You don’t know what the NCAA tournament selection committee will do but you do know what the NCAA tournament selection committee has done.
Just last year, the committee made Kansas State, a Power 5 conference team with a similar schedule, a No. 9 seed. N.C. State’s 59-58 comeback win over Clemson in the ACC tournament on Wednesday gave the Wolfpack a nearly identical resume to 2018 Kansas State.
2018 Kansas State
Overall record: 22-11
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Main NCAA metric (RPI): 53
NC SOS: 337
Combined Q1/Q2 record: 9-10 (4-9, 5-1)
Conference tournament: 1-1
2019 N.C. State
Overall record: 22-10
Main NCAA metric (NET): 32
NC SOS: 353
Combined Q1/Q2 record: 9-8 (3-8, 6-0)
Conference tournament: 1-0
Every year’s different — and with the NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) replacing the RPI this year as the primary sorting metric, there is an unknown element (that can only help N.C. State) added to the equation — but Kansas State’s inclusion last year feels like an important indicator for N.C. State.
If you’re on the bubble, you don’t want to go into Selection Sunday without any kind of historical precedent. You don’t want to be a unicorn. N.C. State has found its doppelganger in the 2018 Wildcats.
The main criticism of N.C. State is its poor nonconference strength of schedule (NC SOS). At No. 353, N.C. State is last among all Division I teams in NC SOS. (Its overall SOS, No. 216 is also weak). The committee has historically punished teams with a poor NC SOS because those are the games a team can control. Typically, the committee wants to see teams challenge itself outside of league play.
But the introduction of the NET could potentially change how the committee looks at SOS. The NET formula includes SOS. The committee will have to balance N.C. State’s strong NET and weak SOS, accordingly.
The Clemson win did check off a couple of boxes for the Wolfpack. It was another “Quadrant 1” win (Clemson is No. 35 in the NET) and it was at another bubble team’s expense. N.C. State improved to 2-0 against the Tigers this season.
Also, the committee has historically punished bubble teams who lose in their conference tournament opener and reward those who win. Kansas State beat TCU in its Big 12 opener last year. The Wildcats are also actually the answer to a great tournament trivia question: which team knocked out UMBC after the Retrievers historic upset of Virginia?
Here’s a spreadsheet I created to track the at-large board. There are 36 spots. I have 53 teams (based on the NET) on the board. By my math, there are 21 “locks,” eight teams “in” and 15 on the “bubble.”
(The conference leaders, or champions, can be found on the automatic bid spreadsheet.)
I moved N.C. State to the “in” category after the Clemson win. A loss in the conference tournament by Buffalo (MAC) or VCU (Atlantic 10) would change the math, but you’re looking at seven spots for 15 bubble teams.
Clemson and Oklahoma (72-71 to West Virginia) were the only teams near the end of the at-large board to lose on Wednesday.
Here’s Thursday’s schedule:
N.C. State vs. Virginia, 12:30
Indiana vs. Ohio State, 12:30
Florida vs. Arkansas, 1
Creighton vs. Xavier, 2:30
TCU vs. Kansas State, 2:30
Memphis vs. Tulane, 3
Alabama vs. Ole Miss, 7
Minnesota vs. Penn State, 7
St. John’s vs. Marquette, 7
Texas vs. Kansas, 9
Iowa vs. Illinois, 9:30
Oregon vs. Utah, 11:30