Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of March 10, 2022
Even though only one automatic bid was handed out on Wednesday, it was certainly an eventful day on the bubble, as Wake Forest and Xavier both dropped overtime games in their respective conference tournaments. Other notable results included Virginia Tech draining a 3-pointer at the horn to beat Clemson in OT and Iona losing to Rider in the MAAC tournament, which has the Gaels ticketed for the NIT.
As you might suspect, there will be more on Wake and Xavier later in this post, but coming into Wednesday, both teams were just clear of the last four in. And even though both losses came to teams clearly outside of the at-large picture, it’s a good reminder that the committee looks at the entire body of work, which in my view means they aren’t going to drop more than a few spots on the seed list for now. That being said, they are in a precarious position and are at risk of being passed by other teams or bumped by bid thieves as championship week rolls along.
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
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 15-4 record in the top two quadrants, and a 8-3 record in true road games. Kansas is 25-6 overall and boasts a 9-5 record in Q1 and is 16-6 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 projections below are based on all games played through March 9, 2022. Following the bracket, I included a few thoughts on the last four in and first four out.
|WEST (SAN FRANCISCO)||SOUTH (SAN ANTONIO)|
|Portland – March 17/19||Fort Worth – March 17/19|
|1) Gonzaga||1) Baylor|
|16) Bryant / Nicholls St.||16) Georgia St.|
|8) Boise St.
|9) TCU||9) San Diego St.|
|Portland – March 17/19||Buffalo – March 17/19|
||5) Saint Mary’s|
|12) South Dakota St.||12) North Texas
|4) UCLA||4) Providence|
|13) Vermont||13) Toledo|
|Pittsburgh – March 18/20||Indianapolis – March 17/19|
|6) Iowa||6) LSU|
|11) Notre Dame||11) Loyola Chicago|
|3) Tennessee||3) Purdue|
|14) Montana St.||14) Longwood|
|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.|
|EAST (PHILADELPHIA)||MIDWEST (CHICAGO)|
|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) SMU / Wake Forest||12) Rutgers / Xavier|
|4) Illinois||4) Arkansas|
|13) New Mexico St.||13) Chattanooga|
|San Diego – March 18/20||Milwaukee – March 18/20|
|6) Ohio St.||6) Alabama|
|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) Saint Peter’s||15) Delaware|
Last Four In:
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 6-5 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.
Xavier – The committee no longer formally places additional weight on the final 10-12 games of the season, and the Musketeers are hoping they are true to their word after going 2-8 down the stretch, culminating in a late collapse and OT loss to Butler. That said, Xavier does still have five Q1 victories and is 9-11 in the top two quadrants with a pair of Q3 losses. Nine of their 13 total losses fall in quad 1, and they have five wins over at-large teams in the field. None of their metrics stand out in one way or the other, but it’s shaping up to be a long few days of waiting for the Muskies.
Wake Forest – While Wake’s predictive metrics are solid, a closer look at its profile reveals a relative lack of quality wins. The Deacons’ lone Q1 victory came at Virginia Tech, and the two wins against at-large teams in the field both came at home against North Carolina and Notre Dame. Throw in a really poor non-conference strength of schedule, and Wake Forest’s grip on an at-large berth feels tenuous. They do have a .500 record away from home at 5-5 on the road and 2-2 in neutral court contests, but they also have a pair of quad 3 losses. Steve Forbes has done a tremendous job in his brief tenure in Winston-Salem, but there are plenty of reasons to believe they will end up on the outside looking in come Sunday. As with any team near the cutline, I’ll be taking a closer look at their resume in the coming days.
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 wins at Dayton and Vanderbilt the other Q1 victories. 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 (home), Ohio State (neutral), and Vanderbilt (road), but the first two 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.
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
Conference USA: North Texas
Horizon: Wright State
MAAC: Saint Peter’s
MEAC: Norfolk State
Missouri Valley: Loyola Chicago
Ohio Valley: Murray State
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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Filed to: 2021-2022 Bracketology