Sports

Belmont’s in, Indiana and Alabama out

The NCAA tournament selection committee hasn’t been kind to mid-majors in recent years.

Gone are the days when VCU, a head-scratching at-large bid that got in over power conference schools in 2011, went to the Final Four. 

Loyola-Chicago coach Porter Moser said last year he didn’t think his Cinderella Ramblers team would’ve been in the NCAAs had it not secured an automatic bid. 

That brings us to Belmont, a mid-major that was thrust onto the bubble when it lost to Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament this past weekend. Without that automatic bid, the Bruins (26-5, 16-2) still have a résumé worthy of playing in March Madness, having beaten two Quadrant 1 (top-30, top-75 road) opponents and posting another solid road victory at UCLA to go with no bad losses and a top-75 non-conference strength of schedule. 

But now the debate becomes: Does this mid-major with a 16-2 conference record belong in over Indiana or Alabama who posted below .500 records in their respective power conferences — the Big Ten and SEC? 

The committee is using a new metric this year — the NET — which is supposed to value more in-game statistics instead of wins and losses on the road or at home like the RPI provided. But will this metric favor mid-majors? Numbers-wise it does right now. Belmont has a 45 NET score compared to Indiana’s 55 and Alabama’s 58. But the Hoosiers (17-14, 8-12 Big Ten) have six Quad 1 victories and the Crimson Tide (17-14, 8-10) posted a top-25 strength of schedule thanks in large part to the SEC’s overall strength this year. 

It’d be unfair to say Belmont didn’t schedule well in the non-conference, and it’d also be tough to argue that Indiana or Alabama wouldn’t lose against a Murray State team that features an NBA lottery pick in Ja Morant. But we won’t know until Selection Sunday if the selection committee puts more stock into the NET than it did the RPI or other profile categories. 

Both Belmont and UNC-Greensboro, set to play in the Southern Conference tournament vs. Wofford Monday night, are currently ahead of Indiana and Alabama. But both could be sweating up until Selection Sunday whereas the Hoosiers and Tide have opportunities to determine their own destiny this week in the Big Ten and SEC tournaments. 

**

CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN

Breakdown data, compiled by bracketologist Shelby Mast, is updated through games played on March 10.

 

Temple (In for now, No. 11 seed)

Profile: 23-8 (13-5) 49 NET, 77 SoS, 217 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Houston, Davidson, South Florida (twice), Memphis
  • The Bad: Loss to Penn

Clemson (Out for now)

Profile: 19-12 (9-9) 35 NET, 35 SoS, 119 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Virginia Tech, Lipscomb, Syracuse
  • The Bad: No bad losses

North Carolina State (Out for now)

Profile: 21-10 (9-9) 32 NET, 215 SoS, 353 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Auburn, Clemson, Syracuse, Penn State
  • The Bad: Loss to Wake Forest, Georgia Tech

St. John’s (In for now, No. 10 seed)

Profile: 20-11 (8-10) 66 NET, 74 SoS, 213 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Villanova, Marquette (twice), VCU, Creighton (twice), Seton Hall, Butler
  • The Bad: Loss to DePaul

Creighton (In for now, No. 12 seed — play-in)

Profile: 17-13 (9-9) 54 NET, 12 SoS, 23 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Marquette, Clemson, Georgetown (twice), Butler, Xavier  
  • The Bad: No bad losses

Georgetown (Out for now)

Profile: 19-12 (9-9) 76 NET, 79 SoS, 251 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. St. John’s, Butler, Liberty, South Florida, Providence, Villanova, Seton Hall, Marquette
  • The Bad: Losses to SMU, Loyola Marymount

Butler (Out for now)

Profile: 16-15 (7-11) 62 NET, 22 SoS, 66 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Florida, Georgetown, St. John’s, Ole Miss, Creighton, Seton Hall
  • The Bad: Loss to Saint Louis

Xavier (Out for now)

Profile: 17-14 (9-9) 71 NET, 49 SoS, 170 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Villanova, Saint John’s, Seton Hall, Creighton, Butler, Georgetown
  • The Bad: Losses to Providence, San Diego State

Minnesota (In for now, No. 11 seed)

Profile: 19-12 (9-11) 56 NET, 43 SoS, 159 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Purdue, Wisconsin, Washington, Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana
  • The Bad: Losses to Rutgers, Illinois, Boston College

Ohio State (In for now, No. 11 seed)

Profile: 18-13 (8-12) 52 NET, 59 SoS, 166 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Cincinnati, Nebraska, Creighton, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota
  • The Bad: Loss to Rutgers

Indiana (Out for now)

Profile: 17-14 (8-12) 55 NET, 54 SoS, 208 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Michigan State (twice), Louisville, Marquette, Penn State, Butler, Wisconsin
  • The Bad: Loss to Rutgers

TCU (In for now, No. 11 seed)

Profile: 19-12 (7-11) 48 NET, 32 SoS, 109 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Iowa State (twice), Baylor, Texas (twice), Florida
  • The Bad: Loss to West Virginia

Texas (Out for now)

Profile: 16-15 (8-10) 39 NET, 6 SoS, 16 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. North Carolina, Purdue, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma 
  • The Bad: Losses to Providence, Radford, Georgia

Arizona State (In for now, No. 10 seed)

► Profile: 21-9 (12-6) 67 NET, 71 SoS, 52 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Kansas, Washington, Mississippi State, Utah State, Arizona (twice), Oregon, Oregon State (twice)
  • The Bad: Losses to USC, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Utah, Princeton, Washington State

Florida (In for now, No. 12 seed — play-in)

► Profile: 17-14 (9-9) 33 NET, 40 SoS, 131 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Arkansas, Ole Miss, Butler, Alabama, LSU
  • The Bad: Loss to South Carolina, Georgia

Alabama (Out for now) 

► Profile: 17-14 (8-10) 58 NET, 24 SoS, 39 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Kentucky, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Liberty, Murray State, Arizona
  • The Bad: Losses to Northeastern, Texas A&M (twice), Georgia State

Utah State (In for now, No. 10 seed)

Profile: 25-6 (15-3) 30 NET, 103 SoS, 21 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Saint Mary’s, Fresno State, Nevada
  • The Bad: Loss to San Diego State

Belmont (In for now, No. 12 seed — play-in)

Profile: 26-5 (16-2) 45 NET, 191 SoS, 76 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Lipscomb (twice), UCLA, Murray State
  • The Bad: Jacksonville State (twice), Green Bay

UNC-Greensboro (In for now, No. 12 seed — play-in)

Profile: 28-5 (15-3) 57 NET, 116 SoS, 130 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. East Tennessee State (twice), Furman (twice)
  • The Bad: No bad losses

Lipscomb (Out for now)

Profile: 25-7 (14-2) 42 NET, 209 SoS, 61 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. TCU, Liberty, Vermont
  • The Bad: Loss to FGCU

Furman (Out for now)

Profile: 25-7 (13-5) 41 NET, 182 SoS 272 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins over Villanova, UNCG, East Tennessee State
  • The Bad: Loss to Samford

Saint Mary’s (Out for now)

Profile: 20-11 (11-5) 37 NET, 28 SoS, 40 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. New Mexico State, San Francisco
  • The Bad: Losses to Western Kentucky, UC Irvine, Harvard, Pepperdine

***

Note:  Mostly all statistical data is used from WarrenNolan.com. The NCAA’s new NET rankings are also considered; that was rolled out at the beginning of 2018-19

About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 on his website, Bracket W.A.G. He joined USA TODAY in 2014. In his sixth season as our national bracketologist, Mast has finished as one of the top three bracketologists in the past five March Madnesses. He’s also predicted for The Indianapolis Star, collegeinsider.com and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.

Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson




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