Sitting at just 12-7 on the season, the Texas Tech basketball team is squarely on the bubble in the latest round of bracketology predictions.
All season, Texas Tech basketball fans have been pointing towards March as the moment when this program will have another shot at bringing home the National Title that so painfully evaded the Red Raiders last spring. But we had better start worrying about January and February because right now, an NCAA Tournament birth is no guarantee.
In fact, most bracketology predictions have Tech squarely on the bubble. Some even have the defending Big 12 regular season co-champions on the outside looking in.
CBSSports’ Jerry Palm has taken Tech out of his 68-team field. Palm points out that one thing which hurt Tech’s perception this week was that the Red Raiders were the highest-ranked team that lost over the weekend. Still, they did lose to a slightly higher-ranked team in No. 15 Kentucky, albeit at home.
“Texas Tech was in last year’s Final Four and the Red Raiders have a win over Louisville,” writes Palm. “The rest of their tournament resume is hardly impressive. Texas Tech is 12-7 after its loss to Kentucky, but 1-7 vs teams in Quadrant 1. So, no bad losses is good, but that’s a pretty poor record against the best competition. After that, it has just three other wins outside of Q4 – Iowa State and Oklahoma State at home, and at Kansas State. That is two Q2 wins and one in Q3. Pickings would have to be really slim for team with these measly credentials to make the field.”
Meanwhile, NBCSports’ Dave Ommen has Tech in his field of 68 but just barely. He has the Red Raiders playing in one of the “First Four” games, which are unofficially known by most fans as play-in games even though they are officially part of the NCAA Tournament. Ommen sees Tech playing Virginia Commonwealth in Dayton, Ohio, which hosts each of the First Four games.
Meanwhile, ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi had Tech on the bubble even before losing to Kentucky. As of January 24th (last Friday), Tech was just a No. 9 seed in his bracket, which had them facing Stanford before a potential matchup with No. 1 seed San Diego State.
Over at TeamRankings.com, Tech is just projected as a No. 11 seed right now. As the No. 42 overall team, they have a 63% shot at earning a bid according to that site’s matrix.
Another site that has not updated its projections since prior to the Kentucky game but which still had Tech hanging precariously on the bubble is SBNation. Chris Dobbertean as Tech has just a No. 11 seed, which is about as low as a team from a major conference will be seeded in any given year.
But while these projections are somewhat bleak, there remain some opportunities for Tech to slide off the bubble and back into a solid NCAA Tournament position. With four games remaining against the top three teams in the Big 12 (Baylor, West Virginia, and Kansas), Tech can secure some much-needed marquee wins. But of course, that won’t be easy.
Still, most of us expect the Red Raiders to be able to pick up wins over the likes of Oklahoma, TCU, and Texas in February. Each of those teams is currently in the top 75 of the NCAA NET rankings meaning wins against them would be at least Quadrant 2 victories, and Quadrant 1 or 2 wins are what the Selection Committee looks most heavily towards when handing out bids.
February is going to be a crucial month for Tech and hopefully, this young team can head into it on the right foot after beating West Virginia at home on Wednesday in the final game of January. If that happens, it could propel Chris Beard and his team to a strong run towards March and prevent us from having to worry about any talk of bubbles.