Fourteen more teams earned automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, highlighted by a number of close, entertaining games. From a bracketology standpoint, a few results stood out above the rest:
– Villanova and Kansas cemented their place on the one line by winning the Big East and Big 12 Tournaments, respectively. North Carolina would have made things interesting had they knocked off Virginia in the ACC Final, but Xavier appears to be in good shape for the one seed out West by virtue of UNC’s loss.
– Only one bid thief remains, as Davidson knocked off St. Bonaventure in the Atlantic-10. Bubble teams everywhere will be pulling for Rhode Island to take care of business on Sunday.
– At this point, I think there are just three at-large bids truly up for grabs. In my eyes, there are five teams in the mix for those spots: USC, Arizona State, Saint Mary’s, Louisville, and Middle Tennessee. Oklahoma State has an interesting case as well, but like it or not, I think a RPI dangerously close to 90th is likely a deal-breaker in the eyes of the committee. I plan to spend more time reviewing these profiles on Sunday before I post my final projections.
– Aside from the last few spots, the toughest part of the field to seed runs from the back part of the eight line through the 10 seeds. There simply isn’t much separation between those 9-10 teams.
In addition to reviewing that section of the bracket and the final few at-large spots, I plan to spend some time looking through the auto-bid section of the bracket (seeds 12-16), so there may be a few tweaks there before the final projections are released.
Here’s a quick reminder of how the selection committee is classifying wins this season:
· 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 10, 2018. Following the bracket, I included a few thoughts on the last four in and other four teams I believe have the best shot to get in.
|SOUTH (ATLANTA)||EAST (BOSTON)|
|Charlotte – March 16/18||Pittsburgh – March 15/17|
|1) Virginia||1) Villanova|
|16) LIU Brooklyn / NC Central||16) Radford / Texas Southern|
|9) Kansas St.||9) Florida St.|
|Dallas – March 15/17||San Diego – March 16/18|
|5) Ohio St.
|12) Buffalo||12) New Mexico St.
|4) Auburn||4) Texas Tech|
|13) Bucknell||13) Charleston|
|Nashville – March 16/18||Wichita – March 15/17|
|6) Florida||6) Houston|
|11) Texas / USC||11) Arizona St. / Saint Mary’s|
|3) Michigan St.||3) Michigan|
|14) Marshall||14) Lipscomb|
|Detroit – March 16/18||Charlotte – March 16/18|
|7) TCU||7) Texas A&M|
|10) Creighton||10) St. Bonaventure|
|2) Cincinnati||2) North Carolina|
||15) Stephen F. Austin|
|WEST (LOS ANGELES)||MIDWEST (OMAHA)|
|Nashville – March 16/18||Wichita – March 15/17|
|1) Xavier||1) Kansas|
|16) Cal St. Fullerton||16) UMBC|
|8) Missouri||8) Virginia Tech|
|9) NC State||9) Butler|
|Boise – March 15/17||Boise – March 15/17|
|5) Gonzaga||5) Kentucky|
|12) Murray St.||12) South Dakota St.|
|4) West Virginia||4) Wichita St.|
|13) San Diego St.||13) UNC Greensboro|
|San Diego – March 16/18||Dallas – March 15/17|
|6) Arkansas||6) Miami (FL)|
|11) Loyola (IL)
|3) Arizona||3) Tennessee|
|14) Montana||14) Wright St.|
|Pittsburgh – March 15/17||Detroit – March 16/18|
|7) Seton Hall||7) Rhode Island|
|10) Alabama||10) Oklahoma|
|2) Duke||2) Purdue|
|15) Georgia St.||15) Iona|
Last Four In:
Texas – I’m ultimately not very worried about the Longhorns, who have six quadrant 1 wins and no bad losses.
USC – The Trojans played well in the Pac-12 Final against Arizona, but DeAndre Ayton was simply too much to handle. Even after that loss, USC’s RPI sits in the mid-30s, which suggests they are relatively safe, but the fact remains they have yet to beat a team in the at-large picture.
Arizona State – It’s been a precipitous fall for the Sun Devils, who were ranked in the top five in the nation after beating Xavier and Kansas. The good news is they have home wins over USC and UCLA, a road victory at Utah, and a neutral court win over Kansas State in addition to those two marquee victories. The bad news is they are just 4-6 in quadrant 2 games and have at least five losses to teams with no shot at an at-large. Their profile actually reminds me quite a bit of IU’s profile last season, which doesn’t bode well for ASU.
Saint Mary’s – While predictive metrics like KenPom and BPI really like Saint Mary’s, there isn’t much meat on the actual resume following a WCC tournament loss to BYU. 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 I wouldn’t be the least bit shocked to see them miss the cut.
Other Teams Considered:
Louisville – After falling to Virginia once again, the Cardinals are in a difficult spot. The good news is that they don’t have a bad loss, but they also have zero wins against the RPI top 50. The predictive metrics love Louisville, and four of their five best wins have come in road or neutral games. The Cardinals sit in the Top 40 of the RPI as well, and few (if any) major conference teams in that range have been left out of the field in the past.
Middle Tennessee – The Blue Raiders rallied to force overtime against Southern Miss in the C-USA quarterfinals, but they fell behind early in OT and could never recover, suffering their first sub-100 defeat of the season in the process. So now they will have to sweat it out despite a gaudy 16-2 record in the league, a Top 10 non-conference strength of schedule, and an impressive 12-1 mark in true road games. The issue, however, is that MTSU has no wins over at-large caliber teams, although they did lose by single digits to Auburn, Miami, and USC in non-conference play.
Oklahoma State – The Cowboys were unable to beat Kansas for a third time on Thursday, but their at-large case is still an intriguing one. They boast five quadrant 1 wins with no losses to teams outside of the Top 65 of the RPI. The main issues are a RPI around 90th and a non-conference strength of schedule just inside the Top 300. And while head-to-head matchups aren’t everything, Oklahoma State was swept by fellow bubbler Baylor.
Syracuse – The Orange made a second half run at North Carolina but eventually lost by nearly 20 points in the ACC tournament. Last 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, and it’s worth noting that 13 of Syracuse’s 20 wins fall in quadrants 3 and 4.
ACC (8): Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Miami (FL), North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia*, Virginia Tech
SEC (8): Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, 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, UCLA, USC
American (3): Cincinnati, Houston, Wichita State
Atlantic 10 (2): Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure
Mountain West (2): Nevada, San Diego State*
West Coast (2): Gonzaga*, Saint Mary’s
America East: UMBC*
Atlantic Sun: Lipscomb*
Big Sky: Montana*
Big South: Radford*
Big West: Cal St. Fullerton*
Conference USA: Marshall*
Horizon: Wright State*
MEAC: NC Central*
Missouri Valley: Loyola (IL)*
Northeast: LIU Brooklyn*
Ohio Valley: Murray State*
Southern: UNC Greensboro*
Southland: Stephen F. Austin*
SWAC: Texas Southern*
Summit: South Dakota State*
Sun Belt: Georgia State
WAC: New Mexico State*
* – Automatic Bid
Filed to: Bracketology