Kevin Danna uses his analytical skill set to break down the chances of Stanford getting into the NIT to end their 2011-12 campaign.

As soon as Stanford lost to Arizona, I lowered my expectations, but still kept faint hope that the Big Dance would be a possibility in five weeks. Once Stanford lost to UCLA, it was pretty clear that the Cardinal were SOL as far as an at-large bid was concerned to the field of 68.

But when the Quacks came into town and pulled off the comeback victory over the Farm Boys, I started to get nervous that even the NIT might not be a possibility. Fearing that we might have a repeat of 2008-09 on our hands, I have been glued to NIT-ology and other sites that project the field of 32.

I have thought the whole time (meaning since February) that the bare minimum for an at-large bid to the NIT would be 20 regular season wins, a winning conference record and winning the first round game of the Pac-12 tournament. Well, Stanford has done all that, though had Stanford beat Utah, I wouldn't need to be writing this article.

Ever since SID Brian Risso showed me NIT-ology for the first time back in March 2009 (Google tells me I have visited this page 37 times this season), I thought that the 2009 Cardinal would make the NIT if they finished the season by splitting at the Arizona schools and winning the first round game of the Pac-10 tournament. Well, Stanford did all that.

And then they wound up in the awful CBI.

Needless to say, this is the third most nervous I've been about Selection Sunday in my now seven such days since being indoctrinated into the Stanford basketball tradition, behind 2006-07 (I literally couldn't rest peacefully at night the three nights between losing to USC in the Pac-10 quarters and hearing Stanford's name announced as the 65th team in the field) and 2008-09 (I had a little more urgency back then as a senior).

So the question remains: will Stanford have a chance to play at the Garden for a second time this year?

If you look just at NIT-ology, Stanford started the day as the second-to-last at-large team in the field. With America East regular season champion Stony Brook falling to Vermont 51-43 this morning, yet another auto-bid ate up an at-large, meaning Stanford would be the last team in.

And then New Mexico State and Ohio, two other non-No. 1 seeds in their respective conference tournaments, won the WAC and MAC. So it ain't all good like Chaka Khan on a De La Soul track, right?

Not quite. What those brackets will show you is that New Mexico State and Ohio were both considered to be at-large teams in the NIT field. Logic would then imply that if they are at-large teams, and they aren't first in their conferences, then the first place teams from the WAC and MAC would be at-large-worthy as well. A quick RPI check of Nevada (62 after losing to Louisiana Tech in the WAC semis) and Akron (51 before Saturday night's loss) would confirm this notion. In other words, the MAC and WAC were both combined two-bid NIT/NCAA leagues, if that wording makes any sense (one NCAA bid and one NIT bid). Thus, Stanford would still be considered the last team in, according to NIT-ology.

Going into Sunday, there is one final team that could snag away an NIT bid potentially in St. Bonaventure. If the Bonnies win, then that means there is one less at-large team in the Big Dance, moving a team down to the NIT, pushing one team out. However, considering the run St. Bonaventure has gone on, I think they would probably get an NIT bid if they lose to UMASS, and UMASS is an NIT lock according to the projections I've read, so I'm not sure anything would be lost should the Bonnies win.

I was curious to see how Stanford stacked up with its competition for the at-large spots in the NIT, so I did some quick research. I have constructed three charts- one pitting Stanford against the other "bubble teams" for the NIT, according to NIT-ology; another pitting Stanford against the next three highest "locks", according to NIT-ology; and a final one comparing the Card to teams that are either on the outside looking out, according to NIT-ology, or other teams that the NIT Bracket Project considers to be on or near the same seeding line as Stanford.

I use NIT-ology because it is the most tried and true projector of which teams will make the field of 32. Last year, Mike Scullin (NIT-ology creator) correctly picked 31 of the 32 teams; 17 of the 18 at-large selections. He also correctly guessed the seeding of 28 of those teams to within one seed line.  Three years ago, Scullin correctly projected that Stanford would not make the NIT, despite many others thinking the Cardinal would be in (he hypothesized 31 of 32 correctly again that year).

The RPI and SOS numbers I use are from, last updated 9:30am Saturday. The record vs. RPI Top-100 I use comes from ESPN's InsideRPI. They RPI's given by ESPN and are slightly different, but ESPN has a column for a team's performance against other teams from RPI levels 1-25, 26-50 and 51-100, so it was just easier to tabulate. I know that makes things a little more confusing, but is more up to date, and RPI Top-100 records would probably change only very, very, very slightly. So that's how I'm doing that. I considered bad losses to be any loss to a school outside of the RPI top-150; face it, a loss to an RPI 101-150 school isn't horrendous for a team that is NIT-bound; those teams aren't that much worse. Once you get below 150, you pass the bottom RPI mark for number of teams that make some sort of postseason (140, assuming the CBI takes 16 and CIT takes 24 again).

Without, further ado, here is chart No. 1, featuring the other bubble teams:





RPI Top-100 W-L

Last 12

Bad Losses (outside of Top 150)

Road/Neutral Record


21-11 (10-8)

97 (136)



Utah (273), WSU (186)

5-6 away, 2-2 neutral


17-16 (5-13)

98 (33)



DePaul (198), Rutgers (161)

3-8 away, 3-1 neutral


17-15 (6-12)

93 (28)



Penn State (156), Nebraska (154)

2-8 away, 2-3 neutral


19-14 (6-12)

89 (41)




3-6 away, 3-2 neutral


18-14 (7-9)

82 (50)



Coastal Carolina (183), South Alabama (169)

4-8 away, 3-2 neutral

George Mason

24-9 (14-4)

84 (184)



Fla. Int'l (250), Fla. Atlantic (207), Delaware (153)

7-6 away, 2-2 neutral


20-11 (6-8)

83 (93)



Air Force (168)

5-8 away, 0-0 neutral


22-10 (9-7)

73 (122)



Rhode Island (256)

4-7 away, 3-3 neutral


Chart No. 2, featuring teams that are largely considered higher up the NIT ladder and are mortal locks:





RPI Top-100 W-L

Last 12

Bad Losses (out of 150)

Road/Neutral Record


21-11 (10-8)

97 (136)



Utah (273), WSU (186)

5-6 away, 2-2 neutral

Weber State

22-6 (14-2)

67 (221)



Idaho State (290)

7-6 away, 2-0 neutral

Central Florida

20-10 (10-6)

55 (77)



Louisiana-Lafayette (188), Rice (171)

3-8 away, 3-1 neutral

Northern Iowa

18-13 (9-9)

75 (53)



Bradley (263)

4-9 away, 2-1 neutral


20-12 (9-7)

79 (66)



Miami (OH) (245), Rhode Island (256)

3-7 Away, 3-0 Neutral



And Chart No. 3, with teams that are considered either below Stanford or right in line with the Card according to other projections.





RPI Top-100 W-L

Last 12

Bad Losses (out of 150)

Road/Neutral Record


21-11 (10-8)

97 (136)



Utah (273), WSU (186)

5-6 away, 2-2 neutral

La Salle

21-12 (9-7)

86 (114)



Delaware (153), Fordham (244)

6-8 away, 1-2 neutral

St. Bonaventure

18-11 (10-6)

90 (123)



Arkansas State (226)

6-8 away, 2-1 neutral


18-14 (11-7)

128 (103)



St. John's (155)

3-7 away, 2-3 neutral


18-14 (6-10)

110 (59)



Houston (214)

1-9 away, 0-1 neutral


17-15 (6-10)

100 (49)



Georgia Tech (195)

1-8 away, 3-3 neutral


17-16 (8-10)

129 (70)



Campbell (206), Clemson (152), Nebraska (154), Penn State (156)

3-8 away, 1-2 neutral

Oregon State*

19-14 (7-11)

132 (129)



Washington State 2x (186), Arizona State (251)

4-7 away, 3-2 neutral

*thrown in more for kicks; I really don't think they have a snowball's chance in hell of making the NIT.

The one thing that jumps out at you is that in charts 1 and 2, Stanford's RPI is 11th best out of 12. With Stony Brook's loss today, Pittsburgh would be knocked out of the NIT (according to NIT-ology), making the Cardinal the team with the lowest RPI of any at-large squad. If you take a look at Chart 3, Stanford's RPI is worse than two teams that are currently not in the NIT-ology field.

If you look at the NIT Bracket Project Blog, Stanford's RPI is the worst out of any team on the 5-line (Stanford is considered the No. 2 5-seed), worse than any team on the 6-line (St. Bonaventure, Illinois, Wyoming, LSU) and better than two teams on the 7-line (UCLA, Pittsburgh).

Going by strength of schedule, Stanford is stronger than only Weber State and George Mason. But, considering Weber State won a boatload of games and has Damian Lillard, they are probably in. George Mason also probably has a higher profile than Stanford right now, having made the Final Four six years ago and being more or less a tournament regular. Plus, 14-4 in the CAA is nothing to scoff at.

Where Stanford holds its own is in its record against the RPI Top-100, last 12 games, and road and neutral record. Their RPI Top-100 record is right in line with everyone else on the list, and in some cases, better. A 6-6 record in the last 12 is very solid for NIT standards and is better than Weber State's 9-3 and George Mason's 8-4; Weber State's nine wins came against just one team ranked better than 175th in RPI and half of George Mason's eight were against teams ranked 200th or below. Only George Mason, Weber State and St. Bonaventure have a better combined winning percentage away from their gyms.

Other notes: If there are two teams that have absolutely no business being in the NIT, they are Illinois and Pittsburgh. Illinois has all sorts of trouble going on in Champagne, and I'm not even sure they would accept a bid without a head coach. Plus, I don't care how good the Big Ten is, how can you reward a team who finished the season 2-12? That would be a total rob-job if they get in and Stanford doesn't. As far as Pitt is concerned, they won fewer than 30 percent of their conference games and only two of those wins were worth a damn: Georgetown and West Virginia. They also lost to DePaul and Rutgers held them below 40 in a 62-39 win for the Scarlet Knights.

Let's next take a look at the 2011 NIT field, the only other field to select teams 69-100. The RPIs of the at-large teams are as follows (according to, in order of highest seed to lowest:

-          1-seeds:

o   Alabama (59), Boston College (61), Virginia Tech (65), Colorado (67)

-          2-seeds:

o   Washington State (71), Miami (FL) (69), Cleveland State (43)

-          3-seeds:

o   Oklahoma State (58), Colorado State (62), Dayton (79)

-          4-seeds:

o   New Mexico (70), Northwestern (80), Wichita State (35), Cal (75)

-          5-seeds:

o   Nebraska (87), UTEP (63), Ole Miss (85)

-          6-seeds:

o   Harvard (40)

Eesh. That's not good. On the other hand, the RPIs of teams competing for the same seeds as Stanford are on the whole lower than 2011. Also, there were 12 auto-bids that went to schools that would not have made the NIT otherwise; in 2012, I consider there to be seven coming from the "their conference would get zero NIT bids had they won their conference tournament" department (Iona, Middle Tennessee (though Denver could have made a case if every conference tournament went chalk), Bucknell, Texas-Arlington, Valparaiso, Savannah State and Stony Brook).

The other thing to think about is how many Pac-12 teams would the NIT take? I think the NCAA tournament would take three (Cal, Colorado, Washington- I don't think Washington should be in, but I doubt that the NCAA would keep a regular-season conference champion from a BCS league- albeit a very down league- out of the Big Dance), leaving the NIT to choose from Oregon, Arizona, UCLA, Stanford and Oregon State. Out of those five teams, Stanford has the third best profile but fourth best conference record.

In 2011, the most NIT bids a conference received was three (Big 12). But from 2007-2009, four bids were handed out to at least one conference (Big East and SEC in 2007, A10 in 2008, SEC in 2009), and five bids were given to the Big East in 2010. So, unless 2011 becomes a trend-setter, Stanford should be safe from that standpoint.

So do I think the Farm Boys will be in the NIT?

Yes... Just barely. It might be like 2007 all over again, except for the little dance instead of the big one. But I wouldn't be at all shocked if they don't get in.

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