I typically release my first set of in-season bracket projections the day after the college football national champion is crowned, but this year I thought it might help to get an extra week of results before unveiling the projections. It did not.
With all of the COVID-19 related pauses and the associated scheduling impacts, assessing the profiles of tournament hopefuls is more difficult than ever. Some teams have played substantially fewer games than others, and looking at schedule strength is tricky since it doesn’t really account for what the original schedule was compared to what it ended up. As a result, I think there will be more week-to-week volatility than normal, particularly for teams that haven’t played as many games yet.
I’ll get into the number one seeds shortly, but the bubble is littered with uninspiring profiles. There were multiple teams that I didn’t expect to end up in the field when I started that weren’t even among the last four in.
From a conference perspective, 11 Big Ten teams are included in this week’s projected field, but I’m not convinced the league will be able to sustain that many bids with three teams very close to the cutline.
At this point, I’ve selected the representatives from the single bid leagues based on a combination of the current standings and who I think will win the league.
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:
· Quad 1: Home vs. teams ranked 1-30 / Neutral vs. teams ranked 1-50 / Road vs. teams ranked 1-75
· Quad 2: Home vs. teams ranked 31-75 / Neutral vs. teams ranked 51-100 / Road vs. teams ranked 76-135
· Quad 3: Home vs. teams ranked 76-160 / Neutral vs. teams ranked 101-200 / Road vs. teams ranked 136-240
· Quad 4: Home vs. teams ranked 161-351 / Neutral vs. teams ranked 201-351 / Road vs. teams ranked 241-351
Gonzaga and Baylor were no-brainers to occupy two of the top spots, but there are arguments to made for multiple teams for the two remaining number one seeds.
Both Michigan and Villanova have lost just once this season, although the Wildcats haven’t played since December 23 due to COVID-19 issues within the program. Villanova’s lone loss came to Virginia Tech in overtime, and a road win over Texas looms large with the Longhorns also in contention for a top seed. Michigan suffered its first loss at Minnesota last weekend, but the Wolverines have three wins in each of quad 1 and quad 2.
While those two teams ended up getting the nod, Texas and Iowa are right on their heels. The Longhorns have a pair of huge road wins at Kansas and West Virginia, while both losses have come at home to Villanova and Texas Tech by a total of just six points. As for the Hawkeyes, they are 12-2 with their only losses coming to Gonzaga on a neutral floor and at Minnesota in overtime. Iowa does boast four quad 1 victories and a 7-2 mark against the top two quadrants.
The projections below are based on all games played through January 18, 2021. Following the bracket, I included a few thoughts on the last four in and first six out.
|REGION 1||REGION 2|
|1) Gonzaga||1) Baylor|
|16) Norfolk St. / Southern||16) Grand Canyon / So. Utah|
|9) Xavier||9) Rutgers|
|12) Toledo||12) Winthrop
|4) West Virginia||4) Alabama|
|13) Furman||13) Georgia St.|
|6) Virginia||6) Oregon|
|11) Drake||11) Indiana|
|3) Wisconsin||3) Clemson|
|14) Siena||14) Abilene Christian|
|7) Oklahoma St.||7) Virginia Tech|
|10) North Carolina||10) Oklahoma|
|2) Houston||2) Iowa|
|15) Cleveland St.
|REGION 4||REGION 3|
|1) Villanova||1) Michigan|
|16) Northeastern||16) Vermont|
|8) Purdue||8) USC|
|9) Boise St.||9) Seton Hall|
|5) Colorado||5) Texas Tech|
|12) Maryland / Utah St.||12) St. Bonaventure|
|4) Missouri||4) Creighton|
|13) Belmont||13) UAB|
|6) Louisville||6) UCLA|
|11) Florida / Marquette
||11) Michigan St.|
|3) Ohio St.||3) Kansas|
|14) Liberty||14) South Dakota St.|
|7) Houston||7) Florida St.|
|10) Arkansas||10) BYU|
|2) Texas||2) Tennessee|
|15) Colgate||15) UC Irvine|
Last Four In:
Florida – Following the frightening collapse of Keyontae Johnson, the Gators didn’t play for over two weeks, and as a result they’ve logged just 10 games so far. A home victory against LSU is Florida’s lone win in the top two quadrants, while a home loss to Kentucky currently sits in quad 3.
Maryland – The Terps are just 2-5 in the Big Ten, but those two victories came on the road at Illinois and at Wisconsin, both of which qualify as high quad 1 wins. For now, that might be enough to cling to a spot in the field, but a combined 2-6 mark in the top two quadrants makes that grip a tenuous one.
Marquette – Similar to Maryland, Marquette, has a pair of really strong wins (home vs. Wisconsin, at Creighton) to anchor its profile, but there isn’t much else. A home victory over Providence helps a bit, but a 3-6 mark against quad 1 and 2 and a NET rating in the mid-60s provide reason for concern.
Utah State – The Aggies have been a surprise in the Mountain West and are tied atop the league with Boise State at 8-0 following two wins over fellow bubbler San Diego State. Six of their 10 D-1 victories fall in quad 4, but they are in the mid-40s in the NET.
First Six Out:
San Diego State – Following a season-opening win against UCLA, things haven’t gone quite as well for the Aztecs, who dropped a pair of road games at Utah State and lost at home to BYU and Colorado State. A 4-4 mark against the top two quadrants is solid, but it didn’t make sense to put them in over a team that just beat them twice.
Stanford – A neutral court win over Alabama continues to look better and better, but Stanford is just 2-5 in quad 1 and 2 opportunities. A NET rating in the low 60s doesn’t help matters either.
Pittsburgh – The Panthers have played just nine games, but they have managed to sweep Syracuse while picking up a road win at Northwestern. That said, a home loss to St. Francis (PA) is tough to overlook.
Duke – With just eight games played, Duke is an interesting case right now. The talent is there, but Duke has lost both of its quad 1 contests, while a road win at Notre Dame is the best one on the Devils’ profile. This is definitely a team that can improve its position dramatically, but for now, there just isn’t enough there to warrant inclusion.
Wichita State – The Shockers are off to a 4-1 start in the American, including a sweep of Tulsa. A road win at Ole Miss falls in quad 2, but like a number of fellow bubblers, Wichita State hasn’t notched any wins over teams in the at-large conversation.
Richmond – An early road win at Kentucky doesn’t hold nearly the weight the Spiders would have expected to start the season, and neither of their other two victories in quad 1 and 2 have come against at-large contenders. A home loss to Hofstra looms in quad 4 as well.
Big Ten (11): Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin
Big 12 (7): Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia
ACC (6): Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Big East (6): Connecticut, Creighton, Marquette, Seton Hall, Villanova, Xavier
SEC (6): Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Missouri, Tennessee
Pac-12 (4): Colorado, Oregon, UCLA, USC
Atlantic 10 (2): Saint Louis, St. Bonaventure
Mountain West (2): Boise State, Utah State
West Coast (2): BYU, Gonzaga
America East: Vermont
Atlantic Sun: Liberty
Big Sky: Southern Utah
Big South: Winthrop
Big West: UC Irvine
Conference USA: UAB
Horizon: Cleveland State
MEAC: Norfolk State
Missouri Valley: Drake
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Southland: Abilene Christian
Summit: South Dakota State
Sun Belt: Georgia State
WAC: Grand Canyon
Follow Andy on Twitter (@andybottoms) for more thoughts on college hoops and to receive an update whenever new brackets are posted.
Filed to: 2020-2021 Bracketology