Bracketology: NCAA Tournament projection as of January 21, 2020

  • 01/21/2020 9:59 am in

The unpredictability of this season took a blowtorch to last week’s projections, as two of the teams I had projected on the one line lost twice within the last seven days. There was plenty of movement throughout the bracket, and the profiles near the cutline continue to be pretty underwhelming.

The good news is that Selection Sunday is still nearly eight weeks away, so there’s plenty of time to sort things out. I have a feeling I’m going to need every bit of it.

Once again, the Big Ten leads the way with 11 teams in the field, including 10 with a nine seed or better. The 11th was the last team I had in the field, although history isn’t exactly working in their favor. More on that in a little bit.

Before looking at the one seeds, I wanted to give a quick reminder about how the NCAA selection committee classifies wins based on the 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

Selecting the top seeds felt like the easiest part of this week’s exercise. Baylor and Gonzaga did nothing to play themselves off of the one line last week, and they were the clear choices for the top two overall seeds.

With Duke and Butler losing a combined four games last week, the door was open for other teams to slide up the seed list. Kansas leads the nation in Quad 1 wins with seven and is the only team with double-digit victories against the top two quadrants despite playing a schedule ranked as the nation’s best.

San Diego State, the last remaining unbeaten team, is slotted as the last one seed after racking up two more wins in Mountain West play. All six of their Quad 1 and 2 victories have come on the road or on neutral floors, with the best ones coming at BYU and against Iowa and Creighton in Las Vegas. The challenge at this point is that there aren’t many more top-end opportunities on the schedule, particularly with Utah State struggling, so the Aztecs just need to keep on winning and hope that carnage across the country creates some separation.

The Bracket

The projections below are based on all games played through January 20, 2020. Following the bracket, I included a few thoughts on the last four in and first four out.

Omaha – March 20/22 Spokane – March 19/21
1) Baylor 1) Gonzaga
16) Robert Morris / Norfolk St. 16) Monmouth / Prairie View A&M
8) LSU
8) Memphis
9) Illinois 9) Stanford
Tampa – March 19/21 Spokane – March 19/21
5) Arizona
5) Iowa
12) Georgetown / Purdue 12) ETSU
4) Maryland 4) Oregon
13) Vermont 13) North Texas
Greensboro – March 20/22 Greensboro – March 20/22
6) Creighton 6) Ohio St.
11) Northern Iowa 11) NC State
3) Duke 3) Dayton
14) William & Mary 14) Colgate
Albany – March 19/21 St. Louis – March 19/21
7) Wisconsin 7) Rutgers
10) Texas Tech 10) USC
2) Seton Hall 2) Louisville
15) Murray St.
15) UC Irvine
Sacramento – March 20/22 Omaha – March 20/22
1) San Diego St. 1) Kansas
16) Montana 16) North Dakota St.
8) Indiana 8) Arkansas
9) Florida 9) Houston
Albany – March 19/21 Sacramento – March 20/22
5) Auburn 5) Kentucky
12) Liberty 12) Yale
4) Villanova 4) Colorado
13) Akron 13) Stephen F. Austin
Cleveland – March 20/22 St. Louis – March 19/21
6) Penn St. 6) Michigan
11) Virginia Tech / DePaul
11) BYU
3) West Virginia 3) Butler
14) Wright St. 14) New Mexico St.
Tampa – March 19/21 Cleveland – March 20/22
7) Marquette 7) Wichita St.
10) Oklahoma 10) Saint Mary’s
2) Florida St. 2) Michigan St.
15) Winthrop 15) Little Rock

Last Four In:

Virginia Tech – The Hokies have certainly been a pleasant surprise in the ACC and own a neutral court win over Michigan State. They have also picked up a few solid victories on the road, but eight of their 13 wins fall in Quad 4 thanks to a sub-300 non-conference strength of schedule. Outside of a home game with Florida State, the upcoming schedule is relatively favorable.

DePaul – Saturday’s win over Butler gives the Blue Demons four Quad 1 victories, with the others coming on the road against Iowa and Minnesota and at home versus Texas Tech. A pair of Quad 3 home losses and a relatively poor non-conference strength of schedule don’t allow for much breathing room, and DePaul needs to protect home court against Creighton and St. John’s this week before hitting the road for four of the next five.

Georgetown – The Hoyas knocked off Creighton at home last week and nearly did the same to Villanova on Saturday. Patrick Ewing’s squad has an interesting profile that doesn’t feature a loss outside of the top two quadrants but contains just one win over a team safely in the field. This week’s road trip to Xavier will be an important game for both teams.

Purdue – For the last spot, I gave the nod to the Boilers even though history isn’t on their side. Purdue currently sits at 10-8, and the last time a team earned an at-large bid with a record just two games over .500 was back in 2001. That said, Purdue has two wins each in Quad 1 and Quad 2, and the computer numbers are strong. A poor record away from home, including a Quad 3 loss at Nebraska, doesn’t do them any favors though.

First Four Out:

Minnesota – Like Purdue, the Gophers are just two games over .500 after splitting their games last week. Purdue’s profile is slightly better though, which leaves Minnesota and its 0-6 road mark on the outside looking in. Home victories over Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State are the headliners, but a tough week awaits with a road trip to Ohio State and a home date with Michigan State on tap.

VCU – The Rams don’t have a Quad 3 or 4 loss, but they also have just one win of note, which came at home against LSU. This week features a pair of winnable road games, and VCU simply can’t afford to slip up in those kinds of games moving forward.

Washington – The loss of Quade Green is really hurting the Huskies, who bounced back from a bad loss to Cal by beating Oregon State last Thursday. They seemed poised to sweep the Oregon schools, but Payton Pritchard had other ideas as the Ducks stormed back to win it. Washington boasts a neutral court victory over Baylor as well as a home win against USC, but losses to UCLA and Cal both fall in Quad 3. The Huskies travel to Utah and Colorado this week in what has traditionally been a challenging road trip for Pac-12 schools.

Xavier – Following Wednesday’s blowout road loss to Creighton, the Musketeers have now dropped three straight and sit at 1-4 in the Big East. They don’t have a Quad 3 or Quad 4 loss, but they also don’t have a win over a team safely in the field among four Quad 1 and 2 victories. Xavier desperately needs to beat Georgetown at home on Wednesday before hitting the road for three of its next four contests.

Conference Breakdown:

Big Ten (11): Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin

Big East (7): Butler, Creighton, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Seton Hall, Villanova

Pac-12 (5): Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Stanford, USC

Big 12 (5): Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, West Virginia

SEC (5): Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, LSU

ACC (5): Duke, Florida State, Louisville, NC State, Virginia Tech

American (3): Houston, Memphis, Wichita State

West Coast (3): BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s

America East: Vermont

Atlantic 10: Dayton

Atlantic Sun: Liberty

Big Sky: Montana

Big South: Winthrop

Big West: UC Irvine

Colonial: William & Mary

Conference USA: North Texas

Horizon: Wright State

Ivy: Yale

MAAC: Monmouth

MAC: Akron

MEAC: Norfolk State

Missouri Valley: Northern Iowa

Mountain West: San Diego State

Northeast: Robert Morris

Ohio Valley: Murray State

Patriot: Colgate

Southern: ETSU

Southland: Stephen F. Austin

SWAC: Prairie View A&M

Summit: North Dakota State

Sun Belt: Little Rock

WAC: New Mexico State

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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