NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament: First Four Teams Out

With March just a couple of days away, we here at TheSportsGeek have been upping our NCAA Men’s Basketball coverage in anticipation of the madness. Earlier this week, we took a look at the teams I felt deserved to be the last 4 teams to get bids into the Big Dance. If you haven’t had a chance to check that article out, you can read it here.

Today, we are going to switch things up, and break down the other side of the bubble, and give you the first 4 teams out on Selection Sunday. Most other bubble watch articles focus on who would be in or out if the season were to end today. And while those articles make sense, as it is hard to predict the future, I am accomplished college hoops handicapper, and it is my job to predict the future, so instead of pretending that the season ended today for this article, we are going to project out how these teams are going to finish out their season, which I feel is a much more accurate representation of what we are actually going to see in March.

Without further delay, we are going to jump right into it by heading to the Big 10, where we will take a look at the Indiana Hoosiers. Let’s get started!

Indiana Hoosiers

  • Record: 17-10
  • SOS: 60
  • Kenpom: 46
  • Net: 42
  • Good Wins: Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue
  • Bad Losses: Syracuse, Penn State
  • Quad 1 Record: 2-6

In most leagues, the Indiana Hoosiers would do just fine. If you throw this team into the PAC-12, MVC, or even the ACC this year, the Hoosiers would finish in the top half of the standings and have a great shot of going dancing. But the Big 10 isn’t most leagues, as it is absolutely stacked with elite teams, and when your league is as good as the Big 10 is this year, there are good teams that just aren’t good enough to hang.

That is where the Indiana Hosiers are at right now, as they are pretty good, but just not good enough to win in the Big 10 consistently. There have been some nice wins, the one over Purdue being the best win on their resume, but quality victories have been few and far between for Indiana, and their late-season 5-game losing streak is likely something that they aren’t going to be able to overcome.

None of those recent losses were bad ones, as the Hoosiers lost to Illinois and Wisconsin at home and Northwestern, Michigan State, and Ohio State on the road, but that slump dropped them down to 7-9 in conference play, and I just can’t justify putting them into the tournament with a losing record in their league, no matter how great it might be. If Indiana had a couple more signature wins to fall back on, I could look the other way on all of those losses, but they don’t, and for that reason, I see the Hoosiers as just on the wrong side of the cutline right now.

What’s Left On The Schedule?

The one thing that Indiana does have going for them by playing in the Big 10, is that they have lots of opportunities for marquee wins that could vault them back to the right side of the bubble. Looking ahead on the schedule, the Hoosiers play Minnesota on the road, then Rutgers at home, and they finish up the season at Purdue. Indiana has a real shot at winning those first 2 games, but those wins likely wouldn’t be enough on their own to get the Hoosiers into the tournament.

If they somehow managed to beat Purdue on the road, it would surely be enough to change my mind, but when I see that they are just 2-6 on the road in Big 10 play, I can’t imagine that is going to happen. That means that the only legit path for Indiana to play themselves into the Big Dance, is for them to win multiple games in the Big 10 tournament. I am not saying that Indiana can’t win games in the Big 10 tournament, they certainly can, but for it to be enough to get them in, they would need to do more than beating a Minnesota, Penn State, or Nebraska.

Depending on how they close out the regular season, they may need at least 2 wins over the top half of the league to get legit at-large bid consideration. If they get into the Big 10 tourney and knock off, let’s say an Iowa and an Illinois? OK, I am on board with them going dancing. Anything short of that? Sorry Hoosier fans, they are out!

BYU Cougars

  • Record: 20-9
  • SOS: 49
  • Kenpom: 48
  • Net: 49
  • Good Wins: San Diego State, Oregon, Missouri State, Utah State, St. Mary’s, San Francisco
  • Bad Losses: Utah Valley, Pacific
  • Quad 1 Record: 3-5

What a disappointing 2nd half of the season it has been for the BYU Cougars. BYU scheduled tough in the non-conference, and they hit league play in the WCC with a 12-3 record that included nice wins over San Diego State, Oregon, Missouri State, and Utah State. The Cougars felt like they had the talent to hang with the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the West Coast Conference, and after winning 5 of their first 6 league games, with the only loss coming in Spokane to the Zags, they made a brief appearance in the top-25 of the AP poll.

But it has been all downhill since then, as the Cougars have seen the wheels come off, with a 3-5 record down the stretch. To make matters worse for BYU, that rough run saw them lose to fellow WCC bubble teams Santa Clara, San Francisco, and St. Mary’s. The WCC is the best it has ever been this year, but this just isn’t a 4-bid league.

The Zags and Gaels are going to get in, and I can wrap my head around the league getting a 3rd team in as well, but right now, I am going with San Francisco over BYU, and that late-season loss to the Dons is going to haunt them if and when San Francisco gets into the tournament, and they don’t. The fact that the loss to the Dons came on their own floor, and by 14-points, put them in a hole so deep I don’t think that they can get out of it.

What’s Left On The Schedule?

BYU only has 1 game left on their regular season schedule, a home game against Pepperdine. That game should be a gimme, as they are going to be favored by double-digits, and while they are nearly certain to win, it isn’t going to do much to boost their resume. That means that the Cougars are going to have to do some heavy lifting in the WCC tournament to bolster their record and get a bid.

The problem for BYU is that wins over San Francisco or Santa Clara are likely going to be too little too late, so for the Cougars to get an at-large bid, they would need to find a way to beat some combination of Santa Clara/San Francisco and St. Mary’s or beat Gonzaga. Beating the Zags is going to be mission impossible, as Gonzaga owns the WCC tournament, and they beat BYU twice this year, with an average margin of victory of over 29 points per game.

Could the Cougars beat Santa Clara/San Francisco and St. Mary’s? In short, yes, they could. But will they? I doubt it. BYU lost their lone game against the Broncos and split the season series with both San Francisco and St. Mary’s. A 2-3 record against those teams doesn’t have me believing that they can get the job done, and when you throw in the fact that St. Mary’s has won 11 of 13, San Francisco has won 6 of 9, and Santa Clara has won 8 of 11, all 3 of these teams are playing their best basketball of the season, and it is going to be too much for BYU to overcome.

Florida Gators

  • Record: 17-11
  • SOS: 45
  • Kenpom: 56
  • Net: 55
  • Good Wins: Auburn, Oklahoma State, Mississippi State, Ohio State
  • Bad Losses: Texas Southern
  • Quad 1 Record: 2-8

I absolutely hate it when a power conference team goes out and schedules cupcakes in the non-conference. I don’t need these teams to schedule a murderer’s row of teams early in the season, but when I see an SEC team like Florida schedule games against teams like Milwaukee, Stoney Brook, South Florida, and North Florida, they should be ashamed of themselves. You know what happens when you schedule like that? Occasionally you have a bad shooting night and lose a game to Texas Southern by 15-points at home like the Gators did this year.

All of those weak wins over nobody schools don’t add up to being better than a loss to a team like Texas Southern, and when I see a non-conference strength of schedule of 236th, Gators fans aren’t going to have a leg to stand on when Florida gets left out of the NCAA tournament. Florida hit conference play at a completely fraudulent 9-3, with their only quality win coming over Ohio State.

The SEC just might be the toughest conference in the country top to bottom, and the SOS picked up a lot for Florida once they hit league play, but even in the nation’s best conference, somehow the Gators have won 7 games without having much to show for it. Sorry, not sorry, but wins over Missouri, South Carolina, Ole Miss, Georgia, and Vanderbilt don’t do much more for me than the wins over Stoney Brook and Milwaukee. Bad wins are bad wins, period.

The way that I rate teams out is by their ceiling, not their floor. Let’s take Alabama, for example. The Crimson Tide are all over the place this year, with 10 losses, some of which came to less than stellar opposition. But the Tide has wins over Gonzaga, Houston, Tennessee, LSU, Arkansas, and Baylor. I can handle a lot of bad losses when you have a lot of great wins. The only great win of the year for Florida came over Auburn, and even that one wasn’t all that impressive, as the Tigers have been running out of gas recently, and their struggles on the road have been well documented.

What’s Left On The Schedule?

Similar to Indiana in the Big 10, the Gators will have plenty of opportunities to play good teams and boost their chances of getting a bid before Selection Sunday. Florida hasn’t been very good on the road this season with a 2-6 record, which makes me wonder if they are going to be able to win their next couple of games, both coming away from home, at Georgia and at Vanderbilt.

In a vacuum, Florida is a better team than both the Bulldogs and Commodores. But college basketball isn’t played in a vacuum, it is played on campus in front of screaming fans, and the Gators haven’t shown me that they can play well in hostile territory. A loss to either one of those teams would officially put the Gator’s hopes to rest, as they just can’t afford another bad loss.

The final game of the season for Florida comes at home against Kentucky, and a win over the Wildcats would be a huge one, but it’s not going to happen. Kentucky spanked Florida when the teams played in Lexington several weeks ago, blowing them out by 21 points, and even at home in Gainesville, I don’t think that Florida can hang with a Kentucky team that has their sites set on the Final Four.

Let’s fast forward to the SEC tournament and assume that the Gators beat both Georgia and Vanderbilt on the road, a mighty big assumption, and lose to Kentucky. What would Florida have to do in the SEC tournament to get over the hump? I am thinking that anything less than multiple wins that includes at least 1 win over a top team like Kentucky, Tennessee, Auburn, or Arkansas, and the Gators are coming up short. I think it is much more likely that Florida losses in their first game to a dud of a team like Mississippi or South Carolina than to see them beating an elite team. If you have any Gator’s stock, I would sell, sell, sell.

Virginia Cavaliers

  • Record: 17-11
  • SOS: 63
  • Kenpom: 73
  • Net: 80
  • Good Wins: Duke, Providence, Virginia Tech, Miami (twice)
  • Bad Losses: Navy, James Madison, NC State
  • Quad 1 Record: 3-6

The ACC is as bad as I can ever remember seeing it this season. Duke is great as usual, but the other perennial powerhouse teams in the ACC like North Carolina, Louisville, and Virginia are all way down. In just about any other season in recent memory, the Cav’s 11 ACC wins would have them as a lock for the NCAA tournament, but with the league struggling, the Cavs don’t have the wins to get them in right now.

Virginia has a couple of very good wins over Duke and Providence, but outside of those victories, the resume is shockingly light for the Cavs. Joe Lunardi over at ESPN has the ACC getting 5 teams into the tournament, but I feel that is very generous, as every team, with the exception of Duke, is sitting right on the bubble. Wake Forrest, Notre Dame, Miami, and North Carolina all have major flaws in their resumes, and I see Virginia coming in a tier below those teams, which means that the Cavaliers would have to jump several teams to get a bid. The ACC has no shot at getting more than 5 bids, and they could potentially get as few as 2 or 3.

I am going, to be honest, here, I think the only reason Virginia is even being talked about as a bubble team is their reputation. Tony Bennett has built a great program in Charlottesville, and I guess the public hasn’t gotten the memo that they just aren’t a very good team this year. The nail in the coffin for me were the non-conference losses to Navy and James Madison. I think there is actually an NCAA rule somewhere that says if you lose to James Madison, you are ineligible for the tournament. No need to fact-check that one, just go with it. A loss to the Dukes, and your season is over.

What’s Left On The Schedule?

With how bad the ACC is, I think the Cavs would have to make it to the ACC tournament finals to get themselves into any serious consideration for a pair of dancing shoes. Their final 2 games of the regular season come against Florida State and Louisville, and with neither of those teams ranked in the top-100 right now, those wins aren’t going to go very far.

And even when they get into the ACC tournament, no single win, with the exception of a win over the Blue Devils, would do much to move the needle. That is why I think they are going to have to make a run to the finals, with multiple wins over teams like Miami, Wake Forrest, or Notre Dame. Now, to be completely fair and transparent, Tony Bennet is one heck of a coach, and Virginia could definitely make it to the ACC finals, I just don’t think it is very likely.

Bennett has had too long of a track record of success to doubt him, but even Bennett can’t deny that this team isn’t up to his normal standards at Virginia. The bubble this year is wide open, as leagues like the PAC-12, ACC, and A-10 are down, which leaves the door cracked open for Virginia to squeeze themselves in at the last minute, but if I were a betting man, and you all know that I am, I wouldn’t bet on it.

Wrap Up

And there you have it, folks, my current last 4 teams out for the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. With the bubble being so crowded right now, these teams could change every day, as a single loss or big win could be enough to shift the standings.

That means you need to stay tuned to TheSportsGeek’s March Madness betting page every day between now and Selection Sunday to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the action! Thanks for reading, and make sure you check in later this week, where I continue to break down the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament bubble!

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Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL

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