A week ago, I spoke about a potential dilemma for the selection committee. What would they do with Wichita State if the Shockers failed to win their conference tournament? It was an interesting thought exercise in what the committee would care about more–the resume or the team.
This week, though, things got crazy.
Every imaginable team that could have earned a bid to the NCAA tournament even while losing its conference tournament lost. Every one.
A week ago, no one had any non-power conference (other than the AAC and the Atlantic 10, which are basically power conferences in basketball) with multiple bids to this year’s tournament. Now, we may have as many as four. The only way this year’s bubble could get any crazier is if San Diego State loses in the Mountain West tournament. (No, don’t bring up Arkansas-Little Rock; a team from the Sun Belt with a 280+ nonconference SOS and only two Top 100 wins isn’t getting an at-large. It’s just not happening.)
Let’s leave San Diego State aside, for now, because the Aztecs throw a whole new wrench into the equation. Let’s hope, for sanity’s sake, that the Aztecs win the MWC tournament and save fans and the committee the trouble of figuring out what to do with them.
Right now, the committee has three new potential bubble teams to deal with (we’ll come back to Wichita State later). Of course, how those three get into the tournament (or fail to make it) never happens in a vacuum. It all depends on the bubble teams’ resumes — are they thin enough to get bumped off by a mid-major? First, we have to figure out how these three new bubble teams look.
I’ll start with Saint Mary’s, because the Gaels are the easiest. They’re in. It’s that simple. There might be no Top-50 wins on the resume (it will depend on where Gonzaga ends up), but 6-3 versus the Top 100 with an RPI around or below 40 should be fine in this bubble. The Gaels went 8-5 against the Top 150 and suffered no horrible losses, though a regular-season sweep by Pepperdine hurts the resume a little. Still, this resume is solid in this year’s field and it should get Saint Mary’s into the Dance, barring more craziness this weekend.
Parsing between Monmouth and Valparaiso might seem difficult to some, but in reality it shouldn’t be. Valparaiso is in much better shape when the two resumes are compared.
Valparaiso has a better RPI, a better SOS, and a better nonconference SOS than Monmouth. The Crusaders have one truly bad loss, on the road against RPI No. 175 Ball State. Monmouth, on the other hand, has three losses to teams outside the Top 200. Yes, they were all on the road. Still, it takes a very strong resume to overcome that many losses. Monmouth doesn’t have it.
Monmouth has only four Top-100 wins, with UCLA barely staying in there. (To be fair, though, the Hawks could have seven Top-100 wins by the end of the weekend if Siena and Georgetown can slide up just a few spots each, which would make this resume look a whole lot prettier.) There are times when it seems as though Monmouth’s biggest selling points are its bench’s celebrations (not a committee-considered factor) and its entirely-away-from-home nonconference schedule. The Hawks will get credit for playing all of those road games. When that nonconference schedule clocks in at 119, though, it’s hard to give too much credit.
The actual strong point of the Monmouth resume is a 10-4 record against the Top 150. That’s strong and a much better percentage than most bubble teams have. Is it enough to counter those three awful losses? Probably not, but that depends on the bubble.
No true analysis of any team’s bubble fate can happen without looking at the bubble as a whole. How many spots are available and who is competing for them? We would need to create an entire S-curve show anything in-depth, but right now it looks like Monmouth and Valparaiso are competing with the likes of George Washington, VCU, Tulsa, UConn, Temple, Providence, Butler, USC, Florida, and Michigan for some of the last spots in the tournament. There are plenty of resources out there for you to compare all of these resumes any way you want. In my opinion, Monmouth and Valparaiso are ahead of Florida and Michigan for sure. Valpo is ahead of enough teams to make it into the tournament; the Crusaders might even avoid a First Four game. Monmouth, though, is right on that cut line.
If I am going to sum up what is happening with the potential mid-major bubble shrinkers so far, it’s pretty simple. Saint Mary’s should be in. Valpo and Monmouth are on the bubble, though Valpo’s resume is superior to Monmouth’s in almost every facet. The Crusaders even have 12 road wins, just one fewer than Monmouth–though the Hawks also have four neutral-court wins on top of that.
What about Wichita State? The Shockers are in a league of their own. The shrinking of the bubble this week won’t affect them. As I said in the piece linked above, the committee has to make a separate decision about the Shockers. If the committee judges purely on resume, Wichita doesn’t have much of a case. If it judges based on who the best teams are, though, Wichita is in no matter how many bubble spots get taken away.
The selection committee has a well-documented and unfortunate history of not giving mid-majors nearly as much benefit of the doubt as power schools. Will that happen again this year? We’ll find out Sunday.