- Cary, IL
So, to summarize, don't lose to NW or Nebby and have a winning conference record. Right?That's a great point. Most of my perspective on this come from last year because I followed very closely, and I was one of the people who thought the Illini had a chance much later than most simply because the teams ahead of them in the rankings and on the bubble weren't very good themselves. I can appreciate that aspect.
Something to keep in mind is that Q3/4 losses don't really matter to teams in the top 30 besides seeding impact. Only 1 team EVER ranked in the top 30 has not made the tournament; 2006 Missouri State (also Texas Tech but they were under post-season ban). History indicates that if a team is in the top 30 they're safe, and off the bubble. By virtue of being ranked that high the summary of the season is enough to overcome those Q3/4 losses. Illini aren't there yet, and if they continue losing to teams like NW it becomes less likely they will get there considering a NW loss at home will probably drop them 10-15 spots to the mid 50s in NET.
Personally, I have it categorized like this for following and keeping tabs:
Safe, 100% teams make it: Top 30
Likely, 90-95% teams make it: Top 45
Bubble, 20-30% teams make it, Top 45 - 70
Regarding the bubble teams last year 7 teams made it ranked lower than 45 in NET, but 5 of those teams had an RPI better than 45. Only 2 teams had both an RPI and NET worse than 45.
So to address the great point you made I think as a team becomes higher ranked the less impact the Q3/4 losses have on making the tournament. So, as long as Illini stay in that bubble territory Q3/4 losses tend to be large influencing factor, it appears.