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NIT Bracketology: Some words on DePaul and Rutgers, the mid-majors we know and love

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Both could be in the NCAA Tournament. Or the NIT.

Seton Hall v DePaul Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

The absolute madness that is the 2019-20 college basketball season has resulted in some truly difficult bracketology decisions and some old teams in new places. My NIT projection attempts to figure out what the bracket will look like on Selection Sunday, which involves a ton of predictions when only two months of games have been played. I mainly relied on Ken Pomeroy and Bart Torvik for the projections that drove this bracket.

There are a number of surprises in the current projection. One is Rutgers right on the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Scarlet Knights haven’t finished above .500 overall since 2006, but Steve Pikiell has the team on the right track and Rutgers seems almost guaranteed to at least reach the NIT this season. Another former also-ran that is competitive again this season is DePaul. The Blue Demons were undefeated until falling to Buffalo on Dec. 8 and also look to be strong NIT contenders this season.

Then there is North Carolina. The Tar Heels are struggling with injuries and an underwhelming performance in non-conference play. UNC is projected on the road in the first round of the NIT. Roy Williams has a lot of work to do in the ACC if his team is going to make the NCAA Tournament.

In terms of mid-majors, the biggest thing to watch is what is happening right around the NCAA Tournament cut line. It looks like Saint Mary’s, BYU, VCU and Utah St. should all have strong NCAA at-large resumes come tournament time (so could Northern Iowa and maybe even Yale if needed, but I currently have both of those teams as automatic bids). We’ll see if those teams get the respect they deserve come March.

The A-10 in particular should be fascinating to watch in terms of bracketology. Dayton should be an NCAA lock, while VCU provides a strong second candidate. Then there is a confusing glut of teams, all of which could make the NIT with a strong run in conference play. Right now, I have four A-10 teams (Rhode Island, Davidson, Richmond and Saint Louis) holding down lower seeds in the NIT.

Now with more than a decade of projection experience, here’s my first NIT bracket projection of 2020.

A few ground rules: Teams must be projected to be above .500 in order to appear in this bracket. When Pomeroy and Torvik disagree on final projected record, which they do in a few cases, I’ve tried to use my best judgement. I used Pomeroy’s projected conference champions for the automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament. Also, teams in the 6, 7 and 8-seed range are on the bubble, as eventually those slots could be taken by automatic bids from one-bid conference champions that don’t win their postseason tournaments. The bubble teams are designated by italics. All data used was for games through Dec. 31, 2019.

Last 8 NCAA Tournament (in order): Oklahoma St., Georgetown, BYU, VCU, Utah St., Rutgers, Temple, Texas Tech

NIT Projection:

1. Stanford
8. Furman

4. Texas
5. North Carolina

3. Virginia Tech
6. Arizona St.

2. Missouri
7. Richmond

1. Tennessee
8. TCU

4. Utah
5. Mississippi St.

3. USC
6. Mississippi

2. Miami FL
7. Davidson

1. Oklahoma
8. Saint Louis

4. DePaul
5. Cincinnati

3. Illinois
6. Syracuse

2. Washington
7. San Francisco

1. St. John’s
8. Pittsburgh

4. Alabama
5. UNC Greensboro

3. Oregon St.
6. Rhode Island

2. Connecticut
7. Notre Dame

Others Considered: New Mexico, Nevada, Harvard, Duquesne, Penn, Georgia, SMU, UCF, Indiana St., Boise St.

Next bracket: Early February