The projected NIT bracket is starting to look like the Big East-Pac 12 invitational with five teams from both conferences represented in the current bracket. That certainly won’t be the case come Selection Sunday. Teams in both conferences will play their way in or out of the postseason in the next month. (Just look at where Baylor has gone.)
One of the toughest things about projecting this season’s NIT bracket is attempting to guess at how the committee will treat its new rating, NET. Russell already covered some of this in his great breakdown of Lipscomb’s at-large hopes. The Bisons are projected as the Atlantic Sun champion and not in the NIT, but their conference mate Liberty is in the bracket below.
Right now I’m treating NET much like the NIT Selection Committee has treated the RPI the past few seasons—as a signaling mechanism. Teams with a NET above 100 come Selection Sunday will probably be hard pressed to make even the NIT once the automatic bids are handed out. Mid-majors need to be even better — and still could get moved down a line or two. According to Bart Torvik’s speculative NET projections, the team with the worst projected rating in the current field is Saint Louis at 104. The Billikens have gone on a three-game losing streak that has dropped them from NCAA talk to being in serious danger of not playing in any postseason at all. Saint Mary’s has the best projected NET, but even though they’re currently ranked 52nd, there is no way the Gaels are making the NCAA Tournament without beating Gonzaga.
Bracket projection for the end of the season using data through Jan. 30, 2019:
Last 8 NCAA At-Large Teams: St. John’s, Alabama, UCF, Arizona St., Utah St., Baylor, San Francisco, Minnesota
NIT Bracket (Bubble teams in italics):
8. Saint Louis
8. South Florida
4. Fresno St.
5. UNC Greensboro
3. Saint Mary’s
7. Grand Canyon
1. Seton Hall
5. Oregon St.
4. East Tennessee State
Seriously Considered: Colorado, George Mason, BYU, Loyola-Chicago, San Diego, Charleston, North Texas, Northeastern, SMU, Utah Valley, Duquesne