Here’s this week’s Stock Up/Stock Down report, which you’ll notice is no longer found in the Monday Bracketology post. There’s some people who come here for strictly the bracket, and there’s some who come for extra analysis. To satisfy both of those people, we’ll let the Bracket be the main focus of the Bracketology post.
Before we get to the Stock Up/Stock Down, I want to get into one thing that I’ve heard discussed frequently about the tournament selection process for this year. I’ve been hearing three consistent thoughts on the back-end of the bubble. First, like I said in today’s Bracketology post, we keep hearing how the bubble is as weak as it has ever been this year. Is this true? I’m not entirely sure it’s possible to compare bubbles from one year to the next. The fact that it is the “bubble” implies its inherent weakness. If it was strong, the teams listed on it probably wouldn’t be bubble teams. Second, we also keep hearing how the mid-major at-large options are just not there this year. The Valley is down. The Mountain West is down. Conference USA and the CAA are long gone from having a chance at multiple bids. And third, another opinion I’ve heard is that you can’t make the tournament if you’re under .500 in conference play.
Newsflash! If the bubble is as weak as it has ever been, thoughts 2 and 3 can’t both be true. We have to find 68 teams, the tournament can’t just take place with 61 or 62. If there are no strong mid-major options to be one of the final at-large selections, then there’s going to be teams from major conferences that have poor records in conference play that make it. That includes teams like Oregon, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Tennessee, Georgetown, and Florida State. Some of those teams are going to make it, and they very well could be below .500 in conference play. With a weak bubble, those types of things happen. I would not be surprised to see a team make the tourney this year with a conference record of 8-10 or 7-11. We have to find 68, and a team with a 7-11 conference record might just be in that group.
Alright, no more of my mini op-eds, let’s take a look at the Stock Up/Stock Down report for this past week.
- Stock Up:
- Florida – Just like our Stock Up status report on Wichita State from last week, Florida feels dangerously close to having a 1-seed locked up. This week, they had two huge road wins at Tennessee and then at Kentucky on Saturday night. Their schedule the rest of the way is definitely on the light side as far as difficulty. The Gators’ toughest game is at Ole Miss this upcoming Saturday. I would not be surprised to see Florida heading into the SEC Tournament at 29-2, and even if they drop one there, I’d be hard-pressed to see them not getting a 1-seed in that scenario.
- Wisconsin – Look who’s back on track. The Badgers have won 4 straight after a stretch of losing 5 out of 6 before those 4 games. They picked up a great road win on Sunday at Michigan after beating Minnesota in Madison earlier in the week. Wisconsin’s resume is loaded with good wins: Florida, Virginia, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, St. John’s. The committee will value those wins on Selection Sunday, and that’s why they’re up to a 3-seed in this week’s bracket.
- St. John’s – The Johnnies are on fire, folks! The Red Storm have won 8 of their last 9, with that one loss being a 3-point defeat in Omaha against Creighton on a Doug McDermott buzzer beater. St. John’s started 0-5 in Big East Play, but are now 7-6 in league play. Their resume is a little lacking on “big” wins. They’ve got a win over Creighton at home, which is very appealing. Other than that, a road win at Providence is probably the best they’ve got. Villanova, Xavier, and Marquette appear on their schedule in their last 5 games. If they could go 2-1 in those games, that might be enough. But as of now, they’re still good enough to be in our Last 4 IN.
- Stock Down:
- Pittsburgh – I can’t wait to see how the selection committee evaluates Pitt in about a month’s time. The computers love the Panthers. They are 14th at KenPom and 22nd at Sagarin as of February 16th. However, Pitt hasn’t beaten ANYONE. Their 3 best wins are Stanford on a neutral court and road wins against Maryland and NC State. This week included two more opportunities slipping right through their fingertips as they had Tyler Ennis deliver the ultimate crotch kick on Wednesday by nailing a 35-footer at the buzzer and, on Saturday, while they played valiantly in defeat against North Carolina, it was still another L. They are now 1-6 against the RPI Top 50. I’ve got them as an 8-seed in this bracket, but I would not be shocked to see them anywhere in the 6-10 range among other brackets out there.
- Tennessee – I’m just about done with holding out hope for Tennessee. I’ve been influenced by KenPom (which has them at 26th at the time of this post) and my eye-test (which they pass a majority of the time), but ultimately, you have to win games occasionally to make the Tournament, and Tennessee is not doing that right now. They’re 14-10 overall and 6-6 in the weak SEC. Their two best wins are over Virginia and Xavier. Their best road win is at LSU. There’s just not a ton there. They’ve played a very tough schedule, they just haven’t beaten many teams on that schedule. On the plus side, their schedule gets considerably easier down the stretch, and they should pick up some Ws. But if they drop either of their two games this week (home for Georgia and at Texas A&M), I’m not sure if I can keep putting them in the bracket on good faith. They’re among the Last 4 IN for now.
- Michigan State – This one is about to get a little nit-picky. But I am absolutely tired of hearing, “there’s still no team I’d pick over a HEALTHY Michigan State come March.” The words “health” and “Michigan State” in the same sentence right now is the ultimate trigger for my higher annoyance level. The fact of the matter is that we have ZERO idea if this team will ever be 100% healthy. There’s been no sign so far that they’ll get there. And if they do, are we just supposed to assume that they’ll just flick a switch and win 6 straight games in March just because of Tom Izzo and health? This isn’t the Lakers during the Kobe/Shaq title years. They’re not that much more talented than other college teams. I have no idea how good they can be, and neither does anyone else. So I can only judge them on what they are thus far as a basketball team, which is a team that is struggling of late and has a very good, but not great resume. I have them as a 3-seed this week, which I feel is right where they should be. But I imagine a lot of other sites will have them as a 2-seed this week, listed as “2 Michigan State (when healthy)”.