The first five—Quinnipiac, St Cloud St, Boston College, North Dakota, and Providence
On Feb. 23, I called the top 5 “starting to look like locks” for the NCAA tournament (in order of their ranking at the time)—#2 Quinnipiac, #3 St Cloud St, #5 Boston College, #1 North Dakota, and #4 Providence. While those 5 have shuffled a bit amongst themselves, they obviously remain the top 5, and are even more certain locks.
None of them are likely to drop out of the top 7 in this weekend’s conference tournament play. Because a worst case scenario for any of those teams would also mean no more games before NCAA selection, there would be limited opportunity for additional downward movement.
Almost had it—Michigan
In that Feb. 23 article, I called (then #6) #8 Michigan too close and too many games remaining to call. The Wolverines have rewarded me for my caution, going 1-3, dropping two spots, and being at risk of hitting the bubble if they continue to lose.
The new “next one”—Denver
But what about the new #6 Denver (then #8)? They’ve been the hottest PWR team of 2016 with a 14-1-3 record since the New Year, including a 4-0 run since that article.
The Pioneers are facing an elimination best-of-3 that is likely to result in no worse than a #8 PWR ranking, I’m comfortable saying you should expect to see Denver in the NCAA tournament.
Note, however, that Denver has not mathematically secured the bid. In very obscure scenarios, they could fall as low as 9 this weekend if swept (about a .1% of KRACH-weighted outcomes in which Denver goes 0-2). It’s conceivable, though incredibly unlikely, that the then idle Pioneers could slip enough further to fall below the cutline if almost all of the conference tournaments are won by teams outside the top 16. That scenario is extremely unlikely to still be in play after this weekend, but if it is, I’ll give full details of the likelihood and how it could happen.