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Stats Corner: Predicting NCAA bids and Seeding

Chances of MWC teams making the Big Dance and MWC seeding

San Diego State v Boise State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

As the basketball season winds down, the focus turns on the tournaments and who will qualify for the Big Dance. As shown in previous columns, the Mountain West is having the best year as a conference in a long time. Wyoming is now the lowest ranked team coming in with a NET ranking of 197. Meaning that the lowest ranked team in the conference is an average NCAA team. That has not happened in years. As a result, the conference is looking at 3-5 teams being invited to the dance. This week on Stats corner we are looking at the top teams and ranking the likelihood of qualifying for the NCAA tournament. Probabilities are from

San Diego State

With a NET ranking of 22 and the best conference record, the Aztecs are the most likely to get invited. All their loses are to Q1 and Q2 teams, with the team going 3-4 in Q1 and 5-1 in Q2.

MWC Tournament Champions: 25%

MWC Championship Game: 46%

MWC Semis: 78%

#1 Seed MWC: 66%

#2 Seed MWC: 24%

NCAA Tournament Bid: 99%

Most likely NCAA Seeds: 4th seed 30%, 5th seed 23%

Barring a complete meltdown, the Aztecs are going dancing. Any lose the rest of the season and during the MWC tournament would be considered an upset, with only road games at New Mexico and Boise State being challenging on paper. They only had a 41% chance of beating the Aggies last night, and they rose to the occasion. Teams ahead of them in rankings still have to play one another and someone will lose giving the Aztecs a chance to make up ground. Nevada does hold the tie breaker for number 1 seat due to the win in January.

Prediction: Regular Season champion, title game, NCAA 5th seed.


I am going to put Nevada with a NET 31 ahead of Boise State NET 27 as more likely to get into the tournament. Broncos are welcome to prove me wrong. The reason is twofold. First, the only tough game for the Wolfpack is the USU game next week and the Broncos have a slightly tougher schedule. Second, Nevada is 3-4 in Q1 and 5-2 in Q2 while the Broncos are 1-3 and 6-1. Therefore, advantage Nevada

MWC Tournament Champions: 22%

MWC Championship Game: 42%

MWC Semis: 74%

#1 Seed MWC: 26%

#2 Seed MWC: 51%

NCAA Tournament Bid: 99%

Most likely NCAA Seeds: 5th seed 20% 6th seed 23%

Interestingly, Nevada has a higher chance of making a NCAA 3 seed, 20%, than San Diego State, 17%. If the Wolf Pack can run the table and the Aztecs lose once, Nevada claims the top seed. There are not many opportunities for Nevada to improve their resumes before MWC tournament, they need to hold serve and they will be fine.

Prediction: MWC #2 seed, lose in Semis, NCAA 6th seed.

Boise State

The Broncos still have New Mexico, San Diego State, and Utah State left, giving them the toughest schedule of those who are on this list. It also gives them the biggest chance to improve their status. As mentioned above they are 1-3 in Q1, so winning two of the three would increase their prospects.

MWC Tournament Champions: 14%

MWC Championship Game: 30%

MWC Semis: 59%

#3 Seed MWC: 35%

#4 Seed MWC: 23%

NCAA Tournament Bid: 77%

Most likely NCAA Seeds: 9th seed 17%, 10th seed 13%

The Broncos are sitting third in the conference, but with losses to Nevada and San Diego State, they have little chance to move up. They also have only one Q1 win which will play a role when in comes to at-large bids. They really need another one, or two.

Prediction: MWC #3 seed, lose in Semis, NCAA 11th seed

Utah State

If the Broncos have a Q1 problem, the Aggies have a Q1 emergency. They have a NET ranking of 33, but are 0-4 in Q1 games. The San Diego State game was a great chance to get one, but the score was with the Aztecs. The rest of season is manageable, they do have Nevada and Boise State at home. If they win the others and split those two they should be fine.

MWC Tournament Champions: 15%

MWC Championship Game: 42%

MWC Semis: 60%

#3 Seed MWC: 29%

#4 Seed MWC: 44%

NCAA Tournament Bid: 87%

Most likely NCAA Seeds: 6th seed 20%, 7th seed 23%

I know, playoff status has the Aggies with a higher percentage than the Broncos so why are they lower on the list. The Aggies are 3-2 in Q4, really bad teams, games. Both those games were at the beginning of the season, and the team is better now, but I think they need to make the championship game to get into the NCAA tournament. I like if they fall short, the committee will look at the 3-2 record and keep them out.

Prediction: MWC #4 seed, win conference tournament (yes, I wrote it), NCAA 8th seed

New Mexico

If the Lobos stay around the 40s NET ranking, they are currently 38th, I think they deserve to get in to the NCAA tournament. However, I do not think they committee will have 5 Mountain West team in. Even more so, if one of the other 6 teams make a run, another team will lose a spot. I think the Lobos will be the team left out, particularly if they do not make the semifinals. I think the four MWC bids will go to the four teams on this list who make the semifinals, the team who does not, expect San Diego State, gets left out. New Mexico have a good resume going 3-2 in Q1 and 2-1 in Q2, however, the 6-2 and 7-0 in Q3 and Q4 could be trouble.

MWC Tournament Champions: 12%

MWC Championship Game: 25%

MWC Semis: 51%

#5 Seed MWC: 51%

#4 Seed MWC: 24%

NCAA Tournament Bid: 87%

Most likely NCAA Seeds: 8th seed 17%, 10th seed 17%

The last week of February will be key for the Lobos, they play at Boise State, then host San Diego State and Fresno State. If they can run the gauntlet and show they can beat the Broncos and Aztecs and average the Bulldogs loss, they put themselves in a great position going into the tournament.

Prediction: MWC 5th seed, lose in quarters, NIT bid.

While this season has been a huge improvement in the depth of the Mountain West, I think the cap for the number of NCAA bids is four even though five teams could argue they have earned a bid. Once again, I think the four semifinal teams will get the bids, which makes the seeding so important as the 5th seed would play the number one seed, either San Diego State or Nevada, in the quarterfinals with the loser being left out of the NCAA tournament.