In or Out? Handicapping bubble teams prior to Selection Sunday
As we get closer to the NCAA Tournament, Rivals.com embraces the bubble debate with a daily look at the teams on the fringes of March Madness. Analysts Rob Cassidy, Jamie Shaw and Dan McDonald will look at three bubble teams per day and attempt to predict whether they'll be dancing or find themselves on the outside looking in when the bracket is released. Keep in mind, this is not a look at how teams stack up now. Instead, it’s an attempt to project how things will look when Selection Sunday arrives.
2023 Rankings: Top 30
The Billikens are helpless at this juncture because they squandered their ability to play their way into the bracket. What they need now is a stroke of luck.
I think leaving it up to chance is a risky proposition in a year in which the NCAA bubble seems to be crowded with teams still alive in their respective conference tournaments. Yes, it sucks that SLU was hit particularly hard by COVID-19 and went a month without playing a game, but I'm not sure it’s fair for the committee to take such things into account. Is Travis Ford’s team one of the 68 best teams in the country? Probably so. But that’s never seemed to matter all that much on Selection Sunday. I’d love to see guards Javonte Perkins and Jordan Goodwin, who average 17.5 and 14 points per game, respectively, make some noise in the dance because I think they’d be a handful for a high seed.
That said, I think Ford’s squad will ultimately come up short.
I think the Billikens just barely miss out on the field of 68 on Sunday. Their NET of 46 isn’t bad, but there just aren’t enough quality wins there in my opinion to put them in the NCAA Tournament.
Shaw: Out ... but then In
So, with St Louis I am playing the odds, let me explain. The Billikens' record has them very close, but they are done playing and other teams will have the opportunity to play their way past St Louis in the coming days. At 14-6, they are ranked No. 49 in KenPom and have a 46 NET ranking. Saint Louis is 4-4 in Quads 1 and 2 with wins over LSU, Richmond, NC State and St. Bonaventure. However, they were 1-4 on the road this year. Here is how I think this one plays out: They are not in the original field, a team tests COVID positive on Monday and Saint Louis is the team who gets added in its place.
I can’t imagine a situation in which Louisville misses out due, in part, to the fact that Duke didn’t have a disqualifying positive coronavirus test a day earlier. The Cardinals needed to get by Blue Devils to feel totally comfortable about their standing in the field, sure. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but something tells me they’ll manage to slip in despite the loss. Chris Mack’s bunch and its top 40 strength or record won’t be easy to dismiss come Sunday, unless a couple of unexpected conference champions steal bids. It’ll be interesting to see how the committee views a loss to mediocre-but-hot Duke, because what happens may well hinge on that. I’m picking up first-four vibes.
The loss to Duke wasn’t ideal, but I think the Cardinals did enough before this week to justify a spot in the 68. There are some bad losses, including huge losses to North Carolina and Wisconsin, but there are enough quality wins in there for me and they pass the eye test. I think Mack’s team will receive good news a little after 6 p.m. EST on Sunday.
Losing to Duke in the first round of the ACC tournament did not help the Cardinals' cause, but I feel they were already firmly in. A question will come about testing as they played Duke the night before someone at Duke tested positive for COVID. If Louisville is able to dodge that bullet, they are 13-7 overall and 8-5 in ACC play. The Cardinals have a 37 strength of record with great guard play and a staff that knows how to win a game. They will probably have to play a play-in game as teams who are still playing will continue to rise, but they should firmly be in.
Do I think the Pirates are in as things stand? No. They do, however, have a viable path to the Big East title game, which would mean the world to their resume. Injury-plagued Villanova falling to Georgetown on Thursday handed Hall a winnable semifinal game against a Hoya team it split with in the regular season. The Pirates’ victory over fellow bubble-dweller St. John's was obviously massive, but it feels like Kevin Willard and company need to collect one more win. I happen to think the experienced Pirates will get said victory on Friday. But, hey, I’ve been wrong before. If Hall drops that contest, a mediocre strength of record may hold them out.
A 10-9 conference record in the Big East and a 14-12 record overall just isn’t good enough, in my opinion. There aren’t enough good wins compared to other bubble teams and the Pirates took some rough losses. If they don’t win the Big East tournament, I just don’t see how they edge out some of the other bubble teams under consideration, particularly a Louisville team that already beat them.
Out, but the Pirates have a chance because they are still playing. As things stand they have 12 losses on the year and are ranked No. 58 in the NET with a 7-11 record combined in Quads 1 and 2. This is not an NCAA resume. However, Seton Hall is still alive in the Big East Tournament and No. 1-ranked Villanova is no longer in its path. Next up, in the semifinals, is Georgetown which Seton Hall has split with this season. Seton Hall dropped its previous four games coming into the first-round St John's win. As much as I would love for the world to get a chance to focus on Sandro Mamukelashvili, who is a bona fide star, Seton Hall has a lot of work to do.