NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament: Last Four Teams In

We are now just a week away from March, which means the madness is right around the corner! Earlier this week, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Selection Committee released their annual top-16 preview, revealing the top-4 seeds in each region if the season were to end today. And while it is always great to get a sneak preview to see how the committee is viewing the top teams in the nation, I am more concerned about the bubble teams!

It would take epic collapses for any of those teams to miss out on the NCAA tournament at this point, so while it is fun to see and starts the NCAA tournament conversation, those teams already have their dancing shoes. In this article, we are going to take a look at the teams that are still fighting to hear their names called on Selection Sunday!

This week here at TheSportsGeek, it is all about the bubble, as we are going to tell you who is in, who is out, and who you need to keep an eye on when you are filling out your bracket! With that, let’s jump right into it as we head to Memphis, Tennessee, to break down the Memphis Tigers chances of going dancing.

Memphis Tigers

  • Record: 15-9
  • SOS: 43
  • Kenpom: 42
  • Net: 44
  • Good Wins: Saint Louis, Virginia Tech, Alabama, Houston
  • Bad Losses: Georgia, UCF, East Carolina
  • Quad 1 Record: 3-3

The Memphis Tigers are a very strange team this season. They came into the season feeling like they had a real shot at making it all of the way to the Final Four, with the nation’s top recruiting class, including 5-star recruits Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren. They were 12th in the preseason AP poll and rose to as high as 9th early in the season with a 5-0 start that included quality wins over Saint Louis and Virginia Tech. But since then, it has been a whirlwind of injuries, inconsistent play, and press conference outbursts for Memphis.

After that hot start, the Tigers hit a nasty stretch of action that saw them lose 5 out of 6 games, and after that rough patch, they have yet to appear in the top-25 of either major poll ever since. When star freshman Emoni Bates went down with an injury at the midway point of the season, it was increasingly looking like the Tigers were going to miss out on the NCAA tournament altogether, as they were a very disappointing 9-8 on the year and down their most talented player.

But shockingly, it has looked like addition by subtraction for the Tigers, as they have played far better without Bates on the floor than they ever did while he was playing. Memphis won 6 games in a row, all coming against at least decent competition, and picked up top-100 wins over the likes of Tulane, Houston, and Cincinnati. The win at Houston was a massive one for the Tiger’s NCAA tournament aspirations, and as long as the Tigers don’t implode down the stretch, they have a very real shot at sneaking into the NCAA tournament despite all of their ups and downs.

What’s Left On The Schedule?

Memphis has played each of their last 3 games on the road, all coming against top-100 teams, and after finishing up that stretch with a 2-1 record, they are rewarded with 3 of their final 4 games coming at home. This week they play Temple and Wichita State at home. Both of those teams are decent, but the Tigers will be favored to win both games, and they should be able to get the job done.

After that is a road trip to South Florida to play an awful Bulls team that is just 2-12 in league play and is ranked 257th per Kenpom. Road games in league play are never easy, but this one is about as easy as it is going to get in the AAC. The season finale comes at home against Houston, and a win would not only have the Tigers as a lock to go dancing, but likely move them up a couple of seed lines as well.

Worst case scenario, I see the Tigers going 2-2 to finish out the regular season, and as long as they win a game or two in the AAC conference tournament, they deserve to get an at-large bid and could win a game once they get in, as they do have elite talent on their roster. If they run the table in the regular season and pick up a season sweep over Houston along the way, I could see Memphis rising to as high as an 8 or 9 seed in the Big Dance. If they lose more than 2 games in the final 2 weeks of the year and they don’t do anything in their conference tournament, they are going to be sweating bullets on Selection Sunday and likely will fall to the wrong side of the bubble.

Michigan Wolverines

  • Record: 14-11
  • SOS: 2
  • Kenpom: 32
  • Net: 34
  • Good Wins: San Diego State, Indiana, Northwestern, Purdue, Iowa
  • Bad Losses: Minnesota, UCF
  • Quad 1 Record: 3-7

The Michigan Wolverines have had an eerily similar season as Memphis, as they too came into the season hyped up as a 3rd-weekend contender, only to play poorly at times and fail to live up to their potential. The Wolverines are in the news right now for all of the wrong reasons, as head coach Juwan Howard took a swing at Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard after Michigan’s last game, and he has been suspended for the rest of the regular season for the scuffle.

But even with all of the controversy and failed expectations, I still see Big Blue as a team worthy of a bid into the NCAA tournament. Only Alabama has played a tougher schedule than Michigan has this season, making their seemingly mediocre 14-11 record look a lot more impressive. None of their losses are all that bad, as the losses to Minnesota and UCF both came to teams lurking just outside of the top-100 and if those teams can win a couple more games during the regular season, the Wolverines may very well end up without a single loss to a team ranked outside of the top-100.

On the win side, Michigan has 8 top-100 wins, and they are getting better down the stretch, as they picked up the biggest wins of their season in the last 2 weeks with wins over Iowa and Purdue that they had to have. The selection committee loves to reward teams that schedule aggressively, and it is hard to schedule any tougher than Michigan has, and I feel that they deserve a tip of the cap for going out and playing a murderer’s row of teams all year long.

What’s Left On The Schedule?

The real reason I like Michigan to get into the tournament is because I see them adding a couple more signature victories to their resume before the season finishes up. The Wolverines have 5 games left to play, all of which are going to be quad 1 games. Even if they go just 2-3 during that stretch, that will give them 5 quad 1 victories on the season, and I am not sure the committee is going to be able to deny them.

The schedule makers did Michigan a favor as their next 4 games all come in Ann Arbor with home games against Rutgers, Illinois, Michigan State, and Iowa. The Big 10 is always very home team-dominated, and the Wolverines have done a great job of protecting their home floor with wins in 4 of their last 5 Big 10 home games. Kenpom has Michigan projected to win each of those games, and while I think that is a stretch considering they won’t have their head coach on the sidelines, I would think they can win a least 1 or 2 of them.

Michigan State is in freefall, and Iowa and Rutgers can’t win on the road, leaving the door wide open for a big finish from Big Blue. The Wolverines finish up the regular season on the road against Ohio State, and you can almost always throw the records out in a rivalry game like that. The wild card here is Howard, as it is going to be impossible to predict how this team will react to losing their head coach. But assuming the bottom doesn’t fall out with Juwan Howard not on the sidelines, you can pencil Michigan into the field of 68 as one of the last teams in.

San Francisco Dons

  • Record: 22-7
  • SOS: 93
  • Kenpom: 24
  • Net: 27
  • Good Wins: Davidson, UAB, Fresno State, BYU
  • Bad Losses: Grand Canyon, Portland
  • Quad 1 Record: 2-4

The West Coast Conference is the best it has ever been this year, as the WCC could get as many as 4 teams into the NCAA tournament. Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are both locks at this point, which leaves San Francisco and BYU as the bubble teams in the WCC. BYU is stumbling to the finish line of the regular season with a 2-5 record in their last 7 games, and the Dons have done a terrific job of taking advantage of those struggles to move up in the hierarchy in the WCC.

San Francisco has won 6 of 8 with a massive win in Provo over BYU, and if you believe the analytics, the Dons aren’t even a bubble team, as Kenpom has the Dons ranked 24th, and they are 27th in the NET rankings. The strong analytics should be a big boost to the Don’s at-large bid chances, but the WCC is always seen as an inferior conference, and to see the league get even 3 teams into the tournament would be a stretch for a lot of people.

The Dons are going to have to overcome that bias to get into the Big Dance, but when I look at the full body of work for San Francisco, I feel that it would be an injustice to leave the Dons out of the dance. San Francisco doesn’t have any great wins, but they have a nice collection of good ones. SF has wins over Davidson, Towson, UAB, UNLV, Fresno State, Santa Clara (twice), and BYU, and their 8 wins over the top-100 are as good as any major conference bubble team.

What’s Left On The Schedule?

The Dons season might very well come down to their next home game, as they welcome the nation’s top team, the Gonzaga Bulldogs, to town. A win over the Zags would be more than enough to send the Dons dancing, but that is highly unlikely as the Bulldogs have been rampaging through the WCC, and they beat SF by 26 points in their first meeting of the season.

That being said, there is something to be said for a home team that knows they are playing for their entire season, and you can expect the best effort you are ever going to see out of San Francisco in that game. The final game of the year comes at San Diego, where the Dons are going to be big favorites. Assuming San Francisco doesn’t shock the world and beat Gonzaga, they are going to need to perform well in the WCC tournament to get a bid.

Right now, San Francisco is the 3 seed in the WCC tournament, but I think they are actually hoping to drop down the seed lines so they have more opportunities to win games in the WCC tournament. With how the WCC tournament works, the Dons would get a bye into the quarterfinals as the 3 seed, meaning they are only going to be able to pick up a single win prior to playing Saint Mary’s in the semifinals. If they drop to the 4 seed, that gets even worse, as they would have to play the Zags in the semis.

There are 4 teams fighting for the 3rd seed in the WCC, and a loss to the Zags would be their 6th league loss of the season. Depending on how the rest of the league plays out, that could drop them down to as far as 6th, which set them up for a fairly easy 1st round game, and an additional chance to pick up another win prior to Selection Sunday. The Dons would much rather beat Gonzaga, but that isn’t going to happen, so they are going to be rooting for teams like BYU, Santa Clara, and Portland to win out, to give them a couple more wins to pad their resume. Mediocre wins don’t go a long way in March, but wins are wins and the Dons need every single one that they can get at this point.

Dayton Flyers

  • Record: 19-8
  • SOS: 128
  • Kenpom: 45
  • Net: 52
  • Good Wins: Kansas, Belmont, Virginia Tech, Saint Louis, VCU
  • Bad Losses: UMASS- Lowell, Lipscomb, Austin Peay, George Mason
  • Quad 1 Record: 2-2

I am in the minority on this last team, as most people have Dayton on the outside looking in right now for the NCAA tournament. But I have a feeling that when Selection Sunday does roll around, that won’t be the case, as the Dayton are a completely different team than they were earlier this season.

The Flyers are in a 4-team battle for the A-10 title, and I see Dayton finding their way to the top of the league by the end of the regular season. If that ends up being the case, the Flyers can’t be denied, as the A-10 is far too good of a league to shut out the regular season champs.

If you ignore the first 4 games of the season for Dayton, they would be in the tournament for sure. The Flyers had an almost unbelievably bad start to their season, as they lost to UMASS- Lowell, Lipscomb, Austin Peay, and George Mason, all teams ranked outside of the top-250 nationally. Normally 1 loss against a team that bad would be enough to keep a team out of the tourney, but 3 of them is nearly impossible to overcome. But you have to give credo it to the Flyers, as they didn’t let that bad start ruin their season, and since then, they are 18-5.

Dayton has a win over Kansas, a team that is going to be a 1-seed in March, and they have top-100 wins over Miami, Belmont, Virginia Tech, Saint Louis, St. Bonaventure, and VCU. The Flyers are getting hot when it matters, as they have an 11-3 record in league play, and they have won 7 of their last 8 games as they surge towards the top of the A-10 standings.

What’s Left On The Schedule?

The next 2 games for Dayton should be wins with a home game against UMASS and a road game against 244th ranked La Salle. Then things get tough for the Flyers with a road game at Richmond and then the season finale, at home against 1st place Davidson. Dayton cannot afford a loss to UMASS or La Salle, as that would be devastating to their resume this late in the year with so much on the line.

The game at Richmond is going to be a lot for Dayton to handle, as the Spiders have been very tough to beat at home. Kenpom has the Flyers winning that game by a single point, so you can expect the betting line to be right about even money, and that is a game that Dayton must win if they want to catch Davidson. Let’s fast forward to the season finale against Davidson, assuming that Dayton wins out up until that point.

If we get a Davidson/Dayton game where the winner wins the A-10 title, it could very well serve as a play-in game for the madness, as the winner of this league is hearing their names called on Selection Sunday, period. In a game like that, you have to like the home team, which puts Dayton in a great spot to backdoor into the tournament.

The A-10 has 6 teams in the top-100, and another 5 teams in the top-200, which means that Dayton is going to get a shot at picking up a couple more decent wins in the A-10 tournament, which gives us some insurance if the Flyers don’t run the table and snag a piece of the A-10 title. This team is too hot, and the schedule lays out too well for them not to love their chances of punching their dance cards and getting into the NCAA tournament. If you aren’t a Dayton believer now, wait 2 weeks and get back to me when the Flyers are A-10 regular season champs.

Wrap Up

And there you have it, folks, my current last 4 teams in, 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, when I break down my first 4 out, for the NCAA tournament!

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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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