Heading into action on Sunday, February 24, it’s a roll of the dice on the last few teams IN and the first few teams OUT. All Selection Committee voting is private. But if a sneak peek at ballots was possible, there would likely be several variations. Every Committee member places a higher or lower value on things such as strength of schedule, road wins, RPI status, Top 50 wins, etc. All of those factors – and more – make up a team’s overall profile.
Entering Sunday, February 24, here’s where we stand:
LAST 5 IN – Temple, Virginia, Saint Mary’s, Kentucky, Arizona State
FIRST 5 OUT – Baylor, Mississippi, St. John’s, Charlotte, Tennessee
Those teams next in line: Maryland, Alabama, Arkansas, Boise State, Indiana State.
What does this mean for Sunday? The biggest bubble games of the day are Pittsburgh at St. John’s, Temple at Charlotte, and Georgia Tech at Virginia. All three of those results could have an impact on the First Four in our next bracket update.
Arizona State stays in the Field of 68 today based on slightly better wins (than Ole Miss and Baylor) and more wins vs. current NCAA teams. The Sun Devils have swept Colorado, and beaten UCLA and California. They also have a neutral court win over bubble-dweller Arkansas. That said, ASU’s RPI (No. 86 entering today) and overall SOS numbers are serious issues moving forward. And with three straight road games (at UCLA, USC, and Arizona) up next, the Sun Devils will either play their win in or out.
If you prefer an overall strength of schedule, Baylor would be your last team in today – even with three straight losses. None of those were to bad teams. And Baylor’s SOS numbers (24 overall, 37 NC) are certainly better than those of ASU or Ole Miss. But an 8-10 record against the Top 150 of the RPI is a concern as is a 2-7 mark vs. Top 50 teams. With Kansas State and Kansas still coming to Waco, opportunities await. The Bears will be rooting for St. John’s today (they have a NC win over the Red Storm).
Mississippi has a solid SEC mark but has just one Top 50 win (Missouri at home). A sweep of Tennessee could still be a boost if the Volunteers continue their push. The loss at South Carolina was ugly given Ole Miss’ lack of quality wins. Much like Arizona State, the Rebels’ SOS numbers are a concern – especially the No. 286 mark out of conference that included 10 wins against teams 200 or lower in the RPI. Ole Miss’ remaining schedule doesn’t offer quality wins, but it’s important for the Rebels to hold serve at home against Texas AM and Alabama, and avoid another bad road loss at Mississippi State.
As for Kentucky, the Wildcats are the second-to-last team in today after beating Missouri on Saturday night. UK still has work to do following the Nerlens Noel injury. One thing working in UK’s favor is its lack of a bad loss – although Texas AM at home (with Noel) – could yet become one by RPI standards. Assuming the Wildcats avoid an upset, their NCAA chances heading into the SEC tournament may very depend on their game at Arkansas and home date with Florida.