Yes, Auburn is still currently projected to make the NCAA Tournament.
Even after another frustrating road loss, the Tigers are firmly in the projected Field of 68. But there's still work to be done down the stretch.
SG K.D. Johnson (Zach Bland/Auburn Athletics)
After Auburn lost three straight games to Tennessee, Texas A&M and Alabama by single-digits, you might have heard something along these lines:
“Well, Auburn really needs to win its next three games if it wants to make the NCAA Tournament.”
After a brutal stretch of games, Auburn had three straight matchups in which it was the projected favorite. The first one couldn’t have gone any better, as Auburn crushed Missouri by 33 points at home.
Then it lost at Vanderbilt on a last-second layup on Saturday night.
So, Auburn fan, you might naturally find yourself asking where Auburn stands in the NCAA Tournament picture with two weeks left in the regular season.
If the Tigers had to beat the Commodores, are they out of the projected field? Are they going to miss the tournament? Do they need a miracle to get in at this point?
No, no and no.
As of right now, Auburn is solidly in the NCAA Tournament. No reputable bracket projection has the Tigers out of the field right now.
However, they are projected to be favorites in just one more game — Wednesday night at home against a struggling Ole Miss team — before finishing at Kentucky, at Alabama and home against Tennessee. What happens down the stretch will definitely affect their tournament chances.
It would be easy to look at Auburn’s recent body of work and declare it a team that is in serious danger of missing the NCAA Tournament. Auburn has only won twice in its last eight games, with both of those wins coming at home. Since winning five straight in January, the Tigers haven’t been able to build the momentum that you would want to see toward the end of the regular season.
But it’s important to remember that the NCAA Tournament selection committee looks at the total body of work for a team, not just what they’ve done recently. And we know a lot of the criteria it uses, too.
Let’s start with the NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) rankings, which were created in 2018 to replace the old RPI system.
The NET is made up of two components: a Team Value Index that focuses on who you played and where you played them, plus an opponent-adjusted net efficiency rating that’s similar to KenPom and other popular systems.
Perhaps most importantly for Auburn, straight from the NCAA: “Game date and game order were not included in the NET rankings, so a team's first game counts the same as its 30th.”
The heart of the NET’s Team Value Index is the concept of quadrants. Games are divided into four groups, based on where the team is ranked in NET and where you played them. A Quadrant 1 game, for example, is a home game against teams ranked No. 1-30, a neutral-site game against teams ranked No. 1-50 or a road game against teams ranked No. 1-75.
The value of each quadrant is like a sliding scale. Quad 1 wins are the most valuable, and losses in that category won’t hurt your NET as much. Having a strong Quad 2 record is important, and the tournament hopefuls from power conferences really want to be undefeated in Quad 3 and Quad 4 games.
As of Sunday, Auburn is No. 30 in NET. It only dropped three spots after losing to Vanderbilt.
What’s even more significant is that Auburn was No. 23 in NET before it lost to Texas A&M at home on Jan. 25. That means that, even with six losses in its last eight games, Auburn has fallen a grand total of seven spots in NET. (Jumping up 10 spots after thrashing Missouri was huge.)
That says a ton about the Tigers’ resume compared to the rest of the bubble in college basketball.