Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of February 16, 2021
On Saturday, the Selection Committee revealed its top 16 teams, which is really the only glimpse we will get into the thought process of this year’s committee prior to Selection Sunday in less than four weeks. I had the correct 16 teams picked but swapped the seeds for Oklahoma and Missouri. The Tigers were a tough team to peg given a relatively strong profile coupled with less impressive predictive metrics, but I probably should have known better than to slot them on the three line. Either way, I wouldn’t have had Oklahoma on the four line, so I would have missed that one regardless.
The Big Ten boasted three of the top five overall seeds in Michigan, Ohio State, and Illinois, while Iowa checked in at 13th on the seed list. The Big 12 led the way with five team, although four of them fell from 10th-15th overall. In all, the committee clearly valued the volume of quality wins and tended to gravitate more toward teams with strong computer numbers.
While knowing the top 16 teams definitely helped my process this week, the fact that five of those 16 teams lost since the reveal shook things up a bit.
Before looking at the one seeds, here’s 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
To the surprise of no one, Gonzaga and Baylor were the top two overall seeds. Michigan checked in at third despite a lengthy layoff, and after a sluggish first half in Madison, the Wolverines hammered Wisconsin in the second half to strengthen their grip on a top seed. Ohio State blew out Indiana at home on Saturday, so the committee’s one seeds remain intact in this week’s projections.
The projections below are based on all games played through February 15, 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 / James Madison|
|9) Minnesota||9) Xavier|
|12) Belmont||12) W. Kentucky
|4) Texas Tech||4) Tennessee|
|13) Toledo||13) Winthrop|
|6) Virginia Tech||6) Kansas|
|11) Oregon||11) Indiana|
|3) Iowa||3) Virginia|
|14) Liberty||14) UNC Greensboro|
|7) Oklahoma St.||7) Florida|
|10) VCU||10) Boise St.|
|2) Villanova||2) Illinois|
||15) Grand Canyon|
|REGION 4||REGION 3|
|1) Ohio St.||1) Michigan|
|16) E. Washington||16) Texas St.|
|8) Arkansas||8) Colorado|
|9) UCLA||9) San Diego St.|
|5) Creighton||5) Missouri|
|12) Utah St.||12) St. Bonaventure / UConn|
|4) Florida St.||4) Texas|
|13) Colgate||13) UC Santa Barbara|
|6) Purdue||6) Rutgers|
|11) North Carolina
||11) Colorado St. / Drake|
|3) West Virginia||3) Oklahoma|
|14) Wright St.||14) Abilene Christian|
|7) Louisville||7) Clemson|
|10) Loyola Chicago||10) Seton Hall|
|2) Alabama||2) Houston|
|15) South Dakota St.||15) Siena|
Last Four In:
Colorado State – The Rams had both games canceled last week, so their status remains unchanged. They have already posted a 3-3 mark versus the other tournament-caliber squads in the Mountain West, and those three wins all fall in the top two quadrants, while 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. For now, CSU needs to take care of business on this week’s trip to Nevada.
Drake – A weekend split with Loyola Chicago gives the Missouri Valley a legitimate chance at two bids, but the Bulldogs will have to play without leading scorer Tank Hemphill for the rest of the regular season. There’s a chance he returns for the NCAA Tournament, but in the meantime, Drake has to avoid losses in its final five regular season games. From a resume perspective, the win over Loyola is the only one against a team in the top 85 of the NET. Road victories over Missouri State and Indiana State do fall in quad 2, but a 17-point road loss to Valparaiso looms in quad 3.
Connecticut – The Huskies have been playing without top scorer James Bouknight for the last eight games, but UConn did manage to pick up a huge road win without him at Xavier over the weekend. That victory falls in quad 1, as does a neutral court win over USC, but UConn’s seven other wins have all come against teams outside the top 100 of the NET. That leaves the Huskies teetering on the brink heading into a home date with Providence and a road trip to Villanova this week.
St. Bonaventure – Friday’s road loss at VCU knocked the Bonnies out of the A-10 auto-bid for this week’s projections. They sit just outside the top 40 of the NET with a quad 1 win at Richmond and a 4-3 mark in the top two quadrants with no losses in quad 3 or 4. A home victory over VCU helps for bubble purposes, but the lack of top-end wins is a potential issue. For this week, the Bonnies just need to avoid disaster with a home game against Fordham and a trip to George Washington.
First Five Out:
Stanford – The Cardinal were blown out by Colorado but did bounce back to beat Utah at home. 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 5-8 mark versus the top two quadrants is decent enough, but Stanford’s NET ranking is hovering in the mid-50s due in part to five of those losses coming by double-digits. A three-game road trip awaits, as Stanford visits the Washington schools as well as USC over the next week.
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 back from a COVID pause and head to VCU on Wednesday for a huge A-10 tilt.
Saint Louis – After losing their first two games following a lengthy COVID pause, the Billikens have bounced back to win three straight, including home wins over St. Bonaventure and Rhode Island. Half of SLU’s 10 wins fall in quad 4, and while a non-conference win over LSU is solid, a pair of quad 3 losses work to offset that. The Billikens need to keep stacking wins with La Salle coming to town this week followed by a trip to Dayton.
Ole Miss – A four-game winning streak has propelled the Rebels back into the at-large conversation. They are now a combined 6-6 in the top two quadrants, with the top wins coming at home against Tennessee and Missouri. Unfortunately, Ole Miss also has a pair of quad 3 losses, and both quad 2 losses came to teams not in the at-large picture. This week features home games against LSU and Mississippi State, and a sweep of those games feels necessary at this point.
Maryland – The Terps are just 5-9 in the Big Ten, but four of those five 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 10-10 in D-1 contests with all 10 losses falling in quad 1, and while this year is assuredly unique, a .500 mark doesn’t bode well for inclusion based on historical precedent. The Terps can change that with a pair of games against Nebraska this week followed by a trip to Rutgers.
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
Mountain West (4): Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State, Utah State
Pac-12 (4): Colorado, Oregon, UCLA, USC
Atlantic 10 (2): St. Bonaventure, VCU
Missouri Valley (2): Drake, Loyola Chicago
West Coast (2): BYU, Gonzaga
America East: Vermont
Atlantic Sun: Liberty
Big Sky: Eastern Washington
Big South: Winthrop
Big West: UC Santa Barbara
Colonial: James Madison
Conference USA: Western Kentucky
Horizon: Wright State
MEAC: North Carolina A&T
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Southern: UNC Greensboro
Southland: Abilene Christian
SWAC: Prairie View A&M
Summit: South Dakota State
Sun Belt: Texas State
WAC: Grand Canyon
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Filed to: 2020-2021 Bracketology