The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee has about half of the bracket picked, as the 32 teams that win their conference tournament receive automatic bids for their efforts. Though they can breathe easily knowing they’ll be on the bracket somewhere, they still await Selection Sunday to find out what their path to the championship looks like as they’re seeded and placed in one of the four regions.
While winning the conference looks pretty on paper and serves as the ultimate last-minute resume boost, it means little in terms of tournament success. Four of the past five NCAA tournament winners didn’t win their conference tournament.
The Redbirds’ failure to defeat Wichita State in the Arch Madness final likely cost them a place, particularly since the game was the Shockers’ second consecutive blowout win in the series. Illinois State’s home win over Wichita State is its lone triumph over a Top-50 foe in three tries. The Redbirds’ 2-4 record against the Top 100 won’t help either, not when quality wins seem to be the Selection Committee’s most important criteria. If Dan Muller’s team sneaks in, it will be due to a 12-6 record away from Normal.
There’s a common saying throughout this season that this is a “wide-open year” in college basketball. That’s probably not entirely true, as there seem to be about 12-15 teams that have distanced themselves from the rest of the country as the season has turned the stretch and headed for home. The difference between those 12-15 contenders, however, is as thin as it’s been in any season of recent memory.
When the bracket is released in full, the predictions will start flowing in and they won’t stop until the first major wave of games tip off on Thursday afternoon. But what about some predictions regarding the thing that will lead to the massive onslaught of even more predictions? Would you enjoy that?