Earlier this season, I looked at those teams who could potentially shrink the at-large pool by getting upset in their conference tournament. These potential “Bid Stealers” are generally teams from mid-major conferences where they are the only viable at-large candidate. When they don’t win the conference tournament, that automatic bid is going to a team that otherwise would have no chance of going dancing and therefore they are stealing a bid from another at-large candidate.
As we enter Conference Tournament season, it’s time to refresh that look at this year’s potential Bid Stealers. My process for determining auto and at-large bids relies on a simulation of the remainder of the season followed by an application of my Achievement S-Curve to determine NCAA Tournament bids. My Achievement S-Curve (ASC) is based on what I think the criteria for selection should be, and is not trying to mimic the selection committee.
Here are this year’s potential Bid Stealers:
|Team||Conf||% Chance Auto Bid||% Chance At-Large Bid||Conf Bids when Auto||Conf Bids w/o Auto||Bids Stolen|
|Stephen F. Austin||SLAND||59.4||7.4||1.00||1.07||0.07|
|Saint Mary's (CA)||WCC||31.8||100.0||2.00||2.06||0.06|
This year there are two major concerns for bubble teams: Memphis in Conference USA and Middle Tennessee in the Sun Belt. Both teams, according to my ASC, are locks for the tournament while nobody else in their conference is an at-large threat (Southern Miss was a small threat to take an at-large bid but their loss to Marshall last night killed their hopes; though Team Rankings thinks the Golden Eagles still have a shot). Memphis (53%) and Middle Tennessee (64%) are big favorites to win their respective conference tournaments, but are by no means locks, making a stolen bid a very real possibility.
Other teams from otherwise 1-bid leagues also have decent at-large chances. La Tech in the WAC, Akron in the MAC, and Bucknell in the Patriot all have at least a 30% chance of securing an at-large bid when they don’t win their automatic bid. Stephen F. Austin and Belmont have small chances to sneak in, though I should note that Team Rankings is much more bearish on Belmont’s at-large chances giving them about an 80-85% chance of an at-large bid if needed (while my “at large %” is only based on times a team does NOT win their auto bid, Team Rankings uses all scenarios).
The other 4 schools are a pair of 2-bid leagues. If Gonzaga or Saint Mary’s are upset in the WCC tournament, it is likely the other one that will win it, but my sim shows a small chance of BYU or Santa Clara winning the auto bid. The bigger worry is in the Missouri Valley where Creighton and Wichita St. are both tournament locks, but there’s a very real chance both get upset in Arch Madness (the MVC’s tournament nickname). Over 20% of the time, one of the MVC’s other teams wins the conference tournament and gives the MVC three teams in the big dance.
So, fans of Kentucky and Ole Miss and Villanova and bubble teams across the land, while you’re rooting for your own team you might want to take a couple minutes to root for these teams as well.
I, like many pundits, don’t think MTSU’s resume is AL-worthy. They are basically hanging their hat on beating Ole Miss. The UCF and Vandy winds aren’t really much to brag about this year. Since they got upset in the SB semis, I think that looks even worse to the selection committee. In any event, 100 percent seems WAY too high for MTSU.
First of all, I just want to point out that my Achievement system is not designed to project who the selection committee WILL pick, but instead to say who I think they SHOULD pick. Just wanted to make that clear so we’re on the same page.
As far as MTSU in particular, I admit that my system may no perfectly handle the extreme cases, specifically teams that win a lot of games against a very easy schedule. However, let’s take a look. My system says that an average tournament team (think an 8-10 seed) would lose just over 5 games against MTSU’s schedule, on average (5.11 to be exact). MTSU lost 5, so they are right at my baseline “average tournament team”.
Compare that to Mississippi. I have them just a couple spots below MTSU, as they lost 8 games against a schedule they should have lost 7.29 against. It’s not like they have a ton of good wins. According to KenPom, their best win is at home vs Missouri. They have a handful in the 60-100 range with all those mediocre SEC teams.
But what I think humans are really bad at is taking a 30-game resume and comparing it to another. We look at “good wins” and “bad losses” and ignore the middle. Well, Middle Tennessee’s middle is that they beat a ton of teams between 130 and 250. And Mississippi’s is that they beat a handful of 60-100 but also lost to 101, 105, 203, and 261. How are we supposed to distill that to one number (which is essentially what you’re doing when comparing two or more teams) in our head? I don’t think we can.
Now if you want to fiddle with my system and come up with your own, that’s fine. I’ve laid out a framework to work from. You can add in a bonus for “big wins” or lower the benefit of beating middling teams like those in the Sun Belt. Whatever it is, lay it out so we can consistently apply it to every team. To me, I think Middle Tennessee SHOULD be right in the conversation.