clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Selection Sunday 2017 bracketology: One final look at the bubble

Rhode Island’s Atlantic 10 Tournament win knocked them off this list.

NCAA Basketball: Providence at St. John
Isaiah Jackson and the Friars might want to keep the antacid handy for a few more hours.
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

With the Rhode Island Rams’ 70-63 victory over the Virginia Commonwealth Rams in the Atlantic 10 Tournament final, Dan Hurley’s team took advantage of the opportunity it was afforded. They can now plan to play on Thursday or Friday, not Tuesday or Wednesday.

As for the four teams likely to play in Dayton, there are eight candidates, one of whom seems to be a lock. Of the remaining seven, all have deeply flawed profiles, and the top five squads are more likely to be selected than the bottom two. Still, it wouldn’t surprise me to see any of these teams picked or left out. The Selection Committee could probably draw names from a hat and be fine. The arguments are all going to be the same afterward, anyway.

On to the capsules, starting with a team that only fell down here after Rhode Island’s win, and ending with two longshots that honestly deserve a long look.

Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and Strength of Schedule (SOS) information is courtesy and reflects only games against Division I opponents through Sunday, March 12th.

Last Four In

Vanderbilt Commodores

18-15; 10-8 SEC; RPI: 38; SOS: 1; non-conf. SOS: 1

Saturday’s loss to Arkansas in the SEC Tournament semifinals means the Commodores are likely to be the NCAA tournament’s first-ever 15-loss at-large entrant. Rhode Island’s win in Sunday afternoon’s Atlantic 10 final means Vanderbilt might be headed to Dayton for the second consecutive March.

Even though the loss total isn’t ideal, a 6-8 Top-50 record and 11-14 Top-100 record resulting from what’s now the nation’s best schedule (even with a mediocre SEC weighing down what was already the top non-conference slate) should be enough to make basketball history.

Providence Friars

20-12; 10-8 Big East; RPI: 56; SOS: 179; non-conf. SOS: 179

A strong finishing kick, one that featured victories over postseason-contending Butler, Seton Hall, Creighton, and Marquette, elevated the Friars from an afterthought to bubble possibility. Early-season victories over the America East champion Vermont and Rhode Island further boost Providence’s case, but losses to St. John’s and DePaul in conference and Boston College out of it might give the Committee second thoughts. Or those three defeats might just mean Ed Cooley’s squad is destined for Dayton.

Honestly, the Friars should have sent their mascot to scare the Committee straight.

Syracuse Orange

18-14; 10-8 ACC; RPI: 84; SOS: 58; non-conf. SOS: 195

The Orange are in a similar position to the one they found themselves exactly one year ago, but there are some crucial differences between this team’s profile and the 2016 version. Once again, Syracuse is basing its case on an enviable collection of Top-50 wins, six in 14 tries. While three of those victories came against Top-20 ACC opponents, all of them occurred at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse’s road/neutral record stands at a woeful 2-11 after Thursday’s ACC Tournament loss to Miami.

Just like last season, Syracuse struggled through December, falling to Boston College, Connecticut, Georgetown, and St. John’s. Unlike 2016, however, Jim Boeheim wasn’t suspended during the swoon. That factor and the Orange’s lack of a non-conference win over a team likely in the field dampen Syracuse’s hopes. Remember that last season’s squad defeated both UConn and Texas A&M to win the Battle 4 Atlantis. This season’s best non-conference win came over Monmouth, a team likely headed to the NIT.

While an RPI of 84th would make Syracuse the lowest-ranked team in that metric ever selected as an at-large (destroying its own record of 70th from last season), the Orange will be in if quality wins matter as much the Committee seems to have indicated in February’s selection preview.

USC Trojans

24-9; 10-8 Pac-12; RPI: 41; SOS: 73; non-conf. SOS: 139

Back on Feb. 9, the Trojans were 21-4 and looking like a solid at-large pick. Since then, they’ve gone 3-4 and could get snubbed, particularly since the victories came against the Pac-12’s 10th and 11th-best teams, Washington State and Washington. While USC defeated UCLA and American Athletic champion SMU at home, their next-best win came against 66th-ranked BYU at the Staples Center. Still, the Trojans performed creditably away from the Galen Center, going 10-6 in road and neutral games. A non-conference schedule rated 139th isn’t great, but it’s better than what Kansas State has to offer.

First Four Out

Kansas State Wildcats

20-13; 8-10 Big 12; RPI: 57; SOS: 39; non-conf. SOS: 230

Had the Wildcats defeated West Virginia in Friday’s Big 12 Tournament semifinals, they probably wouldn’t be on this list. As it stands now they are, and their dreadful non-conference schedule might not give them much hope in the Committee room. The Wildcats’ best non-Big 12 performance came in a loss to Maryland in Brooklyn, while their best actual win, over Colorado State in Denver, pales in comparison. January’s SEC/Big 12 Challenge didn’t help matters — K-State lost its game at Tennessee by 12.

Three Top-25 wins, with two over Baylor coming away from Manhattan, might be enough. But K-State’s inability to schedule decent games in November and December look likely to be its undoing.

Illinois State Redbirds

26-6; 15-1 MVC; RPI: 33; SOS: 125; non-conf. SOS: 150

The Redbirds’ failure to defeat Wichita State in the Arch Madness final likely cost them a place, particularly since the game was the Shockers’ second consecutive blowout win in the series. Illinois State’s home win over Wichita State is its lone triumph over a Top-50 foe in three tries. The Redbirds’ 2-4 record against the Top 100 won’t help either, not when quality wins seem to be the Selection Committee’s most important criteria. If Dan Muller’s team sneaks in, it will be due to a 12-6 record away from Normal.

Monmouth Hawks

27-6; 18-2 MAAC; RPI:48; SOS: 181; Non-conf. SOS: 131

Last season, the Hawks defeated UCLA and Georgetown on the road and Notre Dame and USC on a neutral floor in Orlando, and still got left out after falling to Iona in the Metro Atlantic final. This time around, Monmouth’s best non-conference wins came over Memphis (on the road) and Princeton (at home), and they lost to Siena in the MAAC semifinals. While King Rice’s team will get a look, thanks to its RPI, the results probably aren’t there to avoid a second consecutive snub and NIT trip. If only they could swap their last two sets of non-conference results.

UT Arlington Mavericks

23-8; 14-4 Sun Belt; RPI: 45; SOS: 134; Non-conf. SOS: 36

The Mavericks, whose promising 2015-16 fell apart after forward Kevin Hervey tore his ACL, scheduled like a team with at-large ambitions. But the recovering Hervey was limited in UTA’s November games at Minnesota and Arkansas, and the Mavericks lost both after leading at halftime. Otherwise, Scott Cross’s squad demolished Saint Mary’s in Moraga and won at Texas in a season when that result would ultimately mean nothing. Had UTA managed to reach Sunday’s Sun Belt Tournament final, they could have snuck in with a loss. But Saturday’s 21-point hammering by Texas State, the Mavericks’ second loss of the year to the Bobcats, means they’ll have to settle for an NIT place.

That’s how I see the bubble picture at the end of the season. I’m working on the final bracket now and I’ll post it here before the Selection Show starts at 5:30 p.m. ET.