Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of March 9, 2022

  • 03/09/2022 10:19 am in

Six more automatic bids were handed out on Tuesday, including one that was given to a team who didn’t even play in its conference championship game, as Bellarmine’s win in the A-Sun gave regular season champ Jacksonville State the chance to go dancing. Outside of that, Bryant, Gonzaga, and South Dakota State each followed up their regular season titles by winning their respective conference tournaments as well. The other bids went to Delaware from the CAA and Wright State from the Horizon League.

There are still 21 auto-bids left to hand out, although just one of those will be awarded on Wednesday, as Colgate hosts Navy in the Patriot League final.

Outside of that, there are a few bubble teams in action on Wednesday, particularly in the ACC where Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, and Virginia all take the floor. In the Big East, Xavier desperately needs to avoid a loss to Butler in their opener.

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

Gonzaga took care of business and avenged its loss to Saint Mary’s in the WCC Finals on Tuesday. The Zags have all but locked up the top overall seed at this point.

Baylor and Arizona remain entrenched as two of the other one seeds, leaving a close race for the fourth top seed between Auburn and Kansas with Kentucky the only other team who really has a shot at earning a spot on the top line.

The Tigers are 27-4 on the season with a 8-4 mark in Q1 games, a 14-4 record in the top two quadrants, and a 8-3 record in true road games. Kansas is 25-6 overall and boasts a 10-5 record in Q1 and is 17-6 against the top two quadrants. The Jayhawks are 6-4 in true road games and rank ahead of Auburn in KPI and Sagarin, while the Tigers are better in Strength of Record, BPI, and KenPom. For now, I’m giving Auburn the slight edge since they have no losses outside of Q1 as well as a better road record, but KU certainly has a compelling argument of its own. Their performances in their respective conference tournaments will help determine whether one (or potentially both) of them will end up with a one seed.

The Bracket

The projections below are based on all games played through March 8, 2022. Following the bracket, I included a few thoughts on the last four in and first four out.

Portland – March 17/19 Fort Worth – March 17/19
1) Gonzaga 1) Baylor
16) Bryant / Nicholls St. 16) Georgia St.
8) Boise St.
8) Marquette
9) TCU 9) San Diego St.
Portland – March 17/19 Buffalo – March 17/19
5) Houston
5) Saint Mary’s
12) South Dakota St. 12) Rutgers / Wyoming
4) UCLA 4) Providence
13) Vermont 13) Toledo
Pittsburgh – March 18/20 Indianapolis – March 17/19
6) Iowa 6) LSU
11) Xavier 11) Loyola Chicago
3) Tennessee 3) Purdue
14) Montana St. 14) New Mexico St.
Pittsburgh – March 18/20 Indianapolis – March 17/19
7) USC 7) Colorado St.
10) Michigan 10) Miami (FL)
2) Villanova 2) Kentucky
15) Long Beach St.
15) Jacksonville St.
Greenville – March 18/20 San Diego – March 18/20
1) Auburn 1) Arizona
16) Alcorn St. / Wright St. 16) Norfolk St.
8) Iowa St. 8) Michigan St.
9) San Francisco 9) North Carolina
Milwaukee – March 18/20 Buffalo – March 17/19
5) Connecticut 5) Texas
12) Notre Dame / SMU 12) North Texas
4) Illinois 4) Arkansas
13) Iona 13) Chattanooga
San Diego – March 18/20 Milwaukee – March 18/20
6) Ohio St. 6) Alabama
11) Davidson
11) Wake Forest
3) Texas Tech 3) Wisconsin
14) Princeton 14) Colgate
Greenville – March 18/20 Fort Worth – March 17/19
7) Seton Hall 7) Murray St.
10) Memphis 10) Creighton
2) Duke 2) Kansas
15) Longwood 15) Delaware

Last Four In:

Wyoming – The Cowboys are just 3-4 in their last seven games after starting the season 21-3, but they picked up their fourth overtime win of the season on Saturday against Fresno State, which allowed them to hold onto a spot heading into the MWC tournament. Wyoming has four Q1 wins, with the best two coming at home against Boise State and Colorado State. A pair of quad 3 losses (Stanford on a neutral floor and at New Mexico) and some poor marks in the predictive metrics (BPI: 103, Sagarin: 84) are the biggest blemishes on Wyoming’s profile. The Cowboys open MWC tournament play against UNLV in what will essentially be a road game against a team that beat them by seven points less than a week ago. A win there provides some breathing room, while a loss will make for a long few days of waiting.

Notre Dame – Despite finishing 15-5 in the ACC, the Irish aren’t totally safe as championship week begins. They are just 4-8 in the top two quadrants with only three wins against the at-large field (vs. Kentucky, at Miami, vs. North Carolina). A Q3 loss at Boston College doesn’t help matters, but a 7-5 mark in true road games certainly does. Ultimately the overall lack of quality wins in a down ACC is the biggest issue, and a quarterfinal win over Virginia Tech or Clemson won’t materially change that. Still, one ACC tournament win feels like a must at this point.

Rutgers – The Scarlet Knights bounced back to win at Indiana and then held off a late Penn State run at home to earn the four seed in the Big Ten tournament. They now have six Quad 1 victories, but they are hovering just outside the top 75 of the NET, which would be the lowest ever for an at-large team. A three-game November losing streak (at DePaul, vs. Lafayette, at UMass) accounts for three of Rutgers’ four worst losses with the Lafayette game falling in Quad 4. Still, Rutgers has a slew of solid home wins to go with road wins in Madison and Bloomington. Despite those great victories, Rutgers doesn’t boast great marks in the resume or quality metrics. The Knights will almost surely face Iowa in the quarters, and a win there would all but lock up a bid.

SMU – After holding serve at home against Cincinnati and Tulane, the Mustangs remain right on the cutline. A 5-5 mark in the top two quadrants is solid, but SMU has one loss in Q3 and another in Q4, both of which came on back-to-back days in November. The sweep of Memphis helps for bubble purposes, but they may need to beat the Tigers again in the semis to earn a spot in the field. First, they’ll need to get by Wichita State or Tulsa on Friday.

First Four Out:

VCU – The committee’s comments on taking injuries into account would seem to be good news for VCU, given that the Rams went just 4-4 in games without Ace Baldwin earlier this season. VCU’s resume metrics are strong, thanks in part to a 9-2 mark in true road games. However, just one of the Rams’ six Q1/Q2 victories have come against an at-large caliber team (at Davidson), with a one-point road win at Dayton the other Q1 victory. A potential semifinal matchup with the Flyers in the A-10 tournament would be a huge opportunity for both teams.

BYU – The Cougars blew out LMU in their first WCC tournament game but subsequently lost to San Francisco by double-digits, leaving a long wait until Selection Sunday. They have seven victories in the top two quadrants, with three of those coming against at-large teams in today’s projected field. That being said, BYU also has four losses against teams not in the at-large picture, including a Q4 loss to Pacific. Thanks in part to a poor BPI, the quality metrics aren’t particularly compelling, although to be fair the resume metrics don’t compare well to other bubble teams either. The Cougars do have 10 road/neutral wins though and are a team worth a closer look over the remainder of the week.

Indiana – One win last week likely would have kept the Hoosiers in the field, but they lost to Rutgers and Purdue by a combined five points. They now have three Q1 victories thanks to Notre Dame’s ascension into the top 50 of the NET, but they are just 6-11 in the top two quadrants with the Rutgers loss falling just inside of Q3. A sub-300 non-conference strength of schedule, a 3-8 road record, and resume metrics that are worse than other bubble teams certainly don’t help matters. The quality metrics are decent though despite IU sitting at just 11-12 in Q1-3. Thursday’s date with Michigan is a must-win, and I’m inclined to believe IU needs at least two wins to play its way back into the field.

Florida – The Gators staged a late comeback to steal a win at Vanderbilt last week, but they were unable to back that up with a win over Kentucky. Florida boasts Q1 wins over Auburn and Ohio State, but those are the Gators’ only victories over teams in the at-large picture. Nine of their 12 losses fall in Q1, but a Q4 home loss to Texas Southern looms large. Florida opens SEC tournament play against fellow bubbler Texas A&M, and a win there would get them another crack at Auburn.

Conference Breakdown:

Big Ten (8): Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin

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

Big 12 (6): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Texas, Texas Tech, TCU

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

ACC (5): Duke, Miami (FL), North Carolina, Notre Dame, Wake Forest

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

American (3): Houston, Memphis, SMU

Pac-12 (3): Arizona, UCLA, USC

West Coast (3): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, San Francisco

America East: Vermont

Atlantic 10: Davidson

Atlantic Sun: Jacksonville State

Big Sky: Montana State

Big South: Longwood

Big West: Long Beach State

Colonial: Delaware

Conference USA: North Texas

Horizon: Wright State

Ivy: Princeton

MAAC: Iona

MAC: Toledo

MEAC: Norfolk State

Missouri Valley: Loyola Chicago

Northeast: Bryant

Ohio Valley: Murray State

Patriot: Colgate

Southern: Chattanooga

Southland: Nicholls State

SWAC: Alcorn State

Summit: South Dakota State

Sun Belt: Georgia State

WAC: New Mexico State

BOLD = Earned automatic bid

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