Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of February 6, 2018

  • 02/06/2018 7:56 am in

Believe it or not, we are less than five weeks from Selection Sunday. At this point, Villanova, Virginia, and Purdue have separated themselves and would likely maintain a spot on the one line even with a loss. The other spot is up for grabs though, particularly after Duke and Kansas were both upset over the weekend.

At this point, the three teams with the best case for the final one seed appear to be Auburn, Kansas and Xavier.

Few teams have been as surprising as Auburn, who lost two of its best players in the fallout from the FBI investigation. The Tigers have four tier 1 wins with the best coming at Tennessee by 10 points and they’ve also racked up six more victories in tier 2 games. Both losses have come against teams in the RPI top 40, but at this point that win over the Volunteers is the only victory over a team likely to be a top eight seed. Their last eight games present a number of challenges, which will provide ample opportunity for Auburn to play its way onto the one line.

Kansas has eight tier 1 victories although just two of those came against teams in the RPI top 25. Saturday’s home loss to Oklahoma State is the biggest blemish on KU’s profile, while another home loss to Arizona State isn’t aging too well. It’s fair to say the Jayhawks would likely find themselves on the one line if they manage to extend their Big 12 title streak.

Thanks to some late-game heroics from Trevon Bluiett, Xavier managed to avoid a crushing home loss to Georgetown on Saturday night. The Musketeers have five tier 1 victories, including four against the RPI Top 30, and they don’t have a loss outside of tier 1. Xavier is 5-0 in tier 2 games and owns a total of 12 RPI Top 100 victories. With their next four games featuring road trips to Butler and Creighton followed by home dates with Seton Hall and Villanova, the Musketeers have a huge chance to stake their claim to a top seed.

Here’s your weekly reminder of how the NCAA selection committee is now classifying games:

· 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

The Bracket

The projections below are based on all games played through February 5, 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) Florida Gulf Coast
8) Wichita St.
8) Butler
9) TCU 9) Michigan
San Diego – March 16/18 Dallas – March 15/17
5) North Carolina
5) Rhode Island
12) Loyola (IL) 12) Middle Tennessee
4) West Virginia 4) Oklahoma
13) Vermont 13) E. Tennessee St.
Wichita – March 15/17 Boise – March 15/17
6) Gonzaga 6) Miami (FL)
11) LSU / Virginia Tech 11) USC
3) Tennessee 3) Michigan St.
14) Wright St. 14) Montana
Charlotte – March 16/18 Nashville – March 16/18
7) Texas 7) Creighton
10) Arkansas 10) Washington
2) Clemson 2) Auburn
15) Rider
15) Bucknell
Nashville – March 16/18 Detroit – March 16/18
1) Xavier 1) Purdue
16) UNC-Asheville 16) Penn / Nicholls St.
8) Nevada 8) Arizona St.
9) Texas A&M 9) Providence
San Diego – March 16/18 Boise – March 15/17
5) Ohio St. 5) Seton Hall
12) New Mexico St. 12) Buffalo
4) Arizona 4) Kentucky
13) Louisiana 13) South Dakota St.
Charlotte – March 16/18 Detroit – March 16/18
6) Saint Mary’s 6) Florida
11) Kansas St. / Houston
11) NC State
3) Duke 3) Cincinnati
14) Belmont 14) Charleston
Dallas – March 15/17 Wichita – March 15/17
7) Alabama 7) Florida St.
10) Louisville 10) Missouri
2) Texas Tech 2) Kansas
15) UC Santa Barbara 15) Wagner

Last Four In:

Kansas State – The Wildcats have homes wins over Oklahoma, TCU, and Georgia with only one bad loss, which came against Tulsa on a neutral floor. Road victories over Baylor, Iowa State, and Vanderbilt provide additional tier 2 wins, but a non-conference strength of schedule ranked among the worst in the nation leaves them in jeopardy.

Houston – Wins over Providence, Wichita State, and Arkansas and a 5-4 mark in tier 1 and 2 games are among the highlights on the Cougars’ profile. Losses at Tulane and to Drexel on a neutral court offset those to some extent, but Houston still plays SMU twice, hosts Cincinnati, and heads to Temple. How they fare in those four games will be a huge factor in their fate.

LSU – The final two spots were a toss-up, but LSU has now swept both Texas A&M and Arkansas, beat Michigan in Maui, and owns a home win over fellow bubbler Houston. The only bad loss is a one-point home defeat to Stephen F. Austin, so for now I have the Tigers in the field. Over the next three games, LSU travels to both Florida and Alabama.

Virginia Tech – The Hokies have a pair of tier 1 victories plus four more in tier 2, all of which came on the road. A bad loss to Saint Louis and a non-conference strength of schedule ranked close to 300th plus a lack of top-end wins are the negatives. The predictive metrics like Va Tech, but at some point they just need more wins. All but one of their remaining games come against teams I currently have in the field.

First Four Out:

Georgia – The Bulldogs own three tier 1 victories, headlined by a neutral court win over Saint Mary’s, while home victories over Temple, Alabama, and Florida provide additional RPI Top 50 wins. However, sub-100 losses to San Diego State and Massachusetts along with poor predictive metrics are enough to push them outside the projected field for now.

SMU – Top-end wins over Arizona and Wichita State look great, but the Mustangs are under .500 in games that fall in tiers 1-3. Four losses to teams well outside of the at-large picture really hurt as well, which makes this week’s games at Houston and home against Cincinnati of paramount importance.

Syracuse – Monday’s road win at Louisville is Syracuse’s only victory in tier 1 as well as the Orange’s only meaningful win away from home. They do have five tier 2 victories, but just one of those came against another team in the at-large picture. Tier 3 losses to Notre Dame at home and on the road against Georgia Tech loom large, but they have a chance to build some momentum with the next two games at home against Wake Forest and NC State.

UCLA – A home win against USC last weekend put the Bruins back in the mix, but they have just one tier 1 victory and have won only one true road game heading into this weekend’s trip to the Arizona schools.

Conference Breakdown:

ACC (9): Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Louisville, Miami (FL), North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia, Virginia Tech

SEC (9): Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas A&M

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

Big East (6): Butler, Creighton, Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova, Xavier

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

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

American (3): Cincinnati, Houston, Wichita State

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s

Atlantic 10: Rhode Island

America East: Vermont

Atlantic Sun: Florida Gulf Coast

Big Sky: Montana

Big South: UNC-Asheville

Big West: UC Santa Barbara

Colonial: Charleston

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: Nicholls St.

SWAC: AR-Pine Bluff

Summit: South Dakota State

Sun Belt: Louisiana

WAC: New Mexico State

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