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Bracketology 2021: The Cut Line picture for Selection Week Thursday

The last time I tried to write one of these, it ended up being lost to the mists of 2020. Of course, CoVID is still a major factor in our lives one year later, as one bubble team discovered this morning.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Duke Louisville
Both Louisville and Duke featured in the first draft of this morning’s cut line post. Only the Cardinals remain in the published version.
Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Today’s bracket

Today’s viewing guide

Last Four Byes

Michigan State, Maryland, VCU, Colorado State

Three of these four teams are in action today, with the Spartans and Terrapins meeting each other in the first Big Ten second-round matchup of the day (11:30 a.m., B1G Network). Colorado State, meanwhile, will look to defeat Fresno State for a third time, when they meet in the fourth Mountain West quarterfinal (11:30 p.m., CBSSN). Idle VCU can get itself off this list by winning the Atlantic 10 auto bid on Sunday.

NET info is current as of the morning of Thursday, March 11, 2021. All data reflects games against Division I opposition only and originates from WarrenNolan.com’s selection sheets. Logos from SportsLogos.net. All times are Eastern.

Last Four In

Louisville

Record: 13-7 (8-5 ACC); 5-4 road/netural (R/N); 1-5 vs. Quad 1; 6-1 vs. Quad 2
NET: 57
Strength of Record (SOR): 37
KenPom: 56
Sagarin: 41
Wins Above Bubble (WAB): 1.4 (40th)

The Cardinals dropped their ACC Tournament opener to Duke, who is now out of the event thanks to a positive CoVID test. That may end up affecting Louisville’s ability to play down the road, but for now, let’s focus on the Cards’ profile. For a team that many of us in the bracketology racket had safely in the field just as a week ago, I’m not seeing why that was really ever the case. Chris Mack’s squad has a middling 7-6 record in games against Quad 1 and 2 opponents, with just two victories against teams currently projected in the field—Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. Both of those came at the Bucket. This is a squad that, should it qualify, looks destined to play an extra game. However, by losing on Wednesday, Louisville risks being passed by the teams that will be in action on Thursday and beyond.

Next game: None

Drake

Record: 23-4 (15-3 MVC); 12-2 R/N; 1-2 vs. Quad 1; 5-0 vs. Quad 2
NET: 45
SOR: 47
KenPom: 54
Sagarin: 71
WAB: 1.6 (38th)

If the Bulldogs had gotten the opportunity to play (and defeat) Colorado during their common season-opening exempt event at Kansas State, we might not be having this discussion. Instead, Drake was scheduled against, and defeated, the hosts (189th in the NET) and South Dakota (178th) in Manhattan. When Darian DeVries’s squad finally got its chance at a top-tier squad, it was blown out at home by eventual Arch Madness champ Loyola by 37 in game one. Amazingly, the Bulldogs managed to win the rematch the following day by a single point in overtime to earn their solitary Quad 1 victory. Honestly, it’s Drake’s losses that hurt more than anything else, as the defeat against the Ramblers and a 17-point loss at 224th-ranked Valparaiso, combined with another bad loss, to No. 171 Bradley, have helped to deflate the Bulldogs’ NET.

However, Drake’s great overall record, 6-2 mark in Quad 1 and 2 games, and impressive record away from the Knapp Center should result in a bid, particularly with the quality of teams around them.

Next game: None

Boise State

Record: 17-7 (14-6 MW); 7-6 R/N; 2-4 vs. Quad 1; 2-2 vs. Quad 2
NET: 43
SOR: 59
KenPom: 57
Sagarin: 52
WAB: 0 (51st)

With a Wins Above Bubble mark sitting right at zero, the Broncos are the quintessential bubble team. While Boise State has the best win of any of the three Mountain West teams hanging around the cut line— at WCC runner-up BYU, it also owns three of the worst losses. Leon Rice’s team fell by two and 11 at Nevada in early February and dropped a home makeup game against 188th-ranked Fresno State last Tuesday. Making matters worse for BSU, the Wolf Pack loom in this afternoon’s second Mountain West quarterfinal. After splitting with Colorado State (ahead of Boise State in the pecking order), sweeping Utah State (behind the Broncos), and going winless against league champ San Diego State (a tournament lock), Boise needs a win today badly.

Next game: Nevada in the MW Quarterfinals (5:30 p.m., CBSSN)

Syracuse

Record: 16-8 (9-7 ACC); 3-7 R/N; 1-6 vs. Quad 1; 5-1 vs. Quad 2
NET: 39
SOR: 42
KenPom: 44
Sagarin: 37
WAB: 0.9 (46th)

Advance metrics are starting to elevate the Orange over the bubble crowd despite their lackluster overall record and a Quad 1/2 mark that resembles Louisville’s. One advantage Syracuse has over the Cardinals, however, is an additional win over a team projected in the field, as Jim Boeheim’s squad has defeated North Carolina, Clemson, and Virginia Tech. With all of those wins coming at the Dome, Syracuse could really use a victory over a top 15 Virginia squad on a neutral-floor to show the Selection Committee that it’s able to win away from Onondaga County.

Next game: Virginia in the ACC Quarterfinals (12 p.m., ESPN2)

First Four Out

Saint Louis

Record: 14-6 (6-4 Atlantic 10); 2-4 R/N; 2-3 vs. Quad 1; 2-1 vs. Quad 2
NET: 46
SOR: 60
KenPom: 49
Sagarin: 54
WAB: -0.7 (62nd)

The Billikens’ inability to win away from Chaifetz Arena, along with scheduling issues created by CoVID, look likely to conspire to keep SLU out. Sure, Saint Louis has Quad 1 wins over LSU and Saint Bonaventure, along with Quad 2 victories over Richmond and NC State, but road losses to Dayton (part of a season sweep), VCU, and (most damagingly) La Salle are all red flags. Plus, losing by 18 to the Bonnies in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals means Travis Ford’s club left the Committee with a lousy final impression.

Next game: None

Utah State

Record: 17-7 (15-5 MW); 8-6 R/N; 2-4 vs. Quad 1; 1-1 vs. Quad 2
NET: 49
SOR: 68
KenPom: 48
Sagarin: 51
WAB: -1.1 (69th)

Despite sweeping San Diego State, the Aggies rank behind both Boise State and Colorado State in the Mountain West bubble pecking order because of their 1-3 record against their two rivals, along with a pair of Quad 3 losses, against South Dakota State in the Dakota Crossover Classic and, more worryingly, UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center. And guess who Craig Smith’s team meets tonight in the conference quarterfinals.

A home loss to BYU and a disappointing 1-2 trip to Sioux Falls to start the season might end up costing Utah State a bid.

Next game: UNLV in the MW Quarterfinals (9 p.m., CBSSN)

Ole Miss

Record: 15-10 (10-8 SEC); 5-6 R/N; 3-4 vs. Quad 1; 5-4 vs. Quad 2
NET: 53
SOR: 62
KenPom: 52
Sagarin: 58
WAB: -0.9 (64th)

If you challenged me to focus on just one team out of these eight this weekend, I would pick the Rebels. They have three wins over teams in the field, including a sweep of Missouri, and their “bad” losses aren’t that terrible, even if five of them came against teams ranked outside of the NET top 75. If Kermit Davis’s team can make it to Friday’s quarterfinal against LSU and win it, Ole Miss might just be in the bid business in 2021.

Next game: South Carolina in the SEC Second Round (9:30 p.m., SECN)

St. John’s

Record: 16-10 (10-9 Big East); 5-7 R/N; 2-6 vs. Quad 1; 4-2 vs. Quad 2
NET: 66
SOR: 50
KenPom: 63
Sagarin: 59
WAB: -0 (52nd)

While the Red Storm have just two wins against teams in the field, they’re good ones. St. John’s took down Villanova at home back when the Wildcats were full strength and UConn on the road when the Huskies weren’t. Four losses to teams outside the NET top 75 muddy the picture for Mike Anderson’s team, so the Johnnies will need to take care of business and defeat Seton Hall for a second time in six days to stay alive.

Next game: Seton Hall in the Big East Quarterfinals (3 p.m., FS1)

Next Four Out

SMU, Seton Hall, Xavier, Memphis

While the Pirates control their own fate, the Musketeers are all but out following Wednesday’s overtime loss to Butler. As for SMU, when the Mustangs take the floor against Cincinnati in Thursday’s American Athletic quarterfinals, they’ll play for the first time since February 8th. Memphis, meanwhile, also plays in Fort Worth tomorrow, against either UCF or East Carolina.