Conference play is in full swing. The stakes continually become higher as the season moves on. The question everyone wants to know: Is my team in the NCAA Tournament if the season ended today?
Many fans already know this answer. The lowest RPI ranking to ever receive an at-large bid to the big dance is No.67 by Southern Cal in 2011. That’s the bar. However, just because you’re in the top 30 for RPI doesn’t mean you’re a lock. Teams have been left out. Resumes have to be built. Is your team racking up all of its wins at home? That’s a deadly recipe.
Big 12 teams do not need to fret over strength of schedule. Post a winning conference record and you are likely in. The next questions are: What seed is my team? Who are we playing? Are we a lock?
Finally, if you know you’re team is not going to the Big Dance but has a winning record, could they wind up in the NIT? Below, we look at every Big 12 team’s status. It’s not Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology. That chump only cares about the field of 68. IT’S BROCKETOLOGY. Is your team getting those extra reps for the next season? Good! You actually have somewhat of a future for your program. In March Madness, anything can happen. Just ask George Mason, who to this day, probably should not have even received the shot to go to the Final Four, but did.
Kansas Jayhawks (Automatic Bid, No. 2 Seed)
Vs. Bucknell (RPI 111, Patriot League Champion)
Here we go again. Just when we thought this was the year the remarkable streak ends, Kansas wags their fingers like Dikembe Mutumbo. The Jayhawks have crept their way into the RPI Top 10 and are actually more likely to receive a No.1 seed. Three ACC teams are currently ahead of the Jayhawks. As the season moves along and those teams continue to battle each other, one’s going down. Just win baby, and we’ll have a Rock Chalk No.1. What’s really impressive about Kansas is the 7-0 record away from Phog Allen Fieldhouse. The recent win in Morgantown certainly helps too.
Oklahoma Sooners (No. 2 Seed)
Vs. Montana (RPI 119, Big Sky Champion)
The Sooners are exactly one spot underneath Kansas with the No. 8 RPI ranking. They have several victories against the RPI Top 25, including a sweep over TCU. It’s unlikely they’ll see themselves as a No.1 seed anytime soon. Of course, the Sooners control their own destiny. Kansas is the team that is in the Sooners’ way. If they can knock off the Jayhawks from the crown, I see no reason the Sooners can’t receive the joy of warming up with a No.16 seed in round one.
Texas Tech Red Raiders (No. 4 Seed)
Vs. East Tennessee State (RPI 66, Southern Conference Champion)
This week’s loss against Texas was brutal for the Red Raiders. They went from a borderline No. 2 to a solid No. 4 seed. The resume for Tech isn’t too impressive, but their RPI ranking of 16 looks amazing. They’ve defended home court and scored a win at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. However, they’ve only played three true road games and they are 1-2 in those. If Tech doesn’t turn that around, they’re likely to continue falling. While no Big 12 game is a gimme, Tech desperately needs to win in Ames Saturday, or this could be a complete nosedive.
West Virginia Mountaineers (No. 5 Seed)
Vs. Washington (RPI 54, At-Large Bid)
At this moment, the Mountaineers are slated to face the final team to get in without playing in the First Four. Washington’s RPI ranking is awful, but when you look at their resume compared to the 10 non-champions in front of them, it makes you wonder how they are so low. My theory is that the Pac 12 is simply that weak. The best team in that conference is Arizona at No. 20 in the RPI rankings. Washington’s winning road record plus their victory over Kansas placed them in the tourney. Meanwhile, West Virginia is free-falling for two reasons: Texas A&M’s 0-5 start to SEC play and their two-game losing skid. Mountaineers fans should not be panicking. I like West Virginia to win their next four conference games before a trip to Norman. Add in a home contest against Kentucky, and this team could easily return to the No.1 seed conversation. In fact, I like their chances more than I do Oklahoma’s.
TCU Horned Frogs (No. 6 Seed)
Vs. Florida State (RPI 46, At-Large Bid)
TCU beat up on a lot of tournament-bound mid-majors, and right now that’s paying off. Horned Frogs fans need to root for teams like St. Bonaventure, Nevada, William & Mary and Belmont to continue climbing up the RPI rankings. As soon as those teams drop, so does TCU. The Horned Frogs play Vanderbilt in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Luckily, that’s a winnable road game. If it were at home, TCU would have nothing to gain. West Virginia is actually below TCU in the RPI rankings right now, but the resumes tell a completely different story. A victory over West Virginia would do wonders. Saturday’s game against Kansas State is not a must-win, but TCU is running out of time to improve their 1-2 true road game record.
Texas Longhorns (No. 11 Seed)
Vs. Miami (FL) (RPI 22, At-Large Bid)
When Texas needed a desperation victory, they scored it. Wednesday’s victory over Texas Tech provides some breathing room for a loss against West Virginia Saturday. After their trip to Morgantown, comes two must-win matchups against struggling teams Ole Miss and Iowa State. The Longhorns are square on the bubble, and their current RPI rank is a tad scary in the 40s. I expect that to drop after losing to West Virginia. However, they are 4-4 away from the Frank Erwin Center. This includes a 3-2 road record. Not many teams below 30 can boast that kind of record against the kind of schedule Texas has. Here’s the problem though: If a team like Western Kentucky or Nevada are forced to settle for at-large bids, those bubbles start to pop. Texas is safe for now, but bubble-bursting could easily push the Longhorns into a First Four matchup.
First Four Match-ups
Notre Dame vs. Southern Cal
Georgia vs. Gonzaga
First Four Out
Next Four Out
Kansas State (NIT No. 5 Seed)
At Minnesota (RPI 68)
Wildcats fans can have plenty of hope for a potential NCAA Tournament bid still. It all started with a victory against Oklahoma. Now, they can build on it with a home game against RPI Top 20 team TCU. There is a full month to make up for lost ground. Another big upcoming game is at home against current First Four team Georgia. The Wildcats have an excellent chance to cause serious damage to the SEC resume and boost their own hopes as well.
Baylor Bears (NIT No.8 Seed)
At South Carolina (RPI 49)
Baylor is currently the last team into the NIT. After their game against Kansas, they’ll probably drop out of the NIT and be on the bubble for the CBI Tournament. Looking ahead, their February schedule is absolutely brutal. All home games are against teams currently in the RPI Top 25, and Baylor has yet to win a road game this season.
Iowa State (College Basketball Invitational)
Vs. Tennessee Tech
Believe it or not, there are four postseason basketball tournaments. Texas has actually participated in this when they had a losing record one year. The 2017 CBI did not feature any teams from power conferences. For curiosity’s sake, I took a peek at how this might shape up anyhow. This is based on the assumption that every team invited, would accept and play. Most of the mid-majors take the CollegeInsider.com Tournament over the CBI because of the $50,000 entry fee. Iowa State, is currently seen upon as the fourth team to be invited to this 16-team tournament.
Oklahoma State Cowboys (College Basketball Invitational)
Read about this tournament in the Iowa State paragraph. Oklahoma State would be the fifth team invited to the tournament, one spot after Iowa State. The NIT is in reach!