Andy Bottoms Bracket Projections for February 24: Bid Thief Edition

John Croce's Illini are among the bottoms five in Andy's current bracket projections ... but are they first-four-in or first-four-out? Read on to find out.
John Croce’s Illini are among the “bottoms five” in Andy’s current bracket projections … but are they last-four-in or first-one-out? Read on to find out …

With Selection Sunday less than three weeks away, Championship Week is nearly here. As is the case every year, it certainly won’t be short on drama.

But the one thing it likely will be short on this season is bid thieves.

Outside of the West Coast Conference and the Missouri Valley (which I don’t consider mid-majors), there really aren’t any “smaller” leagues where the regular season champ could make it without winning the conference tournament.

Here’s a quick look at six of the top mid-major teams and why I don’t like their chances of getting an at-large:

The Terriers have three Top-100 victories, including wins at NC State and at home against Iona.  Just two of their six losses have come against sub-100 squads, but a January road loss to The Citadel, who are ranked 319th in the RPI as of Monday, will likely seal their fate.

After winning 15 of their last 16 games, the Gaels have worked their way into the RPI Top 50.  Unfortunately, Iona has no Top-100 wins to go with sub-150 losses at Canisius, Monmouth, and George Mason, all by five points or less.

Because the Ivy League doesn’t have a conference tournament, no one on this list controls their own destiny more than the Crimson, who currently have a one-game lead over Yale, a team they beat on the road already this year. Harvard’s best RPI win came at home against UMass, but that won’t be enough to overcome sub-200 losses to Holy Cross and Dartmouth if they falter down the stretch.

Only three teams have more wins that the Crusaders, who currently sit at 25-4.  They don’t have any Top-50 wins but do own victories over Murray State and Green Bay.  Three of their four losses came against sub-100 teams, all of which they lost by double digits.

Murray State
The Racers have ripped off 22 straight wins since losing to Valpo, and they are one of just four teams that are undefeated in conference play (Gonzaga, Kentucky, and NC Central are the others). Murray State’s lone Top-100 win came against Illinois State, but a pair of three-point losses to Portland and Houston will likely be the Racers’ undoing.

Stephen F. Austin
If not for a Valentine’s Day loss at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the Lumberjacks may have had the best case for an at-large. Their other three losses came on the road against Baylor and Xavier and at home against Northern Iowa in overtime. For now, Stephen F. Austin needs to take care of business in the Southland, where they are tied in the loss column with Sam Houston State.

I suppose it’s possible that if these teams win out and lose in their conference title game, they could work their way into the at-large conversation. But at this stage,, unfortunately, that seems unlikely.

In reality, though, I’d much rather see a team or two like this get a chance than some of the teams currently hanging around the bubble.

Below are my projections through the games from February 23. I’ve also listed my last four in and first four out, along with my reasoning for those selections. [Read more…]