Basically everyone but the ESPN3 graphics department has given up on Texas A&M’s chances to make the NCAA Tournament this year. Of course there’s still the chance they could win the SEC Basketball Tournament in Nashville in a couple of weeks, but outside of that, the Aggies would have to pull of a truly rare feat (and have the entire bubble collapse in) to make it.
Even if A&M won out to get to 21-10 (which would include road wins at Ole Miss and Arkansas), they’d still probably need to pick up a few wins in the SEC Tournament. So, for now, let’s look at a more likely scenario.
Even making the NIT would be a step forward in Billy Kennedy’s second season. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at what needs to happen for the Aggies to make the NIT.
First off, you have to have a winning record to be in the NIT. A&M sits at 16-10 currently, and has several winnable games left, including hosting Tennessee, LSU and South Carolina. So, they’re looking good on that front.
The major obstacle right now for the Aggies is their conference standing. They’re currently tied for 9th in the SEC, but they still play the teams immediately in front of them, Tennessee and Arkansas, and Georgia still has work to do to get to .500.
Second, any team that wins a regular season conference championship, but isn’t selected for the NCAA Tournament (usually small schools who don’t win their conference tournament), is automatically in the NIT. So the exact number of at-large spots won’t be known until the conference tournaments are complete. That number was as small as 8 as recently as 2010, and as big as 14 in 2011, so it could vary quite a bit. From there, the best at-large teams are selected to fill out the 32 team bracket.
So, armed with that knowledge, let’s take a look at where the Aggies stand in relation to everyone else in my first attempt at a combined Bubble Watch/NIT-Ology.
Locks for NCAA At-Large: 10 (For now, we’re assuming the teams that lead every conference win their conference tournament, so they aren’t listed here) ACC: Duke Big East: Louisville, Marquette, Georgetown Big Ten: Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin Big 12: Kansas, Oklahoma State SEC: Missouri
Teams Probably in the NCAA Tournament: 14 - ACC: NC State Big East: Pittsburgh, Notre Dame [b]Big Ten: Ohio State, Illinois Big 12: Oklahoma Pac 12: Oregon, UCLA, Colorado Mountain West: Colorado State, UNLV Others: Butler, Creighton
Ranking the Bubble (Projected Spots from this group: 13)
***Current Projected Cut Line***
(Means these 17 teams would be locks for the NIT)
Filling the NIT Field
Let’s assume for a second that about 10 teams are auto-bids to the NIT, plus the 17 “locks” listed above. That only gives us about seven more teams to put in the NIT. Let’s take a look at who those teams could be, and where I’d rank them currently.