At this time of year, it’s popular for various bracketologists to call teams locks to make the tournament, even when they aren’t quite locks. So, my list is smaller than most because I want to assure this team can lose out and still have a 100% chance of making the tournament. So, here are the teams that will definitely make the tournament:
ACC – Virginia, UNC, Miami, Duke, Notre Dame
Big 10 – Michigan State, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Maryland, Purdue
Big XII – Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, West Virginia, Iowa St
Big East – Villanova, Xavier, Seton Hall
Pac-12 – Oregon, Arizona, Utah, Cal, Colorado
SEC – Kentucky, Texas A&M
You’ll notice I don’t have a single team “locked” from outside the power six conferences. The reason is because of the damage that losses in the other conferences can do. Losing to two teams outside the top 100 will really hurt the profile.
Specifically, let’s look at Dayton. They seem like a lock at first with three top 50 wins, a 21st rating in the RPI, and a terrific non-conference strength of schedule (4th). Dig a bit deeper, though, and you’ll see a team who is playing very poorly (which really hurts the eye test), a team with two bad losses (one at home to Rhode Island and one at dreadful LaSalle), and a team who has played just 12 games against the top 100 in the RPI.
While Dayton has about a 95% chance of making the field, they better not lose to VCU at home and in their first A-10 game. The profile isn’t so air tight that they are a lock if both of those happen.
Another team I want to discuss is Wichita State. The Shockers are one of the nation’s most efficient teams, but bracketologists are calling them a lock, and I can’t figure out why. Look, it’s not how good we think a team can be; it’s how good a team has been. WSU may have been missing Fred Van Vleet for some early season games, but they still have just one win against the top 92 in the RPI (though it is a very good Utah team), just four top 100 wins, and two fairly bad losses (at HOME to Northern Iowa and at Illinois State). I have WSU at an 11 and they will likely need to win the Missouri Valley tournament to get in. If not, they will get in by the skin of their teeth. If WSU is a high seed in the tournament, I will admit I’m wrong. But to me, the best case scenario for WSU is the 8-9 game. And that’s if things go really well.
The last team I want to mention is Oregon State. Many have them in the First Four, just barely making the field. Not me. I will lock them with a win over USC or UCLA. They have no bad losses, SIX top 50 RPI wins, and they have four wins over other locked teams. They may not end up as a single digit seed, but they are almost assured of making the field.