With conference play underway in nearly every league, it’s time for the first in-season set of bracket projections. The season has already had plenty of surprises, and these are sure to change dramatically by the time Selection Sunday rolls around in just under 10 weeks.
At this point, I’ve selected the representatives from the single bid leagues based on who I think will win the league even though they may not be atop the conference standings right now.
Before looking at the one seeds, I wanted to give a quick reminder about how the NCAA selection committee classifies wins based on the new NET Rating.
A breakdown of the four tiers:
· 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
There were five teams in the mix for the one line this time around with Duke, Michigan, and Virginia separating themselves so far.
After that it came down to Kansas and Tennessee, and even though the Jayhawks won the head-to-head matchup between the two teams, I ended up slotting the Vols onto the top line. Given that the game went to overtime when they played one another, it’s reasonable to say they two teams are evenly matched. Both of KU’s losses came on the road without big man Udoka Azubuike, who was just lost for the season to a hand injury, and the committee has stated (and shown) that they take injuries like that into account when seeding the field.
Gonzaga and Michigan State are waiting in the wings if one of the teams above them falters, and Texas Tech could find itself in the mix as well if the Red Raiders wind up unseating Kansas atop the Big 12.
The projections below are based on all games played through January 7, 2019. Following the bracket, I included a few thoughts on the last four in and last four out.
|EAST (WASHINGTON, DC)||WEST (ANAHEIM)|
|Columbia – March 22/24||Columbia – March 22/24|
|1) Duke||1) Tennessee|
|16) Norfolk St. / Wagner||16) Texas Southern|
|9) Purdue||9) Maryland|
|San Jose – March 22/24||Hartford – March 21/23|
|12) Murray St.||12) Lipscomb
|4) Nevada||4) Virginia Tech|
|13) Hofstra||13) UNC Greensboro|
|Des Moines – March 21/23||Jacksonville – March 21/23|
|6) Wisconsin||6) Iowa St.|
|11) Arizona / Syracuse||11) Creighton|
|3) Houston||3) Florida St.|
|14) Grand Canyon||14) Radford|
|Tulsa – March 22/24||Salt Lake City – March 21/23|
|7) Louisville||7) Minnesota|
|10) Alabama||10) Arizona St.|
|2) Texas Tech||2) Gonzaga|
|15) N. Kentucky
|SOUTH (LOUISVILLE)||MIDWEST (KANSAS CITY)|
|Columbus – March 22/24||Hartford – March 21/23|
|1) Michigan||1) Virginia|
|16) Lehigh||16) Rider / S.F. Austin|
|8) Seton Hall||8) Iowa|
|9) LSU||9) Texas|
|Salt Lake City – March 21/23||San Jose – March 22/24|
|5) Marquette||5) Ohio St.|
|12) Old Dominion||12) Clemson / Kansas St.|
|4) Mississippi St.||4) Auburn|
|13) Yale||13) Loyola Chicago|
|Jacksonville – March 21/23||Des Moines – March 21/23|
|6) Nebraska||6) NC State|
|3) North Carolina||3) Oklahoma|
|14) Georgia St.||14) UC Irvine|
|Tulsa – March 22/24||Columbus – March 22/24|
|7) Buffalo||7) St. John’s|
|10) Cincinnati||10) Central Florida|
|2) Kansas||2) Michigan St.|
|15) South Dakota St.||15) Vermont|
Last Four In:
Syracuse – It wouldn’t be the bubble without Syracuse. The Orange have a pair of nice road wins at Ohio State and Notre Dame but very little else, while they dropped neutral court games to Oregon and Connecticut as well as a home game against Old Dominion. I’d expect Syracuse to pick up enough quality wins in the ACC to play their way further inside the cut line by the time Selection Sunday rolls around.
Arizona – The Wildcats would be much safer if not for a home loss to Baylor, who is expected to finish near the bottom of the Big 12. They do have a win in Maui over a then-depleted Iowa State squad to go with a road win at UConn, but the Pac-12’s non-conference performance means any at-large hopefuls will face an uphill battle.
Kansas State – Bruce Weber’s club has no Quad 1 wins so far, with the two best victories coming over fellow bubblers Vanderbilt and Missouri on neutral courts. A road loss to Tulsa isn’t likely to age well either, which means K-State will need to bounce back quickly from a 0-2 start to Big 12 play.
Clemson – All four of the Tigers’ losses fall into Quad 1, but the issue is their two best wins have come at home against Lipscomb and on a neutral court against Georgia. Clemson’s next five ACC games feature road trips to Syracuse, Florida State, and NC State as well as a home game against Virginia.
First Four Out:
Mississippi – The Rebels have been one of the season’s under the radar surprises, as former Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis has made a difference in year one. They don’t have a bad loss, but a road win at Vandy and a home victory over Baylor are the only wins of note. The next eight games all come against teams in the Top 60 of KenPom, so we’ll know soon enough if Ole Miss is legit.
Vanderbilt – Despite losing star freshman Darius Garland to injury, the Commodores are still in the mix. A home loss to Kent State, which was the game in which Garland went down, is the only loss to a team not in the Top 50 of the NET, while home victories over Liberty and Arizona State account for two of Vandy’s three Quad 2 wins.
Florida – Yet another SEC team finds itself on the bubble. The Gators have a blowout win at home over Butler, but they dropped their other four Quad 1 and 2 games. Last weekend’s home loss to South Carolina currently sits in Quad 4, and things don’t get easier with three of the next four on the road.
Washington – I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Huskies win the much maligned Pac-12, but they are currently 0-4 in Quad 1 games and have no victories in Quad 2 either. This weekend’s road trip to Utah and Colorado could change that, but that road swing has been a tough one historically.
Big Ten (10): Indiana, Iowa Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
ACC (9): Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Louisville, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Big 12 (7): Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech
Big East (6): Butler, Creighton, Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Villanova
SEC (6): Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Tennessee
American (3): Central Florida, Cincinnati, Houston
Pac-12 (2): Arizona, Arizona State
America East: Vermont
Atlantic Sun: Lipscomb
Atlantic 10: VCU
Big Sky: Montana
Big South: Radford
Big West: UC Irvine
Conference USA: Old Dominion
Horizon: Northern Kentucky
MEAC: Norfolk State
Missouri Valley: Loyola Chicago
Mountain West: Nevada
Ohio Valley: Murray State
Southern: UNC Greensboro
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
SWAC: Texas Southern
Summit: South Dakota State
Sun Belt: Georgia State
WAC: Grand Canyon
West Coast: Gonzaga
Follow Andy on Twitter (@andybottoms) for more thoughts on college hoops and to receive an update whenever new brackets are posted.
Filed to: 2018-2019 bracketology