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Acclaimed Bracketologist Brad Wachtel gives final assessment of Rutgers




Selection Sunday is finally here and Rutgers is firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble. It’s going to be a long wait until the Selection Show at 6:00 p.m. on CBS even with daylight savings time shaving off an hour.

Heading into the last week of the regular season, acclaimed bracketologist Brad Wachtel went in depth on Rutgers and its NCAA Tournament chances on The Scarlet Faithful podcast. A lot has happened since then. I wanted to get his most current thoughts on the Scarlet Knights heading into Selection Sunday. Here is a Q&A with Brad that was conducted over the phone on Saturday night.

AB: What’s the biggest plus on Rutgers’ resume?

Wachtel: “The biggest plus is definitely a win at Purdue because it is a high Quad 1 road victory. The committee loves that. They showed that with their top 16 reveal a few weeks ago. Especially comparing Rutgers’ resume to the rest of the bubble. The bubble isn’t particularly strong. You are trying to find something that stands out. A win at Purdue is definitely something that sticks out there. Purdue should be a one seed. That means a lot.”

“Also the seven wins against tournament teams that are at-large bids in the field. That’s another major plus when you are comparing them to other teams. There’s not a specific threshold that you look at from year to year for each team, it’s just a matter of comparing (Rutgers) to every other team that’s on the bubble. Every year is different.  And they have a respectable NET which is not an issue this year like it was last year.”

AB: What’s your biggest concern with Rutgers’ resume?

Wachtel: “I would say the Mag injury is the bigger deal. Even the quad three losses, a couple of them in Seton Hall and Nebraska really aren’t bad losses. Both of them are possible NIT teams. I think the committee digs a little deeper. They know who your losses are against. It’s not like it’s a bad Q4 loss to a Lafayette last year. That’s not what they have. Even the Minnesota loss is a Quad 3, but I don’t think those are enough to keep them out.”

“I just think it’s how they played down the stretch without Mag because it was a large sample size. And then what the committee watched during the Big Ten Tournament. Was that enough to sway them if they were already swayed, one way or another. I think the way they played against Michigan and against Purdue, regardless of that result, I think that shows that they are capable. That they aren’t the team they were the previous couple of weeks and they’ve turned the corner.”

AB: Even though it was a loss, do you think playing Purdue as competitive as they did make a statement to the committee?

Wachtel: “I think that was really important. Let’s say they just beat Michigan, who isn’t bad but not a tournament team, but then lost by 25 to Purdue. I think that would have (the committee) thought twice. They beat Michigan and came back to Penn State, but that Purdue definitely showed something.”

AB: Overall, the conference tournaments have gone pretty well from a Rutgers perspective, right?

Wachtel: “Since Rutgers lost, you couldn’t ask for better games to go in their favor. There were no bid stealers. That doesn’t happen very often. Typically there is at least one. Sometimes two or three. Every year is different of course. For there to be zero, obviously that’s huge. You don’t know what the committee is thinking. What if the committee has Rutgers as their last team in? We don’t know that.”

AB: Heading into Selection Sunday, where do you have Rutgers projected in the Field of 68?

Wachtel: “I have them as the top of the First Four in, furthest from being out of the field (and) one spot away from the last bye. Could they be out of Dayton? That’s also a possibility for sure. I just see it that way based on their strength of record being the worst of any team that’s in the field right now. That’s the biggest thing. It’s just one part of the resume but looking back at what they did last year, Rutgers strength of record was in the 50’s like it is this year. It’s actually worse this year.”

AB: What’s the biggest negative with Rutgers’ resume?

Wachtel: In general, the Mag injury and how they played down the stretch is the worst thing for me. But the worst thing on the resume is strength of record.

AB: Is it hard to know how the Mag injury will play into predictive metrics for Rutgers, which are actually pretty good?

Wachtel: “Absolutely. Their predictive metrics are for the entire season. KenPom (No. 35) is something they look at in terms of seeding, not in terms of getting in or left out. That is something that could go in their favor. Maybe we’re overstating the Mag injury. Maybe they aren’t viewing it like people watching every single game. Who knows? Based on what the committee is thinking, nobody knows.”

Thanks so much to Brad for taking time to give a thorough update on his thoughts on Rutgers in regard to making the NCAA Tournament. You can follow Brad on Twitter here and read his full projections on his site Facts & Bracks.

To read about the case I made for Rutgers to go dancing, click here.

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