Four days to Selection Sunday and Rutgers is right smack in the middle of the NCAA Tournament bubble speculation. Championship Week is in full swing as the high major conference tournaments are now underway. With the Scarlet Knights still two days away from playing in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, 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. 76 is the worst of all bubble teams. Three Quad 3/Quad 4 losses are the reason it is so low. If Rutgers is ultimately selected for the NCAA Tournament, they would make history if their NET rankings is worse than No. 73. St. John’s made it in 2019 with that ranking.
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 Wednesday, March 9, Rutgers is projected in the NCAA Tournament by 107 of 141 bracketology sites. That’s 75.9% inclusion rate in the field of 68. Their average seed is 11.67. Their current projections are anywhere as high as a No. 10 seed to as low as being left out.
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 has Rutgers as the second to last team IN the field and playing VCU in the First Four game as a 12 seed in Dayton. The last projected bracket for this site is from Monday, March 7.
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 Sunday night.
The No. 3 ranked site over the past five years is Heat Check CBB by Lukas Harkins. He has Rutgers as the first team OUT of the NCAA Tournament. He lists Florida, Dayton and Indiana behind them as the last four out as a group. The last four in include Xavier, SMU, VCU and Notre Dame. These projections are from March 8.
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 Rutgers as the second to last team IN as a No. 12 seed playing SMU in Dayton. This site was updated on March 9.
The No. 5 ranked site is Boiling The Bracket and they have Rutgers as the fourth to last team IN the field. They’re seeded No. 12 playing Xavier in the first four round with the winner playing Houston. Oh boy! This was last updated on March 8.
Let’s move around a bit.
Dave Ommen runs Bracketville which is a very comprehensive site and ranks No. 7 over the past five years. He currently has Rutgers as a No. 10 seed comfortably in the tournament set to play No. 7 seed Colorado State in the first round. His latest was updated on March 9.
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.
I regard to some higher profile sites, Joe Lunardi of ESPN ranks No. 53 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 currently has Rutgers as the second to last team IN the field as of now and playing SMU in Dayton.
Jerry Palm of CBS ranks No. 100 over the last five years and has Rutgers as the last team IN the field as of now and also playing SMU in Dayton.
I’ll close it with the Big Underdog site run by Jason Carmello, who ranks No. 33 over the past few years. He sent me a very good overview of how Rutgers is viewed in comparison to historical thresholds that the NCAA Selection Committee has used in the past.
The Scarlet Knights have one of the most unique resumes for any bubble team in recent years. The good news: Rutgers has 6-Quad 1 wins including (vs. Purdue, vs Illinois, vs Iowa, @ Wisconsin, vs. Ohio St, @ Indiana) Those 6 wins are more than any other bubble team and pair nicely with 3 additional Quad 2 wins. The bad news: Rutgers had early season non-conference losses to Lafayette (NET 319) & UMass (NET 188) combined with their 293rd Non Conference Strength of Schedule (of 358). The committee has often penalized teams for NSOS over 250 either in selection of at-large or in seeding. Also, their computer metrics (NET 76, Ken Pom 73, BPI 69, SOR 50) are far & away the worst of teams sharing similar seed lines (10-12 lines).
What has worked against Rutgers with regard to their NET rank is that although they have a bundle of great wins, the NET heavily weighs the final scores of games. It rewards blowouts much more than close wins. Rutgers has six wins by three points or less including a close call in OT vs Lehigh (73-70). The Knights earned the #4 seed & the double bye heading into the Big 10 Tournament. Currently Rutgers is an 11-Seed in our latest Bracketology. If they play Nebraska or Northwestern a loss likely pushes them to the First Four in Dayton, and a win locks them into the NCAA Tournament. If they play Iowa, win or lose they make the NCAA Tournament. They were able to push their record above the committee’s traditional threshold - 4 games over .500 mark, and even if they finish 18-13 I think the Scarlet Knights are dancing. A tremendous accomplishment considering 6-4 non conference start.
I plan to post bracketology updates using this format as the week progresses 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. They are in solid shape, although by no means a lock. The top seeds in low to mid major conference tournaments earning the automatic bids are a good thing. Bubble teams in high major leagues like Indiana, Florida, BYU, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Oregon losing their opening round game of their conference tournaments would be a positive as well. For specific bubble teams to watch for on Wednesday night, read Tony Sarthou’s guide here: RUTGERS BUBBLE WATCH 03 09 22.pdf
Also root for Michigan to beat the Hoosiers as they are No. 31 in the NET rankings. If they move up one spot and can stick in the Top 30 for Selection Sunday, Rutgers will have another Quad 1 victory on their ledger.
Of course, Rutgers winning on Friday in the Big Ten Quarterfinals would boost their resume even more, especially if the win comes against Iowa, currently No. 15 in the NET rankings.
Stay tuned and for now you can listen to our latest podcast episode with BTN Analyst Jess Settles who helps preview the Big Ten Tournament as well as his deep thoughts on Rutgers.