Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of February 8, 2022

  • 02/08/2022 10:27 am in

With a few teams really struggling of late, it’s a good time to remind everyone that the committee doesn’t give extra weight to the last 10 or 12 games as they did up until the late 2000s. So even though teams like LSU and Iowa State have taken on water in recent weeks, the key wins they racked up earlier in the season are still bolstering their respective cases.

With LSU, the Tigers have now dropped six of seven and have really struggled without Xavier Pinson. However, their metrics are still strong, particularly the predictive ones. They also have four Quad 1 wins, which many teams near them on the seed list will struggle to match. They do have a Q3 loss and have struggled in true road games, but strong home wins over Kentucky and Tennessee as well as victories against Wake Forest (neutral) and Florida (road) still carry some weight.

Iowa State got off to a 12-0 start with a neutral court wins over Memphis and Xavier as well as a home victory against Iowa and a road win at Creighton, but the Cyclones have gone just 4-7 since then. Still, they have added Big 12 wins over Texas Tech and Texas with no bad losses. The metrics aren’t nearly as kind to Iowa State as they are to LSU, but six Quad 1 victories provide a solid foundation for their tournament profile.

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 remain the clear-cut top two teams on the seed list. The Tigers’ lone loss came in double-OT against UConn, while they are 7-1 in Quad 1 and 5-0 in Quad 2. Auburn is also 7-0 in true road games and is a combined 10-1 in road/neutral contests.

Gonzaga is 5-2 against Quad 1 with neutral court wins over Texas Tech and UCLA to go with a home victory over Texas and Saturday’s blowout win at BYU. The Zags are ranked first in all of the predictive metrics as well.

Purdue remains on the top line as well following wins over Minnesota and Michigan. The Boilers are 6-2 in Quad 1 games and 10-3 against the top two quadrants with an impressive 8-2 mark in road/neutral contests, including wins over Illinois, Villanova, Iowa, and North Carolina away from home.

The last spot came down to Kansas, Arizona, and Kentucky. The Jayhawks were slotted third on the seed list heading into Monday’s game at Texas, but their loss forced me to take another look at both sets of Wildcats.

Of the three, Kansas has the most wins in Quad 1 (7) and is 12-4 in the top two quadrants, while Arizona has just four Quad 1 victories and a 7-2 mark in the top two quadrants. Kentucky sits at 5-4 in Q1 and 2-0 in Q2, including that huge road win at Kansas as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Still, UK is just 5-4 in road/neutral games compared to 7-2 for Arizona and 8-3 for Kansas. Arizona has the fewest losses of the group, with both coming in Quad 1 games at Tennessee and at UCLA. From a metrics standpoint, KU rates the best of the three in results-based metrics, while Arizona grades out best on the predictive side. For now, I’m giving Arizona the nod, but the race for the top seeds is shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory.

The Bracket

The projections below are based on all games played through February 7, 2022. Following the bracket, I included a few thoughts on the last four in and first four out.

Please note that BYU and Miami (FL) were flip-flopped since BYU can play only at Thursday/Saturday sites.

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

Last Four In:

Creighton – Last week was a mixed bag for the Bluejays, who picked up a terrific road win at UConn but followed it up by being blown out at Seton Hall. They remain outside the top 70 of the NET and don’t rate well in the predictive metrics. Creighton has four Quad 1 wins (home vs. Villanova, at Connecticut, at Marquette, neutral court vs. BYU), but there is a huge drop-off after those. A 17-point loss at Butler as well as a home loss to Arizona State are the biggest blemishes, and the Bluejays need to avoid bad losses this week with a home game against Butler and a trip to Georgetown.

San Diego St. – In contrast to Creighton, SDSU rates well in the predictive metrics, but they have just two wins against at-large teams, which came against Saint Mary’s (neutral) and Colorado State (home). The Aztecs don’t have a Q3 or Q4 loss, but they are also just 1-4 in true road games. They have a pair of winnable games this week as they travel to San Jose State before taking on Air Force at home.

Oklahoma – The Sooners have now lost eight of their last 10 games, and while the committee doesn’t give extra weight to recent games, the sheer volume of losses is becoming an issue. They do have a combined six wins in the top two quadrants, including victories at home against Iowa State and Florida to go with a neutral court win over Arkansas and a road win at West Virginia. A home loss to Butler falls in Q3, and while OU’s predictive metrics are solid, the losses have taken a toll on the results-based metrics. The upcoming schedule is brutal, as the Sooners host Texas Tech and then head to Kansas this week.

Florida – It wasn’t always pretty, but the Gators picked up a pair of victories last week, winning at Missouri and then at home against Ole Miss in overtime. Five of their eight losses fall in Q1, but they are saddled with a Q4 home loss 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, especially now that Colin Castleton has returned from injury. Next up is a winnable home game against Georgia followed by a trip to Kentucky.

First Four Out:

North Carolina – The Heels boast solid metrics in both the results-based and predictive categories, but the reality is that they are 0-7 in Quad 1 and have no wins over teams in the at-large mix. All but one of those losses have come by at least nine points, as UNC has generally not been competitive when playing high-level teams. The Heels do own a solid 4-3 mark in true road games, but home victories over Virginia Tech and Michigan are their best overall. In a down ACC, there aren’t many chances to pick up great wins, but Tuesday’s game at Clemson is an important one for UNC.

West Virginia – The Mountaineers have now lost seven straight games, although all of them have come against teams in this week’s field with four of them coming on the road. While they don’t have a bad loss, they also don’t have a lengthy list of impressive wins. A home victory over UConn is solid, and West Virginia’s lone true road win (at UAB) also falls in Quad 1. Outside of those, there are a few “good but not great” wins over the likes of Oklahoma State, Clemson, and Kansas State. The Mountaineers need to get back on track this week, as they host Iowa State before traveling to Stillwater.

Belmont – Monday’s win over Austin Peay extended the Bruins’ winning streak to six games. They have four wins against the top two quadrants, including a road victory at Saint Louis, neutral court wins over Iona and Drake, and a home win over Chattanooga. Belmont also has no Q3 or Q4 losses, but they can ill afford another OVC loss, including this week’s games against Morehead State at home and on the road at Southeast Missouri State.

UAB – Road losses to Rice and Marshall don’t allow much room for error for the Blazers, who rate well in the predictive metrics. They are 4-3 on the road, and all four of those wins fall in the top two quadrants, including victories at Saint Louis, North Texas, and Louisiana Tech. UAB has three winnable games up next before the rematch with conference-leading North Texas later this month.

Conference Breakdown:

Big 12 (7): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, TCU

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

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

SEC (7): Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Tennessee

ACC (4): Duke, Miami (FL), Notre Dame, 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: Jacksonville State

Big Sky: Weber State

Big South: Longwood

Big West: Cal St. Fullerton

Colonial: UNC Wilmington

Conference USA: North Texas

Horizon: Cleveland State

Ivy: Yale

MAAC: Iona

MAC: Ohio

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: Appalachian State

WAC: New Mexico State

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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