Predicting And Projecting The NCAA Tournament Field
Predicting the NCAA Tournament field is not rocket science. It is math - just like anything regarding college basketball betting picks or college basketball betting odds - but it’s not rocket science.
We’re dealing with 68 spots in the inflated NCAA Tournament Field. Let’s break that number down piece by piece.
First, there are 20 conferences that are traditionally one-bid leagues. Now, right now I am including in that list the Big West, the OVC and the WAC where Long Beach State, Murray State, and Nevada, respectively, all reside. I think that Long Beach State and Murray State should be in regardless of how they fare and if Nevada wins out they will certainly make a case. But for right now there are 20 leagues that will absolutely have a bid.
Here is that list:
ONE-BID LEAGUES (20):
America East – Boston University
Atlantic Sun – Belmont
Big Sky – Weber State
Big South – UNC-Asheville
BIG WEST – LONG BEACH STATE***
Colonial – VCU
Horizon – Cleveland State
Ivy League – Harvard
Metro – Iona
Mid-American – Akron
MEAC – Morgan State
Northeast – Wagner
Ohio Valley – MURRAY STATE***
Patriot League – Bucknell
Southern – Davidson
Southland – UT-Arlington
SWAC – Mississippi Valley State
Summit – Oral Roberts
Sun Belt – Middle Tennessee State
WAC – Nevada
(***Long Beach and Murray State are three teams that I believe deserve NCAA Tournament bids. Nevada is another team that could play its way into serious consideration (if they win out and make it to their conference tournament and lose) but right now I can’t put them in the same category. But if those other two teams handle their business and punch their tickets via automatic bid then that will open up slots for two more teams.)
Then there are another 27 teams that are absolute locks for the NCAA Tournament. These teams could essentially take a knee on the rest of their season and they have done enough to warrant a bid.
Here is that list:
ABSOLUTE LOCKS (27):
San Diego State
Next, there are six teams that I will say are set to get in right now. Let’s just say that anyone that doesn’t think they are one of the top 68 teams in the country or haven’t earned bids are idiots. Stranger things have happened, I suppose, but as long as these six teams simply beat the teams they should and don’t go in the tank they are pretty much secure in their bids:
SECURE TEAMS (6):
So that is 53 spots that I think are already spoken for in the NCAA Tournament.
There are 68 spots in the field, which includes those ridiculous play-in games that the networks don’t call play-in games. (Which is really childish to me.)
So that leaves 15 slots open. And in my estimation there are presently 25 teams that are competing for those 15 spots. And that is it. That is “the bubble” for this year’s NCAA Tournament.
In that bubble I think that there are presently three sub-sections of teams. First, I think that there are 10 teams that are good right now and would have to play themselves out of the NCAA Tournament by really sliding over the last few weeks of the regular season. Here is that group:
BUBBLE TEAMS - HAVE TO PLAY THEMSELVES OUT (11):
Long Beach State***
So that is eight more “new” teams if Long Beach State and Murray State win their conference tournaments. If that happens, then we are up to 62 spots filled. If they do not then we will give them at-large priority over the rest of the field and we will be at 64 spots.
The plight of Long Beach State and Murray State is particularly important to the next group of teams. Below is a list of 10 more teams that I think really constitute the truest “bubble” teams currently trying to work their way into the field. These 10 teams are almost indistinguishable (they all have their pros and cons) and the bottom line is that they have to play their way into the field and the next three weeks is basically like The Hunger Games for these 10 squads:
BUBBLE TEAMS – HAVE TO PLAY THEMSELVES IN (10):
North Carolina State
Again, those 10 teams are either fighting for the last six slots (if LBSU and Murray State win their tournaments) or they will be fighting for the last four slots in the field. And no matter what, most of these teams are going to end up playing in those weird play-in-games-that-aren’t-called-play-in-games-because-of-branding-and-the-accepted-insanity-of-this-corporately-driven-owned-and-operated-country.
Finally, there are some Hail Mary teams – the longest of long shots – that have a mathematical chance to make The Big Dance as an at-large team. But it would essentially require about 15 of the 21 teams ahead of them to bite the dust while they win out:
BUBBLE TEAMS – THE LONGEST SHOTS (5):
And that is that. That is your field. If you’re on the list, keep fighting. If you’re not on the list, well, keep working for that NIT bid.