This article is part of our RotoWire Bracketology series.
Bubble this. Bubble that. Bubble this. Bubble that. The conversation won't end until the Monday after Selection Sunday. Who deserves to make the field? The NCAA committee has a new metric, but how important will it be? Will NET be the ultimate decider because the NCAA created it? Even after Selection Sunday, we probably still won't get a true answer. Like every year, there will be snubs and a team or two that maybe didn't deserve to make the field.
While a lot of the talk has been about the bubble being relatively weak, that doesn't really change anything. Sure, Furman (NET 42) had a great season and beat Villanova, but it also lost at home to Samford and by 23 points to East Tennessee State. The bubble is weak, but that doesn't mean mid-majors that have the majority of their wins in Quadrant 4 deserve to be in the tournament, no matter what the NET says. At some point, common sense comes into the equation.
There may only be a few teams looking in from the outside, but that'll surely change as conference tournaments begin. It's likely the three main teams I have out right now (Temple, Creighton, Indiana) will expand to five or even six if a team currently not expected to make the field wins its tournament. Instead of doing everyone's favorite first four in and last four out, I ranked 10 teams in the most dire situations on the bubble (including the three that aren't in the field). My cut off is Furman and Saint Mary's (NET 37), who I don't think have a chance to get at-large bids unless they can win their conference tournaments.
The metrics I'm using are NET, KenPom and Strength of Record. I believe the combination of KenPom and SOR is the best way to evaluate teams with one a predictive measure and the other showing how good a team has been according to its win-loss record.
Clemson (NET 40, KenPom 29, SOR 42): The Tigers are a weird case, but this is why KenPom is a valuable metric. While they have a losing record in the ACC, their worst loss came by one point at Miami. Otherwise, you can't fault them for losing home games to Virginia, UNC and Florida State. They don't have any elite wins, but that's mostly because of schedule, though an early exit in the ACC tourney changes things.
Florida (NET 33, KenPom 30, SOR 55): The Gators wouldn't be in this position if they beat Georgia (or LSU again), but here they are. They're fairly safe because the metrics love them, which most likely has to do with them being a defensive team who plays close in almost every game. A win at Kentucky would help, but with that unlikely, they'll need at least one win in the SEC tournament.
St. John's (NET 62, KenPom 64, SOR 46): The Red Storm could be in a hole if they lose at Xavier. They have three wins over Marquette and Villanova, but they also lost by double digits at home to Georgetown, Providence and Xavier. Outside of the overtime VCU win, they also didn't do anything out of conference. Sure, this team has talent, but they'll be in the NIT if they lose their next two.
TCU (NET 53, KenPom 50, SOR 51): The Horned Frogs have lost six of their last seven and a road game at Texas could be another loss. If they lose their first game in the Big 12 tournament, which is possible given the depth of the conference, it's hard to see them making the field. They have some good wins in conference play, but lost to Lipscomb and their best non-conference wins are against Fresno State and USC.
NC State (NET 35, KenPom 39, SOR 36): This is the team everyone is talking about because its resume is so weird. The Wolfpack oddly scheduled eight freebies (250 NET or worse) in non-conference play and that pushed their NC SOS to last in the country. Of course, they also almost won at Wisconsin and beat Penn State and Auburn, but most pundits seem to be ignoring that. They would've been fine but then lost at home to Georgia Tech this past week. If they lose at Boston College on Saturday and again in their first ACC tournament game, fans won't be pleased.
Seton Hall (NET 61, KenPom 61, SOR 52): The Pirates have two major wins (neutral Kentucky, at Maryland) that give them an edge, but they are far from safe. A win over Villanova would be nice, though their first game in the Big East tourney could be just as important.
Arizona State (NET 71, KenPom 63, SOR 58): The Sun Devils have a few good wins keeping them in the tournament (Miss. State, Utah State, Kansas), but also some bad losses that can't be ignored. If they lose at Arizona on Saturday and can't make the Pac-12 tournament semifinals, that won't be enough to get an at-large bid.
Alabama (NET 57, KenPom 59, SOR 56): The Tide have a good NC SOS, but they were blown out by Northeastern and lost at home to Georgia State, so that doesn't mean everything. Outside of the Kentucky win, they've also been mostly disappointing in the SEC, highlighted by a sweep from Texas A&M. Similar to everyone else on this list, they need at least one more win before they can say they deserve to make the field.
Temple (NET 56, KenPom 75, SOR 41): Temple is hanging around and got a bit of luck at UConn on Thursday after the Huskies lost their starting point guard for the final 10 minutes. It's pretty simple for the Owls: if they can't beat UCF, they don't have a chance unless they make a run in the AAC tourney. For now, I can't support a team that lost at home to Penn and to Tulsa by 18 points.
Indiana (NET 50, KenPom 43, SOR 44): I'm getting closer to thinking Indiana should be in the field, especially if it can beat Rutgers and then at least one more in the Big Ten tournament. The Hoosiers lost 12 of 13 games at one point, but none of those were truly bad and they also have a ton of great wins. In comparison, Alabama is 9-11 against Q1/Q2, while Indiana is 8-14. That also doesn't include two Q3 losses for Alabama.
For the rest, I think Utah State (NET 30) is in unless it loses unexpectedly early in the MWC tournament. Ohio State (NET 51) is also falling fast, but it will take back-to-back losses to drop it out of the field. Creighton (NET 54) has quietly crept into the discussion, but a 3-10 Q1 record will likely hold it back. I still think the Bluejays need at least two more wins to have a chance.
*Metrics prior to games on Friday, March 8.
For a live-updated bracket throughout the week (team previews coming soon), check out our RotoWire Bracketology page. And of course, my latest projected bracket is below:
|16||Bucknell / St. Francis (Pa.)||Abilene Christian / Norfolk State||16|
|12||Seton Hall / TCU||Murray State||12|
|4||Virginia Tech||Kansas State||4|
|13||Western Kentucky||New Mexico State||13|
|3||Louisiana State||Texas Tech||3|
|2||Michigan State||North Carolina||2|
|15||South Dakota State||Northern Kentucky||15|
|12||Lipscomb||Arizona State / Alabama||12|
|14||Georgia State||UC Irvine||14|
|11||North Carolina State||Florida||11|