This article is part of our RotoWire Bracketology series.
The NCAA released its initial top-16 in last weekend's Bracket Preview and it's evident that RPI is in the rearview mirror. While Kansas (RPI 1, NET 18) may not have been a top seed, there's a chance it would've been a seed higher with RPI. The same probably goes for teams like LSU and Kansas State that were inside the RPI top 16 at time of selection and neither made the reveal. That's because neither of them is getting as much love in the NET, though LSU jumped to 14 after the win over Kentucky. The same can't be said for Kansas State, which leads the Big 12, yet was No. 26 in NET as of Feb. 14.
With NET being the NCAA's new, pretty metric, most of the talk will revolve around it from now until Selection Sunday. If the committee doesn't follow the NET, it will almost be like an admission that their own metric wasn't good enough.
Since there's still plenty of time to discuss the bubble, it's worth looking into the good teams from smaller conferences like Houston and Nevada. Both are fairly high in NET (Houston 5, Nevada 12), but neither has the same type of wins as the big conference schools. The other factor for Nevada in its quest to get something better than a 4-seed is that it lost by 27 points at New Mexico. While it got revenge at home, that loss is the equivalent to an ACC team losing by 30 at Wake Forest or an SEC team losing by more than 30 to Georgia or Vanderbilt. The Wolf Pack may complain if they don't get a 2-seed because their non-conference strength of schedule didn't go as planned, but it's hard to put a team that high on the seed list with a terrible loss. Gonzaga has a chance for a 1-seed, not only because it has a Duke win, but also because it doesn't have a bad loss on the schedule.
As for Houston, it's in a slightly different situation because it plays in a more difficult conference and has wins over LSU and Utah State, the latter of which is Nevada's biggest competition in the MWC. That's the main reason Houston was above Nevada in the initial top 16 and has a better chance for a 2-seed as long it wins the rest of its games, though a loss at Cincy wouldn't kill those hopes.
As for the bubble, things should look a little better for the mid-majors than in previous years mostly because of the NET. If Wofford (NET 28) or Lipscomb (NET 38) don't win their conference tournaments, it's likely both would be in play for at-large bids (unfortunately Lipscomb lost to Liberty on Wednesday after winning by 20 on the road in the first meeting). And if they don't get an at-large bid, well, the NCAA would likely be ridiculed for creating a secret metric that not even they believe in.
While both of those teams may deserve to be in the tournament, there are equally interesting situations a little further down the list like UNC Greensboro (NET 46) and Saint Mary's (NET 49). The problem is that Greensboro is ranked high even though it already lost by 29 points at home to Wofford. The Spartans have a high NET, but sit at No. 80 in KenPom. As for the Gaels, they finally scheduled a more difficult non-conference, but lost all of those games, including at home to Harvard and UC Irvine to go with Pepperdine in WCC play. These teams are rated highly in NET, yet it'd take some time to sell either one of them for an at-large bid or just some guts by the committee to go all-in with NET.
Last year, it was a mystery as to why the committee was still using the RPI, but this year the NET could fulfill that role. Not only does it affect the mid-majors like Wofford and Lipscomb, but also teams like Texas (NET 35), Florida (NET 41) and Oklahoma (NET 42). The big conference teams already have double-digit losses, but are still in decent situations according to the NET. The fun part is that Florida (no longer in my bracket) and Oklahoma swapped spots after the Gators didn't cover in a win against Vanderbilt on Wednesday, and that kind of thing is going on every night.
I covered the 1-seeds a couple weeks ago and there's only so much that needs to be said about the top teams. There were six in the discussion then and that number may only be at five now unless Kentucky can sweep Tennessee. Otherwise, Michigan State kicked itself out of the 1-seed conversation after it lost back-to-back games to Indiana and Illinois. Michigan is also sitting close to the edge after losing at Penn State and there's a decent chance it loses a couple more times with remaining trips to Minnesota, Maryland and Michigan State. If that plays out, the top seeds won't change from now until Selection Sunday with Duke, Gonzaga, Tennessee and Virginia. Sure, a lot could happen, but given the teams just behind them, it'd be a surprise if things changed.
At this point, teams can only win games if they hope to make the NCAA tournament. That doesn't mean losing at home to Illinois, something Ohio State just did on Thursday. It's simple: keep winning and you won't have to worry about the bubble. Of course, the bubble is the bubble for a reason so that won't stop teams from losing games they're supposed to win.
With the above in mind, here's my latest bracket as of Friday, Feb. 15: