Let’s do a quick run through of how the field stacks up before today’s bracket selection. There are 68 spots to go around and only 31 conference tournament champs this year, so there’s 37 spots for the at-large teams. Let’s see who will be sweating today out.
The Auto Bids (minus the American):
UC Santa Barbara
Mount St Mary’s
San Diego State
That’s 30 teams.
In the American, we have a special situation. In the other conference championship games today, we either have a winner-takes-all game (Colgate v. Loyola) or a game between two tournament locks (the other three). In Houston v. Cincy, we have a potential bid thief. Cincinnati is not making the field unless they win, but Houston will be in either way. We’ll circle back to this in a bit, but we will get at least one of these two for 31 total teams.
That’s an additional 30 teams. So, 31+30 is 61. That means we have seven spots left. If Cincy wins, there are only six. That’s why that game is so important.
Now, there are separate tiers among these bubble teams. Maryland, UCLA, and Michigan State, for example, are all almost certainly in the field. I would basically consider them locks, and it would be a shock if any of them are left out. That brings us to four spots for the following teams –
From here, if we’re crossing teams off, I’m taking out Ole Miss, Seton Hall, and St Johns immediately. Those three just didn’t take advantage of enough opportunities. Then I’m taking off Memphis, who fell twice in close games against Houston. That’s the season. Then I’m taking off Boise State. They went just 3-7 against teams with a winning record this year. that won’t get it done. That leaves us with eight. Remember that we have four spots (unless Cincy takes one of those).
This is what it comes down to for me. Which of these eight teams does the committee like most? I don’t envy the ones that have to make this decision.