Bracketology Review: Illinois, Mississippi St, NC St, SDSU, SMC, UNLV

February 20th, 2012
Six of last week's Top 50 teams lost twice since last Sunday: UNLV, San Diego St, Saint Mary's, Mississippi St, NC State, and Illinois. In last Tuesday's Bracketology Projection, those team's were seeded as follows:


UNLV - 3 seed

San Diego St - 5 seed

Saint Mary's - 5 seed

Mississippi St - 7 seed

NC State - 11 seed

Illinois - 11 seed


Illinois and Mississippi St were already in downtrends heading into this past week's debacle, while the other 4 teams were mostly cruising along without incident. While I can't say exactly where these 6 teams will fall in this week's projection (that won't be finalized until tomorrow night), I thought it would be a good time to discuss the best and worst case scenarios facing these teams.


UNLV (22-6, 6-4, tied 2nd MWC)

Last Week: 3 seed

This Week Probable: 4-5 seed


Despite back to back losses, UNLV still has a chance to work their way back into a very high seed. With the big win against UNC under their belt, UNLV still sits impressively at 12th in the RPI. The TCU loss was their only to a team outside of the Top 100, and that game went to OT. More problematic is that in road games against solid teams like New Mexico, Wichita St, and Wisconsin, the Rebels lost by 10+ points each time. This could scare committee members who think UNLV can only win in Las Vegas. Winning their lone remaining road game at Colorado St (not an easy place to play) would help quell those fears.


Outside of that Colorado St game, UNLV's other 3 games are probable wins. And with the conference tournament in Vegas, there's no reason they shouldn't make a good run. If UNLV can beat Colorado St, its not inconceivable they could re-earn an extremely high seed.


Best Case Selection Sunday: 3 seed

Worst Case Selection Sunday: 8 seed



Saint Mary's (23-5, 12-2, 1st in WCC)

Last Week: 5 seed

This Week Probable: 5-7 seed


Saint Mary's was put in a tough spot having to fly across the country in the middle of February to face Murray St. It was a game that they really were not expected to win, and I don't think the committee will make much of it. However, the timing was quite poor considering they were coming off a dud loss to Loyola Marymount. LMU is an underrated Top 100 squad, but teams with aspirations of a 4 seed shouldn't lose home games to teams outside of the Top 50.


With only 2 conference games left, both on the road to subpar opponents, SMC probably won't have another chance for a marquee win unless they face Gonzaga in the conference finals. Thus they are put in a tough spot: they can only go down from here and not up.


Best Case Selection Sunday: 5 seed

Worst Case Selection Sunday: 9 seed



San Diego St (20-6, 6-4, tied 2nd MWC)

Last Week: 5 seed

This Week Probable: 7-8 seed


Despite entering the week 13th in the AP Poll, the computer rankings were never in love with San Diego St. After 2 losses this week, SDSU dropped to 33rd in the RPI and 61st in Ken Pomeroy's ranking. This is mainly because although the Aztecs have nice wins over UNLV, New Mexico, and Cal, they played 8 games against joke sub-200 teams that killed their schedule strength. Losing at Air Force was completely out of character for a team that does a great job of winning the games they're supposed to win. SDSU hadn't lost to a sub-50 RPI team since January 9th, 2010. Not a bad run.


With 4 games remaining (and none against UNLV or UNM), it would not surprise me to see SDSU finish 10-4 in conference play. This would keep them in contention for an AP Top 25 spot and thus a high seed in the tournament. A loss however coupled with a further erosion of their RPI into the 40's could push SDSU down into a double-digit seed.


Best Case Selection Sunday: 5 seed

Worst Case Selection Sunday: 10 seed



Mississippi St (19-8, 6-6, tied 4th SEC)

Last Week: 7 seed

This Week Probable: 9-12 seed


Up until February 10th, Mississippi St had a solid, yet unspectacular resume that was devoid of a bad loss. The road loss at Arkansas wasn't that big of a deal, and neither was the early home loss to an Akron squad that played themselves onto the fringe of the NCAA bubble. But then the Bulldogs went and loss at home to Georgia, on the road to LSU, and on Saturday they fell to Auburn. With a mediocre RPI of 59, they're suddenly just hoping to back into the NCAA Tournament.


Mississippi St's season could go one of two directions from here on out. They have 4 games before the conference tournament, including must-wins (at South Carolina, vs Arkansas) and resume-boosting home games against Kentucky and Alabama. Obviously, a win over UK would be a game-changer with huge ramifications. More likely, 3-1 with a win in the SEC Tournament should lead to a bid. However, 2-2 or worse mixed with an early exit in the SEC Tournament could find the Bulldogs a 3 or 4 seed.. in the NIT.


Best Case Selection Sunday: 6 seed

Worst Case Selection Sunday: NIT



NC State (18-9, 7-5, tied 4th ACC)

Last Week: 11 seed

This Week Probable: Firmly on Bubble


NC State dropped to 60th in the RPI after losing to Duke and FSU. While .500 or better in the ACC usually garners a bid, the conference is down compared to recent years. 8-8 won't get it done for NC State this year, they need to win at least 2 of their remaining 4 games (home vs UNC and Miami, and on the road at Clemson and VT.) The Miami game looms particularly large considering Miami has bubble aspirations of their own. Right now, Miami is NC State's lone Top 50 RPI win (though Texas is 51st) so its not like they've been world-beaters. (Oddly, NC State could beat Miami, knock Miami out of the Top 50, and thus be left with no Top 50 wins by winning the game.)


Best Case Selection Sunday: 8 seed

Worst Case Selection Sunday: NIT



Illinois (16-11, 5-9, tied 9th Big Ten)

Last Week: 11 seed

This Week Probable: NIT


Its odd to be talking about a 9th place team even having a chance to make the Dance. But the Big Ten is loaded this year, and 6 or 7 teams are likely to make the tournament. With MSU, OSU, UM, UW, and IU looking like locks, this leaves the likes of Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, and Minnesota fighting over one or potentially two spots.


Despite having lost 8 of 9 games, Illinois is not officially out of contention yet (even if fans want to run Bruce Weber out of town.) No other bubble team can match the Illini's marquee wins over Gonzaga, Ohio St, and Michigan St. The committee likes "big" wins, and all 3 of those teams are in the RPI Top 20.


The Big Ten is deep enough that if Illinois went 3-1 the rest of the way and won a game in the conference tournament, they could get in. To go 3-1 though, Illinois would have to beat one of Ohio St and Wisconsin the road, no small feat for a team that's lone conference road win was by a point at Northwestern. Illinois is hanging on by the slimmest of margins.


Best Case Selection Sunday: 10 seed

Worst Case Selection Sunday: CBI/CIT