Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of March 7, 2018

  • 03/07/2018 7:47 am in

Five more automatic bids were handed out on Tuesday night as Wright State, LIU Brooklyn, Charleston, South Dakota State and Gonzaga all punched their tickets. The Zags’ victory over BYU allowed bubble teams to exhale a bit as one potential bid thief was eliminated.

The ACC Tournament also got underway, although wins by Notre Dame and Syracuse didn’t move the needle on their respective at-large hopes. The Irish have been talked about quite a bit over the last few days in light of Bonzie Colson’s return. Since I don’t currently have them in my first five out, I think it’s worth talking about why.

If we are only able to truly evaluate Notre Dame in games where Colson played as some have suggested, they have one win against teams in the Top 85 of the RPI, which came by a single point in Maui against Wichita State. The Irish also lost at home to Ball State and on a neutral floor to Indiana while at full strength, both of which fall in quadrant 3. So in 16 games against Division One teams when Colson was healthy, Notre Dame has gone 12-4 with one quality win and two bad losses.

Also, it feels as though we are being asked to discount any losses in games where Colson didn’t play. There are two issues with that. First, you cannot automatically assume they would have won any or all of those games. Second, if those games aren’t an accurate reflection of who Notre Dame is as a team, then how can we give them credit for home wins against Florida State and NC State or the road win at Syracuse? You simply can’t cherry pick which games count and which ones don’t.

All that being said, the basketball fan in me would love to see Notre Dame in the tournament, but from a bracketology standpoint, I struggle to make the case for why they should be in. If they beat Virginia Tech and Duke in the next two games, that becomes a different story.

Here’s your 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 Bracket

The projections below are based on all games played through March 6, 2018. Following the bracket, I included a few thoughts on the last four in and first five out.

Charlotte – March 16/18 Pittsburgh – March 15/17
1) Virginia 1) Villanova
16) LIU Brooklyn / AR-Pine Bluff 16) SE Louisiana / Hampton
8) Rhode Island
8) TCU
9) Butler 9) Florida St.
Boise – March 15/17 Boise – March 15/17
5) Florida
5) Clemson
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
15) Penn
Wichita – March 15/17 Nashville – March 16/18
1) Kansas 1) Xavier
16) Iona 16) Radford
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
11) Texas
11) UCLA
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 14 of Syracuse’s 20 wins fall in quadrants 3 and 4. Tuesday’s opening round win over Wake Forest gives the Orange a shot at North Carolina in the second round of the ACC tournament. A win there likely pushes them into the field.

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.

Conference Breakdown:

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

Colonial: Charleston*

Conference USA: Middle Tennessee

Horizon: Wright State*

Ivy: Penn

MAAC: Iona*

MAC: Buffalo

MEAC: Hampton

Missouri Valley: Loyola (IL)*

Mountain West: Nevada

Northeast: LIU Brooklyn*

Ohio Valley: Murray State*

Patriot: Bucknell

Southern: UNC Greensboro*

Southland: SE Louisiana

SWAC: AR-Pine Bluff

Summit: South Dakota State*

Sun Belt: Louisiana

WAC: New Mexico State

* – Automatic Bid

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