"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Bid Thief Rap Sheets

Storm Murphy's Hokies & Kyle Lofton's Bonnies aim to steal NCAA bids
 Photo by William Howard | Getty Images

We made it through the first week and so far no bids have been stolen. Morehead State had a chance but came up short, Loyola-Chicago insured the only MVC bubble team would be in the NCAA Tournament proper, and Santa Clara gave St. Mary's a challenge but couldn't get across the finish line.

Now we move on to the big boys. A refresher on the rules. We are looking at bid thieves who are not on the bubble but could still steal a bid. That means teams like Xavier, Rutgers, or about a third of the ACC isn't being considered. This is looking to figure out the team who isn't on anyone's radar but is well-positioned to maybe sneak into their conference final, knowing that anything can happen in a one-game setting. The main factors are how the bracket fell, the matchups before the final, and the teams who are good enough to make noise in March despite not making enough noise in the months before March.

ACC: Virginia Tech

The Hokies have the DNA to make a run. Stylistically, they play very slow and are excellent shooting threes (#4 nationally). They are also on the opposite side of the bracket from Duke, which means avoiding the biggest bad until the final. They play the winner of Clemson/NC State, then if they win that would face Notre Dame, teams they went 3-1 against in the regular season. The only bad matchup on their side of the bracket is North Carolina, but the Hokies would be favored on a neutral court against anyone in the ACC not named Duke. Watch out for the Hokies, they might be the most likely bid thief in the country this week.

Big East: Butler

I'm not saying Butler will win it, but they certainly are well-positioned to do so. First of all, they are on the right side of the bracket. The three toughest teams in the league per Pomeroy are all on the opposite side of the bracket. If they can get past Xavier, they play a Providence team that they held second half leads on twice this season. In the semis, they would face either Marquette or Creighton, both teams they beat this year. Butler has also been a much better team with Bo Hodges in the lineup, so their low analytic rankings aren't as reflective of how good they've been of late. I don't expect a Big East bid thief, but if there is one, the Bulldogs are the team to do it.

Big 10: None

I don't buy anyone in that league going 5 wins in 5 days. The way this tournament is structured, it's just not realistic to predict anyone outside the top-9 (all of which are at least bubble teams) cutting nets.

Big 12: Kansas State

This is a huge mountain to climb, but if anyone in the Big 12 can do it, it's the Purple Kittens. Their side of the bracket features West Virginia, Kansas, Texas, and TCU. K-State beat all of those teams this season except Kansas, and they squandered a 17-point second half lead against the league's #1 seed in Manhattan. The Wildcats also have a tendency to play in close games, going 2-7 in games decided by one possession. If they can stay close and their luck normalizes a bit, this team could sneak into an autobid.

Pac-12: Colorado

This league produced a bid thief last year and it seems very possible this year as only three teams are safely in the field. Colorado opens play with the winner between the Oregon schools, both of whom they have defeated this year. Most likely Arizona awaits if they win, with Arizona State and Stanford the other possibilities. Collectively, the Buffalos went 7-3 against the teams on their side of the bracket, securing at least one win over each team. There's no one they haven't already beaten on their path to the final. Colorado has also won seven of their last eight, so they come in hot, with a win over top-seeded Arizona included in that stretch.

SEC: None

The double-bye format here makes it very difficult to see any shocking teams come through. The most likely candidates are the 7-10 seeds, but they collectively went 3-13 against the top three teams on their respective sides of the bracket, with no one winning more than one such game. I can't see any of them doubling that on short rest.

Mountain West: UNLV

The Running Rebels went 4-1 against teams not named Boise State on their side of the bracket, so they can play with these guys. The Broncos would be a tough impediment to make the final, but UNLV did have a second half lead against BSU in their home game earlier this season. Add in that UNLV will be playing this tourney on their home court and there's a real chance they could spoil a bubble team's week.

American: Wichita State

I think a bid thief here is unlikely, but if anyone can pull off a Shocker in this tournament, it's Wichita. WSU went 3-0 against their first and second round opponents, so a semifinal is certainly within reach. If they get there, the biggest challenge would potentially be Memphis. While I don't like the matchup for the Shockers, it's a better chance than anyone on the other side of the bracket would have with Houston.

Atlantic 10: St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies have fallen off the bubble, but it's not impossible they could make a surprise run to an autobid. They get a double-bye and their first opponent will be one of a St. Louis/La Salle/St. Joseph's trio that went 0-5 against St. Bonaventure this year. That would put them into a likely semifinal with Davidson, who beat them by 5 in their only meeting this year. The Bonnies could definitely be a team to watch on Selection Sunday, especially as they would steal that bid just hours before the Field of 68 Reveal.
At this point of the season, it's mostly teams playing for seeding. The bubble has shrunk considerably and we are including only 5 teams that have any possibility of coming in from the outside. The Last Four In are definitely still at risk, and could be knocked out either by losing their first conference tourney game, especially if there are bid thieves that shrink the field. Let's continue with the current S-Curve:

2-Seeds: 8-DUKE 7-VILLANOVA 6-Kansas 5-Auburn
3-Seeds: 9-Tennessee 10-PURDUE 11-Texas Tech 12-Illinois
4-Seeds: 16-Connecticut 15-Providence 14-Wisconsin 13-Ucla
5-Seeds: 17-Arkansas 18-St. Mary's 19-Alabama 20-HOUSTON
6-Seeds: 24-Iowa 23-Usc 22-Texas 21-Lsu
7-Seeds: 25-Ohio State 26-COLORADO STATE 27-Seton Hall 28-San Diego State
8-Seeds: 32-North Carolina 31-Michigan State 30-Marquette 29-MURRAY STATE
9-Seeds: 33-Boise State 34-Iowa State 35-San Francisco 36-Memphis
10-Seeds: 40-DAVIDSON 39-Miami 38-Tcu 37-Wake Forest
11-Seeds: 41-Creighton 42-Michigan 43-Vcu 44-Xavier 45-Wyoming
Last Four Byes: VCU, Creighton, Michigan, Wake Forest
Last Four In: Xavier, Wyoming, Smu, Notre Dame
Not Dead Yet: Rutgers, Florida, Indiana, BYU, Oklahoma

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