Bracketology: At-Large Bid Within Rutgers' Reach


Despite missing the Big Ten tournament, Kieran Mullins (4), Jeff George (11) and Rutgers could shore up the Scarlet Knights' first NCAA tournament berth since 2004 with a win over Ohio State.

Rutgers isn’t going to the Big Ten tournament.

It doesn’t mean the Scarlet Knights won’t reach the NCAA tournament.

Regardless of what Rutgers (9-4, 1-3) does against Ohio State, it will not be part of the four-team Big Ten tournament next month. But a victory over the Buckeyes would considerably bolster the Scarlet Knights’ hopes of landing their first NCAA bid since 2004.

Missing a conference tournament didn’t keep Army out of the field in 2004, nor did it prevent North Carolina and Virginia from landing bids in 2014 when they met in the ACC’s showcase game. Virginia managed to get in the tournament again in 2015 despite making another showcase appearance.

Rutgers isn’t going to benefit from missing the Big Ten tournament. It won’t have another chance (or two) to add a quality victory and will not receive a strength of schedule bump, either. Plus, it will spend the last week of the season anxiously rooting for conference favorites like Albany, Denver and Hofstra to earn the automatic bids of their respective leagues.

But if the Scarlet Knights own one of the eight best profiles in the at-large field — something that becomes very likely with a victory over Ohio State — finishing fifth in the Big Ten won’t keep them out of the NCAA tournament.

The RPI is from LaxPower’s RPI replica through Sunday’s games. Records against the top five, top 10 and top 20 and losses to teams outside the top 25 are based on performance against the current RPI rankings, not human polls). The strength of schedule data comes from the NCAA’s RPI Archive and reflects only a team’s 10 best opponents to date.

Automatic Qualifiers (9)







26+ L

Maryland 3 3 0-2 2-2 5-3
Albany 7 19 0-2 0-2 1-2
Denver 8 12 1-1 2-1 4-2
Hofstra 10 36 0-0 0-0 2-0 Drexel (26)
Yale 17 22 0-1 0-2 2-2 UMass (27), Bryant (35)
Loyola 20 28 0-1 0-1 2-4 Bucknell (52)
Hobart 36 54 0-1 0-1 0-2 Georgetown (41), Sacred Heart (44), Colgate (50)
Monmouth 39 66 0-0 0-1 1-1 Delaware (37), St. Joseph's (53)
Furman 43 49 0-1 0-2 0-3 Sacred Heart (44), Vermont (48)

Based on the RPI, Maryland gets the nod as the Big Ten’s automatic qualifier. But if Ohio State beats Rutgers on Saturday, it will get the top seed and move into this chart next week. … Albany has a top-20 victory thanks to its one-goal defeat of Yale. It might not be enough, though, for the Great Danes to land a home game in the first round of the NCAA tournament. …

Denver’s remaining schedule: At Marquette, another matchup with Marquette in the Big East tournament and then a potential Big East final against Villanova or Providence. … Hofstra is part of a three-way tie atop the Colonial, but it needs help to host the league tournament. The Pride lands the top seed with a victory plus a Drexel loss. …

Yale’s chances of landing an at-large bid probably vanished with its loss at Albany. Its task is to win two at home on the final weekend of the season. …  Loyola leaps into the top 20 after winning at Army, but it needs two more victories this week in the Patriot League tournament to prolong its season. …

Monmouth will host the Metro Atlantic tournament after turning back Canisius on Friday. … The winner of Hobart’s date with Robert Morris on Saturday will land the top seed in the Northeast tournament. … The longest winning streaks in Division I belong to Syracuse (nine), Monmouth (eight) and Furman (six). The Paladins will try to clinch a perfect regular season in the Southern Conference when they visit Richmond on Saturday.

At-Large Bids (13 teams/8 slots)







26+ L

Syracuse 1 5 2-0 4-0 6-1
Notre Dame 2 4 2-1 2-3 4-3
Johns Hopkins 4 2 0-2 1-2 5-4
Ohio State 5 10 2-1 3-2 4-2
Penn State 6 13 1-2 1-2 3-2
Duke 9 11 1-1 1-2 4-2 Air Force (31)
Rutgers 12 14 0-2 0-3 2-3 Delaware (37)
Towson 13 26 1-1 1-2 1-3 Fairfield (45)
Villanova 14 21 1-0 1-2 1-3 Delaware (37), Monmouth (39)
Boston U. 15 57 0-0 0-0 1-1 Lehigh (46), Bucknell (52)
Princeton 16 25 1-0 1-1 1-3 Lehigh (46)
Virginia 18 8 0-3 0-4 1-5 Penn (30)
Army 19 41 1-0 1-0 2-2 Navy (40)

Syracuse effectively locks up the No. 1 seed with an ACC tournament title this week. Even with a loss, the Orange’s floor is probably no lower than a No. 3 seed so long as it beats Colgate in its regular-season finale. … As much as Syracuse’s penchant for one-goal games gets pointed out, it’s also Notre Dame’s trend. The Fighting Irish is 4-2 in one-goal games, with six of its last eight decided by a goal. …

Johns Hopkins handled matters against Michigan, and now it heads to Maryland. The winner is assured at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title and the top seed if Ohio State loses Saturday to Rutgers. … Speaking of the Buckeyes, they probably need one more victory (either against Rutgers or in the Big Ten semifinals) to lock in a first-round home game in the NCAA tournament. …

Penn State should feel good about its NCAA hopes after thrashing Rutgers on Sunday. The Nittany Lions would need to lose out and have chaos erupt elsewhere to find themselves out of the field at this point. … It’s a big weekend for Duke, which will face Notre Dame and potentially Syracuse on its home field as it chases an ACC title. One win probably seals an NCAA home game for the Blue Devils.

Right now, it’s four teams — Princeton, Rutgers, Towson and Villanova — for two spots. None of them have overwhelming profiles and each has a regrettable loss. Rutgers’ head-to-head victory over Princeton could be a valuable data point during the committee’s deliberations next month. … Within that group, flip a coin on Towson and Princeton. Their profiles are effectively indistinguishable.

Boston University and Army both have dates with ACC schools in two weekends (the Terriers with Duke, the Black Knights with Notre Dame). Nonetheless, the only sure postseason path for either team is a Patriot League tournament title. … Virginia won’t make the tournament even if it avenges its earlier loss to Penn this weekend, but it would have a viable case had even one of its one-goal losses to Syracuse, Notre Dame and Johns Hopkins swung the other way.


A few reminders on bracket construction:

  • The committee seeds the top eight teams and then divvies up the unseeded teams based on geography in an attempt to limit air travel.

  • Conference rematches are to be avoided in the first round.

  • Quarterfinal host schools (in this year’s case, Hofstra) are funneled into their own site.

  • Of the nine automatic qualifiers, the two with the weakest profiles are assigned to the preliminary round game the Wednesday before the first round. At-large teams are not selected for play-in games.

Hempstead, N.Y.

(1) Syracuse vs. NORTHEAST/Hobart-SOUTHERN/Furman

(8) Penn State vs. CAA/Hofstra

Hempstead, N.Y.

(5) BIG TEN/Maryland vs. PATRIOT/Loyola

(4) BIG EAST/Denver vs. Rutgers

Newark, Del.

(3) BIG EAST/Denver vs. IVY/Yale

(6) Johns Hopkins vs. America East/Albany

Newark, Del.

(7) Duke vs. Towson

(2) Notre Dame vs. MAAC/Monmouth

Last three in: Penn State, Rutgers, Towson

First three out: Princeton, Villanova, Army

Multi-bid conferences: Big Ten (5), ACC (3), CAA (2)

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