As the calendar turns to March, the focus of the college basketball world turns to which teams are on the bubble, who are the last teams in, and who needs to make a strong showing in their particular conference tournaments.
Most schools are in the same position for the eight Division 1 men's college basketball teams in New Jersey. They must win their conference tournaments to make the NCAA Tournament or head to the NIT or the other postseason tournaments. A couple of teams has a shot at making March Madness without making a run through their conference tourneys.
This article will examine the odds of each New Jersey school of making the NCAA Tournament. As mentioned in a previous article, Seton Hall and Rutgers are almost locked in to make the tournament as of press time, but a few teams are finishing strong and could become a possible bid stealer in the long run.
Let’s begin our look with a few smaller schools and their odds of making the tournament.
No Chance Unless Something Crazy Happens
Fairleigh Dickinson 4-21 (5-13 NEC)
Rider 11-16 (7-10 MAAC)
For FDU and Rider, both teams have dealt with COVID-19 cancellations and forfeits. For a Fairleigh Dickinson team that went into the season with 12 underclassmen, head coach Greg Herenda knew that the 2021-2022 season would be a learning one as the program is looking towards the future in the Northeast Conference.
Rider drew the short straw of playing in one of the most competitive conferences in the country, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. With five teams at .500 or better in the conference and other teams just a game or two behind, Rider falls into the middle of the pack in a top-heavy conference.
So You’re Saying There’s A Chance
NJIT 11-16 (6-11 America East)
With Stony Brook excluded from the America East Tournament (they are moving to the CAA), there is one less team for the Highlanders to deal with in the tourney. Senior Miles Coleman will have to will NJIT to an NCAA Tournament berth through a conference title. They will need more 30-point games like the one he had against UMass Lowell in January.
Possible Bid Thieves
Monmouth 18-10 (10-7 MAAC)
Saint Peter’s 13-11 (11-6 MAAC)
As mentioned earlier, the MAAC is one of the best mid-major conferences in the country (making Monmouth’s move to the CAA mind-boggling). With Rick Pitino’s Iona Gaels running through the conference, they are the favorite to win the MAAC Tournament in Atlantic City. Even with the great play in the conference, this is a one-bid league. If Iona doesn’t win as expected, an NCAA Tournament bid will be taken from a bubble team by the unexpected winner of the MAAC Tournament.
After a sizzling run in January, Saint Peter’s is having an up and down end to the regular season. KC Ndefo is proving why he will likely win the MAAC Player of the Year award while Shaheen Holloway is doing the best coaching job of his young career.
Monmouth is on par with Saint Peter’s as the Hawks face the same inconsistencies that Saint Peter’s is experiencing. As Monmouth ends their run in the MAAC, this is King Rice’s last chance to get his elusive MAAC Tournament championship and NCAA Tournament trip. The matchups and seeding in the conference tournament will determine their odds for both teams.
Conference Title Is Needed
Princeton 20-5 (10-2 Ivy)
In late December, Princeton was a team that I put as one of the top teams in New Jersey. They have picked up their strong play as Yale is also making a run at the Ivy League regular-season championship. After getting a few big wins early in the season, the Tigers were in the conversation for a longshot at-large bid. Now, Princeton needs to win the Ivy League Tournament at this point in the season to make the NCAA Tournament, and Yale and Penn seem to be their only competition.
NCAA Tournament Position Solidified….Hopefully
Seton Hall 18-9 (9-8 Big East)
Rutgers 16-12 (10-8 Big Ten)
In the latest bracket from ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, Rutgers (10 seed in the South) and Seton Hall (8 seed in the South) are comfortably in the NCAA Tournament. Seton Hall won enough big games to make their case, and Rutgers’ run of four straight wins over four ranked teams in the Big Ten made their position clearer, although they fell to a Juwan Howard-less Michigan team.
As long as nothing crazy happens between now and each team’s conference tournament (i.e., a losing streak), they seem to have a ticket to the madness. However, suppose the worst-case scenario occurs, and either or both teams get back on the bubble. In that case, the outcome of the MAAC (Monmouth and Saint Peter’s) and America East (NJIT) tournaments become very important.
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