Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of March 6, 2018
Championship week is upon us, and seven automatic bids have already been handed out. With a number of teams clustered around seed lines 7-9 and then again around the cut line, the major conference tournaments should help sort things out…at least I hope so. Starting today, I’ll be doing daily projections for the remainder of the week.
At the top of the bracket, Virginia is locked in on the one line regardless of what happens in the ACC tournament, while Villanova and Xavier have also created some separation. With Purdue losing in the Big Ten tournament final, I would argue that Duke and Kansas are the only other teams with a reasonable chance at a one seed.
The Jayhawks have some odd losses on their profile, but the sheer volume of quality wins is enough to keep them on the one line for now, while a deep ACC tournament run from the Blue Devils could propel them into a top seed. Auburn and North Carolina are both two seeds in this set of projections, but I’m just not convinced they can leapfrog that many teams.
Here’s your weekly reminder of how the NCAA selection committee is now classifying games:
· Quadrant 1: Home vs. teams ranked 1-30 / Neutral vs. teams ranked 1-50 / Road vs. teams ranked 1-75
· Quadrant 2: Home vs. teams ranked 31-75 / Neutral vs. teams ranked 51-100 / Road vs. teams ranked 76-135
· Quadrant 3: Home vs. teams ranked 76-160 / Neutral vs. teams ranked 101-200 / Road vs. teams ranked 136-240
· Quadrant 4: Home vs. teams ranked 161-351 / Neutral vs. teams ranked 201-351 / Road vs. teams ranked 241-351
The projections below are based on all games played through March 5, 2018. Following the bracket, I included a few thoughts on the last four in and first five out.
|SOUTH (ATLANTA)||EAST (BOSTON)|
|Charlotte – March 16/18||Pittsburgh – March 15/17|
|1) Virginia||1) Villanova|
|16) SE Louisiana / AR-Pine Bluff||16) Radford / Hampton|
|8) Rhode Island
|9) Butler||9) Florida St.|
|Boise – March 15/17||Boise – March 15/17|
|12) Middle Tennessee||12) Loyola (IL)
|4) Wichita St.||4) West Virginia|
|13) Vermont||13) Buffalo|
|Dallas – March 15/17||Detroit – March 16/18|
|6) Miami (FL)||6) Kentucky|
|11) Alabama / Saint Mary’s||11) Baylor / Marquette|
|3) Michigan St.||3) Cincinnati|
|14) Montana||14) UNC Greensboro|
|Nashville – March 16/18||Pittsburgh – March 15/17|
|7) Virginia Tech||7) Seton Hall|
|10) Arizona St.||10) St. Bonaventure|
|2) Auburn||2) North Carolina|
|15) UC Davis
|WEST (LOS ANGELES)||MIDWEST (OMAHA)|
|Wichita – March 15/17||Nashville – March 16/18|
|1) Kansas||1) Xavier|
|16) Iona||16) Penn|
|8) Nevada||8) NC State|
|9) Creighton||9) Oklahoma|
|San Diego – March 16/18||San Diego – March 16/18|
|5) Gonzaga||5) Ohio St.|
|12) New Mexico St.||12) Murray St.|
|4) Arizona||4) Texas Tech|
|13) South Dakota St.||13) Louisiana|
|Wichita – March 15/17||Dallas – March 15/17|
|6) Texas A&M||6) Houston|
|3) Michigan||3) Tennessee|
|14) Bucknell||14) Charleston|
|Charlotte – March 16/18||Detroit – March 16/18|
|7) Arkansas||7) Missouri|
|10) Providence||10) Kansas St.|
|2) Duke||2) Purdue|
|15) Lipscomb||15) Wright St.|
Last Four In:
Alabama – The Tide seem determined to test the theory that the committee doesn’t give extra weight to the most recent games, as they have now lost five straight. On the positive side, they have three Top 20 RPI wins and five quadrant 1 victories, but the 14 in the loss column is concerning to say the least. Alabama is also just 2-8 in true road games, which means their SEC tournament opener against Texas A&M is essentially a must-win.
Saint Mary’s – It’s going to be a stressful few days for the Gaels after falling to BYU in the WCC semifinals. While predictive metrics like KenPom and BPI really like Saint Mary’s, there isn’t much meat on the actual resume. The Gaels have a huge road win at Gonzaga, a home victory over New Mexico State, and a regular season sweep of BYU, but 24 of their 28 victories came against quadrants 3 and 4. They accomplished very little in the non-conference while picking up losses to Georgia and Washington State, and a Saint Mary’s team with a relatively similar profile was left out just a couple years ago. A 10-1 mark in true road games helps the cause, but they are definitely a team I will be analyzing more closely over the remainder of the week.
Baylor – The Bears boast four quadrant 1 wins and have just one loss to a team not in the at-large picture. A 2-9 mark in true road games doesn’t help, but they did win a pair of neutral court games over Creighton and Wisconsin back in November. The predictive metrics like the Bears as well, but they need to find a way to knock off West Virginia in the Big 12 quarterfinals.
Marquette – It was a close call for the final at-large spot, but I gave the nod to Marquette, thanks in large part to a 5-5 mark in true road games and a winning record in total road and neutral games. The Golden Eagles also have four quadrant 1 wins, although none of those have come against a team in the RPI Top 25. Four more victories in quadrant 2 help their case, but a loss at DePaul is a clear blemish on their profile. Marquette certainly can’t afford to lose the rubber match with the Blue Demons in the Big East tournament.
First Five Out:
Syracuse – The Orange were the team in this group that I considered most strongly, and I wouldn’t argue with those who have them in their projected fields. Saturday’s home win over Clemson was a huge one for their at-large case, while road wins at Miami and Louisville also fall in quadrant 1. Bad losses at Georgia Tech and Wake Forest are the biggest issues, but it’s worth noting that 13 of Syracuse’s 19 wins fall in quadrants 3 and 4. A win over Wake on Tuesday will give the Orange a shot at North Carolina in the second round of the ACC tournament.
Oklahoma State – I’m not sure how possible it is for the Big 12 to get nine teams in the Big Dance, but the Cowboys have a sneaky good profile with five quadrant 1 wins (including a sweep of Kansas) and no losses to teams outside of the Top 65 of the RPI. The main issues are a RPI of nearly 90 and a non-conference strength of schedule hovering in the 280s. Still, with a win over Oklahoma and a good showing in the Big 12 tournament, Oklahoma State can certainly make things interesting as we head toward Selection Sunday.
USC – Despite finishing second in the Pac-12, I can’t ignore the fact that USC has yet to beat a team that’s an at-large lock with wins over Middle Tennessee State and New Mexico State their two best. Throw in the Bennie Boatright injury, and it just feels too easy and maybe too logical to leave USC out. Their two worst losses aren’t quite as bad as they look, as the SMU defeat came with the Mustangs at full strength and the home loss to Princeton coming in a game that multiple rotation players missed. Still, the lack of quality wins seems likely to hold them back.
Louisville – Last week was absolutely brutal for the Cardinals, as a blown late lead, which cost them a chance to pick up a marquee win over Virginia, was followed up by a loss at NC State. They don’t have a bad loss, but they also have zero wins against the RPI Top 40 and just three total victories against at-large caliber teams. Louisville opens ACC tournament play on Wednesday with a game against Florida State. A win there would give the Cardinals another shot at Virginia in the quarterfinals.
Washington – The Huskies split home games against the Oregon schools last weekend and now sit just inside the Top 100 in KenPom. Wins at Kansas and USC as well as home victories against Arizona and Arizona State form a great quartet, but outside of that, there just isn’t much there. In fact, 15 of their 20 wins fall in quadrants 3 and 4. If they can string together a few victories in the Pac-12 Tournament, their case becomes a bit more compelling.
ACC (8): Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Miami (FL), North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Big 12 (8): Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, West 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 Ten (4): Michigan*, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue
American (3): Cincinnati, Houston, Wichita State
Pac-12 (3): Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA
Atlantic 10 (2): Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure
West Coast (2): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s
America East: Vermont
Atlantic Sun: Lipscomb*
Big Sky: Montana
Big South: Radford*
Big West: UC Davis
Conference USA: Middle Tennessee
Horizon: Wright State
Missouri Valley: Loyola (IL)*
Mountain West: Nevada
Ohio Valley: Murray State*
Southern: UNC Greensboro*
Southland: SE Louisiana
SWAC: AR-Pine Bluff
Summit: South Dakota State
Sun Belt: Louisiana
WAC: New Mexico State
* – Automatic Bid
Filed to: Bracketology