Well, a 15-loss team has never earned an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament, and Vanderbilt was hoping to avoid that scenario by winning the SEC Tournament and taking the automatic bid. But it wasn’t to be. Too bad Vanderbilt wasn’t playing Florida again because the Commodores certainly did not look good against Arkansas in the SEC tourney semifinals on Saturday.
It’s going to be a nervous Selection Sunday for Vandy.
Rhode Island was a preseason Top 25 team, but the Rams find themselves squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. On Saturday, they did what they needed to do by handling Davidson in the A-10 semis, but that might not be enough. They might need to win the auto bid Sunday.
With one day to go, as you might expect, most of the bubble teams are done playing. Those that are still going are fortunate to still have an opportunity to add to their NCAA Tournament résumés.
Here’s a look at the teams on the bubble:
Off the bubble after winning automatic bid
Nevada 79, Colorado State 71
Nevada erased any doubt about making the field of 68 by winning the Mountain West Conference tournament and the MWC’s automatic bid. The Wolf Pack had a great season, but did not test themselves enough outside the league to have a great chance for an at-large bid had they lost on Saturday. It would not have been out of the question, but it’s a moot point now.
Middle Tennessee 83, Marshall 72
Middle Tennessee was the best of the at-large candidates among the non-major regular-season conference champions, but the Blue Raiders no longer need to concern themselves with that. They took down Marshall in the C-USA tournament final and will go into the NCAA tournament as an automatic qualifier.
The Wildcats looked left for dead but won three in a row, including a victory against Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament. The Wildcats now have two away-from-home wins over the Bears and look a lot safer now than they did Wednesday. However, I still have them among my last four in.
The Friars finished the regular season with a six-game winning streak and put themselves into the bracket. They lost to Creighton in their Big East tournament opener. Their bad losses could come into play, but the wins Providence picked up in that strong finish should help get them a spot in the bracket.
Marquette has some good wins, but a lot of losses. The Golden Eagles did not play a strong nonconference schedule and are paying for that a little bit now. Marquette lost to Seton Hall and now awaits its fate. Eight top-50 wins, including four at home, should keep it in the field.
Xavier struggled down the stretch with a six-game losing streak sandwiched by victories against DePaul. The victory against Butler in the Big East tournament most likely saved the Musketeers’ spot in the bracket.
On the fence
No bubble team had a better final week of the regular season than Wake, which beat Louisville and won at Virginia Tech. That helped to fill a couple of big holes in the Demon Deacons’ tournament résumé. However, the Hokies won the rematch in the ACC tournament. Wake Forest figures to have a nervous selection Sunday.
The Bears have only five top-100 wins, including one at Southern California, but that was the only one against a team likely to make the tournament. They were 0-6 against the top three teams in the Pac-12, although they came close to knocking off Oregon a couple of times. They have only one bad loss, so that could work to their advantage.
Rhode Island 84, Davidson 60
The Rams did what they needed to do with Davidson and are starting to look like the team that was in the preseason Top 25 and the A-10 favorite. Now, they await a chance to take the at-large decision out of the selection committee’s hands.
Arkansas 76, Vanderbilt 62
The Commodores were never in their SEC semifinal game with Arkansas. Vandy might have Florida’s number, but it lost two out of three to the Razorbacks. You never want to leave a bad final impression with the committee, especially when you hope to be the first at-large team with 15 losses, and this was not the best of final impressions.
Middle Tennessee State
The Blue Raiders have the best collection of wins of any of the potential at-large teams from the non-major conferences. They won at Belmont and Ole Miss, beat UNC-Wilmington on a neutral floor and Vanderbilt by 23 at home. The fact that a loss in the C-USA title game would not count as a bad loss helps.
The Redbirds won a share of the Missouri Valley regular-season title, which in most years would mean they did enough to earn an at-large bid if they needed one. That is not the case this season, with the league at its lowest point in over a decade. ISU has only two top-100 wins, which usually is not enough. They also have a couple bad losses, including a real clunker at Murray State.
The Bulldogs do not have a high-quality victory despite some good chances, but they have a decent number of top-100 wins. Georgia lost to Kentucky again -- the third time this season -- and will probably come up short.
The Orange have a nice collection of victories against top-50 teams -- all at home -- including Florida State, Duke and Virginia. However, the rest of the season was not good, and that is reflected in their RPI, which is now in the mid-80s. That would be the worst RPI ever for an at-large team. They also are 2-11 away from home, which would be the worst ever for an at-large team. And, finally, the Orange have five bad losses, which would be one short of the record for an at-large. A team with six top-50 wins gets left out almost every year. No team with Syracuse’s negatives ever gets in.
Monmouth is on the fringes of the bubble, and frankly, it had a better tournament résumé last season. This season, the Hawks are lacking the big victories they had last season, but have only three bad losses. Monmouth has three top-100 wins, but none against the top 50 and none against a sure tournament team.
The Hawkeyes fell to 18-14 overall after a loss to Indiana in the Big Ten tournament brought their season to an end. They have some pretty nice wins, including at home against Big Ten champ Purdue. They also won on the road at Maryland and Wisconsin, part of a four-game winning streak to end the regular season. Iowa also has a couple of bad losses to Memphis and Nebraska-Omaha. Iowa has the slightly better version of Syracuse’s profile, with the main difference being that the Hawkeyes have quality victories away from home. However, it is probably still not enough to get a bid.