Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of March 12, 2020

  • 03/12/2020 8:03 am in

As I sit down to write this, it’s completely unclear as to what will become of this college basketball season given how much things have changed in the 36 hours since the Ivy League announced the cancelation of its conference tournament on Tuesday. With that as backdrop, I’ll keep the intro brief today.

In terms of on-court action, Boston University punched its ticket to the Big Dance by upsetting top-seeded Colgate in the Patriot League final. Outside of that, the biggest results were losses by Stanford and Xavier in their respective conference tournament openers. As you’ll see below, that definitely had ramifications on today’s projections.

Assuming that games go on as scheduled, my plan over the coming days is to take a deeper look at the bubble teams as well as a few places where teams are clustered around a seed line break. For instance, Michigan and Virginia are vying for the last six seed, and while I gave the Wolverines the nod, the teams are close enough that it’s worth a second look as Selection Sunday gets closer.

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

Kansas is locked in as the top overall seed, and Gonzaga has settled in behind the Jayhawks following Baylor’s loss to West Virginia and the Zags’ WCC tournament Title. Given the full body of work, I struggle to find a scenario where Baylor falls completely off the one line, while Dayton will hold the final one seed heading into the A-10 tournament. For now, Florida State is probably the only team who could play their way into a top seed if Dayton should falter.

The Bracket

The projections below are based on all games played through March 11th, 2020. Following the bracket, I included a few thoughts on the last four in and first five out.

Omaha – March 20/22 St. Louis – March 19/21
1) Kansas 1) Baylor
16) Robert Morris* / NC Central 16) Siena / Prairie View A&M
8) USC
8) Saint Mary’s
9) Florida 9) Marquette
Tampa – March 19/21 Sacramento – March 20/22
5) BYU
5) Auburn
12) Liberty* 12) Stephen F. Austin
4) Louisville 4) Wisconsin
13) North Texas 13) New Mexico St.
Cleveland – March 20/22 Albany – March 19/21
6) Iowa 6) Penn St.
11) Xavier / Texas 11) Texas Tech
3) Michigan St. 3) Seton Hall
14) Little Rock 14) Hofstra*
St. Louis – March 19/21 Tampa – March 19/21
7) Houston 7) Providence
10) Utah St.* 10) Rutgers
2) Creighton 2) Florida St.
15) Eastern Washington
15) Winthrop*
Cleveland – March 20/22 Spokane – March 19/21
1) Dayton 1) Gonzaga*
16) Boston University* 16) Northern Kentucky*
8) Arizona 8) Colorado
9) LSU 9) Oklahoma
Omaha – March 20/22 Spokane – March 19/21
5) Butler 5) Ohio St.
12) Cincinnati 12) Yale*
4) Kentucky 4) Oregon
13) Vermont 13) Akron
Greensboro – March 20/22 Greensboro – March 20/22
6) Michigan 6) West Virginia
11) ETSU*
11) Richmond / UCLA
3) Duke 3) Maryland
14) Belmont* 14) Bradley*
Albany – March 19/21 Sacramento – March 20/22
7) Virginia 7) Illinois
10) Indiana 10) Arizona St.
2) Villanova 2) San Diego St.
15) North Dakota St.* 15) UC Irvine

Last Four In:

Since Cincinnati earned the top seed in the AAC tournament, they are serving as the league’s automatic bid and cannot be placed in the First Four. If they were in the at-large pool though, they would be right on the cut line.

Richmond – A top 40 NET ranking, nine true road wins, and a neutral court victory over surging Wisconsin are the best attributes on the Spiders’ profile. They have three wins each in Q1 and Q2 but are only 2-2 against the at-large pool. Richmond is off until Friday when they will take on either Davidson or La Salle, and a win there should set up a matchup with Rhode Island in the semifinals.

Texas – Thursday’s Big 12 tournament matchup against Texas Tech will have major implications even with Texas Tech now sitting just outside of the Last Four In. It will be interesting to see how the Longhorns respond after getting smoked by Oklahoma State in the regular season finale. Texas boasts five Q1 wins as well as an impressive 8-6 road/neutral record, although the Longhorns are just 2-4 in Q2 games and have only three wins against the at-large pool.

UCLA – The Bruins have racked up six Q1 victories, including sweeps of Arizona and Colorado. However, UCLA has five losses to teams not in the at-large picture, including a Q3 loss to Hofstra and a Q4 loss to Cal St. Fullerton, and a NET rating in the mid-70s. The Bruins will face Cal in the Pac-12 quarterfinals, and they can ill afford another bad loss.

Xavier – Wednesday’s loss to DePaul was only the second of Xavier’s 13 losses to fall outside of Q1, but a 3-11 mark in Q1 games contains just one win (at Seton Hall) against a team in the at-large pool. Q2 home wins over Providence and Cincinnati account for their other at-large caliber victories, and a 7-2 overall mark in Q2 certainly helps the case. The Musketeers have relatively strong computer numbers, but I think ultimately the lack of top-end victories has Xavier in serious jeopardy heading into the final few days of the season.

First Five Out:

Wichita State – Despite some solid computer numbers, I struggle to project a team that’s knocked off just one at-large caliber team to make the field. Wichita State is just 2-5 in Q1 games but does have seven Q2 victories to go with strong computer numbers. The Shockers have a first-round bye in the AAC tournament, but their first game will likely come against a UConn team that has won five straight and eight of its last 10 games.

NC State – The Wolfpack beat Pitt by 15 points in their ACC Tournament opener, setting up a rubber match with Duke.  Victories over Duke and Wisconsin at home as well as a road win at Virginia are great, but it’s also worth noting that NC State has eight losses to teams not currently in the at-large picture, which is far more than other teams in this range.

Stanford – Wednesday’s loss to Cal pushed the Cardinal out of my projected field despite sitting at 33rd in the NET with four Quad 1 victories. That was Stanford’s second loss to the Bears, both of which fall in Quad 3. A sub-200 non-con strength of schedule won’t help matters, and the Cardinal don’t rate particularly well in the metrics listed on the team sheets used by the committee.

Northern Iowa – A blowout loss to eighth-place Drake in their first game of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament gave the Panthers another Q3 defeat and likely sealed UNI’s fate. A road win over Colorado gives them a terrific Q1 win, while a neutral court victory over South Carolina has proven to be solid as well. They also played two games against non-Division I teams, which the committee sometimes doesn’t care for, and I ultimately just don’t think there’s enough on the profile to earn a bid.

Mississippi State – Ben Howland’s squad split its games last week, losing at South Carolina before blowing out Ole Miss at home. The Bulldogs have just one win against at-large teams and the first five out, which came at Florida. A pair of Quad 3 losses don’t help Mississippi State’s case, and the same can be said for double-digit losses at Ole Miss and Texas A&M. The Bulldogs wound up as the four seed in the SEC tournament, which means they don’t play until Friday. Florida is the likely opponent, and a win there would set up a huge game with Kentucky in the semis.

Conference Breakdown:

Big Ten (10): Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers, Wisconsin

Big East (7): Butler, Creighton, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova, Xavier

Big 12 (6): Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia

Pac-12 (6): Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA, USC

ACC (4): Duke, Florida State, Louisville, Virginia

SEC (4): Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, LSU

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

American (2): Cincinnati, Houston

Atlantic 10 (2): Dayton, Richmond

Mountain West (2): Utah State*, San Diego State

America East: Vermont

Atlantic Sun: Liberty*

Big Sky: Eastern Washington

Big South: Winthrop*

Big West: UC Irvine

Colonial: Hofstra*

Conference USA: North Texas

Horizon: Northern Kentucky*

Ivy: Yale*

MAAC: Siena

MAC: Akron

MEAC: North Carolina Central

Missouri Valley: Bradley*

Northeast: Robert Morris*

Ohio Valley: Belmont*

Patriot: Boston University*

Southern: ETSU*

Southland: Stephen F. Austin

SWAC: Prairie View A&M

Summit: North Dakota State*

Sun Belt: Little Rock

WAC: New Mexico State

* – Denotes 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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