Miami Hurricanes could be forgivable but the Noles then lost at home to Georgia Tech, which gives legitimate reason for concern. Now the Seminoles may simply have to win at least three of their last four regular season games for us to keep them on the right side of the bubble, and while they have a relatively easy home game vs. Virginia Tech up next, their other remaining games are vs. Notre Dame and Syracuse at home as well as a road test at Duke.
LSU Tigers: We have been saying all along that it would be a shame if the Tigers do not make the NCAA Tournament because it would deprive the nation from seeing the best freshman in the country and a legitimate Player of the Year candidate in Ben Simmons, who has lived up to his hype as being “the best LSU recruit since Shaquille O’Neal.” Still, LSU did not do itself any favors by losing at home to Alabama in its last game, a loss that now has the Tigers as literally our last team in and thus the most vulnerable should there be a major upset in some conference tournament. The good news is that the Tigers do still have nice wins over Kentucky and Texas A&M, and the presence of Simmons could sway the selection committee as a tiebreaker should it be a close call between LSU and some other school without a true superstar.
First Four Out
Clemson Tigers: We have had Clemson in this group of our first four teams out seemingly forever, as the Tigers have continued to do just enough to keep themselves alive for an NCAA berth playing in the ACC while not doing anything spectacular to get over the hump. The Tigers were in a bit of a freefall at the time of our last update, but they did regroup to go 2-0 over the last seven days. That was the good news, but the bad news is that they did not beat much in Boston College and Georgia Tech, notwithstanding the Tech win over Florida State this week. Now Clemson plays three of its last four games on the road and the home game is a tough one vs. Virginia, so we should get a much clearer picture of where the Tigers stand soon.
Seton Hall Pirates: Seton Hall has as actually gone up a couple of spots since last week as we had the Pirates as literally our fourth team out at that time. Remember that the Big East is the fourth ranked conference on the Pomeroy Ratings ahead of the likes of the Big Ten and the SEC, and Seton Hall is now up to third in the conference at 8-5 behind a couple of tournament locks in Villanova and Xavier. Perhaps most importantly the Pirates posted a big road win at Georgetown last game while finishing off a season sweep of the Hoyas, who themselves were a bubble team a couple of weeks ago. That should eliminate one main competitor for Seton Hall, and the Pirates could still help themselves with three big games coming up vs. Xavier and Providence at home and Butler on the road as they try and cross over to the right side of the bubble.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane: A new face on our list from the AAC, the Golden Hurricane made a bit of a jump up after beating a very good Cincinnati team last game to improve to 17-9 overall and 9-5 in conference. That now gives Tulsa six wins this season vs. teams currently in the Pomeroy Top 100, and with SMU ineligible for post-season play this year, Tulsa now certainly appears to be in the mix for a third AAC team in the NCAA Tournament after Connecticut and Cincinnati. Granted it is Temple that leads the conference with a 10-3 mark, but the Owls are still ranked just 90th on the Pomeroy Ratings so 46th ranked Tulsa could have the edge provided Temple does not win the AAC Tournament.
Texas Tech Red Raiders: As mentioned earlier, the Big 12 is the highest ranked conference in the country according to Pomeroy, so while Texas Tech is only 16-9overall and 6-7 inside the conference, the Red Raiders have very much kept their NCAA hopes alive with three straight wins over ranked opponents, first beating Iowa State in overtime at home, then going on the road and impressively routing Baylor by 18 points and then returning home for their biggest win of the season knocking third ranked Oklahoma! That winning streak could easily reach five games if Texas Tech can win on the road at Oklahoma State on Saturday as that is followed by an easily winnable home game vs. TCU. That would really have the Red Raiders peaking entering a brutal two-game road stretch at Kansas and West Virginia.