Joe Lunardi has Memphis as a 6 seed in his latest Bracketology. Strength of record has over a 90% correlation with the committee’s decisions and Memphis is 25th in the metric. Many think this team is a lock to make the NCAA tournament, even without No. 1 recruit James Wiseman, who is no longer with the program. Wrong.
ESPN’s Bracket Predictor gives Memphis only a 49% chance to make the NCAA tournament, meaning the Tigers could be sweating on the bubble come Selection Sunday.
You might be asking how could a team currently 12-2 that had the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class be afraid of missing the tournament? The answer is Memphis might not as good as its record suggests and the schedule is about to get a lot tougher in conference play.
First, how good is Memphis?
The Tigers are 55th in BPI and 38th in KenPom. Memphis has been moving up from BPI’s pessimistic view of the team in the preseason thanks to being 25th in adjusted efficiency so far this season. If Memphis continues its current level of play, it will improve in BPI. The problem is that efficiency number includes the three games Wiseman played this season. If we ignore those games, Memphis drops to 38th in adjusted efficiency.
Next, the schedule. Memphis 2-1 against top 100 BPI teams so far this season and has a strength of schedule (SOS) of 199. It is going to get more difficult in conference play.
BPI views the American Athletic Conference as a little weaker at the top this season, without a truly dominant team but deeper top to bottom. Beyond the top three in the American — Houston, Wichita State and Memphis — are Cincinnati, SMU, Temple and UConn. Each could make the tournament with only a couple of more wins than projected.
The American has eight teams in the top 100 of BPI — the same as the Pac-12. The rest of the way, Memphis has a SOS of 76 and BPI projects on average 9.7 wins and 7.3 losses to finish the season.
The most likely outcome is a 22-9 record against a sub-100 SOS. That is a bubble team.