Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of January 25, 2022

  • 01/25/2022 9:27 am in

It’s hard to believe there are less than seven weeks until Selection Sunday, but here we are.

I got a number of questions last week related to why I seeded IU as low as I did, so I wanted to take a closer look at the Hoosiers’ profile. Following Sunday’s blowout loss to Michigan, Indiana now ranks 40th in the NET. The good news is that the Hoosiers sit at 2-2 in Quad 1 with wins over Purdue and Ohio State at home, and while victories over Notre Dame and Minnesota are solid as well, only one of them falls in Q2. The Hoosiers also have no losses outside the top two quadrants.

However, IU is just 3-5 in Q1/Q2 games, and eight of IU’s 14 wins fall in Quad 4 thanks to a horrible non-conference strength of schedule that ranks 339th out of 358 teams. A 1-4 mark in true road games doesn’t help, nor does the fact that three of IU’s losses have come against teams not currently in the at-large picture (Syracuse, Penn State, Michigan). Historically the committee has punished teams with either a poor non-conference schedule or a glaring lack of road wins, and unfortunately, the Hoosiers check both of those boxes. That ultimately limits their margin for error as we head into February.

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

One Seeds

Auburn and Gonzaga are the clear-cut top two teams on the seed list. The Tigers’ lone loss came in double-OT against UConn, while they are 6-1 in Quad 1 and 4-0 in Quad 2. Auburn is also 5-0 in true road games and is a combined 8-1 in road/neutral contests.

Gonzaga is 4-2 against Quad 1 with neutral court wins over Texas Tech and UCLA to go with home victories over Texas and BYU. To date, the Zags have played just one true road game, and nine of their 15 wins fall in Quad 4.

Despite back-to-back home losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, Baylor still has a strong profile. They lead the nation with seven Quad 1 victories and are a perfect 8-0 in road and neutral games.

The last spot on the top line came down to Arizona and Kansas. The Wildcats rank first in the NET, and while they have six combined wins in the top two quadrants, only one of those victories against a team safely in the field when they won at Illinois. They also drubbed Wyoming at home and beat Michigan on a neutral floor, but compared to others in the mix for a top seed, the depth of quality wins doesn’t quite stack up.

In contrast, Kansas now has six Quad 1 wins and a 10-2 mark against the top two quadrants following Monday’s double-OT win over Texas Tech. The Jayhawks have multiple solid road wins in league play and also knocked off Michigan State and Iona at neutral sites. The Dayton loss sits in Quad 2 but came on a last-second shot, and the volume of quality wins for KU helps to offset that blemish. For now, the Jayhawks get the nod.

The Bracket

The projections below are based on all games played through January 24, 2022. Following the bracket, I included a few thoughts on the last four in and first five out.

Greenville – March 18/20 Portland – March 17/19
1) Auburn 1) Gonzaga
16) New Orleans / Norfolk St. 16) Southern / UNC-Wilmington
8) Texas
8) West Virginia
9) Loyola Chicago 9) Creighton
Buffalo – March 17/19 Pittsburgh – March 18/20
5) Ohio St.
5) Alabama
12) Arkansas / Saint Mary’s 12) Oregon / Wyoming
4) Providence 4) Michigan St.
13) Toledo 13) Chattanooga
Indianapolis – March 17/19 Milwaukee – March 18/20
6) Marquette 6) Connecticut
11) Miami (FL) 11) Murray St.
3) Texas Tech 3) Houston
14) Princeton 14) Oakland
Milwaukee – March 18/20 San Diego – March 18/20
7) USC 7) Colorado St.
10) Florida St. 10) San Francisco
2) Wisconsin 2) Arizona
15) Weber St.
15) Seattle
Fort Worth – March 17/19 Fort Worth – March 17/19
1) Kansas 1) Baylor
16) Arkansas St. 16) Longwood
8) Iowa 8) Davidson
9) Wake Forest 9) Indiana
Portland – March 17/19 Buffalo – March 17/19
5) Iowa St. 5) Xavier
12) UAB 12) Iona
4) Kentucky 4) LSU
13) South Dakota St. 13) Vermont
Pittsburgh – March 18/20 San Diego – March 18/20
6) Tennessee 6) Illinois
11) San Diego St.
11) Boise St.
3) Villanova 3) UCLA
14) Wagner 14) Liberty
Greenville – March 18/20 Indianapolis – March 17/19
7) Seton Hall 7) BYU
10) TCU 10) Oklahoma
2) Duke 2) Purdue
15) Colgate 15) Cal St. Fullerton

Last Four In:

Saint Mary’s – The Gaels rank inside the top 30 of the NET, but they are 0-4 in their four toughest games with the best wins coming against Oregon and Notre Dame in Las Vegas, at Utah State, and home against Missouri State. A huge trip to San Francisco awaits this week, and a win there would help bolster their at-large credentials.

Oregon – After a 6-6 start, the Ducks have now won six straight after crushing Washington on Sunday night. They are 3-5 against the top two quadrants with road wins at UCLA and USC  as well as a home victory over SMU. A home loss to Arizona State doesn’t help matters, but with a pair of winnable home games this week, Oregon has a great chance to extend its winning streak.

Arkansas – The Hogs have been incredibly streaky this season. After starting 9-0, they dropped five of six but have since bounced back to win four straight, including a road win at LSU and Saturday’s overtime victory over Texas A&M. Arkansas’ profile is similarly inconsistent with a 4-3 mark against the top two quadrants, a pair of Q3 losses, and eight of its 14 wins falling in Quad 4. A road trip to Ole Miss and a home date with West Virginia await this week.

Wyoming – The Cowboys are now off to a 15-2 start (14-2 vs. D-I opponents), but their best wins have come at Utah State and at Grand Canyon. They rank just outside the top 30 of the NET, but there simply aren’t many quality wins on Wyoming’s profile yet. In their lone game against an at-large candidate, the Cowboys lost by nearly 30 at Arizona. Three of the Cowboys’ next four games come against teams in this week’s projected field.

First Five Out:

Florida – Monday’s blowout loss at Ole Miss pushed the Gators outside of this week’s projected field and dropped them 10 spots in the NET. Four of the Gators’ seven losses fall in Q1, but they are just 6-6 against the top three quadrants and lost at home to Texas Southern. A last-second win over Ohio State is Florida’s lone Quad 1 victory, but luckily the SEC will provide plenty of opportunities to move the needle if they can adjust to playing without the injured Colin Castleton.

North Carolina – Following a pair of blowout road losses at Miami and Wake Forest, the Heels are now 0-6 in Q1 opportunities and have just two wins (home vs. Michigan and Virginia Tech) against teams in the top 75 of the NET. With a few winnable games up next, UNC has a chance to get some momentum before the schedule gets tougher in early February.

Texas A&M – The Aggies lost to Kentucky and Arkansas last week by a combined nine points, leaving them with just two victories against top 100 teams in the NET (home vs. Arkansas and Notre Dame on a neutral floor). A&M heads to LSU this week before returning home to host South Carolina.

Mississippi State – After losing at Florida, the Bulldogs bounced back to beat Ole Miss on Saturday. Home victories over Alabama and Arkansas look great, but there isn’t much else there. MSU is 0-2 in true road games and owns a pair of Q3 losses. Two huge challenges await this week, as the Bulldogs travel to Kentucky and Texas Tech.

Notre Dame – The Irish are 8-1 over their last nine games to propel themselves into the at-large discussion. Notre Dame is 1-4 in Q1 games with the lone victory coming at home against Kentucky. A Q3 loss at Boston College is the biggest blemish on ND’s profile, but the Irish do have four true road wins. Their next three games are all at home, as they will host NC State, Virginia, and Duke.

Conference Breakdown:

Big 12 (8): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, West Virginia

Big Ten (7): Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin

Big East (7): Connecticut, Creighton, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova, Xavier

SEC (6): Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, LSU, Tennessee

ACC (4): Duke, Florida State, Miami (FL), Wake Forest

Mountain West (4): Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State, Wyoming

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

West Coast (4): BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, San Francisco

America East: Vermont

American: Houston

Atlantic 10: Davidson

Atlantic Sun: Liberty

Big Sky: Weber State

Big South: Longwood

Big West: Cal St. Fullerton

Colonial: UNC Wilmington

Conference USA: UAB

Horizon: Oakland

Ivy: Princeton

MAAC: Iona

MAC: Toledo

MEAC: Norfolk State

Missouri Valley: Loyola Chicago

Northeast: Wagner

Ohio Valley: Murray State

Patriot: Colgate

Southern: Chattanooga

Southland: New Orleans

SWAC: Southern

Summit: South Dakota State

Sun Belt: Arkansas State

WAC: Seattle

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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