With three days of action left before the Selection Show, the bubble picture is still extremely fluid. Not only does the introduction of the NET complicate matters a bit from a projection perspective, but we still have a few potential bubble-poppers out there, most notably Nebraska in the Big Ten and West Virginia in the Big 12.
Here’s how I project the cut line picture heading into Friday’s slate of games. Be sure to check out today’s full bracket.
Note: Team records and NET data reflect games played through Thursday, March 14, 2019. (Info from WarrenNolan.com.)
St. John’s (21-12; 8-10 Big East)
NET: 72; Quadrant 1 (Q1) record: 5-7; Quadrant 2 (Q2) record: 5-3; road/neutral record: 8-8; strength of schedule (SOS): 67; non-conference strength of schedule (NCSOS): 216
On Thursday night, the Red Storm were run out of their secondary home arena, Madison Square Garden, by a Marquette squad they had swept during the regular season. Despite that result, St. John’s should be in the field, thanks to a 10-10 record against Quadrants 1 and 2 and those victories over the Golden Eagles, paired with others over Villanova and VCU. However, a relatively weak non-conference schedule and some serious inconsistency in Big East play, including a regular-season sweep at the hands of the same DePaul team the Red Storm defeated in the first round on Wednesday night, give the Johnnies reason to sweat.
Next game: None
Temple (23-8; 13-5 American Athletic)
NET: 51; Q1 record: 2-6; Q2 record: 6-1; road/neutral record: 10-6; SOS: 78; NCSOS: 218
While the Owls boosted their case on Saturday by taking down visiting UCF to record their second Quad 1 win of the season, their profile largely consists of that win and another home victory — over Houston on January 9th. Otherwise, Temple’s case relies on a decent record away from home (10-6 in road/neutral games) and a lack of embarrassing losses, as defeats at home to Penn and at Tulsa are the worst on their slate. However, with the relative lack of quality at the top of their résumé, Fran Dunphy’s final Temple squad would be well advised to win at least two games at the American Athletic Tournament.
Next game: vs. Wichita State in the American quarterfinals (approx. 9:30 p.m., ESPNU)
Alabama (18-14; 8-10 SEC)
NET: 58; Q1 record: 3-9; Q2 record: 7-3; road/neutral record: 8-9; SOS: 22; NCSOS: 42
No team helped itself more on Thursday than the Crimson Tide, who rallied to knock off Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament’s second round, 62-57. That result was Alabama’s third Quad 1 win of the season and their best result away from Tuscaloosa. Like NC State below, performance away from home is one of the biggest factors working against Avery Johnson’s squad, as their two best wins — over Kentucky and Mississippi State — came at Coleman Coliseum. Alabama gets another shot at the Wildcats this evening in the SEC quarterfinals. Win that and the Tide can likely start planning for the NCAAs.
Next game: vs. Kentucky in the SEC quarterfinals (7 p.m., SEC Network)
Belmont (25-5; 16-2 OVC)
NET: 46; Q1 record: 2-2; Q2 record: 3-1; road/neutral record: 13-5; SOS: 196; NCSOS: 75
Other than a name-brand marquee victory, the Bruins have pretty much everything else the Selection Committee wants in an at-large candidate, particularly the road/neutral record and 5-3 mark in Quad 1 and 2 games. Honestly, their position would likely be more secure had they not been swept by Jacksonville State in the regular season. While the 17 Quad 1 wins is a major obstacle to selection, 14 of those came in league play, so the non-conference schedule Rick Byrd’s staff built did its job for Belmont. And as I wrote yesterday afternoon, the presence of six mid-major representatives on the Committee could help the Bruins sneak in.
NC State (22-11; 9-9ACC)
NET: 33; Q1 record: 3-9; Q2 record: 6-0; road/neutral record: 7-7; SOS: 171; NCSOS: 353
On the other hand, if a team’s NET ranking reigns supreme, the Wolfpack will be in with room to spare. But digging into NC State’s profile, some issues become apparent. Even though the Wolfpack has three Quad 1 wins and 9 across Quads 1 and 2, they have just two wins over likely NCAA Tournament squads, and those victories over Auburn and Syracuse both came at home. That win over the Orange is also the only one of their nine ACC triumphs that came against an NCAA squad. Then there’s the non-conference schedule, and while we can debate the merits of the metric, the Committee still uses it. And eight huge home wins over teams ranked outside of the top 200 are what’s largely fueling the Pack’s NET ranking. Given the Selection Committee’s history, that spells trouble for Kevin Keatts’ squad.
Next game: None
Indiana (17-15; 8-12 Big Ten)
NET: 53; Q1 record: 6-9; Q2 record: 2-6; road/neutral record: 4-10; SOS: 52; NCSOS: 212
Had the Hoosiers knocked off Ohio State in their virtual elimination game at the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday, they would be in the field at the moment. And Indiana still has a shot, thanks to five top 30 wins and an absence of Quad 3 and 4 losses. In the end, Archie Miller’s squad just wasn’t consistent enough, a characteristic reflected in their 2-6 mark in winnable Quadrant 2 games.
Next game: None
Texas (16-16; 8-10 Big 12)
NET: 37; Q1 record: 5-10; Q2 record: 4-5; road/neutral record: 4-10; SOS: 5; NCSOS: 16
The Longhorns could have been the first 16-loss at-large team selected for the NCAA Tournament field. But Shaka Smart’s squad needed to lose the Big 12 Tournament final and record an 18-16 finish, to get there. However, falling to Kansas in the quarterfinals guaranteed a .500 record for Texas and I don’t think the Committee is going to select a team with a non-winning mark to fill one of the 36 at-large spots available. And that’s true even with the Longhorns’ top 40 NET ranking (heading into Thursday), five Quad 1 wins, and lofty strength of schedule rankings.
Next game: None
Lipscomb (23-7; 14-2 Atlantic Sun)
NET: 48; Q1 record: 2-3; Q2 record: 2-3; road/neutral record: 11-4; SOS: 213; NCSOS: 62
Just like their crosstown rivals Belmont might regret being swept by Jacksonville State, the Bisons failure to defeat the Bruins in their annual two-game series could be quite costly for them. One thing Lipscomb has that Belmont does not, however, is a power conference road win — a 73-64 victory at TCU from November 20th. But with the Horned Frogs also on the bubble, that win doesn’t have the high quality anticipated. In the end, failure to defeat Belmont or the ASUN’s auto bid winner, Liberty, at Allen Arena, are likely to have cost the Bisons their shot.
Next game: None