The waiting is the hardest part, for sure.
We have no idea what will happen tonight, but we are opening this thread to house our collective anxiety about whether or not St. John’s will be chosen for the NCAA Tournament at all.
We do not know what will happen, but we do know that all the variables are set. Today’s games have no bid thieves involved — in other words, any team that wins their conference tournament today was already considered an at-large team, or has already been factored in to the bid-stealing, and is facing an opponent that will not take one of the coveted 36 at-large slots in the NCAA Tournament.
Nothing that happens today changes where St. John’s is, unlike yesterday, where Oregon’s win over Washington took an at-large spot (Oregon was far from the bubble). But New Mexico State won out, Utah State won, Buffalo won and Houston won.
Comparing some bubble teams with St. John’s
There are a number of ways the bubble can shake out, and the way the selections go tonight will give us a sense of what the committee holds dear.
Are they taking into account injuries? A poor run of play? The NET numbers? The tempo-free numbers like Jeff Sagarin’s or Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, which are baked into the committee’s selection tools?
We do know that there are some positives for St. John’s: they have five “Quad 1” victories, more than a number of bubble teams (including Florida and Ohio State). But their NET rating is 64 and their Strength of Schedule (SOS) per the NCAA is 219th.
Comparatively, Florida has a NET rating of 31 and SOS. They have 4 Quad 1 wins, and only one Quad 2 loss (St. John’s has three); both teams have two Quad 3 losses. NC State has 3 Quad 1 wins, zero Quad 2 losses, two Quad 3 losses. NC State also has a notable SOS of 353, one of the worst in the country.
But St. John’s is 79 in KenPom; NC State is 32; Florida is 28.
Why, you may ask?
Well, let’s discuss a flaw in the NET rankings. To get coaches NOT to run up the score, the NET’s margin of difference is capped at 10. After 10 points, the rating doesn’t not ding a losing team or credit a winning team.
The quantitative rankings like Sagarin and Pomeroy DO use the margin of difference to indicate a team’s strength.
So when St. John’s was eking out a win against KenPom’s #244 team California, and when they got blown out twice against Xavier and Providence? Those scores mattered.
Before the Xavier games, St. John’s was 56 in KenPom rankings, but 75 after that second loss. Getting blasted by Marquette dropped the team from 70 to 79. Losing to DePaul twice didn’t help, but it did not make as huge a difference as those losses.
St. John’s only really outclassed/ blew out Creighton and Marquette at home. The rest of their wins were fairly close; and their Quad 3 wins (DePaul in the Big East Tournament, Bowling Green and Georgia Tech) were all close affairs.
NC State, on the other hand, has handy wins over Syracuse, Boston College and Vanderbilt. Florida blasted Alabama on the road and Arkansas in the SEC Tournament (for some reason, those wins mean something), along with beating Butler by over 30.
We do not know what will happen tonight. Personally, I am expecting NIT, but St. John’s is a fully strange team, one that beat very good teams but lost to very mediocre teams — with some injuries to Shamorie Ponds and Mustapha Heron baked in there.
It’s a strange profile. No one quite knows which St. John’s team will show up to face a non-conference foe, a team that hasn’t faced St. John’s spread-you-out roster and athletic mix.
No matter what postseason the Red Storm end up in, this season will be remembered as better than the last — but with many missed opportunities.