Scouting The Tourney: At-Large Locks
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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Earlier this week we took a look at all 31 of the conference leaders to examine their potential seeding and chances at their respective postseason tournaments. Once the 31 guaranteed bids are earned, the NCAA selection committee well award at-large bids to 37 other teams. With Selection Sunday nine days away there’s still plenty that can change, but as of right now the following teams look like guarantees to receive at-large bids if they don’t win their conference tournament.
Conference: Team Overall Record (Conference Record) RPI/Strength of Schedule
ACC: North Carolina 26-4 (13-2) 5/7
Doubtful at this point that they will be anything lower than a two seed. Picked up quality wins out of conference against Michigan State, Wisconsin, Long Beach State and Texas. Only losses in league play came to tournament-bound teams. Combination of experience, great coaching and stellar frontline makes them a viable threat to be the last team standing.
ACC: Florida State 20-9 (11-4) 25/11
Punched their ticket to the tournament back in January when they knocked off Duke and North Carolina in the same week. Those two victories were really key as they missed out on statement wins during their preconference schedule when they fell to Connecticut, Michigan State and Florida. By virtue of being a top three team in one of the nation’s best conferences they should be a five seed at worst.
ACC: Virginia 21-8 (8-7) 38/83
Lackluster against the RPI Top 25 with a 1-4 record. However, against teams with an RPI in the 26-75 range they are a perfect 5-0. That, along with the depth and strength of their league, eliminates any NIT concerns that they may have had. They’ll likely be an eight or nine seed, though, which means a tough matchup in round one.
Big East: Marquette 24-6 (13-4) 7/24
A Top 10 team in the country who has finished very strong after dropping back-to-back games at Georgetown and Syracuse earlier this year. Boasts a record of 8-5 against teams in the RPI Top 75. Should benefit in the eyes of the committee for playing quality opponents prior to conference play. Pretty solid bet to be a three seed.
Big East: Georgetown 22-6 (12-5) 10/15
Ranked 11th in the country with an impressive 8-3 mark against teams in the RPI Top 50. Lost a couple games to teams on the bubble, but no truly bad losses on their résumé. Looking like a solid bet to be a four seed or better right now.
Big East: Louisville 22-8 (10-7) 21/29
More than 20 wins and a 5-1 mark against teams in the ranked 26-75 in the RPI is good enough to earn an invite every time. Despite their struggles against teams in the upper echelon, their body of work is good enough to warrant a four seed. A strong finish could maybe move them up to a three seed.
Big East: Notre Dame 20-10 (12-5) 42/41
Didn’t look like a tournament team early on but luckily for them the selection committee puts a lot of emphasis on how teams finish. A nine-game winning streak with victories against Syracuse, Seton Hall, Marquette, West Virginia and Connecticut helped negate their lackluster start and push them into safe territory.
Big 10: Ohio State 24-6 (12-5) 9/13
Losing their last three games against ranked opponents directly effects their potential seeding, but they’re still in no matter what. Where as they looked like a lock previous to either be a one or two seed, now they’re looking more like a three depending on how they finish.
Big 10: Michigan 22-8 (12-5) 15/8
21 wins overall, 11 coming in one of the toughest conferences in the country. Picked up quality wins out of conference against Memphis and Iowa State. Statement wins in league play came against Michigan State, Indiana and Ohio State. Résumé is good enough to be a three seed right now, but they could end up as low as five.
Big 10: Indiana 23-7 (10-7) 17/38
The only team in the country to have a victory against Kentucky under their belt. Went 8-4 against the RPI Top 75. A stretch in which they lost five of seven killed their chances to be a top three seed. Now they’re looking at either a four or five.
Big 10: Wisconsin 22-8 (11-6) 19/16
Challenged themselves out of conference and came away 2-2 against BYU, UNC, Marquette and UNLV. Only bad loss came against Iowa, who defeated them twice. Would probably be a five seed if the pairings were made today. Have the potential to move a spot either way.
Big 12: Baylor 26-4 (13-4) 8/20
No way they’ll be missing the big dance this year thanks to their 25 wins and strong RPI. Didn’t lose a game until January 16. During that stretch picked up wins against San Diego State, Northwestern, BYU, Saint Mary’s and West Virginia. Should be no worse than a three seed.
Big 12: Missouri 26-4 (13-4) 16/76
Recent loss to Kansas cost them their chance at a regular season championship. Still a Top Ten team in the country who has lost only four times. Oklahoma State is the only non-tournament team to defeat them. A one seed is probably out of their reach, but they’re a pretty fair bet to be a two seed especially if they can avenge that loss to Kansas in the conference tournament.
Big 12: Iowa State 21-9 (11-6) 32/59
An easy schedule prior to conference play helped them eclipse the 20-win plateau. In conference they defeated Kansas and Kansas State twice to give them the quality victories needed to earn an invitation. Where they get seeded will be interesting, though. They need to pick up a few more quality victories in order to be anything better than a nine seed.
Big 12: Kansas State 20-9 (9-8) 43/44
20 wins with an RPI and SOS ranked in the top 50. Notable wins against Alabama, Long Beach State, Baylor and Missouri. Should be seeded somewhere in the 9-11 range unless they make some serious noise in their conference tournament.
SEC: Florida 22-8 (10-5) 18/52
A Top 15 team in the country with 22 wins under their belt and a Top 20 RPI. Will go up against Kentucky at home to close out the regular season and could see them again in the conference tournament. A win against them could be the difference in being a three seed and four seed.
SEC: Vanderbilt 21-9 (10-5) 23/6
An otherwise strong body of work is slightly tarnished by bad losses to Cleveland, Indiana State and Arkansas. 21 wins, including victories against Marquette, N.C. State, Alabama and Florida help put them in safe position to be seeded somewhere between six and eight.
Atlantic 10: Saint Louis 23-6 (11-4) 35/108
Strength of schedule is somewhat of an issue, but they do play in a well-respected league and they picked up an victory out of conference against Washington. Top 40 RPI is a big boost for them, along with the fact that they’ve won 23 games and counting.
WCC: Gonzaga 24-5 (13-3) 22/92
A mainstay in the tournament who knows what to do year in and year out in order to get in. The respect their league gets has increased to the level where they can now get an at-large bid without winning it. Out of conference they always play tough opponents. Quality wins include Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame. As of right now they’re a seven/eight seed with the slight potential to move up a spot.
Missouri Valley: Creighton 25-5 (14-4) 24/95
Conference has regularly earned multiple bids over the last 12 years. Winners of 24 games with a Top 25 RPI. Most impressive wins came against San Diego State, Northwestern, Long Beach State and Wichita State. Three straight losses in conference play cost them a regular season championship and likely makes them either a six or seven seed.
Mountain West: San Diego State 23-6 (9-4) 26/61
A program on the rise that still has a regular season championship within their grasps depending on how things shake out. Winners of 22 games on the year so far. Best wins are against Arizona, Long Beach State, California, New Mexico and UNLV. Probably a seven seed right now with the opportunity to move up if they finish strong.
Make sure to check back on Sunday afternoon when we conclude the scouting the tourney series with a look at teams on both sides of the bubble!