Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of March 12, 2021

  • 03/12/2021 10:47 am in

Thursday was an absolutely wild day of college hoops with a ton of close games and a number of bubble teams going down. I’ll get into that more in the last four in and first five out sections below, but here’s a quick look at the key bubble games on Friday:

• Georgetown vs. Seton Hall – The Pirates needed overtime to knock off St. John’s, and while a win over Georgetown won’t move the needle much on their at-large profile, it’s certainly a game they cannot afford to lose.

• Ole Miss vs. LSU – The Rebels were one of few teams near the cutline who actually took care of business, and a win over the Tigers would give them a fourth win over a team in the projected field.

• Colorado State vs. Utah State – While Boise State lost their MWC tournament opener, these two teams did not, setting up a key bubble matchup with the winner both reaching the finals as well as picking up a quality win to bolster their resume.

• Pretty much any game in the AAC – Wichita State, SMU, and Memphis are all in action and need to win to stay in the mix.

In the meantime, teams like Louisville, UCLA, Boise State, Drake, and Saint Louis are forced to sit back, root against any potential bid thieves, and see what happens.

Over the next couple days, I plan to scrub the seed list multiple times, which will likely lead to a few tweaks along the way.

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

One seeds

The one seeds remain unchanged with Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan, and Illinois staying put on the top line. Gonzaga got a scare from BYU in the WCC Final but pulled away late to lock up the top overall seed. Baylor sits at second overall and faces off with Oklahoma State in the Big 12 semifinals on Friday.

The Wolverines dropped a pair of games last week, including a home loss to Illinois. The Illini picked up that win without Ayo Dosunmu, who came back over the weekend to help propel the team to another key road victory at Ohio State. Right now I still have Michigan slightly ahead of Illinois on the one line, but that gap is closing. Both teams start Big Ten tournament play on Friday.

It’s becoming harder and harder to envision a new team leapfrogging any of the current top seeds.

The Bracket

The projections below are based on all games played through March 11, 2021. Following the bracket, I included a few thoughts on the last four in and first five out.

Indianapolis Indianapolis
1) Gonzaga 1) Baylor
16) Norfolk St. / PV A&M 16) Hartford
8) Connecticut
8) San Diego St.
9) North Carolina 9) Rutgers
Indianapolis Indianapolis
5) USC
5) Villanova
12) Boise St. / Syracuse 12) Toledo
4) Virginia 4) Purdue
13) Winthrop 13) UC Santa Barbara
Indianapolis Indianapolis
6) Missouri 6) Oregon
11) Michigan St. 11) Wichita St.
3) Texas 3) Arkansas
14) Southern Utah 14) Morehead St.
Indianapolis Indianapolis
7) Oklahoma 7) Florida
10) St. Bonaventure 10) VCU
2) Ohio St. 2) Iowa
15) Grand Canyon
15) Drexel
Indianapolis Indianapolis
1) Illinois 1) Michigan
16) Appalachian St. / St. Peter’s 16) Mount St. Mary’s
8) LSU 8) Clemson
9) Virginia Tech 9) Loyola Chicago
Indianapolis Indianapolis
5) Tennessee 5) Texas Tech
12) Drake / UCLA 12) Western Kentucky
4) West Virginia 4) Florida St.
13) Liberty 13) Colgate
Indianapolis Indianapolis
6) Colorado 6) Creighton
11) Colorado St.
11) Louisville
3) Kansas 3) Oklahoma St.
14) UNC Greensboro 14) Abilene Christian
Indianapolis Indianapolis
7) BYU 7) Wisconsin
10) Maryland 10) Georgia Tech
2) Alabama 2) Houston
15) Oral Roberts 15) Cleveland St.

Last Four In:

UCLA – I’ll admit this may be an overreaction to the Bruins’ OT loss to Oregon State yesterday, but a closer look at their profile is telling. They have a home win over Colorado and a sweep of Arizona, who would at least be in the at-large picture if they weren’t serving a post-season ban. Outside of those victories though, there just isn’t much there with a 5-8 mark against the top two quadrants. The Oregon State loss falls in quad 3, while losses to Stanford and Washington State fall in quad 2. It’s worth noting that two of UCLA’s three worst defeats came in overtime, but the fact remains that they haven’t shown an ability to consistently beat good teams. Their metrics tend to be decent, and while I still think they will make the field, there isn’t a lot of breathing room at this point.

Drake – Playing without two of its best players, Drake fell in the finals of the Missouri Valley conference tournament last weekend. The Bulldogs only had to win one game to get there thanks to COVID issues for Northern Iowa, but Drake’s lone tournament win over Missouri State did provide a fifth quad 2 victory. A one-point overtime win over Loyola Chicago accounts for the Bulldogs’ lone victory over a team in the top 90 of the NET despite having those five quad 2 wins. A pair of quad 3 losses doesn’t help matters, and the lack of quality wins plus the injury situation makes Drake’s situation tenuous at best. That said, losses by so many of their fellow bubble teams have likely helped their case.

Syracuse – It wouldn’t be March if the Orange weren’t on the bubble, and they gave Virginia all it could handle in the ACC quarterfinals, losing on a last-second shot. To the extent that the eye test comes into play, Syracuse passed it. If you look beyond that though, the Orange have just one quad 1 win (at NC State), while home victories over Clemson, UNC, and Virginia Tech all sit in quad 2 along with two more wins over NC State. Syracuse’s only losses outside of the quad 1 both came to Pitt, and they finished the season just 2-7 in road games.

Boise State – The Broncos lost to Nevada for a third time this season and closed the season on a four-game losing skid. The committee says they don’t put additional weight on recent play, but it’s also hard to totally overlook. Boise State is 4-7 against the top two quadrants with road wins at BYU and Colorado State to go with a home sweep of Utah State. A late-season loss to Fresno State falls in quad 4 though. It’s going to be a long few days for Boise State. For now, I gave them the nod over Utah State due to the road win at BYU and the fact that they beat the Aggies twice. That being said, I think they get passed up before the weekend is over.

First Five Out:

Utah St. – The aforementioned Aggies took care of business against UNLV in their first game of the Mountain West tournament. Home victories over San Diego State (twice) and Colorado State account for all of Utah State’s wins in the top two quadrants. In total, the Aggies are a combined 3-5 in quads 1 and 2, but they also have a pair of quad 3 losses and have done very little away from home. Their semifinal matchup against Colorado State is one to watch on Friday.

Saint Louis – Thanks to a lengthy COVID pause, the Billikens played just 10 conference games, finishing at 6-4 in the Atlantic-10. Home victories over St. Bonaventure and LSU are among SLU’s four wins against the top two quadrants, but the Billikens were swept by Dayton (one of which falls in quad 3) and suffered another quad 3 loss at La Salle. They took care of UMass in their first A-10 tournament game but lost by 18 to St. Bonaventure in the semis. Coach Travis Ford mentioned SLU was trying to find another game for this week, but it doesn’t seem like that is going to materialize. Like Drake, Saint Louis has benefited while idle thanks to the series of losses from other bubble teams.

Ole Miss – The Rebels were only of few bubble teams to actually win on Thursday, as they beat South Carolina by 17 points, setting up a quarterfinal date with LSU. Ole Miss has three quad 1 wins and an 8-8 mark against the top two quadrants, with a home win over Tennessee and a sweep of Missouri are the only wins against at-large caliber teams. The Rebels have a pair of quad 3 losses and a total of five losses to teams not in the at-large picture.

Seton Hall – The Pirates needed overtime to break a four-game losing streak, but they managed to knock off fellow bubbler St. John’s in the Big East tournament. They do have three quad 1 wins, but with those wins coming at UConn while James Bouknight was out, at Penn State in overtime, and at Xavier there isn’t exactly a marquee win among them. Seton Hall is now two games over .500 at 14-12 with four losses to teams not in the at-large picture. With Georgetown upsetting Villanova, the Pirates don’t have a chance at another top-end win, but they do have a great chance to make the Big East Championship Game.

Xavier – After blowing a double-digit lead against Butler in the Big East tournament, the Musketeers are right on the cut line. They have a 1-3 mark in quad 1 and are 5-4 in quad 2, but all of their top 75 wins have come at home (Creighton, Oklahoma, Toledo, St. John’s). The overtime loss to Butler gave Xavier its first loss outside of the top two quadrants and dropped them into the 60s of the NET, but they have dropped four other games to teams not in the at-large picture and a total of six games to teams not in today’s projected field. I’ll take a closer look at Xavier’s profile as the week rolls on, but for now, they are on the outside looking in.

Conference Breakdown:

Big Ten (9): Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin

ACC (8): Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, North Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech

Big 12 (7): Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia

SEC (6): Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Missouri, Tennessee

Pac-12 (4): Colorado, Oregon, UCLA, USC

Big East (3): Connecticut, Creighton, Villanova

Mountain West (3): Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State

American (2): Houston, Wichita State

Atlantic 10 (2): St. Bonaventure, VCU

Missouri Valley (2): Drake, Loyola Chicago*

West Coast (2): BYU, Gonzaga*

America East: Hartford

Atlantic Sun: Liberty*

Big Sky: Southern Utah

Big South: Winthrop*

Big West: UC Santa Barbara

Colonial: Drexel*

Conference USA: Western Kentucky

Horizon: Cleveland State*

MAAC: Saint Peter’s

MAC: Toledo

MEAC: Norfolk State

Northeast: Mount St. Mary’s*

Ohio Valley: Morehead State*

Patriot: Colgate

Southern: UNC Greensboro*

Southland: Abilene Christian

SWAC: Prairie View A&M

Summit: Oral Roberts*

Sun Belt: Appalachian State*

WAC: Grand Canyon

* Earned 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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