Coming into this season, Tulsa had basically no expectations, as they were picked to finish 10th place in the American. This team lost a lot of talent from last year’s team, with three of their top five scorers gone from last season. This season didn’t start out the way that would lead to an NCAA Tournament appearance, as they lost games against UT-Arlington, Colorado State, while they also took a buy game loss to sub-200 ranked Central Arkansas. Tulsa had no good wins to offset that either, leaving them heading down a road towards another missed NCAA Tournament. Then American play began.
Since the start of American play, Tulsa has won 7 of their last 8 games, which has boosted them into the lead in the American standings. This run has now included wins against Houston, Memphis, and Wichita State. While both games took place at home but still, those wins are impressive. This recent run leaves Tulsa 7-1 and in first place in the American, while they now rank in the Top-60 of the NET, leaving some to think that Tulsa has a chance at an at-large bid.
While this run is impressive, the Golden Hurricanes at-large case isn’t as strong as you would like if you are a Tulsa fan. As mentioned earlier, their two signature wins against Houston, Memphis and Wichita State both came at home. With neither team ranking in the Top-30 of the NET, all three of those wins would right now be considered a quadrant two wins. The Golden Hurricanes have played two quadrant one games to this point, they have lost both those games. The Golden Hurricanes currently have one quadrant four loss, which is their loss at home against Central Arkansas, while the UT Arlington and Colorado State losses aren’t great, despite them being only quadrant two losses. With that resume, Tulsa doesn’t really have a case for an at-large bid but there is still time left to improve upon that resume.
For starters, the Golden Hurricanes have two road opportunities at Wichita State and at Houston, which is an opportunity to pick up two quadrant one wins, which would be absolutely massive for their at-large hopes if they could get one of those wins. While those two games could be tough, the rest of their schedule is pretty weak, with only a road game at Temple looking to be the only other test. Assuming they can continue to just win those games against the lesser-AAC teams, their NET ranking should move closer towards the 40s in the NET rankings.
If they can maybe finish the season with only two more losses, that would put their record at 23-8, while they would likely have a decent ranking in the NET, which would be a really tough resume to leave out of the NCAA Tournament. That being said, if they begin to regress a little more to the mean, the American Conference Tournament is definitely winnable for Tulsa this year, so at least there is that path to the Big Dance.