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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