The month of November is in the books in college basketball. We are done with the early tournaments and those results have been counted. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge has concluded. Right before the start of the season, I projected the NCAA Tournament field, and now with some actual games, we’ll do it again.
The biggest shift has been that the Big Ten and Pac-12 took some lumps in November, and those lumps will still be felt in aggregate when March rolls around.
Michigan State held up their end of the bargain, and Purdue looks like a contender, but several prominent Big Ten programs faltered out of the gate. Indiana is in transition. Wisconsin is 3-4 and has lost every game against another big name opponent. Northwestern went from preseason Top 25 to a 4-3 start that included getting blasted by Texas tech by 36. Overall, the Big Ten is 14-24 against teams from the ACC/Big 12/Big East/SEC/Pac-12/American. That will be hard to overcome and it will absolutely impact how many teams will finish in the Top 50, and how many quality wins the committee will see. I’ve now got Northwestern out, and Wisconsin and Michigan just missing the tournament as well. The Badgers can rebound, but because the overall conference is down (The Big Ten will likely finish as the 6th-best ranked conference) the margin is slim.
Meanwhile, in the Pac-12, the favorites took some gut punches. Arizona went winless in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, going from being ranked in the Top 5 to unranked in a week. USC got handled at home by Texas A&M. UCLA had the prominent shoplifting incident in China, and has depth issues without the suspended players. Oregon lost to both Connecticut and Oklahoma while playing in the PK80 Tournament in nearby Portland, and needed overtime to beat DePaul.
The good surprises have been Bobby Hurley’s Arizona State team, and Washington State. But they have been too few. Most of the rest of the perceived bottom of the conference spent the month adding embarrassing losses to non-power schools. The conference is only 8-14 against the other top 7 conferences, and has way too many bad losses. There are few quality wins for Arizona and USC to get in conference. That will limit how much those teams can rebound from their November starts.
Here are the full projections, where the Big 12 and SEC are the beneficiaries. Both conferences will likely get more than half of their members in the tournament. Shout out to RPI Forecast and Ken Pomeroy’s rankings to try to assess how the season will play out. These are not just based on games already played but also try to project how the committee will view the entire season.
The 10 teams that just missed the projection as at-larges: