Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of February 9, 2021
If last week was any indication, the last four-plus weeks of the season are going to be wild. Of the 24 teams on the top six seed lines of last week’s projection, 13 lost at least once over the last seven days. With so much uncertainty around COVID-related pauses and the associated issues with rescheduling games, it feels like that kind of carnage will be the norm.
The Big Ten continues to lead the way with nine teams in the field and another among the first five teams out. The biggest surprise from a conference perspective is the Mountain West, which lands four teams in the field this week. None of them are anywhere near a lock at this point, with all of them seeded in the 9-11 range. For this week, Utah State has the auto-bid thanks to a 11-2 mark in the league, but San Diego State is highest on the seed list after Boise State lost both games at Nevada last week. Of the four, Colorado State has the easiest remaining schedule, but that also means fewer chances for quality wins. I would be surprised if the MWC ended up landing four teams in the field, but three certainly sits within the realm of possibility.
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 continue to separate themselves from the rest of the field and maintain the top two spots on the overall seed list. Michigan also remains on the one line despite not having played a game since January 22nd.
There was, however, a change in the fourth one seed, as Ohio State won at Iowa and at Maryland. The Buckeyes lead the nation with nine quad 1 victories, including road wins at Illinois, Wisconsin, and Rutgers in addition to the two they picked up this week. For reference, Gonzaga and Illinois have the second-most quad 1 wins with seven each, while Baylor has six.
The projections below are based on all games played through February 8, 2021. Following the bracket, I included a few thoughts on the last four in and first five out.
|REGION 1||REGION 2|
|1) Gonzaga||1) Baylor|
|16) N.C. A&T / Prairie View A&M||16) Bryant / E. Washington|
|9) Minnesota||9) North Carolina|
|12) Winthrop||12) Toledo
|4) West Virginia||4) Iowa|
|13) UAB||13) Belmont|
|6) Virginia Tech||6) Kansas|
|11) Seton Hall||11) Indiana|
|3) Missouri||3) Virginia|
|14) South Dakota St.||14) UC Irvine|
|7) Oklahoma St.||7) UCLA|
|10) Drake||10) Connecticut|
|2) Illinois||2) Alabama|
||15) Grand Canyon|
|REGION 4||REGION 3|
|1) Ohio St.||1) Michigan|
|16) UMBC||16) Texas St.|
|8) Xavier||8) Florida|
|9) Boise St.||9) San Diego St.|
|5) Florida St.||5) Purdue|
|12) LSU / Oregon||12) St. Bonaventure|
|4) Texas Tech||4) Oklahoma|
|13) Colgate||13) Furman|
|6) Rutgers||6) Creighton|
|11) Utah St.
||11) Colorado St. / Stanford|
|3) Tennessee||3) Texas|
|14) Abilene Christian||14) Liberty|
|7) Colorado||7) Clemson|
|10) Loyola Chicago||10) Arkansas|
|2) Villanova||2) Houston|
|15) Cleveland St.||15) Northeastern|
Last Four In:
Stanford – Following a loss to USC early in the week, the Cardinal bounced back to sweep a home-and-home with Cal. They now have four wins against the top 50 of the NET, including a sweep of Arizona, a home win over UCLA, and a neutral court victory over Alabama. A 4-7 mark versus the top two quadrants and no losses in quad 3 or quad 4 should be good enough for now, but Stanford needs to take care of business at home against Utah and Colorado this week.
Colorado State – The Rams won both games at Wyoming last week, and they have already posted a 3-3 mark versus the other tournament-caliber squads in the Mountain West. Those three wins all fall in the top two quadrants, and a home loss to Boise State is the only one that falls outside of the top quadrant. That said, seven of the Rams’ 13 D-I victories fall in quad 4. Still, CSU should be able to stack wins down the stretch given a relatively soft schedule.
Oregon – The Ducks got off to a 9-2 start but suffered back-to-back bad home losses to Oregon State and Washington State before stopping the skid with a win over Washington. Both of the aforementioned losses fall in quad 3, and the Ducks’ two most notable wins came over Seton Hall on a neutral court and against Stanford at home. They do boast a winning 3-2 mark against the top two quadrants, but the upcoming schedule will make or break their case, starting with this week’s trip to the Arizona schools.
LSU – While there’s no shame in losing at Alabama, last week’s loss dropped the Tigers to 2-5 in quad 1 and 3-6 against the top two quadrants. LSU has just two victories against teams in the top 95 of the net, home against Arkansas and on the road at Ole Miss. While the Tigers don’t have any losses outside of the top two quadrants, the lack of quality wins has them on the cut line heading into games at Mississippi State and home against Tennessee this week.
First Five Out:
Richmond – An early road win at Kentucky doesn’t hold nearly the weight the Spiders would have expected to start the season, and a neutral court victory over Loyola Chicago helps for bubble purposes. Richmond also has a 5-1 mark in true road games and is 2-0 in neutral court games, both of which help to offset a quad 4 loss to La Salle. The Spiders are on a COVID pause and will be idle this week.
St. John’s – A six-game winning streak has propelled the Red Storm into the at-large mix. Last week’s home victory over Villanova provides a top-end victory, and a road win at UConn also falls in quad 1. Their two worst losses came in overtime at Georgetown and at home against Marquette by just two points. A road trip to Butler is the lone game for the Johnnies this week.
VCU – While just one of VCU’s losses falls outside of quad 1, the lack of quality wins is a larger issue. The Rams’ top two victories came in November when they knocked off Utah State and Memphis on a neutral court. The good news is that the latter part of VCU’s A-10 schedule features a number of games against the league’s top teams, so things will sort themselves out one way or another.
Maryland – The Terps are just 4-9 in the Big Ten, but all four of those victories fall in quad 1 thanks to wins at Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota as well as at home versus Purdue. The issue at this point is that Maryland is just 9-10 in D-1 contests, and while this year is assuredly unique, a sub-.500 mark doesn’t bode well for inclusion based on historical precedent. The Terps host Minnesota on Sunday in their only game of the week.
Western Kentucky – If they don’t win the auto-bid from Conference USA, the Hilltoppers have an interesting at-large profile. A road win at Alabama looms large, but outside of that, WKU’s top wins consist of a sweep of Marshall and a neutral court victory over Memphis. Rick Stansbury’s club just needs to keep winning, starting with this week’s games against Rice.
Big Ten (9): Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, 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
SEC (6): Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Missouri, Tennessee
Big East (5): Connecticut, Creighton, Villanova, Seton Hall, Xavier
Pac-12 (5): Colorado, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC
Mountain West (4): Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State, Utah State
Missouri Valley (2): Drake, Loyola Chicago
West Coast (2): BYU, Gonzaga
America East: UMBC
Atlantic Sun: Liberty
Atlantic 10: St. Bonaventure
Big Sky: Eastern Washington
Big South: Winthrop
Big West: UC Irvine
Conference USA: UAB
Horizon: Cleveland State
MEAC: North Carolina A&T
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Southland: Abilene Christian
SWAC: Prairie View A&M
Summit: South Dakota State
Sun Belt: Texas 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