Here’s a look at how four local teams are living on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Although it’s only February, it’s starting to feel like March in New York and New Jersey. There have been a few sunny days with 60-degree weather lately, but that’s not the only reason why. College basketball is getting wacky too.
Of the local college hoops teams, there are four with at least a non-zero chance at making the NCAA Tournament. Let’s take a deeper dive into these four teams.
St. John’s — Needs to Win Big East Tournament
For a brief moment in time in recent weeks, people started convincing themselves that St. John’s had a chance to steal an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. Preposterous.
Wins against Seton Hall and Xavier, two likely Tournament teams, are the only notable victories for the Johnnies this year. They are 3-10 in Quad 1 and 2 games while sitting at 72 in NET rating.
St. John’s needed a strong showing in Big East play for even half-a-chance at dancing. Their most impressive win of the non-conference slate came against Monmouth out of the MAAC. That win is overshadowed by a loss to Quad 4 Pittsburgh.
Simply put, the Johnnies need to hoist the Big East Tournament trophy for a chance to make the NCAA Tournament. Even winning out and making the championship game likely won’t be enough.
Iona — Needs to Win MAAC Tournament
Iona came *this* close to being in the conversation for an at-large bid. They put together a strong non-conference resumé with wins over Alabama, Liberty, and Yale, but they missed opportunities against Belmont, St. Louis, and Kansas.
The Gaels also lost an opportunity to pad that resumé when their game against Seton Hall was canceled due to COVID. One more non-conference win would have given Iona, who currently ranks 74th in NET rating, a lift.
MAAC losses to Niagara and Siena all but tanked Iona’s at-large chances. Had they run the table in the MAAC and lost in the conference finals, they would have had an outside chance at an at-large.
But now it’s on Rick Pitino to lead Iona back to MAAC glory in Atlantic City.
Rutgers — Needs a Little More
Rutgers missed an opportunity to add another impressive road win on Wednesday. They fell short in Ann Arbor against Michigan, but they still have opportunities to do a little more.
Winning two out of three against Wisconsin, Indiana, and Penn State to close out the season would go a long way with the committee. As long as they can win one or two games in the Big Ten Tournament they will have a puncher’s chance at an at-large bid.
They currently rank 83rd in NET rating with an 8-7 record in Quad 1 and 2 games. But they pass the eye test late in the season after looking like a team that would have trouble making the NIT earlier in the season.
The Scarlet Knights lost consecutive games to DePaul, Lafayette, and UMass earlier this year. However, they have beaten five ranked teams in Big Ten play.
Although they don’t need to win the Big Ten Tournament to punch their ticket, there’s work to be done for Steve Pikiell’s squad.
Seton Hall — Needs to Avoid a Collapse
Seton Hall looked like a legitimate National Championship contender early in the season. They have regressed a bit in Big East play, but they are still a very safe bet to make the NCAA Tournament.
They rank 37th in NET rating with impressive wins over Michigan, Texas, Rutgers, UConn, Xavier, and Creighton. Barring a complete collapse to finish the season, Seton Hall is going to be dancing.
The Pirates are stalwarts on the defensive end. That lockdown defense gives them a chance on a neutral floor against anyone. Although they have a bunch of different guys to turn to offensively, their ceiling goes way up if Bryce Aiken can return healthy.