Friday, March 31, 2023

What Is Winning The Horizon League Worth To A Coach?

Jerrod Calhoun is a coach on the rise. Calhoun took over Youngstown St. when it was floundering at the end of Jerry Slocum's tenure and he has built the team up into a formidable Horizon League squad. 

Last season the Penguins went 24-10 and took home the league's regular season title. While they ultimately fell to Northern Kentucky in the Horizon League tournament (and thus failed to make the school's first ever NCAA Tournament), they did get to host a first round NIT game against Oklahoma State. YSU finished the season 131st in KenPom, which is the school's highest ranking on the site since KenPom started posting results.

Calhoun will now need to rebuild a roster that ranked 14th in Division I experience last season, but he'll do it in a bit more comfortable of a coaching situation. Calhoun signed a new extension on Wednesday. His new contract runs through 2028 and includes a few new perks after YSU's recent success.

You can see the contract Calhoun signed before this past season and his new one on this site's Document page.

Compensation: Calhoun will now make a base salary of $300,000. That's a 40% ($86,000) raise over the $213,848 he was making prior to the season.

Marketing: Calhoun also received a significant increase in his marketing "bonus" from $5,000 to $50,000.

New Incentive: Calhoun now has a clause in his contract for if he wins Horizon League Coach of the Year. He of course won that award this season. That award would net him $10,000 moving forward.

What does YSU get in return? To keep one of the hottest names in college basketball coaching circles. Calhoun's contract now includes a buyout of 200% of his base salary through Feb. 29, 2024. That means he'll definitely be sitting the rest of this coaching cycle out. (After that it goes back to his previous clause which required a buyout only to lead another Horizon League institution.)

Not bad for a year's worth of work.

Monday, March 27, 2023

How could South Florida make sense for Ryan Odom? A contract review.

Update 3-28-2023: It is being reported by Hoops Weiss that Ryan Odom is going to be the next head coach at VCU. If that's the case then most of this post still applies. Mike Rhoades, who is apparently taking the head coaching job at Penn State, had a contract that was actually quite similar (if slightly more lucrative) to Gregory's when he signed it in 2019 (and it was extended in 2021). I've filed a FOIA for the contract post extension, but the pre-extension version is available here.

The head men's basketball coach opening at the University of South Florida has been one of the most interesting subjects of conversation this offseason. USF fired Brian Gregory after the Bulls went 14-18 (7-11 in the AAC) this past season. A number of different names have popped up since, like former Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey, and the most interesting to me: current Utah State head coach Ryan Odom.

Odom seems to have a good gig at Utah State. The architect of UMBC's upset over Virginia has led the Aggies for two seasons now. They were 18-16 (8-10 in the Mountain West) in his initial campaign and this season they broke through with a 26-9 record (13-4 in the MWC) and a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Why then has Odom's name popped up at USF? One potential reason is that he's much more familiar with the southern part of the United States than out west. Odom was a graduate assistant at South Florida in 1996-97 and spent his entire career in and around the DC/Virginia/Carolinas area before taking the head gig at Utah State.

The other potential reason is what an American Athletic Conference program like USF can offer in compensation versus a Mountain West program like USU. To delve deeper into that issue I requested Odom's current contract with USU and Gregory's former contract with USF. USU responded quickly (you can see it here). USF is still working on my request but The Tampa Bay Times posted a copy of Gregory's contract when he signed a three-year extension in October of 2021. (Update: USF did provide me with my own copy of the same contract on March 27.) With the caveat that I'm neither an agent nor a lawyer, here are some of the differences I see between the two.

Base Compensation:

Odom makes a base salary of $500,000 at Utah State. Gregory's contract called for $400,000 annually. But base compensation never tells the story when it comes to coaching contracts.

Media Compensation:

The school also pays coaches for fundraising, promotional, and media appearances. This is often where the bigger chunk of annual compensation is found in head coach contracts. That's definitely the case for Gregory, who was set to make $1,281,250 for the period from April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022. While that number was to have come down to $730,000 for the year starting April 1, 2022, it was still more than double what Odom is making at $300,000 per year.




The structure of the bonuses for both Odom and Gregory are pretty similar. There are some minor differences. The most fun one is that Gregory only received $1,000 for a regular season victory over the University of Central Florida (UCF) whereas Odom receives $5,000 if he beats BYU or Utah (of course he's got to get the opportunity to play them first).



In addition to compensation, a head coach also has the ability to negotiate for better resources for the program from the school, including how much his assistant coaches are paid. This also reveals a disparity between what is available at USU vs. USF.

Assistant Coach Pool:

Odom's contract sets a salary pool of $530,000 for assistant coaches along with an additional $150,000 for other operations and administrative positions. That's $680,000 total, though the clause does also note that the pool will be reviewed on an annual basis.

Gregory's contract called for a consistently growing pool that started at his hiring at more than USU's pool. The past year Gregory had an assistant coaching pool of $850,000 (or ~$170,000 more than Odom).

Termination by School:

Here it appears Odom had a better deal. Gregory's deal includes 20 weeks of his base salary as a buyout whereas USU would owe Odom 75% of his combined base salary and media compensation remaining on the agreement. It's worth noting though that this particular clause definitely represents some of the differences in leverage when Gregory and Odom signed their particular agreements.


Termination by Coach:

Odom's buyout is not insignificant. If his contract is terminated in Year 3 or thereafter, which it looks like would be the case, Odom would have to pay 35% of the Cumulative Remaining Salary, which by my math is approximately $840,000. If Gregory were still employed by USF on April 1, 2023 and had wanted to terminate his agreement he would owe the school $750,000. It's worth noting that coaches often include clauses in their contracts that have their new employers pay their buyout.


So there are a few potential reasons it seems why the USF job could be attractive to Odom. It would mean returning to an area of the country he's familiar recruiting and living in. It would probably mean an increase in compensation from $800,000 to at least in the neighborhood of around $1.1 million plus. And it would likely give him a larger pool for his assistant coaches. All of these are good incentives.

Of course, taking the South Florida job would also come with downsides. Where Odom took the Utah State job he took over a perennial NCAA Tournament program from Craig Smith. The Bulls haven't made the NCAA Tournament since the 2011-12 season under Stan Heath. The school was still playing in Big East back then. The American Athletic Conference is a competitive league that is losing Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF but also bringing in a number of strong programs from Conference USA. Building a competitive basketball program at USF won't be easy.

But it's a challenge someone is going to be willing to take on.

Monday, March 20, 2023

The Ghosts of St. Francis Brooklyn

I was devastated to hear the news this afternoon that St. Francis Brooklyn is shutting down its athletic programs at the end of the 2023 spring semester.

They have been playing collegiate basketball at St. Francis Brooklyn for more than 100 seasons. Famously, during all of those seasons the Terriers never made the NCAA Tournament. It appears now that they never will.

But to let that stat define the legacy of St. Francis Brooklyn would be a travesty. The school was home to a number of near misses and built the legacy of some amazing players. Players like Jalen Cannon, who was everywhere on the court during his four seasons on Remsen Street from 2011-12 to 2014-15. Cannon is the St. Francis Brooklyn career leader in games played, field goal percentage, defensive rebounds, offensive rebounds, and points. A 6-foot-6 forward from Allentown, PA, he turned the opportunity Glen Braica gave him to play Division I basketball into a globe-trotting professional career.

There were also players like Ben Mockford, who transferred from Iona and became the school's leading three-point percentage shooting leader.

And Brent Jones who was the heart and engine of some of the best teams in Terriers history despite being generously listed at 5-foot-10. He will also forever be the school's career assist leader.

Jones's final season was 2014-15. I took the 2 or 3 train down to Brooklyn Heights to cover the team a lot during that season for my old site NYC Buckets. I would walk into the Pope Physical Education Center and pick up my credential from will call ticket table in the cafeteria next door. The gym was tiny. The Pope Center had a listed capacity of 1,200 fans. KenPom had it as the seventh smallest in Division I. The fans though had a ton of heart. And so did Glenn Braica.

A New Yorker through and through, Braica came to St. Francis to try and bring glory back to a program whose biggest successes came in the 1940 and 50's before the NCAA Tournament became what it is today. Braica though wanted to be the one to break through. He built a winner thanks to some luck, some under-recruited gems like Cannon and Jones, and a tough defensive mindset. That 2014-15 season was the one where he was supposed to break through. The Terriers started 0-5 as they played the difficult non-conference schedule typical of Northeast Conference schools that need to raise funds. But when they beat Columbia right before New Years, I was there. I remember talking to Braica next to the locker room above the swimming pool as he talked about his team that was just about to reach .500. There was hope there. Hope that he had the pieces to finally bring home a title.

He was right. The Terriers went 15-3 in the NEC. They were the class of the league thanks to Jones, Cannon, Amdy Fall's length on the defensive end, Tyreek Jewell's enigmatic offense, and minutes from a promising freshman named Glenn Sanabria. SFNY went legitimately 11 players deep and Braica (sometimes frustratingly) messed with his rotations looking for the perfect group.

As the No. 1 seed, the Terriers played at home throughout the 2015 NEC Tournament. They defeated Brooklyn rival LIU in the quarterfinals and it was clear people were starting to notice. Braica and I weren't talking above the pool anymore. There was an entire room set up for the press conference. The same scene played itself out again after SFNY took out St. Francis PA in the semifinals.

The Terriers welcomed Robert Morris and Andy Toole into the Pope Center for the final Northeast Conference showdown. The Colonials had consistently played second fiddle to another Brooklyn team (LIU) during the early part of Toole's tenure and this was also their chance to make a statement.

And in one of the most heartbreaking and intense games ever played in front of probably more than the official 1,013 listed fans the Colonials defeated the Terriers 66-63. The Colonials led for the entire final agonizing 11 minutes, with the Terriers falling down by as many as 10 points before battling back to make it interesting at the end.

That was as close as St. Francis Brooklyn will ever come to making the NCAA Tournament. There will be no more men's collegiate basketball on Remsen Street (though this was already true as the school moved campuses in the middle of this season). The ghosts of games like that loss to RMU will live at 180 Remsen Street forever.

Braica hasn't had a team nearly that good in his eight seasons since at the helm of the Terriers. Injuries and uncertainty made this season even more difficult, but he was still hopeful at the end. “If we get some of our guys back,” Braica said in the press conference after his team lost in the quarterfinals to future national media darling Fairleigh Dickinson, “we can really be good next year.” Now he'll never get the chance.

Monday, March 13, 2023

NIT Bracketology: Final Thoughts On The Bubble and the Black Box

The NIT bracket was released (after it was corrected) last night around 10 pm ET. The biggest surprise (to me) was the inclusion of UCF.

The biggest takeaway for me from the teams that were selected (and the teams I assume were close) was that the NIT Selection Committee relied heavily on the NCAA's own NET ranking. As you can see below the only outlier in terms of the NET for which teams were selected around the bubble was Santa Clara. The Broncos were clearly the third best team in the West Coast Conference this season. I think they ultimately got in because of that and because of their strong resume metrics. Santa Clara was 64th in ESPN's Strength of Record. It's also possible based on the seeding that either Villanova, Seton Hall, or Santa Clara was the final team into the field after North Carolina declined a bid. (And I would guess it was Santa Clara.)

TeamSelectedSeedNETKenPomStrength of RecordQ1/Q2 Wins
Washington St.Yes47357927
Virginia TechYes57681866
Seton HallYes67770726
Santa ClaraYes68482644
Wake ForestNo9088835
San Jose St.No9593816

Considering the NET was originally introduced as a sorting tool that is supposed to place teams into quadrants, it's odd that the selection committee leaned so hard into it as a selection tool. (Though it is worth noting that Wisconsin and Vanderbilt, which were 80th and 81st in NET received high seeds. On the other hand, both those teams had a plethora of strong wins and were considered potential NCAA Tournament bubble teams for a long time.)

In addition, it could've been that the committee leaned heavily on KenPom and not NET and they're just so closely aligned that it's hard to see the difference, but that would actually make Santa Clara and Virginia Tech outliers.

I've tended to use 100 in NET as my cutoff heuristic for delineating potential at-large teams for the NIT. That still seems like a reasonable line to draw, but it does seem like a team needs something rather extraordinary to make it even with a NET above 80 or so.

Some of these questions and concerns could've also been alleviated if the NIT Selection Show on ESPNU had given literally any insight into how the bracket was selected and seeded. I would've loved to learn what other teams were considered and which team entered the bracket after the Tar Heels declined. The NIT could also publish their s-curve like the NCAA Tournament does, but that has never happened either.

So we are left with this black box. We'll try to figure it out again next season.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

The 2023 NIT Bracket Is Out

I'll have more to say about the bracket tomorrow, but it's out.

Ultimate I got 31/32 teams. It appears that once again KenPom and predictive ratings in generally played a big part in the seeding process. It's really weird that they created rematches between Oregon and UC Irvine and Washington State and Eastern Washington instead of flipping them just for a few extra miles of travel.

Also, if you watched the bracket reveal show on ESPNU you should check out this bracket. The NCAA apparently accidentally flipped all the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds. This bracket makes way more sense!

Still, it should be a fun tournament!

Final Projected NIT Bracket

For posterity, this is my final projection of the NIT bracket:

1. Rutgers
4. Villanova
U. Cincinnati
3. Florida
2. Wisconsin

1. Oklahoma St.
4. Sam Houston St.
U. Colorado
3. Virginia Tech
2. North Texas
U. Washington St.

1. Vanderbilt
4. UAB
U. Liberty
3. New Mexico
U. Nebraska
2. Oregon

1. Clemson
4. Santa Clara
3. Seton Hall
2. Michigan

This bracket doesn't include two teams, North Carolina and Texas Tech, that declined to participate in postseason play beyond the NCAA Tournament. (We can talk about that decision for the Tar Heels, who would've been a No. 1 seed, in more detail another time.)

The last team into this bracket is Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are playing at New Mexico, a game I've given them a number of times in the past. It is completely plausible that the NIT selection committee will want to go with a different West Coast team in that slot. If that's the case then I could see San Jose St., San Francisco, or Loyola Marymount there. (Or UC Irvine bumped up and another southern team in the bracket.) Also, while I think Colorado and Washington St. should be safely into the field, there are some brackets out there that disagree. The most logical at-large candidates beyond the three mentioned above include Dayton, Marshall, and Wake Forest. I have a full run down of the NIT bubble on the site.

The weirdest game in this bracket is definitely UC Irvine, an automatic bid out of the Big West conference, heading to Vanderbilt. I just ran out of slots for West Coast games. Also, I might be too high on the Commodores generally. They have great resume metrics but bad power rankings and were not in the NCAA committee's First Four Out. (They've replaced UNC because I had Vanderbilt as an NCAA team originally.)

The NIT Selection Show is at 10 pm ET on ESPNU. Good luck to everyone involved and their fans.

March 12, 3:30 PM Bracket Notes

My final NIT bracket projection prior to the NCAA Selection Show at 6 pm on CBS is up on the site now. While seeding that bracket I tried to keep as tightly to geographic concerns as possible but I still included the teams I think will make the bracket. This means that I have the somewhat awkward first round matchup of Washington St. traveling across the country to play Villanova. My ultimate decision was that one awkward matchup is better than a bunch of slightly awkward ones. Last year's committee definitely agreed with this approach, but it could change this time around.

I know that having Vanderbilt in my bracket over Rutgers is against consensus. We'll see if that's right or wrong come the NCAA Selection Show. I feel certain that I'm going to miss on at least one team and potentially multiple along the NCAA cut line. There are just too many resumes that aren't that great and there were no bid stealers to help out.

On the other hand, there are ultimately 11 automatic bids to the NIT this season. That's exactly as many as there were last season and right in line with the historical range. The last automatic bid went to Yale, which gave me another team from the northeast to play with in the bracket.

There are lots of ways this NIT bracket could be wrong. Some teams I still think could hear their name called are: Nebraska, San Jose St., Dayton, San Francisco, and UCF. Theoretically, any team in my bubble post is fair game.

Quiet Quitting the NIT

One thing that always comes up around Selection Sunday is whether or not power conference teams, especially “blue bloods”, will decline NIT invites.

Outside of the COVID seasons (2020 was canceled and 2021 was weird) this happens much more rarely than teams would have you believe. There are very few cases of power conference teams explicitly deciding to remove themselves from consideration for the NIT. (Though not showing up on game day is a whole different story.)

On the other hand, it has become clear to me over the years that the NIT definitely considers a team’s desire to play in the tournament when selecting bubble teams. For power conference teams not in the first 10 teams or so on the S-curve that means there is a way to quiet quit: Signal to the NIT selection committee that you’re done. How? Say you’re more injured than the public realizes, downplay your resume, or send a message through a back channel. There are lots of options.

Does this mean that North Carolina isn’t going to be in the NIT bracket at 10 pm tonight? No. If that’s the case then UNC and Hubert Davis will have explicitly quit on the season. The Tar Heels won’t get an at-large NCAA Tournament bid, but their resume is too good to miss the NIT no matter what selection criteria is used. 

The same goes for Michigan, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, Clemson and Oregon. The Wolverines, Cowboys, Badgers, Tigers and Ducks are too close to the NCAA cut line for their opt out to be anything but explicit. (The preceding two paragraphs also apply to any team that falls unexpectedly from the NCAA Tournament.) If those teams don’t put out a release saying they’re done for the season after the NCAA Selection Show airs at 6 pm, I will assume they’re going to appear on the NIT bracket at 10 pm on ESPNU.

Beyond that though? It’s hard to know. The reporting I have done suggests that most of the power conference teams projected to the NIT want to play, but I am not sourced across the entirety of college basketball.

If teams towards the bottom of the bracket didn’t want to play, it would open additional spots in the NIT. (And it’d be hard to know whether a team opted out or just wasn't selected by the committee. The best historical example of this is the 2016 LSU team with Ben Simmons.)

Texas Tech is the only NIT bubble team that has stated they won’t play in the postseason. The others might just quiet quit.

March 12, 8:45 AM Bracket Notes

I took another look at where I'm off the BracketMatrix consensus when it comes to the NCAA Tournament bubble. Prior to this morning's update there were two major discrepancies. I had Oklahoma St. and Vanderbilt in the NCAA Tournament and Rutgers and Pittsburgh out.

After looking at the resumes again, I've decided to change one of those. I've moved Pittsburgh into the NCAA Tournament and Oklahoma St. back into my First Four Out. This shakes up the No. 1 seed pairings a little bit because gone is the perfect complement to Youngstown State. Now the Penguins are heading to New Brunswick, NJ instead to take on Rutgers.

As for Rutgers, I just cannot get past the historically anomalous record that the Scarlet Knights have put together this season. If they get selected, it will be with more bad losses than is typically thought possible. Rutgers is 70th in T-Rank Wins Above Bubble. The only reason they're even in this conversation is the plethora of opportunities for good wins that the Big Ten provides.

Unless Yale or VCU falls in their conference tournament this is probably the last update before the NCAA Tournament bracket announce on CBS. After that show we'll know the No. 1 seeds in the NIT. I will make those changes shortly after the announcement. Then the entire NIT field is being announced tonight at 10 pm on ESPNU. Let's see who is in this tournament!

Saturday, March 11, 2023

The Full NIT Bubble

The NIT bubble is a fascinating puzzle. After the first two seed lines there's no telling which teams are going to make the tournament. It'll depend heavily on how the selection committee decides to let teams into the field. I am going to try and lay out here what my current thoughts are about the field and how it could play out tomorrow night at 9 pm on ESPNU. For each team I'll highlight the pros and cons of their cases to the committee. If you're not on this list I just can't imagine hearing your name called tomorrow night, but I've been shocked before.

Assumed Safe: NCAA Tournament bubble teams (Rutgers, Nevada, Pittsburgh, Clemson, North Texas, Wisconsin, Oregon, North Carolina), Michigan, New Mexico

They're Probably Safe But They're a Mid-Major:

Sam Houston State: The Bearkats fell in the WAC semifinals on Friday night. They finished 25-7 and were the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament thanks to WACPts. They didn't receive an automatic bid though, because that went to Utah Valley. SHSU is ranked 65th in NET, 52nd in Strength of Record, and 68th on KenPom. They won at Oklahoma and Utah during non-conference. The only blemishes on their resume is a Quad IV loss at UT Arlington and a 2-4 overall record against Quad I and II. They should be in the NIT.

Santa Clara: Herb Sendek's squad was the third best team in the West Coast Conference this season behind Gonzaga and Saint Mary's. That alone should be enough to get them an at-large bid to the NIT. Santa Clara currently ranks 64th in Strength of Record, but is 84th in NET and 82nd in KenPom. The Broncos, who finished 23-9 overall, beat Boise St., Iona, and UC Irvine during non-conference play. Santa Clara should be in unless the committee just decides to go all predictive and ignore actual wins and losses.

Liberty: Liberty tied for first in Atlantic Sun with Kennesaw State. The Flames are 44th in NET and 48th in KenPom. They're basically the opposite of Santa Clara, as they're 1-5 against Quad I and II (a neutral site victory over fellow NIT participant Bradley) and just 89th in Strength of Reecord. Still, it'll be hard for the committee to ignore a NET that high along with going 26-8 and 15-3 in conference play.

UAB: This one is a little weird because the Blazers will play for an NCAA Tournament berth at 8:30 pm against Florida Atlantic in the CUSA finals tonight. If they lose that game though UAB should still be in line for an NIT bid. The Blazers are 52nd in NET and 54th in KenPom. They also have a Strength of Record of 69. UAB is 25-8 overall and beat FAU at home and just beat North Texas on a neutral court.

Middling Majors I Think Are Safe:

Seton Hall: The Pirates are 17-15 in their first season under Shaheen Holloway, but they have four Quad I wins, including Memphis on a netural court, at Rutgers, home against Connecticut, and a blowout win at Providence to end the season. SHU struggled a bit down the stretch, going 2-6 in their final eight games as injuries took a toll. Losing to DePaul by a point in the opening round of the Big East tournament wasn't the best look, but Seton Hall has the best wins of any major conference team below the obvious candidates. SHU is 73rd in Strength of Record, 80th in NET, and 69th in KenPom.

Florida: I would think that Florida gets into the NIT. The Gators are 16-16 overall in Todd Golden's first season in charge. They're 60th in the NET, 63rd in KenPom, and 78th in Strength of Record. Of Florida's 16 losses 15 were either in Quad I or II. Their only "bad" loss was at home to Vanderbilt, which doesn't look bad at all at this point. The big question here is what the Gators want to do after losing their best player, senior center Colin Castleton, to a season-ending injury a few weeks ago. Florida beat Georgia and LSU since then and lost in overtime to Mississippi St. in the SEC Tournament. They can win games without Castleton and deserve a chance to start the next phase of the program.

Villanova: Villanova came on strong towards the end of Kyle Neptune's first season and is currently 75th in NET, 77th in Strength of Record, and 60th in KenPom. The Wildcats are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have beaten Seton Hall, Xavier (away), Creighton, Seton Hall (again, away) during that stretch. They're currently 17-16 overall, but clearly NIT quality.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies are 78th in NET, 81st in Strength of Record and 81st in KenPom. They played a soft non-conference schedule, which allowed them to get out to a gaudy (and deceiving) 11-1 record before stumbling on a 7-game losing streak in ACC play. Since then though they've played alright, beating the teams they should but also Duke, Virginia and Pittsburgh at home. VT is 19-14 overall and seems like a classic NIT selection.

Colorado: Another team that seems like a classic NIT selection is Colorado. The Buffaloes are 70th in NET and 59th in KenPom, though just 94th in Strength of Record. Colorado is 17-16 overall, but has wins against Tennessee and Texas A&M on a neutral court in non-conference, plus a win at Arizona St. in February. The Buffaloes also beat fellow Pac-12 bubble contenders Utah and Washington down the stretch. I would expect Tad Boyle's squad to make it, but they're the diciest proposition in this group because of their five Quad III and IV losses.

These Really Are Bubble Teams:

Washington St.: Kyle Smith's Cougars find themselves right where they were at this point in the season last year, right on the NIT bubble. WSU is 72nd in NET, 92nd in Strength of Record, and 58th in KenPom. That KenPom rating along is probably enough to get the Cougars into the NIT. They'll need to hope that's what the committee relies on though, because WSU is just 1-11 against Quad I opponents (of course the one win was at Arizona). The Cougars also have a 5-3 record against Quad II opponents and are 17-16 overall, so it seems like they'll eventually make it into the field.

Cincinnati: Another team that is still playing! The Bearcats are playing in the AAC semifinals against Houston as I write this post. A win there would obviously be a huge boost to the resume. Even without it though UC seems like a strong NIT candidate. They are 68th in NET, 74th in Strength of Record, and 52nd in KenPom. My concern about Wes Miller's squad is that they have just three Quad I and II wins to go with two Quad III losses. Cincinnati's inability to beat Houston or Memphis during AAC play is the reason they might end up missing out on the NIT.

San Jose St.: Tim Miles has one of the best stories in college basketball this season with the West Coast Spartans. They're 96th in NET, 87th in Strength of Record, and 93rd in KenPom. What SJSU does have going for it though is a bunch of good wins. They have victories over Santa Clara, Utah St., Boise St. and Nevada. That ability to beat quality competition might not be enough to quite offset the lackluster overall metrics.

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers might be the most interesting team on the NIT bubble. They are 93rd in NET and 97th in KenPom, but 66 in Strength of Record. How? By going 7-15 against Quad I and II thanks to a ton of close victories. Nebraska beat Penn St., Wisconsin, Rutgers (away), Maryland, and Iowa (away) during the final month of the regular season. Of course then Nebraska went and took their worst loss of the season to Minnesota to start the Big Ten Tournament. Nebraska also lost a bunch of games from its rotation due to injury. It'll be interesting to see how the committee looks at Nebraska's predictive metrics versus its difficult schedule, 16-16 record, and overall body of work.

More Bubble Teams:

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons are 90th in NET, 85th in Strength of Record, and 88th in KenPom. The finished ahead of Virginia Tech in the ACC standings, but they also went 2-5 in their last seven games including losses to Boston College and at Syracuse. They're a reasonable candidate though at 19-14 overall.

Saint Louis: The Billikens officially entered the NIT at-large pool with a loss to VCU in the A-10 semifinals this afternoon. They were 95th in NET, 80th in Strength of Record (though 58th in KPI) and 94th in KenPom before the loss. Their best win is at home against Memphis in their third game of the season.

Dayton: The Flyers have a better NET (76th) and KenPom (74th) but worse resume metrics than their conference mates. Dayton won at VCU, which is the best win a team can get in the A-10, but they also have four Quad III and IV losses. Dayton plays Fordham a little later in the A-10 semifinals.

Kent St.: The Golden Flashes are another team still playing, this time in the MAC championship against Toledo tonight. If they don't win that game though they'll have a decent argument for an at-large bid. They're 63rd in NET, 51st in Stength of Record, and 78th in KenPom. Kent St. is 27-6 overall after going 15-3 in MAC play. Kent St.'s issue is that they have just one Quad II win (at Ohio) after playing a lackluster non-conference schedule (well they played Charleston, Houston, and Gonzaga, but good luck with those). Update: Kent St. defeated Toledo on Saturday night to clinch the MAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

San Francisco: The Dons closed the season strong, making it to the semifinals of the WCC tournament before falling to Gonzaga. USF (20-14) has a neutral site double-overtime win over Santa Clara, a home win against Arizona St., plus a win at fellow WCC bubble team Loyola Marymount. USF is also 108th in NET, 113th in Strength of Record, and 101st in KenPom.

Loyola Marymount: 107th in NET, 102nd in Strength of Record, 108th in KenPom. LMU has the worst raw metrics of the three WCC teams, but they also have the best win — at Gonzaga. LMU also beat Saint Mary's and Nevada at home and Wake Forest on a netural court. In fact, LMU is 5-8 against Quad I and II competition and 4-4 against Quad III. A weak non-conference schedule might be what ultimately prevents them from making the NIT.

Tulane: The Green Wave looked to be an NIT lock earlier this season, but they closed poorly and are now 100th in NET, 90th in Strength of Record and 100th in KenPom. They're also still alive for an NCAA Tournament berth (they play Memphis in the AAC semifinals later today). Tulane is 6-4 right now against Quad I and II, but they also have six Quad III and IV losses. It's possible, they hear their name called thanks to wins at Memphis (OT), versus Memphis, and versus Cincinnati (OT).

BYU: The Cougars are 85th in NET and 73rd in KenPom, but 121st in Strength of Record. They went 2-11 against Quad I and II and also have four Quad III and IV losses. They did beat Loyola Marymount in the WCC tournament. They also split with USF and LMU during WCC play, which basically created a situation where none of the three teams have an outstanding resume.

Utah: The Utes are 17-15 overall. They're also 81st in NET, 99th in Strength of Record, and 71st in KenPom. So they have to be mentioned here. They've also been extremely injured down the stretch and lost their last six games, including against Stanford in the Pac-12 tournament.

UCF: The Golden Knights season ended last night with a loss to Memphis in the AAC quarterfinals. UCF went 18-14 overall and is 73rd in NET, but 107th in Strength of Record. They are 66th in KenPom though, but a committee that selects on power ratings and not resume could potentially give them a spot. UCF also really struggled down the stretch after starting the season 13-4. This would be an odd choice.

Marshall: The other team in the Sun Belt alongside Louisiana and Southern Miss, the Thundering Herd went 24-8, including 13-5 in conference play. They're 83rd in NET, 95th in Strength of Record, and 84th in KenPom. They didn't play a Quad I game all season, but they did go 2-2 against Quad II, including winning at Duquesne and James Madison. If that's your marquee wins though it's tough to imagine an NIT berth coming.

Princeton: The Tigers were the co-champions of the Ivy League with Yale and will play the Bulldogs on their home court at Jadwin Gymnasium in the finals of the Ivy League tournament for a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament. If they don't they'll hope the committee looks at their 19-8 overall record (10-4 Ivy League). The Tigers ranked 119th in NET, 109th in Strength of Record, and 117th in KenPom coming into today. Update: Princeton defeated Yale on Sunday afternoon to clinch the Ivy League's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Fordham: Look, the Rams are a great story and they were 76th in Strength of Record coming into today, but they're also 130th in NET and 137th in KenPom. It would be a shock to see a team that played that terrible of a non-conference schedule and whose best wins are at Tulane and at Duquesne in the NIT. 

Officially declined postseason play: Texas Tech. Not .500: Ohio St., Oklahoma.

March 11, 8 AM Bracket Notes

Two results from late last night affected the NIT bracket. The easier one is that Utah Valley lost in the WAC semifinals after a late comeback by Southern Utah. That hands the Wolverines an automatic bid to the NIT as the WAC champion. (Sam Houston St. also lost yesterday, so the WAC did no favors to NIT bubble teams this season.) UVU's automatic bid eliminated Wake Forest's at-large spot.

The second result was Vanderbilt's win over Kentucky. At this point it feels like to me that Vanderbilt has done enough to make the NCAA Tournament. Jerry Stackhouse's team is 10-1 in its last 11 games and has now beaten Kentucky on the road and on a neutral court. Similar resumes to Vanderbilt's are often selected to the NCAA Tournament. The conundrum for me was which team to bump. I ultimately decided to once again send Rutgers down to the NIT. I could honestly see the committee going either direction on the Scarlet Knights. Other teams I considered bumping: NC State, Arizona St., Oklahoma St. and Providence. All of those teams feel like true "bubble" teams to me at this point.

I am going to do a full scrub of the NIT bracket later today, so there may be some movement. Every team currently in the bracket, with the exception of UAB, is now done playing. So we should be getting closer to our final product, with the exception of the automatic bids.

We should also see the end of the automatic bid parade (almost). Of the seven 1-bid league champions teams remaining, five play in their league title games today. (VCU and Yale are in the A-10 and Ivy League semifinals respectively.) This means two things: These are the hardest games in most cases (except Iona, which is playing Marist in the MAAC final) and this is it. If the No. 1 seeds win those games they'll be in the NCAA Tournament and not the NIT.

Friday, March 10, 2023

March 10, 11:20 PM Bracket Notes

UC Irvine fell in the Big West semifinals, which took another automatic NIT bid. The change causes a little bit of chaos in the bracket as Saint Louis drops out for now. Bradley moves from playing Michigan to playing Wisconsin because Wake Forest, the current last at-large team in the field, cannot play in the same half of a quadrant as Virginia Tech.

March 10, 5:30 PM Bracket Notes

I looked at the NCAA Tournament bubble again after Rutgers lost to Purdue. The Scarlet Knights have a number of bad losses, but they also have way better wins than Nevada. I think the tournament will lean that way and send Steve Pikiell's squad to Dayton. I've moved Rutgers back into my NCAA Tournament field and moved Nevada down to the NIT. This causes only a minor reshuffle and allows me to make what is basically a western quadrant of the bracket.

March 10, 10 AM Bracket Notes

The NIT bracket is updated again. The biggest changes are around the NCAA cut line. I've moved Oklahoma St. into the NCAA Tournament and Rutgers out. Clemson, Vanderbilt and Oregon are all still playing. If one of those teams win today there's a good chance that they would go into the NCAA Tournament bracket and I would remove one of my last four teams, which are (in order): Oklahoma St., Providence, North Carolina St., and Nevada.

While it doesn't look like it based on this bracket (and bracketing principles), San Jose St. has moved up my S-curve considerably. The problem is that Washington St. and Colorado both moved down, which meant there was only one West Coast slot towards the middle of the bracket that wasn't from the Mountain West Conference.

My last teams in the NIT, which would be replaced by automatic bids if they happen are (in order from safest to not): Cincinnati, San Jose St., Nebraska, Wake Forest, and Saint Louis.

There are still eight teams that could potentially need an automatic bid to the NIT. There's also Florida Atlantic. If the Owls were to lose to Middle Tennessee today it would cause a large cascade of events from the NCAA Tournament all the way down into the middle of this bracket (because the winner of UAB-North Texas would become the CUSA favorite).

There are also a few interesting teams still lurking outside of this bracket that are currently playing basketball. They are: UCF, Kent St., Dayton, Tulane. All four of those teams have NET ratings within striking distance of at-large bid territory.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

March 9, 8:15 PM Bracket Notes

Games have played out pretty much as expected throughout the day, which means there hasn't been a ton of movement in the bracket yet. If anything it has made teams that had already finished playing a little safer.

One team that just picked up a big win is San Jose State. Tim Miles's team is still in bubble territory, but they've moved a bit higher in the S-curve after defeating Nevada — a Quad I victory.

One team that has dropped out has nothing to do with their play, but off the court issues. A Texas Tech spokesperson told the media today that the Red Raiders will not pursue postseason basketball. I am taking them at their word and removing them from this bracket. Since there have been no automatic bids handed out thus far today, that means that Saint Louis is the lucky recipient of that final slot. (Other teams that I considered included UCF, Tulane, Marshall and Kent State.)

It's quite possible the NCAA cut line will need some revision after today, but the results haven't been pretty there either. Nevada lost, Pittsburgh lost (by 27), Michigan lost, Providence lost, and West Virginia lost. Let's see if an NCAA bubble team can figure out how to win in the night session. (Looking at you Penn State and North Carolina!)

Update: Penn St. did indeed win. The Nittany Lions replace Pittsburgh in the NCAA bracket.

March 9, 8 AM NIT Bracket Notes

Yesterday's results created a lot of movement in the bracket. One particularly noteworthy move is the departure of Utah from the bracket. The Utes are 80th in NET this morning, but they rank 100th in Strength of Record. Utah also lost six straight and eight of 10 to finish the season. That sort of slide is tough to overcome in the selection room.

Nebraska has a number of a good wins, but the Cornhuskers took their worst loss of the season to Minnesota last night and are now projected to have a NET above 100, which would be an extreme outlier for how the committee has typically selected teams. The Cornhuskers also saw their KenPom rating fall to 95 after the loss to the Golden Gophers. Last year's committee relied heavily on predictive metrics, and if they do so again that would make it difficult for Nebraska to get a bid. The Cornhuskers still have seven Quad I and II victories against just one bad loss (the one against Minnesota), but taking that as your final statement to the committee is a tough look. Honestly though, there's not really a good choice to replace Nebraska within the bracket, which is why the Cornhuskers are still here, but much much closer to the cut line.

Another team that is impossible to figure out is Texas Tech. The Red Raiders haven't lost a game all season to a team outside of Quad I or II, but they're 5-16 against that competition and 16-16 overall. They also just fired their head coach. Right now TTU's resume is just too good to ignore, but I'm monitoring the situation.

Seton Hall lost to DePaul yesterday, but I still the Pirates are in line to play in the NIT and quite possibly receive a home game depending on how things shake out down the stretch.

Alcorn St. enters the bracket as the automatic bid from the SWAC. The Braves went 15-3 in SWAC play but lost in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament to Texas Southern.

Closer to the cut line for the NCAA Tournament, Wisconsin dropped out of the NCAA Tournament and into a No. 2 seed after losing to Ohio St. in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. That might seem harsh, but I think there are just a number of teams that a) have a chance to continue to improve their resume and b) have a better chance of being selected as the First Four Out by the committee than the 17-14 Badgers. Rutgers was moved back into the NCAA Tournament, which is why they're no longer in this bracket. But I could see that changing down the stretch given the unique resume the Scarlet Knights possess.

Monday, March 6, 2023

March 6, 11:30 PM Bracket Notes

What happened tonight was simple: The No. 1 seeds in the CAA (Hofstra) and Horizon League (Youngstown St.) both lost. What isn't simple is how those results affect the bracket. Hofstra lost in the first CAA semifinal, but the College of Charleston held off a hard-charging Towson team in the second game in Washington, DC. That means the Cougars are currently the CAA's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, removing Pat Kelsey's squad from the No. 1 seed position that it held in the NIT earlier today.

This results in every other team in the top four seed lines (plus one lucky five seed) moving up a little bit. Congrats Seton Hall, you're now a No. 3 seed! That puts the Pirates in perfect position to host the Pride in a game that would have a lot of local buzz in the New York area. Congrats Nebraska, you're now a No. 4 seed! The Cornhuskers would get to host a game in this scenario. (Though Villanova is a little geographically implausible.)

Dayton was the team I dropped from the bracket after Youngstown St. fell to Northern Kentucky in the Horizon League semifinals. The Flyers still have a chance to sneak into the NIT somewhere depending on what happens in Brooklyn this week, but besides a NET in the high 70s there's not a ton there. (Dayton is 2-7 against Quads I and II.) Other teams in real danger? San Jose St., Wake Forest, Utah, and Cincinnati.

That's about it for tonight. There's basketball all day tomorrow. I'm sure more changes will be on their way.

March 6, 1:30 PM NIT Bracket Notes

I spent my lunch break looking at the cut line for the NCAA Tournament and I have decided that I slightly overreacted to Providence's resume, at least in light of Rutgers losing at home to Northwestern last night.

Rutgers needed a victory to offset its particularly bad losses, but the Scarlet Knights have just not been playing that well lately. Their Strength of Record is now 62, which is very far off what you'd want to see from an at-large bid. When looking at resume comparisons on Bart Torvik's excellent site almost all (9 of 10) of Rutgers' closest comps were left out of the NCAA Tournament.

So Rutgers is now a No. 1 seed in the NIT. They're joined by two mid-majors that have the potential to get screwed by the committee — North Texas and College of Charleston — and a league foe that they recently defeated but looks better and better - Penn State.

For those wondering, I think there are approximately nine true "bubble" slots left in the NCAA tournament. The teams I currently have filling them are: Utah St., Nevada, Illinois, North Carolina St., Pittsburgh, Providence, Arizona St., Wisconsin, and Mississippi State. Obviously all of those teams will continue to play games this week. It's often been noted that conference tournaments don't matter much for selection and seeding, but that's definitely not the case for the NIT (or the bubble I believe). So I'll be watching closely this week.

The new bracket is out. I'll update it again tonight if any of the No. 1 seeds in action fall in their conference tournaments. (This is pretty likely.)

Sunday, March 5, 2023

March 5, 9 PM NIT Bracket Notes

The two biggest changes to the bracket since this afternoon are the inclusion of Nebraska and switch out out Drake for Bradley. Also, Liberty became the second at-large team (after Santa Clara) that will play no more games until they're selected for some sort of postseason tournament. Let's briefly discuss all three cases and explain how they've impacted the bracket.

When Bradley lost the Missouri Valley Conference final to Drake it created a swap of teams in the NIT bracket. But while Bradley and Drake have relatively similar resumes according to most metrics, the Bulldogs have been hanging onto a neutral site victory over Mississippi St. during non-conference. Bradley lost every premiere non-conference game it played and is currently 0-5 against Quad I opponents. This fact will probably push Bradley further down the NIT bracket than where its conference counterpart would've been, which pushes some mid-tier teams higher.

Nebraska joins the NIT bracket, replacing Saint Louis, after the Cornhuskers' stunning victory at Iowa this afternoon. It was going to be hard for Nebraska to go 2-1 in the Big Ten tournament to get to the magic .500 line. But after their third top 40 road victory, the Cornhuskers can beat Minnesota and be relatively safe. Why? Because Nebraska has 0 bad losses and a host of good ones. The one wrinkle would be if the committee decided to go heavy on predictive metrics again. While the KPI and Strength of Record think Nebraska is for real, the Cornhuskers came into the day ranked 94th in NET. They're 94th in KenPom even after winning at Iowa. (Nebraska is also 48th in KenPom's "luck", which explains a little bit of the difference between the two styles of metrics.) I find it hard to believe though that the NIT would leave a team out that has seven total QI and QII wins.

A team the predictive metrics (and the NET) liked coming into today was Liberty. The Flames came into their Atlantic Sun final against Kennesaw State ranked 44th in KenPom. Despite the close loss, they still rank 46th. Liberty has no Quad I wins and is just 1-2 against Quad II. Liberty did beat Bradley on a neutral court during non-conference, but that's its only win amongst 26 that is against a projected NCAA or NIT team. It's an absolutely perplexing resume that'll test the committee's boundaries. It's hard to win 26 games no matter who you play, so hopefully that'll hold some sway. I believe Liberty probably will get in, but they're right up against the projected automatic bid cut line at the moment.

Update at 9:35 pm ET: Eastern Washington just lost in the Big Sky quarterfinals. The loss add another automatic bid recipient to the NIT and caused a bunch of reshuffling in the bracket as well because of geographic considerations. It makes a ton of sense that the NIT committee would send EWU to Oregon. Tulane was the team that was removed from the bracket. Wake Forest was the bubble team I was going to send to Providence, but Virginia Tech is in that quadrant. So Wake Forest heads to Penn St. now (to most likely eventually be replaced by an automatic bid) and Dayton heads to Providence.

Also, Rutgers appears likely to lose to Northwestern by quite a wide margin. This will cause me to take another long look at the Scarlet Knights' resume tomorrow. I will be comparing it to teams currently in the NIT, including Penn State (which just lost to Rutgers at home) and Providence.

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