Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of January 30, 2018

  • 01/30/2018 8:13 am in

When I posted my last set of projections a couple weeks ago, there were a number of comments related to how many bids the Big Ten will end up getting this season. There are still just four teams in this week’s projected field, and the prospects to improve on that number aren’t great.

In addition, the relative lack of quality in the league is likely to have an impact on the seeding of the teams that do go dancing in March.

Before we look at the teams individually, keep in mind how the NCAA is segmenting wins this season:

· Tier 1: Home vs. teams ranked 1-30 / Neutral vs. teams ranked 1-50 / Road vs. teams ranked 1-75
· Tier 2: Home vs. teams ranked 31-75 / Neutral vs. teams ranked 51-100 / Road vs. teams ranked 76-135
· Tier 3: Home vs. teams ranked 76-160 / Neutral vs. teams ranked 101-200 / Road vs. teams ranked 136-240
· Tier 4: Home vs. teams ranked 161-351 / Neutral vs. teams ranked 201-351 / Road vs. teams ranked 241-351

First let’s look at the teams in the field:

Purdue – The Boilers are entrenched on the top line with six tier 1 victories and another four wins in tier 2 contests. A number of those quality wins have come in road and neutral environments, and both the predictive (KenPom, Sagarin) and result-based (RPI, KPI) metrics work in Purdue’s favor. Two more quality win opportunities remain with back-to-back games against Ohio State at home and Michigan State on the road.

Michigan State – At this point, a November win over North Carolina is Sparty’s only victory over a team that would definitely be in the field if the tournament started today. Outside of that, their best wins are a sweep of Maryland and home victories over Nebraska and Notre Dame. Predictive metrics love MSU, but a February 10 home date against Purdue is their only remaining game against a team ranked in the top 90 of the RPI.

Ohio State – The Buckeyes boast just one tier 1 win so far (Michigan State at home), but they are 7-1 in tier 2 contests. Their four best victories have all come at home, and a home win over Michigan is OSU’s only other triumph over an at-large caliber team. The Buckeyes should be favored in all four remaining home games, and road dates with Purdue, Michigan, and Penn State will provide opportunities to show the ability to win away from home.

Michigan – All but one of Michigan’s losses have come in tier 1 games, and even the neutral court loss to LSU looks better now than it did at the time. The Wolverines’ two best wins came on the road against Michigan State and Texas, and home wins over Maryland and UCLA may end up useful for bubble purposes. Michigan finishes with four of their last seven games on the road, including trips to Northwestern, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Maryland, but a home date with Ohio State is their lone chance at a marquee win until the Big Ten tournament.

A pair of other teams are in the conversation but pretty far off the bubble at this point:

Nebraska – The Huskers are now 8-4 in league play, but they are 0-5 in tier 1 games and just 4-3 in tier 2 contests with those wins coming at home against Michigan and Boston College and on the road at Northwestern and Wisconsin. So essentially they have one win over an at-large caliber team, and they play just one RPI Top 100 team (Maryland) the rest of the way. For now, Nebraska just has to keep winning and then hope for quality wins in the Big Ten tournament.

Maryland – With just one win in tier 1 and 2 games, the Terps have a lot of work left to do. That lone victory came over Butler way back in mid-November, but unlike most of the other teams listed above, Maryland actually has some chances to improve their profile. The Terps have road trips to Purdue, Penn State, Nebraska, and Northwestern, and they also get Michigan at home to close out the regular season. Based on what we’ve seen so far, it’s reasonable to question how many of those Maryland can actually win, but at least there are opportunities.

The Bracket

 The projections below are based on all games played through January 29, 2018. Following the bracket, I included a few thoughts on the last four in and last four out.
Pittsburgh – March 15/17 Pittsburgh – March 15/17
1) Villanova 1) Virginia
16) N.C. A&T / AR-Pine Bluff 16) Wagner
8) Arkansas
8) TCU
9) Texas 9) Michigan
Boise – March 15/17 Boise – March 15/17
5) Rhode Island
5) Florida
12) Loyola (IL) 12) Buffalo
4) West Virginia 4) Michigan St.
13) South Dakota St. 13) E. Tennessee St.
Charlotte – March 16/18 Dallas – March 15/17
6) Wichita St. 6) Arizona St.
11) Kansas St. 11) SMU / Texas A&M
3) Clemson 3) Texas Tech
14) Belmont 14) Northeastern
Nashville – March 16/18 Nashville – March 16/18
7) Florida St. 7) Miami (FL)
10) Providence 10) Houston
2) Auburn 2) Xavier
15) Montana
15) Stephen F. Austin
Wichita – March 15/17 Detroit – March 16/18
1) Kansas 1) Purdue
16) Florida Gulf Coast 16) Penn / Winthrop
8) Louisville 8) Alabama
9) Butler 9) Nevada
Wichita – March 15/17 San Diego – March 16/18
5) Seton Hall 5) Kentucky
12) Middle Tennessee 12) New Mexico St.
4) Tennessee 4) North Carolina
13) Vermont 13) UL-Lafayette
San Diego – March 16/18 Detroit – March 16/18
6) Gonzaga 6) Ohio St.
11) Marquette
11) Washington / Missouri
3) Arizona 3) Cincinnati
14) Bucknell 14) Wright St.
Charlotte – March 16/18 Dallas – March 15/17
7) Creighton 7) Saint Mary’s
10) USC 10) NC State
2) Duke 2) Oklahoma
15) Rider 15) UC Santa Barbara

Last Four In:

SMU – The Mustangs picked up a huge win at Wichita State but followed it up by stumbling on the road against a struggling UConn squad. A neutral court win over Arizona looms large, and home wins against USC and Boise State help for bubble purposes. However, the margin for error is slim in a league that provides more landmines to avoid than quality wins to pick up.

Texas A&M – Yes, I know A&M is just 2-6 in the SEC, but the committee doesn’t give conference games any additional weight, so for now, that doesn’t matter. The Aggies boast three tier 1 wins, including a neutral court win over West Virginia and a road victory at USC. A home win over Missouri and a highly rated non-conference strength of schedule help their case as well, but they need to start winning games again. Luckily, the SEC provides a number of chances for quality wins.

Washington – All three of Washington’s tier 1 wins have come away from home with victories over Kansas on a neutral floor and on the road at USC and Colorado. There isn’t much else on the resume at this point, and the predictive metrics don’t like the Huskies much at all. Home games this week against Arizona and Arizona State are absolutely huge for Washington’s chances.

Missouri – It was down to Missouri and South Carolina for the last spot, so I gave the nod to Mizzou based on their road win against the Gamecocks. The Tigers also have a home win over Tennessee to their credit, and wins over UCF on the road and Georgia at home also help their case. A neutral court loss to Illinois is by far their worst defeat, and this week won’t be easy with a road trip to Alabama followed by a home date with Kentucky.

First Four Out:

South Carolina – Frank Martin’s club has come on strong of late with wins over Kentucky at home and Florida and Georgia on the road. Beyond those three victories, there just isn’t much there, but that can all change in the next few weeks. After hosting Mississippi State this week, their next five games come against Texas A&M, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee and Auburn.

Syracuse – The Orange rank in the low 30s in RPI, but they have just one tier 1 win (home against Buffalo) and no victories over teams who would be considered at-large locks. Wins over fellow bubblers Virginia Tech and Maryland help, but Syracuse hasn’t picked up any notable victories away from home yet. This week features a trip to Georgia Tech followed by a home date with Virginia.

Virginia Tech – Victories over North Carolina at home and on the road against Notre Dame dramatically improved the Hokies’ profile, but there’s still work to do thanks in part to a non-conference strength of schedule hovering near the 300 mark. The remaining schedule is brutal with just one game against a team not currently in the top 75 of the RPI.

Georgia – Yet another SEC bubble team. The Bulldogs have three tier 1 wins, knocking off Alabama at home, Saint Mary’s on a neutral floor, and Marquette on the road. However, tier 3 losses to San Diego State and UMass are enough to push Georgia outside of the field for now. Florida comes to Athens on Tuesday, which shapes up as a huge game for the Bulldogs who will then play three of their next four on the road.

Conference Breakdown:

ACC (8): Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Louisville, Miami (FL), North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia

SEC (8): Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas A&M

Big East (7): Butler, Creighton, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova, Xavier

Big 12 (7): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia

American (4): Cincinnati, Houston, SMU, Wichita State

Big Ten (4): Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue

Pac-12 (4): Arizona, Arizona State, USC, Washington

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s

Atlantic 10: Rhode Island

America East: Vermont

Atlantic Sun: Florida Gulf Coast

Big Sky: Montana

Big South: Winthrop

Big West: UC Santa Barbara

Colonial: Northeastern

Conference USA: Middle Tennessee

Horizon: Wright State

Ivy: Penn

MAAC: Rider

MAC: Buffalo

MEAC: North Carolina A&T

Missouri Valley: Loyola (IL)

Mountain West: Nevada

Northeast: Wagner

Ohio Valley: Belmont

Patriot: Bucknell

Southern: East Tennessee State

Southland: Stephen F. Austin

SWAC: AR-Pine Bluff

Summit: South Dakota State

Sun Belt: UL-Lafayette

WAC: New Mexico State

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