Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Feb. 1 NIT Bracketology

The season is starting to wind down! As we enter the penultimate month of the regular season there are still a bunch of conference games to be played, but resumes are starting to solidify. Some trends are also starting to emerge. One is that the Atlantic 10 might be slight shell-shocked on Selection Sunday. The league, which is one of the best in the country (currently ranking 11th in KenPom), is pretty much guaranteed to send only its conference tournament champion to the NCAA Tournament. Assuming that champion is the same as the regular season champion, it could be hard for the A-10 to even get an at-large bid to the NIT. In the current scenario I have VCU as the A-10 champion and both Dayton and Saint Louis appear as bubble teams deep into the NIT bracket. The problem for the league is the quadrant system. Because so many teams are bunched up in the 129-176 range in the NET they're just beating each other up and creating bad losses. Dayton, VCU and Saint Louis are a little above that fray at 68, 81 and 85 respectively, but even that is questionable territory for a non-power conference NIT at-large.

And there are plenty of power conference teams to take those at-larges. The relative "flatness" of college basketball this season has created a lot of mediocre squads (a few that could make it aren't even in this bracket because the projections currently have them under .500). It'll be interesting to see how the final month or so of the regular season shakes out and what teams emerge. There could be a number of surprises!

One particular surprise in this bracket is Temple. The Owls are currently 116th in NET and have a losses to Wagner, Penn, Mississippi and Maryland Eastern Shore on their resume. So why are they in this bracket? They've won eight of their past 10 games, including at Houston and at UCF. Temple also finishes with a relatively soft slate in the American Athletic Conference. Their hardest remaining games all have the upside of potential QI or QII wins (Houston, @Memphis, @Cincinnati, @Tulane). If the Owls close strong they'll have a decent chance of making the NIT.

Last season the NCAA went with unseeded teams after the top four lines. I'm continuing that bracketing procedure with my predictions this season. It's also worth noting that The Barking Crow, which also does NIT bracketology, expects there to be a large number of automatic bids to the NIT. This could squeeze some of the bubble teams towards the bottom of the bracket. (I typically assume about 10 teams will fall off because of automatic bids, but it could be higher this season.)

Last 8 NCAA Teams: Auburn, New Mexico, NC State, Texas A&M, Penn St., USC, Oklahoma St., Memphis (the bubble is huge, I could've listed my last 16 teams if I wanted)

NIT Bracket (bubble in italics):

1. Wisconsin
U. Southern Illinois
4. Cincinnati
U. Saint Louis
3. Florida
U. Colorado
2. Seton Hall
U. North Texas

1. Pittsburgh
U. Dayton
4. St. John's
U. UCF
3. Mississippi St.
U. San Jose St.
2. Oklahoma
U. Georgia

1. Nevada
U. Syracuse
4. Oregon
U. Loyola Marymount
3. Utah
U. Temple
2. Utah St.
U. Utah Valley

1. Virginia Tech
U. UAB
4. Arizona St.
5. UNLV
3. Wake Forest
U. Washington
2. Kentucky
U. Santa Clara

Not Expected to Be .500: Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, LSU, Texas Tech, Michigan, Villanova, Butler, Washington St.

Also Considered: Tulane, Middle Tennessee, Rice, Belmont, Bradley, BYU, Hofstra

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