It’s almost the best time of the year and all the bubble teams are crossing their fingers hoping to be selected to the big dance. Selection Sunday is slated for March 13th at 5:30 PM EST, and there will be plenty of teammates who will have arms locked, hoping to be selected. Among those teams is the Hofstra Pride out of the CAA.
Hofstra hasn’t appeared in the tournament since 2001 and they put together a remarkable season this year. Although they lost the CAA championship game to UNC-Wilmington, the Pride finished 24-9 overall and are ranked 56th in RPI by CBS Sports. Juan’ya Green, Ameen Tanksley, and Rokas Gustys played marvelously for Coach Mihalich this year.
Unfortunately, Hofstra is an extreme bubble team and not winning the CAA championship really impacted their bracket chances. ESPN has them projected to be out, but I feel they have a fighting chance. Especially once you compare some of the other bubble teams.
Below is a table comparing Hofstra to four other mid-major teams. And below that is going to be a breakdown of each team highlighting good wins, bad losses, etc.
|Team||Record||RPI||SOS||W/L vs. RPI top-50||W/L vs. RPI 51-100|
Hofstra - Regular Season Champs with UNC-W
Playing in the CAA definitely makes it tougher for the Pride to make it to the tournament. The competition is decent, but a team in one of the power five conferences could have more losses and still be picked over a mid-major. As seen above, Hofstra’s RPI is the worst among the listed teams, but their strength of schedule is second, and they’ve fared well when taking on top-50 RPI teams.
Senior guard Juan’ya Green is the Mufasa of Hofstra, if you will, and they go as he goes. Green was selected as CAA player of the year with averages of 17.6 points and 7.1 assists per game, which is best in the conference. Sophomore Rokas Gustys played like the best big man in the CAA, leading the conference in rebounds (429), rebounds per game (13.0), and PER (26.4).
Hofstra has good wins against St. Bonaventure, Florida State, and UNC-Wilmington, but does have a bad loss to Indiana State.
Wichita State - Regular Season Champs
Seeing the Shockers as a bubble team isn’t something college basketball fans are used to. The last three out of four seasons, the Shockers finished inside the AP Top 20, and the year they didn’t is the year they went to the Final Four. This year, led by seniors Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, Wichita State finished first in the Missouri Valley with a 16-2 record. Much like Hofstra, the Shockers could’ve punched their ticket to the tourney but lost in the conference tournament final to Northern Iowa.
Greg Marshall’s team played lockdown defense and finished first in the NCAA in opponents points per game (59.2) and defensive rating (89.0). As expected both Baker and VanVleet anchor both sides of the court. Their conference numbers aren’t gaudy, but they rank second & third in PER, fourth & fifth in offensive rating per 100, and second & third in defense rating per 100.
The Shockers don’t have many quality wins, however. Beating Utah is a help, and beating UNI is as well. Losses against Illinois State and Alabama at the beginning of the year could haunt them, though.
Valparaiso - Regular Season Champs
The Crusaders are just two years removed from their last tournament appearance and had another stellar season this year. Their 16-2 record landed them as Horizon League champions for the regular season, but they fell to Green Bay 99-92 in the tournament final. Similar to Wichita State, Valpo played robust defense and finished second in the nation in DRtg with 89.9 per 100 possessions. Among teams on the list, Valpo has one of the worst SOS, finishing slightly ahead of Monmouth. However, they dominated conference play and Wright State handed them their only two conference losses.
Alec Peters, a 6’9 junior, led the Crusaders in both points per game (18.0) and rebounds per game (8.4), and could’ve won POY if it wasn’t for Kay Felder. Keith Carter and Shane Hammink contribute about 19 points per game between them, and Carter is Valpo’s leading assist-man with 4.4 per game.
Valparaiso has a quality win over Oregon State, but two losses to Wright State and one to Ball State could keep them out of the tourney.
Saint Mary’s - Regular Season Champs with Gonzaga
Randy Bennett and the Gaels have put together another strong season by finishing 27-5 overall and advancing to their tournament final. They lost to Gonzaga, but still managed to finish with the best RPI among these five teams. Still, their SOS puts them in an odd position. Their five losses overall balances out their poor SOS because it shows that Saint Mary’s is beating the teams they’re supposed to; SMC is 20-2 against teams 100+ in RPI ranking. Of those five losses, three came from Cal, Gonzaga, and BYU. All of whom put together superb seasons — especially Cal who’s ranked 14th in RPI.
Emmett Naar carries a majority of their workload and averaged 14.3 points and 6.3 assists per game this year. He registered a PER of 22.5 to go along with the point and assist numbers, good for seventh in the conference.
Of Saint Mary’s 27 wins this year, quality wins came against Gonzaga and UC Irvine while Pepperdine handed them two bad losses.
Monmouth - Regular Season Champs
Like it or not, the bench with the best celebrations has a chance to be excluded from tournament play. Monmouth’s 27-7 record this year is a huge surprise when you consider they’ve been mediocre for the last few years. Could it be from a weak schedule? A majority of their wins are from a weak schedule, yes. But these boys can play. King Rice put together an offense that can score with the best teams in the nation and the Hawks averaged slightly more than 79 points per game. They get opponents in foul trouble and, collectively, are great foul shooters.
Junior point guard Justin Holiday led the MAAC in points (664), steals (76), and finished second in PER (25.5). Freshman Micah Seaborn emerged as a nice complement to Holiday and averaged 13.1 points while shooting 40% from downtown.
Monmouth’s best win this year came against Notre Dame and USC. However, bad losses came against Manhattan and Canisius.
*All stats via CBS Sports and Sports-Reference*