It’s not easy to project Baylor’s NCAA Tournament resume.
Maybe the selection committee will give Baylor some leeway. The Bears lost to Texas Southern without Makai Mason or Mario Kegler. Notre Dame was the first team out of the field last season, and their resume wasn’t close to being a tournament team. But they lost their two best players for most of the season. With them, they were viewed much more favorably. If Baylor drops some games without Makai Mason and King McClure, maybe those get an asterisk too. Baylor’s NET Ranking (the NCAA’s new selection tool that replaced the RPI) is a strong 34. They have a host of good wins, including at Arizona, Iowa State, Texas Tech, at Oklahoma and TCU.
The selection committee may not give Baylor leeway. The Bears won against Iowa State, Arizona and Oregon with Tristan Clark. McClure and Mason played in every game during the six game winning streak. If there’s a question about those two, then the committee could slot Baylor down a line or two, which could be the difference between making or missing the dance. Baylor also has two quadrant four losses. If it’s close, maybe losing to Texas Southern and SFA proves too much for some members of the committee.
There are 32 automatic bids and 36 at-large bids. We know the ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, Big East and American will all be multiple bid leagues. The PAC-12 could also be.
Eight leagues have potential at large teams. Here are those eight:
West Coast Conference- Gonzaga
Mountain West- Nevada
Southern- Wofford (not 100%)
Atlantic-10- VCU (not 100%)
Ohio Valley- Belmont
Atlantic Sun- Lipscomb
Colonial- Hofstra (not 100%)
Baylor is currently a No. 8 seed on bracketmatrix.com That site is a compilation of 106 bracketology websites. Those results are before Saturday’s games, so Baylor would probably be a No. 9 seed after the loss to Kansas State.
Here are the power leagues projections. Anyone an eight seed or less is listed as a bubble team. It’s possible somebody on the seven seed line could play their way out of the field, and maybe someone like Notre Dame could win every game until losing in the ACC title. But these same like safe parameters:
ACC- Six locks, three bubble teams
Syracuse- 9 seed, N.C. State- 10 seed, Clemson- first four out.
SEC- Five locks, four bubble teams
Ole Miss- 9 seed, Alabama- 11 seed, Florida- first four out, Arkansas- next four out.
Big Ten- Six locks, four bubble teams
Ohio State- 8 seed, Minnesota- 10 seed, Indiana- 10 seed, Nebraska- first four out
PAC-12- one lock (someone has to win), two potential at-large teams
Washington- 8 seed, Arizona State- 11 seed, Someone else- this league is so bad someone else could win it and those two could be at-large teams.
Big 12- Four locks, four bubble teams
Oklahoma- 8 seed (this seems off to me—even before their Texas Tech loss), Baylor- 8 seed, TCU- 9 seed, Texas- 10 seed
Big East- Two locks, four bubble teams
St. Johns- 9 seed, Seton Hall- 11 seed, Butler- next four out, Creighton- next four out
American- Two locks, two bubble teams
UCF- 11 seed, Temple- 12 seed (before getting blown out by Tulsa—they’re going to need to really do something to be an at-large team).
This is a weaker bubble than last season. Nebraska, Indiana, Oklahoma and Temple are fading. There aren’t quite as many teams that seem ready to play themselves into the field this year. But it didn’t seem like Gonzaga, Nevada and Rhode Island would blow it in their conference tournaments last season.
I feel confident 10-8 would put Baylor in the field. If Baylor ends 9-9—especially if Mason or McClure’s status for the NCAA Tournament is either questionable or out—then Baylor would be right on the bubble. They’d be in for me, but the resume is unique, and I’m trying to be predictive, not say what I think should happen.
If the Bears win every home game, they’ll make the field. They’ll be considerable favorites tomorrow against Oklahoma and at home against Oklahoma State and West Virginia. If they win those, they’d just need to either win a home game against Texas or find a way to win at one of the following spots: Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas State or Kansas.
That Baylor’s in this spot is pretty remarkable after they were 9-6 and 1-2 in the Big 12. They’d just found out Clark was gone for the season. Now they’re dealing with more injuries. But they’ve put themselves in a good spot to make the tournament. Now it’s time to take advantage of that early work.