Since the bubble is even more crowded than it was a day ago, I'm going to jump into this post's analysis before revealing the bracket. (I know some of you will skip the hundreds of words and sneak a peek. I don't mind!) Two mid-major conference champions with compelling cases now sit alongside the Wichita State Shockers without an invitation to the 68-team party that starts a week from Tuesday night, waiting to be judged worthy.
In last night's Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament final in Albany, N.Y., the Iona Gaels defeated the Monmouth Hawks in their rubber match by a 79-76 score. That clinched the Gaels' first NCAA trip since 2013, while the Hawks will head to the NIT unless the Selection Committee judges their profile among the 36 most-worthy left.
Not long afterward, the Horizon League's regular season champion, the Valparaiso Crusaders, lost in their semifinal to the fourth-seeded Green Bay Phoenix 99-92 after overtime. It was the Crusaders' first game in Detroit, as the Horizon's top two seeds earned a bye to the semifinals. The ladder format didn't do its job in this case (nor in the case of the IPFW Mastodons, the top seed in the Summit League, who lost to the fifth-seeded North Dakota State Bison nearly simultaneously).
So now we have three high-quality mid-major teams who have an anxious six days ahead of them. Which of the three has the best case? Do all of them have a chance? Let's break it down factor by factor.
All RPI and strength of schedule numbers are courtesy RPIForecast.com's Live RPI and include the results of last night's 7 p.m. tips.
With the loss to Iona, Monmouth's RPI dropped to 55th. Wichita State ranks eight spots higher (47th) and Valparaiso (54th) has a slight edge, as well. Thanks to a stronger Missouri Valley, the Shockers have the edge in strength of schedule rating (105 vs. 163 for Valpo and 165 for Monmouth). They also own the advantage in non-conference strength of schedule (11th compared to 52nd for Valpo and 93 for Monmouth). Naturally, with Wichita State still 11th in KenPom, the Shockers are well ahead of both of their opponents (Valparaiso is 33rd and Monmouth 66th).
Advantage: Wichita State
Wichita State played 11 games against the RPI Top 100, going 4-7, defeating Utah to go 1-3 against the Top 50. Valparaiso only got six such chances, going 1-1 against the Top 50 and 4-2 against the Top 100, winning at Oregon State and splitting with Belmont in a rare non-conference home-and-home series. The Crusaders also blew the doors off Iona in their second game of the season.
As for Monmouth, they have a 4-4 record against the Top 100—2-2 against both the Top 50 and teams 51-100. The Hawks sandwiched a loss to Dayton in the Advocare Invitational semifinals between wins over Notre Dame and USC, the latter of whom they lost to on the road in a non-bracketed game for the event. Unfortunately for their hopes, early wins over UCLA and Georgetown are name wins only, as those teams have struggled.
Wichita State's only loss to a team from outside of the Top 100 came at 119th-ranked Illinois State. The Shockers went 19-1 in games against teams ranked between 101st and 351st. Valparaiso has four such losses after last night's defeat to Green Bay, all to teams ranked 160th or higher. However, the Crusaders played 24 games against teams ranked 101st or worse, going 20-4.
Monmouth, however, took on 26 opponents outside of the Top 100, losing three such games. Making matters worse for the Hawks' computer numbers, their three losses in those contests all came against teams outside of the Top 200.
Advantage: Wichita State (and it's not close)
With Monday night's loss, Monmouth's record in road/neutral-site games fell to 17-6, with a 13-4 mark in true road games. That's highly impressive. Valparaiso is 12-5 away from home, also impressive, but the Crusaders just dropped their lone neutral-site contest of the year. The Shockers went 10-7 away from Koch Arena, a disappointing 1-4 in neutral-site contests and a respectable 9-3 in true road matchups.
Advantage: Monmouth (barely)
Final Analysis (For Today Anyway)
Valparaiso's profile looks to be third of the three, with Wichita State ranking ahead of Monmouth's because of the relative strength of the opposition they've faced (in other words, the Missouri Valley is a lot better than the MAAC this season). But if the Committee favors results away from home and setting up a challenging non-conference schedule, as they always preach, the Hawks will still have a chance.
Therefore, in this bracket, both Monmouth and Wichita State remain in for the moment. After scrubbing the field against yesterday, it will be the Syracuse Orange who drop out in favor of the Hawks, thanks to their flagging computer numbers and play on the court, though they'll have a chance to jump right back in with a win over the Pittsburgh Panthers (another possible bubble casualty) on Wednesday afternoon.
That decision and more careful examination leaves us with a bracket that looks like this. After the rundown, I'll recap how Monday's two new entrants not named "Iona" got here.
|(1) MIDWEST |
|Des Moines (Thu/Sat)||Brooklyn (Fri/Sun)|
|1||Kansas (Big 12)||1||Villanova (Big East)|
|16||FLORIDA GULF COAST/Texas Southern||16||AUSTIN PEAY/Hampton|
|Denver (Thu/Sat)||Spokane (Fri/Sun)|
|↑12||Little Rock (Sun Belt)||12||NORTHERN IOWA (MVC)|
|13||Akron (MAC)||13||YALE (Ivy)|
|Des Moines (Thu/Sat)||Brooklyn (Fri/Sun)|
|11||Monmouth/St. Bonaventure||11||VCU/Wichita State|
|3||Indiana (Big Ten)||3||West Virginia|
|*14||Wright State (Horizon)||14||UAB (C-USA)|
|St. Louis (Fri/Sun)||Raleigh (Thu/Sut)|
|77||Notre Dame||7||Texas Tech|
|2||Xavier||2||North Carolina (ACC)|
|15||Weber State (Big Sky)||*15||UNC ASHEVILLE (Big South)|
|(4) WEST |
|St. Louis (Fri/Sun)||Raleigh (Thu/Sat)|
|16||Lehigh (Patriot)||16||Wagner (NEC)|
|Oklahoma City (Fri/Sun)||Providence (Thu/Sat)|
|*12||UNC WILMINGTON (CAA)||12||CHATTANOOGA (SoCon)|
|4||Texas A&M (SEC)||4||Maryland|
|*13||South Dakota State (Summit)||*13||IONA (MAAC)|
|Providence (Thu/Sat)||Denver (Thu/Sat)|
|↓11||Temple (American)||↑11||San Diego State (MW)|
|14||Stony Brook (Am East)||14||Stephen F. Austin (Southland)|
|Spokane (Fri/Sun)||Oklahoma City (Fri/Sun)|
|7||Dayton (A 10)||7||Seton Hall|
|↑10||Saint Mary's (WCC)||10||Pittsburgh|
|↓15||Hawai'i (Big West)||15||New Mexico State (WAC)|
|FIRST FOUR (Dayton)|
|Tuesday: To Des Moines||Tuesday: To Des Moines|
|16||FLORIDA GULF COAST (A-Sun)||11||Monmouth|
|16||Texas Southern (SWAC)||11||St. Bonaventure|
|Wednesday: To Brooklyn||Wednesday: To Brooklyn
|16||AUSTIN PEAY (OVC)||11||VCU|
|16||Hampton (MEAC)||11||Wichita State|
|BIDS BY CONFERENCE||AVOIDING DAYTON||ARRIVALS||DEPARTURES|
|Big 12: 7||Cincinnati (36)||Iona (MAAC)||Fort Wayne (Summit)|
|Pac-12: 7||Oregon State (37)||South Dakota St. (Summit)||Hofstra (CAA)|
|ACC: 6||Pittsburgh (38)||UNC Wilmington (CAA)||Syracuse|
|Big Ten: 6||Connecticut (39)||Wright State (Horizon)||Valparaiso (Horizon)|
|Big East: 5||LAST FOUR IN|
|Atlantic 10: 4||St. Bonaventure (41)|
|SEC: 4||VCU (42)|
|American: 3||Wichita State (43)|
|MAAC: 2||Monmouth (45)|
|MVC: 2||FIRST FOUR OUT|
|One-Bid Conferences: 22||Syracuse|
|NEXT FOUR OUT|
Also considered (in order): Hofstra, Ohio State, Washington, Princeton, Virginia Tech, Georgia, Creighton, Georgia Tech, BYU, Alabama, LSU, Clemson
In Monday night's Colonial Athletic Association championship, the top seed, the Hofstra Pride, fell to the UNC Wilmington Seahawks, the two, 80-73 after overtime in Baltimore. It's the first bid for the Seahawks since they defeated ... Hofstra in the CAA's three-bid 2006 campaign. Much like 10 seasons ago, the Pride, sitting in the Top 60 of the RPI, should get at-large consideration. Joe Mihalich's squad went 2-2 against the Top 50 and 6-4 against the Top 100, including a road win over St. Bonaventure and a Paradise Jam victory over Florida State. Five losses to teams from outside of the Top 100 don't help. Neither does a road loss to America East regular season champion Stony Brook.
The Southern Conference title went to the Chattanooga Mocs, who became the first top seed to win its league's automatic bid. Matt McCall's team defeated the East Tennessee State Buccaneers 73-67 in Asheville, and they will be a trendy upset pick thanks to early season road wins at Illinois, Georgia and, most impressively, Dayton.
Four more teams will join the field on Tuesday, with the West Coast Conference championship game being the most important from a bubble perspective. I'll be back again on Wednesday morning with a new update reflecting the quartet of the new champions, particularly that showdown between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Saint Mary's Gaels.