Bracketology: Rutgers still in NCAA Tournament, but may need more road wins to make the field of 68
The Knights are 1-8 on the road and no team since 1994 has made it into the field with fewer than three wins away from home
The new bracket is out and below the top two lines, there was plenty of movement. There are some odd things happening in college hoops this season that could see some historic indicators of selection get tested.
The most reliable indicator for selection over the last 26 seasons has been being four games above .500. As regular readers know, the only team in that time to get in that didn't meet that standard was Georgia in 2001, which was 16-14 and played 27 of its 30 games in what we would now call Quadrants 1 and 2. David Worlock of the NCAA tweeted Sunday that Villanova also got in at 16-14 in 1991.
I would not count on that happening again this season. Nobody plays schedules like Georgia did in 2001 these days. Kansas has played the toughest schedule this season and still has five games in Q3-4 and at least one more coming. The same is true of Seton Hall.
However, because of the depth and strength of the Big Ten, we could see a team get in at three games above .500. Purdue is in the best position to be that team, but at 14-12, their margin for error is small. Minnesota could do it too, but would need a very strong finish. The Gophers have lost four of five and would likely need to reverse that to get close.
Note that we have been close to seeing a team get in with a record of fewer than four games above .500. Alabama (18-15) and Indiana (17-15) were each among the selection committee's first four out last season.
The next best indicator of a minimum standard for an at-large team is the ability to win away from home. After all, the tournament is not played on home courts. Home crowds maybe, but not home courts. It has always been true that the single best thing a team can do for its tournament resume is to beat a quality team away from home.
No team since 1994 has made it into the field with fewer than three wins away from home. The only one since 2007 to get in with fewer than four was Oklahoma, which had three in 2018. That was the Sooners squad that got off to an amazing start, only to crash and burn through most of conference play.
The team most likely to challenge that this season is Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are looking for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1991, but winning away from the RAC has been a significant challenge. They are just 1-8 away from home this season, with that win coming at Nebraska on Jan. 3. Their eight losses are all to higher rated teams than that, including a neutral court loss to St. Bonaventure. They still have games at Wisconsin, Penn State and Purdue. Good luck getting to three wins.
While I don't think the committee looks at this specifically, another strong indicator seems to be a team's record against Q1-3. Only one team has ever got in that was more than one game below .500 against that group of teams. That was Temple in 2016, the worst year ever for the bubble. Only one team since then (and six total) has received an at-large bid at one game under .500 against that group. Florida made it in at 14-15 vs Q1-3 last season.
That is the primary reason why I have Texas Tech on the bubble. The Red Raiders are just 8-9 vs Q1-3 and they still have to play Baylor and Kansas. This is also a problem for Purdue, which is 10-12 vs that group.
And this is a good time to remind you that how you perform in your conference is not criteria. Your conference record and the conference standings have no bearing at all on the selection process. There is no specific conference information on the team sheet. Even the name of the team's conference is omitted.
Bracketology top seeds
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