Building the Field

home-tournament-64-thumb.jpgBuilding the Field highlights teams currently projected to be In the Field, teams who are currently In the Mix (under consideration), and teams with Work To Do at the time of the update. Noted data credited to Warren Nolan and/or ESPN.

UPDATED: March 10  |  6:00 a.m. ET

Total Spots (68): Number of teams in the Field.

Automatic Bids (32): 12– AQ’s are awarded as conferences hand-out their official NCAA bids to tournament champions.

  • NCAA Locks (33): Teams who should be locked into bids at the time of publication.
  • NCAA Teams (3): Teams projected to earn an at-large bid, if necessary.
  • In the Mix (23): Teams that would currently project to be under consideration.
  • Work to Do: (6): Teams on the at-large board, but who have work to do to be In The Mix.
Atlantic 10
Davidson is the frontrunner for the A10 tournament but it’s really a wide open race.  The Wildcats backed into the regular-season title after losing at Dayton; leaving questions as to whether they would earn an at-large, if needed.  It’s a league that could still garner two bids, but it’s looking a bit less likely now than it did a couple of weeks ago.

NCAA Locks: None

NCAA Teams: None

In the Mix: Davidson, Dayton, St. Bonaventure, VCU

Work to Do: None

  • Davidson – Davidson missed its chance to finish with a road win at Dayton, which leaves the Wildcats in a more delicate position entering the A10 tourney.  An at-large is certainly possible, but they could make their case stronger by advance to the championship game.
  • Dayton – The Flyers present one of the more interesting resumes. They own non-conference wins over Kansas, Virginia Tech, Miami and Belmont – and a quad of sub-200 losses overall.  If UD reaches the title game and loses?  It could end up being a very close call.
  • St. Bonaventure – Fair or unfair, the Bonnies have the most work to do – largely because of their NET rating and subpar metrics.  This sounds like a broken record, but advance to the finals and see which teams are still standing.
  • VCU – VCU missed Adrian Baldwin for part of the season, but that’s not an automatic pass – and a loss at Saint Louis to close the season doesn’t help.  High-end wins are missing, so it feels like they could use another couple of victories.
Duke likely took itself out of the No. 1 seed discussion after losing to UNC at home.  Carolina probably played its way in.  Miami seems next best positioned, despite lower metrics.  That leaves Notre Dame and with some work to do in Brooklyn after Wake Forest exited stage left.  Virginia Tech and Virginia remain on the periphery; we’ll see what they can do on a neutral court.

NCAA Locks: Duke

NCAA Teams: North Carolina

In the Mix: Miami, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech

Work to Do: Virginia

  • Miami – On one hand, Miami showcases a victory at Duke, a sweep of Wake Forest and a dominant home victory over North Carolina.  The Hurricanes’ metrics remain touchy, though.  Escaping Syracuse to end the season was a nice stabilizer.  Miami could end up facing Wake Forest again in the quarterfinals.
  • Notre Dame – The Irish’s victory bag includes a shiny trophy against Kentucky.  Will that hold up against an otherwise generic profile?  They could use a couple more victories – and a win over Virginia Tech in the quarterfinals would be a NET-builder that could up being just what the Irish need.
  • Wake Forest – The Demon Deacons’ ended their season with a thud – losing to Boston College in their ACC opener.  Now, all Wake can do is sit, wait and hope things work out – and that might be a very big “IF” heading into a weekend with so many other bubble teams yet to play.  Wake’s best assets are home victories against North Carolina and Notre Dame – along with road wins at Virginia Tech and Virginia – and some relatively positive metrics.  Their albatross is a 300-plus NC SOS – and their best non-league win is Northwestern.
  • Virginia Tech – Thanks to some other teams falling away, the Hokies have re-entered the at-large picture due to a solid NET rating.  What they are missing is anything eye-popping on a rather mundane profile.  VT probably needs a strong run – and possibly some help.
We can’t call the Tigers a lock, but Memphis took a major step toward punching its ticket with a second victory over Houston.  They are starting to look like the team we expected in November.  Meanwhile, SMU escaped Tulane to close the regular season, and needs to avoid anything unfortunate in the ACC tourney.  Could they beat Memphis a third time?

NCAA Locks: Houston

NCAA Teams: None

In the Mix: Memphis, SMU

Work to Do: None

  • Memphis – As noted above, Memphis is close to securing a bid, by most accounts.  What’s left? Avoiding a miscue in Fort Worth.  The Tigers get the winner of UCF and South Florida in their AAC tourney opener.  They may not want to “give back” what they have recently picked up.
  • SMU – A season sweep of Memphis helps the Mustangs, as does a close win over Houston.  By most accounts, given that SMU’s losses are mostly of the non-tournament variety, the Ponies still need to play their way in.  And that could be a tough task if they meet Memphis for a third time.
While we can’t call Creighton a lock, beating Connecticut at home puts them in a better position – provided they don’t look bad at the Big East tourney.  Meanwhile, Xavier’s late season slide has created notable angst for the Musketeers.

NCAA Locks: Connecticut, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova

NCAA Teams: Creighton

In the Mix: Xavier

Work to Do: None

  • Xavier – A late-season slide ended with an overtime loss to Butler at Madison Square Garden.  Now the waiting begins – and XU has to hope a strong start holds up.  In totality, Xavier has five Quad 1 wins and is 9-11 vs. Quads 1/2.  The Musketeers have not resembled an NCAA Tournament team on the court for a while – and while performance in one’s Last 10 games is no longer an “official” factor – that doesn’t mean it won’t be discussed.
BIG 10
Questions for three teams heading into the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis:  Indiana and Michigan feel like bubble teams – and they play each other on Thursday.  Rutgers has enough quality wins – but their NET rating and metrics are concerning – as is a poor NC SOS.

NCAA Locks: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin

NCAA Teams: None

In the Mix: Indiana, Michigan, Rutgers

Work to Do: None

  • Indiana – The Hoosiers were oh-so-close to taking down Purdue in Mackey Arena and perhaps sealing a trip back to the NCAAs.  Now, they are firmly on the cutline and face a Michigan team that just put up a strong showing at Ohio State.  Two wins would do it; one leaves them with a nervous wait.
  • Michigan – Michigan posted its must-win at Ohio State and, like Indiana, sits somewhere along the cutline – or at least it feels that way.  The winner of IU-UM will be more at ease, regardless of Friday.  The loser has a long wait.
  • Rutgers – For all of their power victories, the Scarlet Knights’ metrics are highly questionable and they bring a 290-plus NC SOS with them to the table.  We know Rutgers looks like a tournament team now, but they did not for much of the season.  The good news: by gaining at double-bye, RU avoids the opportunity for a bad loss.  They will likely face Iowa on Friday.
BIG 12
Down the stretch, TCU has firmed up a spot and moves into lock status ahead of the Big 12 tournament.  Oklahoma is on the edge of the bubble and needs a long run.

NCAA Locks: Bayor, Iowa State, Kansas, Texas, Texas Tech, TCU

NCAA Teams: None

In the Mix: Oklahoma

Work to Do: None

  • Oklahoma: The Sooners are just 3-11 vs. Quad 1 teams – which isn’t a very good look – even though their victories are notable.  They are also just 11-14 against the Top 3 quadrants; another statistic that often doesn’t bode well.  If OU finds a way to beat Baylor and advance to the B12 finals? Well, it will at least be worth another look.
Loyola-Chicago won the automatic bid and erased any lingering concerns.

NCAA Locks: Loyola-Chicago

NCAA Teams: None

In the Mix: None

Work to Do: None

With a regular-season title in its pocket, Boise State moves into lock status – and joins Colorado State as firm participants in March Madness.  San Diego’s State’s metrics – and its quality wins – leave the Aztecs in a favorable spot.  That leaves Wyoming or a wildcard (say, UNLV) as the final question marks.

NCAA Locks: Boise State, Colorado State

NCAA Teams: San Diego State

In the Mix: Wyoming

Work to Do: UNLV

  • Wyoming – A couple of weeks ago it looked like the Cowboys were cruising to an NCAA berth.  Then came a home loss to San Diego State and a defeat at UNLV.  Their metrics are also on less stable ground these days.  Just in time, Wyoming finds itself against UNLV in the quarterfinals – and the games are in Vegas.  The Cowboys might be okay either way, but they would feel much safer without another defeat to the improving Rebels.
PAC 12
It’s really three teams – and what happens at the P12 tournament.  As we saw last year, there are no guarantees.  If the league is going to send a fourth team, someone will have to put together a great week in Las Vegas.

NCAA Locks: Arizona, UCLA, USC

NCAA Teams: None

In the Mix: Colorado, Oregon

Work to Do: None

  • Colorado – It might be a long shot, but after beating Arizona and finishing well, Colorado enters the P12 tourney with at least a glimmer of hope.  Let’s see how far they can advance – if at all.
  • Oregon – The Ducks missed their chance to sweep USC (which would have meant a sweep of both UCLA and USC) – and then promptly lost at Washington and Washington State.  Without a lot of help, it feels like P12 title or bust.
We’re really down to two questions – and Texas AM is a bit of a stretch.  But … that’s where the bubble currently resides, so the Aggies have a chance.  On cue, the two play each other to open the SEC tournament in Tampa.

NCAA Locks: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, LSU, Tennessee

NCAA Teams: None

In the Mix: Florida, Texas AM

Work to Do: South Carolina

  • Florida – The Gators missed a gold opportunity against Kentucky and now open SEC tournament play against Texas AM.  So yeah, it feels like an elimination game.
  • Texas AM – The Aggies need some help – and a long run – but if they knock out Florida in their opener, who knows?  It would at least give them a chance to take down Auburn.
Gonzaga is likely to be the NCAA tournament’s No. 1 overall seed – again. Saint Mary’s should earn a solid seed, too.  San Francisco has nice metrics – and the Dons may have knocked BYU out – but it could still be very close if the bubble ends up getting squeezed.

NCAA Locks: Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s

NCAA Teams: None

In the Mix: BYU, San Francisco

Work to Do: None

  • BYU – The Cougars dropped a neutral-court decision to San Francisco at the WCC tourney and must now sweat it out.  Long wait.
  • San Francisco – The Dons have a solid profile, but will it be good enough to hold up if the bubble gets squeezed?  That’s the million-dollar question.  Beating BYU helps, but they let Gonzaga run over them in the first half and never recovered.  Best guess: they are okay for now.  But a lot of similar teams are still playing.
Murray State wrapped up the OVC automatic bid to aid a potential bubble team.  That really leaves us with North Texas and UAB – as South Dakota State punched its ticket to the Dance on Tuesday night.

NCAA Locks: Murray State

NCAA Teams: None

In the Mix: North Texas, UAB

Work to Do: None

  • North Texas – The Mean Green have a solid NET rating and a good, but unspectacular profile.  Predictive metrics are somewhat iffy, and NT’s best non-conference wins are Wichita State and Drake.  This is a team that could win a game in the tournament, but they have to get a invitation first.  If they reach the C-USA title game and lose, we’ll take a long look.
  • UAB – The Blazers’ NET rating will get them a look, but it feels like they need some help.  They split with North Texas during the C-USA regular season, and their best non-conference victory is Saint Louis.  There’s also the matter of four Quad 3 losses, one of which is close to Quad 4.  Let’s see where this leads.
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