Stock Up/Stock Down Report: February 24, 2014

Here’s this week’s Stock Up/Stock Down report, which, as a reminder, you’ll notice is no longer found in the Monday Bracketology post.

Before we get into the stock outlook, let’s talk a little bit about conference tournaments. As we’re sitting here on February 24th, checking out projected brackets from around the web daily, if not hourly, I think we tend to forget the importance of conference tournaments. Not only do we forget the importance of bubble teams picking up big wins in these tournaments, which helps solidify their selection into The Big Dance. But even more importantly, we forget about the bids that get stolen. Bid aren’t just stolen from “mid-major” leagues, but also if a team outside of the bubble looking in picks up a few wins to find their way into the dance, a “power” conference tournament can have a major impact as well.

Take a look at the last three seasons to see bids that were stolen before Selection Sunday.

  • 2013: Oregon and Ole Miss ended up stealing bids by winning their conference tournaments.
  • 2012: St. Bonaventure’s stole a bid and based on where they ended up seeded as an 11-seed, it’s possible/likely that Colorado did as well.
  • 2011: Memphis and Richmond were both given 12-seeds after winning their conference tournaments. It’s very likely these were two bid stealers as well.

That’s only the last three seasons, but just remember those teams when you’re checking out projected brackets in these last few weeks before Selection Sunday. This year, the Missouri Valley and Mountain West conference tournaments are flashing a “POTENTIAL BID STEALER” light in bright red right now. And there’s always others out there as well. In a lot of instances, the “Last 4 In” category in a projected bracket might be better defined as 1 or 2, because there’s a good chance a couple of those spots are getting taken at the last second.

Alright, here’s the Stock Watch for this past week of games.

  • Stock Up:
    • Creighton – Could Creighton end up being a 1-seed? The Bluejays are currently 23-4, 13-2 in the Big East, and have risen to a 2-seed in our latest bracket. They’re currently #6 on our S-curve. KenPom has them 5th currently, while they are 7th in both Sagarin and RPI. If they win out in the regular season and win the Big East tournament, they’d be 29-4, and assuming other teams like Arizona and Syracuse drop a couple more, it’d be tough to keep them off of that 1-line. Let’s see what they do in their next two, as the Bluejays have two tough road tests at Xavier and at Georgetown. Either way, you should watch those two games anyways just to see NPOY candidate (winner) Doug McDermott work his magic yet again.
    • New Mexico – So, I think we all forgot New Mexico was the runaway favorite in the Mountain West this year, didn’t we? The Lobos are 21-5 overall and 12-2 in the Mountain West. Their next 3 (Utah State, at Nevada, and Air Force) should be a cakewalk before they close out the year with a rematch in San Diego against Steve Fisher and the Aztecs. Other than a puzzling loss at home to New Mexico State in December, the Lobos don’t have a major blemish on their schedule and played a competitive non-league schedule back in November and December. They’re up to a 7-seed in our bracket today, and I expect them to slide in as a 6-seed once the bracket is revealed in three weeks.
    • Baylor – If you’re a team on the bubble, it’s very nice and very fortuitous to have a week like the Baylor Bears just had. Baylor survived an OT scare against a Marcus Smart-less Oklahoma State team on Monday at home and then had an impressive 13-point victory over West Virginia on Saturday. That slid them up all the way to a 9-seed in our latest bracket. That might be an aggressive jump, but the numbers support them. The Bears are ranked 39th in KenPom and 34th in Sagarin. Their record of 18-9 includes wins over Colorado, Dayton, Kentucky, Kansas State, and two wins over Oklahoma State. If they can go 2-2 down the stretch (at Texas, home for Texas Tech and Iowa State, and at Kansas State), I think they’ll make the tournament with a little room to spare, even though that would give them an 8-10 record in the Big 12. Reference this post if you think that’s a big deal.
  • Stock Down:
    • San Diego State – As New Mexico climbs up the ladder, the Aztecs are sliding down the chute. SDSU is now 2-2 in their last 4, which has dropped their record down to an unacceptable 23-3. Obviously, I am joking, but I still think this team might be seeded surprisingly lower than many think come Selection Sunday. The Aztecs have two VERY GOOD wins over Creighton on a neutral floor and over Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence. But, there’s not much there other than that. Plus, it’s unclear if the committee uses the eye test or not, but if they do, I can’t imagine San Diego State ranks too highly in that measurement. Ultimately, because of the lightness of the schedule down the stretch, I wouldn’t be surprised if San Diego State finishes the year as a 3-seed. But as of right now, I’ve got them all the way down to a 4-seed this week.
    • Gonzaga – Could the Zags be that one team every year who shocks us by not getting their name called on Selection Sunday? Gonzaga has now lost 3 of their last 5, including two this past week at BYU and at lowly San Diego. They close out the regular season with two more road games, at Pacific and St. Mary’s. I’ll be very interested to see how the committee views this squad in a few weeks. Gonzaga owns a neutral site win over Arkansas and home wins over St. Mary’s and BYU. And that’s about it. Yikes. That’s not a great resume, especially in a year where the WCC is not looked upon overly fondly. But keep an eye on the Bulldogs, especially if they drop one of these next two. They’re not a shoo-in for the tourney yet.
    • Minnesota – If you want an example of how to severely hurt your chances of making the tournament, lose these 4 games: at Nebraska (when the Huskers weren’t playing as well as they are now), home against Northwestern, at Purdue, and home against Illinois this past Wednesday. The Gophers weren’t a “lock” for the tournament a month ago, but they certainly seemed likely to make it. Now? Not so sure. I have them as my very last team in the field. And if you read through my intro at the top on bid stealers, that’s not exactly a promising spot to be. Minnesota plays Iowa at home on Tuesday. Is it crazy to say that’s a must-win for Richard Pitino’s crew? Because I think it just might be.

If you haven’t yet, check out this week’s Bracketology post and bracket. We’ll be back with more content as the week moves along.

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