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Baylor Basketball: NCAA Tournament Bracketology

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Several teams will battle for two spots

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-West Virginia v Baylor William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

We’ll find out tomorrow at 5:00 if Baylor can extend their NCAA Tournament streak to five straight seasons. It’s not looking great right now.

With Nevada’s loss in the semi-finals of the Mountain West Conference, another bid has been stolen.

There are 66 spots that are basically locked. Of the 91 brackets submitted on Bracket Matrix, 66 teams appear on at least 82 brackets. While I think Texas’ case is vastly overrated, they seem headed to the tournament.

If St. Bonaventure loses today, there’s an outside chance there will be three at large spots. I think St. Bonaventure is the most egregious at large selection. The advanced metrics hate this team. Watch them play a non-Rhode Island game. They’re not good.

If Davidson wins the Atlantic-10, then we could be down to just one at large spot. Neither Rhode Island or St. Bonaventure is that good, so there’s a giant risk that happens.

Here are the teams battling for the final two spots, with the number of brackets the team appears on in parenthesis:

St. Mary’s (60)- They finished 28-5 and own a giant victory at Gonzaga. Add in a good RPI (41), excellent advanced metrics (KenPom of 28) and St. Mary’s has a good shot to make it. But St. Mary’s played a ghastly non-conference schedule. They own just two quadrant 1 wins. The 2016 St. Mary’s team finished in nearly the same spot (27-6 and KenPom of 34) and missed the field. Hopefully the committee punishes this group for not scheduling anyone.

Arizona State (38)- The Sun Devils case centers on the non-conference. They won at Kansas and beat Xavier on a neutral court. They also knocked off Kansas State on a neutral court. But this team has been brutal lately. Arizona State finished PAC-12 play 8-10 with a loss to Colorado in the first round of the PAC-12 Tournament. This team will test the proposition that the committee should weigh games evenly, no matter the time of year. This certainly isn’t one of the best 37 at large teams, but the resume warrants a bid. Arizona State is a weird case, and I’m sure the committee is debating Arizona State and Notre Dame the most.

Louisville (36)- They hit 20 wins and have no bad losses. But the Cardinals don’t have any great wins. With a strong KenPom number (33), high number of victories and no bad losses, I think they have a decent chance as a good compromise candidate. They really didn’t beat anybody that great, and this team blew some great opportunities.

Syracuse (20)- The Orange shouldn’t make the field. But with so many bubble appearances, they’ve made it in some weird years, then missed in others. They have a strong RPI (44) and good wins at Louisville and Miami, plus Clemson at home. Still, they went 6-10 in non-Pittsburgh ACC games. They lost at Georgia Tech and at Boston College.

Oklahoma State (15)- The Cowboys beat Florida State, Kansas (2x) and Texas Tech. They beat Oklahoma twice as well. The wins are there. There are two giant problems for the Cowboys. First, they have an RPI of 87. Second, and somewhat related to their first problem, the non-conference was awful for the Cowboys. Their KenPom number doesn’t overwhelm like the 2016 Wichita State Shockers, so I don’t think this team is making it. The RPI is just too low.

Middle Tennessee (13)- I don’t think this team will make it. They’ve been good in the tournament recently, but they have a poor man’s version of St. Mary’s resume. Their best win might be at Vanderbilt. 34 is a good RPI, but plenty of teams have been left out in that range. Too many bad losses, and too strong of a bubble for the Blue Raiders.

Baylor (11)- The Bears have some very good wins: Creighton (neutral), Kansas, Texas Tech, at Texas and at Oklahoma State. But the Bears will be 4-12 in Quadrant 1 (wins at home against RPI top 30, neutral top 50 and on the road against top 75). The Bears will only be three games over .500 (the D-2 win at Fort Hood does not count). The non-conference was brutal—stop playing so many SWAC and Southland teams! While Baylor has a very strong KenPom ranking (35), I fear the total number of losses will leave the Bears on the wrong side of the bubble. Baylor’s RPI is 66, which isn’t good.

Marquette (9)- The RPI isn’t great (59). A series of good but not great wins. Some mediocre losses. Their advanced metrics don’t provide some overwhelming case. I’d be shocked if they made it.

Notre Dame (4)- This is the team that I think is being most undervalued as a potential at large bid. While I would not have Notre Dame in the field, I think the committee views them differently. Their overall resume does not warrant inclusion. Their RPI is 67. They lost at home and on a neutral court to Indiana. Those two losses came at full strength. They won the Maui and beat Wichita State. They were without Bonzie Colson for a while, and the committee could say they’re convinced the No. 31 KenPom team would be a top 25 team had he remained healthy.

Nebraksa (4)- This would be the worst at large selection in history. Nebraska has one win over a team in the tournament (Michigan). They finished 13-5 in the Big Ten, but they were the victim of the unbalanced schedule in a giant league. They lost at Illinois, St. Johns and UCF. Those losses wouldn’t sink a team with two real wins. Nebraska doesn’t have that. If the committee puts them in, it will be insane.

What about this quadrant system, could that mess things up?

Possibly, but unlikely. The NCAA V.P. for the tournament was on CBS and told Seth Davis the new system hasn’t changed anything. I highlighted Baylor’s Q1 record, but that’s largely a sign that Baylor lost a lot of games.

The quadrant system doesn’t change a ton. Nebraska’s resume is still bad. St. Mary’s is still not good either—though the Gaels have a lot of wins.

Why do you use KenPom, if it’s not relevant?

The committee is a collection of 10 folks trying to pick the best at large teams. Jerry Palm—and some other bracketologists—will never consider it. But few very highly ranked KenPom teams are left out. The 2016 Shockers had KenPom and the claim they lost some games without Fred VanVleet. Without KenPom, they wouldn’t have made it. At the margin, I think his rankings are relevant.

Why is Oklahoma, Florida State, or some other team in the field?

Oklahoma, Arizona State and Florida State do not look like tournament teams. They’ve played poorly down the stretch, and those teams would likely be underdogs against some teams that will not make it.

The committee is tasked with looking at the full season. Since 2006, the last 10 games has not been a metric.

Oklahoma and Arizona State will test the full resume proposition. They’ve been putrid lately. But Oklahoma was a No. 4 seed in the early reveal. Despite their struggles, I don’t think they’re missing the field. Arizona State’s overall resume is a closer call.

What about Baylor’s head-to-head wins over Texas?

With multiple teams fighting for the last spots, head-to-head is not a meaningful metric for the committee.

Texas also has better non-conference wins. They beat Butler (about the same as Creighton), Alabama and won at VCU. They also avoided playing so many awful SWAC and Southland teams.

Baylor ranks better on KenPom. They beat Texas twice. I’d take Baylor over Texas. But the committee likely isn’t going to have a slight KenPom difference and head-to-head overwhelm the non-conference difference.

Okay, what’s your prediction for the field?

Last four byes: UCLA, USC, St. Bonaventure and Florida State.

Last four in: Texas, Oklahoma, St. Mary’ s and Louisville.

First Four out: Arizona State, Notre Dame, Baylor and Syracuse.

Next Four out: Middle Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Marquette and Utah.