"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

Thursday, March 02, 2023

First Week Bid Thieves


Oral Roberts star Max Abmas is no stranger to March success

Photo by Maddie Meyer | Getty Images

March is finally here. We greet the month with a Marquette team that has already secured a Big East title, a head coach that is going to win the Big East Coach of the Year and possibly the National award as well, and the likely Big East Player of the Year in Tyler Kolek. It's the time when college basketball boasts the most excitement, the most drama, and the best month in all of sports.

This is also the time of year that fills bubble teams with dread as potential bid thieves stand at the ready to steal bids expected to go to teams that are just trying to stay alive. This week we will focus on a few teams that have some bid thief potential, though this feels like a relatively safe year for bubble teams, at least until we get to full-on Championship Week. Here are the teams programs on the bubble should be rooting for to win their tournament so they can't sneak in through an unexpected at-large bid, focusing in particularly on two teams with at-large aspirations and one that might unexpectedly cut nets:

Unlikely Candidates: Liberty (2-Seed, ASUN), Sam Houston (2-Seed, WAC), Bradley (1-seed, MVC), Kent State (2-Seed, MAC)

We're mentioning these teams because they all have some criteria that might get them a brief glance from the Selection Committee, but none of them look to have the profiles of at-large teams. First of all, all of these teams have sub-70 Resume Averages and the record for the lowest Resume Average ever for an at-large was 57.5 for Rutgers in 2022. Liberty's predictive metrics are the best of this bunch, but they have no Quadrant 1 wins and 3 losses outside the first two quadrants. Sam Houston has a pair of Quadrant 1 wins, but those are both against teams projected out of the field and they have two bad losses to offset that. Bradley was the best team in the Missouri Valley, but has zero Q1 wins and went just 2-6 against the first two quadrants. Finally, Kent State put scares into Houston (lost 49-44) and Gonzaga (lost 73-66) but they still lost those games and went 0-4 against the top two quadrants. None of these teams have enough.

Charleston (2-Seed, CAA)

Record: 27-3

Resume Average: 52.0

Predictive Average: 64.0

Quadrant Records: 0-3 Q1 / 1-1 Q2 / 9-2 Q3 / 16-0 Q4

Championship Game: March 7

At a glance, the lack of quality wins looks disqualifying, but that might be deceptive. If Charleston wins their first two games, they will finish at worst 29-4. Since the field expanded to 65, no team has been left out of the at-large field with 29 or more wins. Charleston's metrics aren't great, but the resume average of 52.0 is better than the 52.5 typically needed and well ahead of last year's Rutgers. And while they did lose their biggest game at North Carolina, it's some of the wins they got that are worth looking at. They beat Virginia Tech in their home MTE. They beat Chattanooga. They tried to schedule up, playing A-10 teams Richmond and Davidson in addition to Mountain West team Colorado State, and they won all of those games. All five of those teams played in the NCAA Tournament last year. This is a team that tried to play tough competition and won those games, but due to misfortune all the tourney teams they scheduled (including UNC) finished well below expectations. If the games listed above had held quadrants from last year, Charleston would be 2-1 in Q1 and 4-0 in Q2 with two Q3 losses. That would likely have them in the field, and when the Selection Committee debates their resume, may be discussed. If Charleston makes the CAA Final and loses, don't be shocked if they still sneak into the field.

Oral Roberts (1-Seed, Summit)

Record: 23-4

Resume Average: 62

Predictive Average: 64.3

Quadrant Records: 0-4 Q1 / 1-0 Q2 / 5-0 Q3 / 17-0 Q4

Championship Game: March 7

The Resume Average would indeed be unprecedented, but there are just seven teams in the entire NCAA with zero losses outside Quadrant 1. Those teams are projected 1-seed Alabama, 1-seed Kansas, 2-seed UCLA, 2-seed Texas, 2-seed Baylor, (oddly) 9-seed Missouri, and Oral Roberts. So five of the six teams with loss profiles like ORU are likely to be on the top two seed lines and the other is also a projected single-digit seed. In addition, ORU boasts a star in Max Abmas who has NCAA experience, having led 15-seed Oral Roberts to a Sweet 16 in 2021. That said, we are very hesitant to recommend a team primarily on their loss profile. 2019 UNC-Greensboro similarly had zero losses outside Q1 and they even boasted two Q1 victories, but they were still left out of the field. ORU might get some sentimental consideration, but they're a long shot to get in if they don't win the Summit automatic bid.

BYU (5-Seed, WCC)

Record: 17-14

Resume Average: 123.5

Predictive Average: 80.0

Quadrant Records: 1-6 Q1 / 2-3 Q2 / 5-4 Q3 / 7-1 Q4

Championship Game: March 7

BYU is more of a true bid thief than the ones above in that they would be stealing a bid by winning their conference tournament. St. Mary's and Gonzaga are locks to make the NCAA Tournament, so the question becomes who has the best chance to win the WCC other than them and get the league a third bid? The popular pick will be Loyola Marymount, who beat both of those teams this year, but BYU will be the betting favorite over LMU and the WCC powers are less likely to see BYU coming. While LMU got those two big wins, they also lost to both of those teams by double-digits. Every game BYU played with the big boys was within single-digits and BYU aslso beat LMU by 28 in their most recent encounter. The structure of the WCC Tournament makes any bid thief incredibly unlikely, but if there is one, watch out for the Cougars.

We'll have more potential bid thieves next week when the big boys get started, but for now, let's get on to the S-Curve and new Bracket:

Multibid Leagues

Big 10: 9

Big 12: 7

SEC: 8

ACC: 5

Big East: 5

Pac-12: 4

Mountain West: 3

American: 2

WCC: 2

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