Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of March 15, 2019

  • 03/15/2019 8:34 am in

After focusing on key bubble games the last couple days, let’s check back in on the potential bid thieves still out there at this stage of Championship Week.

American – The team to keep an eye on here is Memphis, in large part because the tournament is being played on their home floor. After beating Tulane on Thursday, Central Florida is up next for the Tigers.

Atlantic-10 – Bubble teams will be rooting hard for VCU here, but it’s likely that Dayton or Davidson will make the final on Sunday, both of which could give the Rams trouble.

Big 12 – West Virginia is the Cinderella story here after finishing last in the league. The Mountaineers have already beaten Oklahoma and Texas Tech, setting up Friday’s matchup with Kansas.

Big East – The team to keep an eye on here is Xavier, who will have an interesting at-large case if they knock off Marquette on Friday.

Big Ten – Nebraska is the only potential bid thief still alive here, but the Huskers will need to pull off five wins in five days to go dancing. They face Wisconsin on Friday.

Mid-American – Buffalo’s chances of winning the tournament improved when Toledo got knocked off on Thursday, but if anyone other than the Bulls win this one, there will be one less spot for potential bubble teams.

Mountain West – Bubble teams desperately need Nevada or Utah State to win this tournament, and if both win their Semi-Final matchups on Friday, there will be a collective exhale.

Pac-12 – While I suppose you could make an argument against having Washington and Arizona State in the field, the focus here shifts to Colorado and Oregon, who have both played well of late.

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

One Seeds

I said on Tuesday morning that Virginia and Gonzaga were locked in on the one line, and it’s reasonable to question one of those after Tuesday night. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s just one game out of 33 for Gonzaga, and it’s also their first loss against a team outside of the Top 10 of the NET. The Bulldogs’ win over Duke in Maui will still carry a ton of weight, and Gonzaga’s metrics are among the nation’s best. For now, I’m leaving them on the one line, as I don’t feel that one loss should drop them three spots on the seed list given their overall profile.

Outside of those, there are four main competitors for the remaining two top seeds. Thanks to a sweep of Duke and nine Quad 1 victories, North Carolina has moved to the one line earlier this week. The Heels are 11-1 on the road and don’t have a loss outside of Quad 1, but it’s possible that the return of Zion Williamson and a run in the ACC tournament from Duke could push the Blue Devils to the top line once again. We’ll know a lot more once we see UNC and Duke face off in the ACC Semi-Finals. I find it unlikely that three ACC teams would get one seeds, but after Tuesday night, the chances have increased.

The SEC has a similar situation with Kentucky, Tennessee, and LSU all in the mix. For now, Kentucky gets the nod after beating Florida on Saturday. The Wildcats have 10 Quad 1 wins, while Tennessee has better losses but fewer top-end victories. LSU’s situation is obviously in flux for a variety of reasons, but winning the regular season and tournament titles in the SEC could make things interesting.

Michigan State is the other team in contention, but they will need to make a deep Big Ten tournament run with Nick Ward back in the lineup while hoping for early exits from teams ahead of them on the seed list.

The Bracket

The projections below are based on all games played through March 14, 2019. Following the bracket, I included a few thoughts on the last four in as well as the other teams I considered.

Columbia – March 22/24 Columbia – March 22/24
1) Virginia 1) North Carolina
16) North Dakota St. / Norfolk St. 16) Sam Houston St.
8) Seton Hall
8) Central Florida
9) Baylor 9) Oklahoma
Hartford – March 21/23 San Jose – March 22/24
5) Marquette
5) Auburn
12) Murray St. 12) Saint Mary’s
4) Kansas St. 4) Kansas
13) UC Irvine 13) Old Dominion
Des Moines – March 21/23 Tulsa – March 22/24
6) Buffalo 6) Villanova
11) Temple 11) Arizona St.
3) Purdue 3) LSU
14) Harvard 14) Northeastern
Jacksonville – March 21/23 Columbus – March 22/24
7) Iowa St. 7) Cincinnati
10) Syracuse 10) Washington
2) Tennessee 2) Michigan St.
15) Bradley
15) Montana
Columbus – March 22/24 Salt Lake City – March 21/23
1) Kentucky 1) Gonzaga
16) Prairie View A&M 16) Iona / F. Dickinson
8) Iowa 8) VCU
9) Utah St. 9) Ole Miss
San Jose – March 22/24 Hartford – March 21/23
5) Virginia Tech 5) Mississippi St.
12) New Mexico St. 12) Belmont / NC State
4) Wisconsin 4) Florida St.
13) Liberty 13) Vermont
Tulsa – March 22/24 Salt Lake City – March 21/23
6) Maryland 6) Nevada
11) St. John’s / Florida
11) Ohio St.
3) Houston 3) Texas Tech
14) Northern Kentucky 14) Georgia St.
Jacksonville – March 21/23 Des Moines – March 21/23
7) Wofford 7) Louisville
10) Minnesota 10) TCU
2) Duke 2) Michigan
15) Gardner-Webb 15) Colgate

Last Four In:

St. John’s – It was a close call between the Red Storm and Ohio State to determine which team avoided Dayton, but I gave the nod to the Buckeyes. St. John’s did very little in the non-conference outside of beating VCU, and they lost two times each to DePaul, Providence, and Xavier. The Red Storm did sweep Marquette in the regular season before getting run off the floor against the Golden Eagles on Thursday night, and I ultimately don’t feel they are in true jeopardy. The last three teams were much harder to select.

Belmont – After losing in the OVC championship game to Murray State, the Bruins find themselves in the at-large pool, and they have the most compelling case of any of the mid-majors who failed to win the auto-bid so far. So far, things have actually broken pretty well for them. They own a sweep of fellow bubbler Lipscomb and won the regular season matchup at Murray State. But despite a gaudy 25-5 mark against Division I teams, Belmont’s status on the bubble is tenuous given a pair of Quad 3 losses and no victories over potential at-large candidates.

Florida – After taking care of business against Arkansas on Thursday, the Gators will get another crack at LSU. Both games with the Tigers this season have gone to overtime with the road team emerging victorious in each contest. It’s important to keep in mind that Florida is just 3-11 against teams in the at-large conversation. All three of their Quad 1 wins have come on the road, but they have two Quad 3 losses among their 14 total defeats.

NC State – A huge comeback and late free throws propelled the Wolfpack to a win over Clemson in their ACC Tournament opener, but they were blown out by Virginia on Thursday. The Wolfpack’s non-conference strength of schedule is the worst in the nation, and just one of their nine ACC regular season victories came against a team with a winning league record (Syracuse). Additional home wins over Auburn and Clemson are helpful, but it seems like each year there is a team that winds up getting punished for a poor non-conference schedule, which this year just might be NC State. For now, the fact that all but two of their losses have come against teams in the Top 25 of the NET and decent metrics have them barely inside the cutline.

Other Teams Considered:

Indiana – The Hoosiers won their last four regular season games to play their way back into the bubble picture, but a lackluster performance for most of Thursday’s game with Ohio State may have been the final nail in the coffin. A sweep of Michigan State represents two of IU’s six Quad 1 wins, and the committee chair’s comments about being diligent in researching the impact of injuries could certainly come into play here. Still, the Hoosiers now have 15 losses, and we haven’t seen a team receive an at-large bid at just two games over .500 since Georgia in 2001. So despite no Quad 3 or Quad 4 losses, history is assuredly not on the side of the Hoosiers.

UNC Greensboro – The Spartans gave Wofford a tough test in the SoCon Final and picked up another win over fellow bubbler Furman to get there. All six of UNCG’s losses fall in Quad 1, but two wins over Furman are the only ones of note. The predictive metrics don’t do them any favors either, so it’s likely the Spartans are headed to the NIT despite winning 26 Division I games.

Alabama – The Crimson Tide came from behind to knock off Ole Miss on Thursday evening, setting up a rematch with Kentucky in the Quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament. Like so many other bubble teams, Alabama already has 14 losses, with two of them falling in Quad 3 and five of them coming against teams not in the at-large discussion. Home wins over Kentucky, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss are Alabama’s best, but it’s hard to see them making it into the field without another win over the Wildcats.

Creighton – The Bluejays still don’t have a loss to a team outside the Top 75 of the NET, but Thursday’s last-second loss to Xavier gave them their 14th defeat of the season. Creighton does have three Quad 1 wins, but the road win at Marquette is their lone victory over a team comfortably in the field.

Xavier – The late season surge continues for the Musketeers, who have won seven of eight following a six-game losing streak. While they have just one win against a team in the Top 50 of the NET, they do have four Quad 1 wins and five more in Quad 2. A pair of Quad 3 losses are holding them back, but a second win over Villanova would keep hope alive.

Texas – A Big 12 Tournament loss to Kansas dropped the Longhorns to 16-16. While they do boast five Quad 1 wins, I cannot see the committee putting in a .500 team.

Clemson – Wednesday’s loss to NC State dropped the Tigers to 1-10 in Quad 1 games, which feels like too much to overcome. Their lone bad loss came at Miami, but Clemson’s best wins have come against a Justin Robinson-less Virginia Tech, Syracuse, and Lipscomb, all of which were at home.

Furman – The aforementioned loss to UNC Greensboro likely spelled the end for the Paladins, who finished 13-5 in the SoCon. They boast a huge non-conference road win at Villanova and have just one bad loss. Still, that home loss to Samford may come back to haunt them, and it’s worth noting that three of Furman’s 25 victories came against non-Division I opponents. The Paladins were also just 2-5 in games against the other top teams in the SoCon.

Conference Breakdown:

Big Ten (8): Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin

ACC (8): Duke, Florida State, Louisville, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech

Big 12 (7): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas Tech

SEC (7): Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Tennessee

American (4): Central Florida, Cincinnati, Houston, Temple

Big East (4): Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Villanova

Mountain West (2): Nevada, Utah State

Ohio Valley (2): Belmont, Murray State*

Pac-12 (2): Arizona State, Washington

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s*

America East: Vermont

Atlantic 10: VCU

Atlantic Sun: Liberty*

Big Sky: Montana

Big South: Gardner-Webb*

Big West: UC Irvine

Colonial: Northeastern*

Conference USA: Old Dominion

Horizon: Northern Kentucky*

Ivy: Harvard

MAAC: Iona*

MAC: Buffalo

MEAC: Norfolk State

Missouri Valley: Bradley*

Northeast: Fairleigh Dickinson*

Patriot: Colgate*

Southern: Wofford*

Southland: Sam Houston State

SWAC: Prairie View A&M

Summit: North Dakota State*

Sun Belt: Georgia State

WAC: New Mexico State

* – Earned automatic bid

Follow Andy on Twitter (@andybottoms) for more thoughts on college hoops and to receive an update whenever new brackets are posted.

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