It’s now just two days to Selection Sunday and Rutgers remains smack in the middle of the NCAA Tournament bubble speculation. I covered projections earlier in the week here. Championship Week is hitting the home stretch on Friday heading into the weekend. The Scarlet Knights can improve their standing with a win over red hot Iowa this afternoon in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. Our game preview is here. That being said, let’s survey the bracketology landscape to get a handle on where Rutgers is currently projected overall and by specific sites.
In regard to Rutgers’ profile, their 6-5 record vs. Quad 1 opponents has them with the most wins in that category of any bubble team. Their road/neutral game record of 4-9 has the fewest wins of any bubble team. Their NET ranking of No. 77, one spot back from Wednesday’s ranking but one better than Thursday, is the worst of all bubble teams. Three Quad 3/Quad 4 losses are a major reason it is so low. If Rutgers is ultimately selected for the NCAA Tournament, they are in line to make history if their NET rankings is worse than No. 73, which is where St. John’s was ranked in 2019 on their way to the dance.
The Bracket Matrix is your best resource in keeping track of all the projections as we get closer to Selection Sunday. They have every projected bracket here and have a fully compiled rankings system that measures accuracy of these bracketology sites from the past five years here. The rankings include correctly picking the field but also seeding as well.
As of Friday morning on March 11, Rutgers is projected in the NCAA Tournament by 108 of 133 bracketology sites listed. That’s an 81.2% inclusion rate in the field of 68 for all projections. Their average seed is 11.58, slightly improved from two days ago. Their current projections are anywhere as high as a No. 10 seed to as low as being left out.
Overall, Rutgers has seen its position from a general consensus view improve this week.
In regard to the rest of the bubble, there has been a lot of activity to track.
Teams like Florida, Xavier, Wake Forest, Oregon and Notre Dame all lost their initial conference tournament games. Oklahoma, Miami, Virginia Tech and Creighton won.
In the Big Ten, Indiana stunning Michigan after trailing by 17 points keeps the Hoosiers alive. The general thought seems to be that they still need to beat No. 1 seed Illinois today to have a legitimate chance to make the NCAA Tournament. The loss by the Wolverines hurt Rutgers by keeping another bubble team alive while also ending any chance that they’d move into the top 30 of NET and thus adding another Quad 1 win on RU’s resume.
Got all that? Ok, let’s take a look at some notable picks.
The No. 1 ranked site over the past five years is appropriately named Crazy Sports Dude. He continues to have Rutgers as the second to last team IN the field but now playing Xavier in the First Four game as a 12 seed in Dayton. The last projected bracket for this site is from Thursday, March 10.
The No. 2 ranked site over the past five years is Delphi Bracketology. They have Rutgers IN as a No. 11 seed playing No. 6 seed LSU in San Diego. This is encouraging because RU is not projected as even a last four in team. This was updated last on March 6. Based on who they have listed behind RU, nothing has happened to jeopardize their standing in this projection.
The No. 3 ranked site over the past five years is Heat Check CBB by Lukas Harkins. He still has Rutgers as the first team OUT of the NCAA Tournament. He lists Florida, Oklahoma and Indiana behind them as the last four out as a group. The last four in include SMU, Wake Forest, Xavier and Notre Dame. Here is a detailed assessment of bubble teams from March 10 with their take on Rutgers below.
“Rutgers won the biggest “bubble battle” of the last week when it went on the road and took down Indiana behind Ron Harper Jr.’s heroics. The team followed that up by beating Penn State at home. The Scarlet Knights own six Quad-1 wins, which is a big number compared to the rest of the bubble. Their sheer ability to win big games, which includes four Quad-1A victories, has them in the at-large mix. However, bad losses and poor metrics continue to drag down their potential.
The Scarlet Knights have suffered three losses in the bottom two quadrants this season. Additionally, their NET (No. 78) and quality metrics (68.0) sit behind the rest of the bubble. Even their resume metrics are not particularly complimentary towards earning a bid. Rutgers’ total body of work sits right around the cutline. They have a very polarizing team sheet that makes it easy to make a case to be in the field or a case to be excluded.
A combination of three bad losses, the 297th-rated nonconference strength of schedule, and a 4-9 road record is keeping the Scarlet Knights out of my field, though there is certainly an argument for them to be included.
Rutgers is my first team out right now, but there are certainly reasons for why they might be included in any other bracketologist’s field. The Scarlet Knights probably need at least one win in the Big Ten Tournament for their at-large candidacy. With how low their metrics are compared to the rest of the bubble, they will be an interesting team to monitor with regard to how the committee evaluates teams.”
Take a minute and think about how each of the top three sites over the last few years hit on all three ends of the spectrum for the current NCAA Tournament outlook for RU. Life on the bubble is not for the faint of heart.
The No. 4 ranked site is Weber Sports Bracketology and has as the second to last team IN as a No. 12 seed on Wednesday playing SMU. This is from their last update on March 9.
The No. 5 ranked site is Boiling The Bracket and they have improved Rutgers’ seeding to the last 11 seed after having them after having fourth to last team IN the field on Wednesday. This site also has RU playing No. 6 seed LSU and it was updated on March 10.
Let’s move around a bit.
Dave Ommen runs Bracketville which is a very comprehensive site and ranks No. 9 over the past five years. He currently has Rutgers IN as a No. 10 seed comfortably in the tournament set to play No. 7 seed TCU in the first round. His latest was updated on March 11 and didn’t move their projection, which is safely in. However, he did tweet Friday morning a potential nightmare scenario for Rutgers:
Want to know why we can’t tell you what it takes to get in … what if Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, Colorado and Texas AM all earn auto bids?— Dave Ommen (@BracketguyDave) March 11, 2022
D Ratings is No. 10 in the rankings and has Rutgers as the fourth team OUT of the field. It’s this type of projection that keeps me up at night. This was updated Friday, March 11.
Brad Wachtel was a guest on our podcast two weeks ago and runs Facts and Bracks. He ranks No. 17 over the last five years. He still has Rutgers as the fourth to last team IN playing SMU in Dayton. I asked him on Thursday if Michigan falling to 17-14, one game below the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee’s typical four games above .500 threshold, he didn’t think the Wolverines were at risk. Wachtel explained, “It’s definitely a concern, but they did have a “buy” game postponed earlier this season due to Covid. The committee took that into account last year and I’d imagine they will do the same this year. With strong overall metrics across the board, they should still be in.”
Another good one is The Bracketeer run by Rocco Miller. He like Ommen has Rutgers clearly IN as a No. 10 seed playing No. 7 seed Colorado State as of an update on March 10.
The Big Underdog site run by Jason Carmello ranks No. 33 over the past few years. He has Rutgers IN as the top 11 seed in the field as of March 10. I asked him on Thursday night about the possibility of Rutgers, Indiana and Michigan all getting in. His answer was, “Yes. All 3 can absolutely get in. Indiana might need one more win. Depends on some other bubble factors like VCU, SMU, Dayton. I need to look over the updated metrics tonight but as of now: Michigan, Rutgers then Indiana. Rutgers would pass Michigan with a win tomorrow.”
I regard to some higher profile sites, Joe Lunardi of ESPN ranks No. 55 over the past five years. Even though he doesn’t rank as high, I respect Lunardi and think he’s lower due to seeding rather than projected teams in the field. He has moved Rutgers from the second to last team IN the field to one of the last four teams receiving a bye and avoiding Dayton. Current matchup is as a No. 11 seed facing No. 6 Saint Mary’s.
Jerry Palm of CBS ranks No. 100 over the last five years and moved Rutgers one spot better to the second to last team IN the field as of now and now playing Texas A&M in Dayton. Palm has Michigan and Indiana as the last two teams out of the field.
Lastly, SB Nation’s site Blogging the Bracket has been ranked No. 86 over the past five years. Chris Dobbertan runs the site and does a good job. He currently has Rutgers IN with one of the last four byes.
I plan to post bracketology updates this weekend leading into Sunday night’s NCAA Tournament Selection Show. Remember to keep your tissues and tums ready.
The biggest takeaway in all of this is that Rutgers did what they needed to do in the last week of the regular season to be in position to go dancing. They are in solid shape, although by no means a lock. A loss on Friday against Iowa and I won’t lie, it’s going to be a tense couple of days. I believe Rutgers absolutely deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament, but the early season losses and poor metrics make them vulnerable. However, a win on against Iowa would in my view change that and put them firmly in the big dance and likely avoiding the first four situation in Dayton. Huge opportunity no doubt.