Bracketology: Final NCAA tournament projection as of March 14, 2021
Sunday proved to be relatively uneventful as Houston blew out Cincinnati to eliminate the last remaining bid thief. As a result, I was able to spend the better part of the day diving into particular areas of the season list that were particularly close, including the final five seed and good chunks of the 7-9 lines.
In the end, there were five spots for some combination of Louisville, Syracuse, UCLA, Colorado State, Utah State, Drake, Wichita State, and Saint Louis. As is often the case with bubble teams, it tends to be easier to make arguments against each team as opposed to for them. I’m not sure any of them would really have a complaint if they were left out, but my last spot came down to Utah State and Wichita State with Saint Louis and Colorado State ending up at a the bottom of the above list.
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
The one seeds remain unchanged with Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan, and Illinois staying put on the top line, but the order changed slightly on Saturday. Illinois has jumped Michigan thanks to their win over Iowa and the Wolverines’ loss to Ohio State. Despite Alabama winning the SEC tournament, I felt Michigan’s overall body of work allowed them to stay on the top line.
The projections below are based on all games played through March 14, 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) Norfolk St. / Texas So.||16) Hartford|
|8) Loyola Chicago
|9) Rutgers||9) North Carolina|
|12) UC Santa Barbara||12) Winthrop
|4) Virginia||4) Purdue|
|13) North Texas||13) Ohio|
|6) Missouri||6) Colorado|
|11) UCLA / Utah St.||11) Michigan St.|
|3) Texas||3) Arkansas|
|14) Eastern Washington||14) Morehead St.|
|7) Oregon||7) Oklahoma|
|10) VCU||10) Virginia Tech|
|2) Ohio St.||2) Iowa|
|15) Grand Canyon
|REGION 4||REGION 3|
|1) Michigan||1) Illinois|
|16) App. St. / Mount St. Mary’s||16) Iona|
|8) San Diego St.||8) Florida|
|9) Georgia Tech||9) Connecticut|
|5) Creighton||5) Texas Tech|
|12) Oregon St.||12) Georgetown|
|4) West Virginia||4) Florida St.|
|13) UNC Greensboro||13) Colgate|
|6) USC||6) LSU|
|11) Drake / Syracuse
|3) Kansas||3) Oklahoma St.|
|14) Liberty||14) Abilene Christian|
|7) BYU||7) Clemson|
|10) Maryland||10) St. Bonaventure|
|2) Alabama||2) Houston|
|15) Oral Roberts||15) Cleveland St.|
Last Four In:
Michigan State is the last team on the seed list I feel is truly safe, which means that Louisville narrowly avoided the First Four. There is very little separation there in my eyes, so I wouldn’t be stunned to see the Cardinals in the First Four
UCLA – Bid thieves pushed the Bruins into the First Four. 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 moved into quad 2 thanks to their run in the Pac-12 tournament. 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.
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.
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, but losses by so many of their fellow bubble teams have likely helped their case. Given the injury situation, the First Four seems a likely (and logical) destination assuming the committee gets some good news about the availability of Tank Hemphill.
Utah St. – The Aggies came up short against San Diego State in the MWC final, which leaves them clinging to the final at-large bid. Friday’s victory over Colorado State propelled Utah State into the top 40 of the NET, and the Aggies now sit at 4-6 in the top two quadrants, which includes two wins apiece against Colorado State and San Diego State. They do have a pair of quad 3 losses, which may end up bumping them out of the field, but if there’s a second MWC team in the field, Utah State would be the choice.
First Five Out:
Wichita State – Had the Shockers taken care of Cincinnati and advanced to the AAC final against Houston, I’d like their at-large hopes a lot more. The loss to UC falls firmly in quad 3 and pushed Wichita State’s NET into the low 70s. It also probably doesn’t help that the Shockers also nearly lost to USF in the AAC tournament and Cincinnati subsequently got dismantled by Houston. A home win over Houston and a road win over Ole Miss are the Shockers’ only victories against the top 100 of the NET, which is partially a function of having some league games canceled. That being said, it feels like the general lack of quality wins might be too much to overcome.
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. Ultimately the argument here is based on both quad 3 losses coming right after that one-month COVID pause, so their inclusion is banking on the committee taking that into account and slotting them in the first four with a chance to prove they belong.
Colorado State – Following their semifinal loss to Utah State, the Rams are right on the cutline. They posted a 3-4 mark versus the other tournament-caliber squads in the Mountain West, and those three wins all fall in the top two quadrants. CSU has no losses outside of the top two quadrants, but a whopping 10 of the Rams’ 17 D-I victories fall in quad 4. To be fair, only one of those came against a non-conference foe. A closer look at their four quad 1 losses shows that CSU lost them all by at least 12 points.
Ole Miss – The Rebels missed out on a huge opportunity on Friday, falling to LSU in the SEC quarterfinals. Ole Miss has three quad 1 wins and a 7-9 mark against the top two quadrants, with a home win over Tennessee and a sweep of Missouri 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. For what it’s worth, they lost their two toughest non-conference games, which came at Dayton and home against Wichita State. This year is undoubtedly unique in terms of how non-con performance can be judged, but all five of their non-con wins fall in quad 4, leaving them at just 11-11 against the top three quadrants.
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, and as expected, they were passed up based on Friday’s results.
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 (5): Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State*, UCLA, USC
Big East (4): Connecticut, Creighton, Georgetown*, Villanova
Atlantic 10 (2): St. Bonaventure*, VCU
Missouri Valley (2): Drake, Loyola Chicago*
Mountain West (2): San Diego State*, Utah State
West Coast (2): BYU, Gonzaga*
America East: Hartford*
Atlantic Sun: Liberty*
Big Sky: Eastern Washington*
Big South: Winthrop*
Big West: UC Santa Barbara*
Conference USA: North Texas*
Horizon: Cleveland State*
MEAC: Norfolk State*
Northeast: Mount St. Mary’s*
Ohio Valley: Morehead State*
Southern: UNC Greensboro*
Southland: Abilene Christian*
SWAC: Texas Southern*
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.
Filed to: 2020-2021 Bracketology