Sunday, February 26, 2023

Feb. 26 NIT Bracketology

Before you look at this bracket you should know: I have no idea what is going to happen this season. Thanks to the general guidelines the NIT selection committee seems to follow (under 100 in NET, above .500 overall) there's usually not that many at-large candidates for the NIT. Until this season.

The constant parity in the middle tier of college basketball has created a logjam of power conference teams sitting right around .500. In the past five seasons the NIT has been played (so not counting the COVID cancellation) there have been four teams total selected that were within one game of .500. Depending on how the end of the regular season and the conference tournaments play out we could easily be looking at four teams from this season alone.

This makes it nearly impossible to figure out how to select what will eventually be those final at-large slots (once automatic bids start happening). While it's possible a few will fall off, teams like Colorado, Washington St., Nebraska, Villanova, Oklahoma, Florida, and more will be vying for those last bids. What does the committee do with all of them? Will they favor the ones with better resumes or those with stronger power ratings? I truly don't know. It makes this bracket a real guessing game.

With that said, welcome Nebraska to the projected NIT bracket. KenPom has the Cornhuskers projected to finish 16-15 in the regular season. That of course requires Nebraska to win either at home versus Michigan St. or at Iowa during the final week of the regular season. If Fred Hoiberg's team does that they'll be one of the most fascinating cases in the bracket. Nebraska's NET is 88 and its KenPom is 93 at the moment, but the team sheet resume metrics (KPI, SOR) have a 64.5 average because the Cornhuskers haven't lost to a team outside the top two quadrants. (Heck, they've only played eight of those games total.) Personally, I'd want that team in the NIT. We'll see how things play out and if the committee agrees on Selection Sunday.

Florida is now projected to finish under .500 in the regular season according to KenPom (15-16). Thus I've removed them from the bracket. The Gators play at Georgia and home versus LSU and need to win both to get back above water.

Also, I had to play around with the seeding for the road teams quite a bit to get decent-ish matchups, so pay attention to the italics. Washington St. and Santa Clara are actually higher in my seed line than Southern Miss.

Update (Feb. 28, 7:30 am): I dropped Oklahoma St. into the NIT after their home loss to Baylor on Monday night. Wisconsin takes their place as one of the final teams into the NCAA Tournament.

NCAA Tournament Bubble: USC, Nevada, Utah St., Auburn, Memphis, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Mississippi St. (yes, I know I'm well off consensus by including USU, but they're good)

NIT Bracket (bubble in italics, U. is unseeded):

1. North Carolina
4. Vanderbilt
U. Southern Miss
3. Wake Forest
U. Washington St.
2. College of Charleston

1. Arizona St.
4. Drake
U. Nebraska
3. Oregon
U. Santa Clara
2. New Mexico
U. Dayton

1. Oklahoma St.
U. Cincinnati
4. Seton Hall
U. Utah
3. Penn St.
U. Villanova
2. Clemson
U. Tulane

1. Michigan
U. Saint Louis
4. Virginia Tech
U. Colorado
3. Texas Tech
U. Sam Houston St.
2. North Texas
U. Loyola Marymount

Lurking: Florida, St. John's, Oklahoma, Toledo, BYU

Next Bracket? Probably once the first automatic bid is handed out. I'll also update the Current NIT Bracket more frequently with those sorts of changes.

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