Butler basketball bracketology update

The Butler men’s basketball team huddles during a game this season. The Bulldogs are 6-7 in Big East play with five regular season games remaining. Jimmy Lafakis/Collegian file photo.

JOSHUA DOERING | CO-SPORTS EDITOR | jdoering@butler.edu

At 15-11 overall and 6-7 in Big East play, the Butler men’s basketball team is squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

As of Tuesday, the Bulldogs are the first team out of the tournament in the bracket matrix, which compiles data based on the tournament fields of bracketologists. Butler makes the cut in 37 of the 109 brackets currently in the matrix.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Bulldogs in his “first four out.” Same goes for Fox Sports bracketologist Howie Schwab. In Jerry Palm of CBS Sports’ bracket, they’re one of the last four teams in.  

Two of the primary measures used by the NCAA Tournament selection committee are the NET rankings and KenPom. The NET rankings are “the primary tool” utilized by the NCAA, according to its website. KenPom is a predictive algorithm designed to determine how strong a team would be if it played tonight.

Butler is currently 49th in the NET rankings and 51st in KenPom. Temple, Arizona State, Florida and Clemson are the last four teams to receive at-large bids in the bracket matrix.

Temple’s average ranking in the two evaluation tools is 64, Arizona State 65, Florida 31.5 and Clemson 36. For comparison, the four at-large teams that participated in the First Four last season had a mean RPI — the metric replaced by the NET rankings — of 43.5 and an average KenPom ranking of 53.5.

Another key factor in evaluating team’s resumes is the quality of wins and losses. Games are broken into four quadrants to help standardize how results are viewed.

Games against a top 30 team in the NET rankings at home, top 50 at a neutral court and top 75 on the road are defined as quadrant one games. Similarly, games against teams ranked between 31st and 75th at home, 51st through 100th at a neutral site and 76th through 135th on the road in the Net rankings fall into quadrant two.

Arguably the biggest weakness of Butler’s resume to date is a lack of quality wins. The Bulldogs are 2-6 in quadrant one games and 5-4 against quadrant two opponents this season.

The Bulldogs still have road games against Marquette, Villanova and Providence, who are 19th, 20th and 87th respectively in the NET rankings, left on their schedule. In all likelihood, that’s two quadrant one games and another quadrant two contest.

Providence and Xavier pay visits to Hinkle Fieldhouse, with both games falling into the quadrant three category.

While nothing is certain, the current college basketball landscape and bracketology data suggest that a 3-2 finish to the season coupled with a win in the Big East Tournament will likely be enough to get Butler into the field of 68.

Four victories in the final five games of the regular season give the Bulldogs some breathing room thanks to a 10-8 conference record and a road win over either Marquette or Villanova.

If the NCAA Tournament started today, Butler’s chances of making it would be right around 50 percent. The Bulldogs have at least six more opportunities to increase that number.

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