Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of February 7, 2023

  • 02/07/2023 8:42 am in

Selection Sunday is now less than five weeks away, and the breakdown of bids by conference is starting to take shape. Here’s a quick look at the top 10 leagues per KenPom:

Big 12 – It’s hard to see any of the top six teams falling out at this stage, particularly since they are all among the top five seed lines. The question becomes which of Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and I suppose Oklahoma will make the field. I’d bank on at least one of them getting in, but getting to eight teams feels like a stretch.

Big Ten – Like the Big 12, the Big Ten landed eight teams in this week’s projections with a couple more waiting in the wings. With nine teams between 7-5 and 5-7 in the standings, parity is the name of the game. In contrast to the Big 12, the Big Ten has just one protected seed and a bunch in the 5-9 seed range. I’d set eight bids as the floor at this point with an outside shot at nine.

Big East – There’s a clear pecking order here and major separation in the standings once you get past the top six teams. Five of those are safely in the field with Seton Hall firmly in the bubble mix. There’s no way the league gets fewer than five or more than six barring an unexpected conference tournament run.

SEC – With six teams in the field and another three on the outside looking in, the SEC has a pretty wide range of outcomes at this point. Eight feels like a stretch, but I feel like one of the teams on the wrong side of the cutline today works its way into the field when it’s all said and done.

Pac-12 – UCLA and Arizona are locks, and USC is trending toward single-digit seed range. Outside of that, Oregon could make a push if they can beat UCLA and USC this weekend, while Arizona State needs to turn things around after losing five of its last six.

ACC – With seven teams in this week’s field, the ACC has the third most bids. but seven feels like the ceiling at this point. With multiple teams slotted as double-digit seeds already, it seems reasonable to expect that number to shrink by Selection Sunday.

MWC – The Mountain West is actually close to surpassing the ACC on KenPom, and the league boasts five teams in at-large consideration. It’s hard to see a scenario where all five go dancing, but four is definitely in play even though only one of those may end up as a single-digit seed.

AAC – Houston is a lock, and it’s really just a question of whether Memphis joins them in the field at this point. The conference tournament will be one to monitor for a potential bid thief.

WCC – It’s Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s at the top as usual, with no other at-large candidates.

C-USA – Bubble teams will be rooting hard for FAU to win the conference tournament since the Owls are the only at-large caliber team in the mix. In reality, they are looking like the only mid-major at-large candidate period, although there’s an outside shot Oral Roberts gets into that conversation from the Summit League.

Before we get to the bracket, here’s a quick refresher about how the NCAA selection committee classifies wins based on the NET rating:

· 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 Bracket

The projections below are based on all games played through February 6, 2023. Following the bracket, I included some quick notes on the last four in and first four out.

Columbus – March 17/19 Birmingham – March 16/18
1) Purdue 1) Alabama
16) Alcorn St. / F. Dickinson 16) Morehead St. / TX A&M-CC
8) Auburn
8) Maryland
9) New Mexico 9) USC
Orlando – March 16/18 Albany – March 17/19
5) Connecticut
5) Indiana
12) Oral Roberts 12) Liberty
4) Gonzaga 4) Virginia
13) Louisiana 13) Akron
Des Moines – March 16/18 Columbus – March 17/19
6) Illinois 6) Iowa
11) Clemson 11) Nevada / Oklahoma St.
3) Iowa St. 3) Xavier
14) UC Santa Barbara 14) Colgate
Greensboro – March 17/19 Denver – March 17/19
7) Creighton 7) Duke
10) Pittsburgh 10) Boise St.
2) Tennessee 2) Texas
15) Vermont
15) Youngstown St.
Des Moines – March 16/18 Birmingham – March 16/18
1) Kansas 1) Houston
16) UMES 16) Rider
8) Florida Atlantic 8) Missouri
9) Arkansas 9) Michigan St.
Albany – March 17/19 Sacramento – March 16/18
5) Rutgers 5) TCU
12) VCU 12) Utah Valley
4) Marquette 4) Saint Mary’s
13) Hofstra 13) Drake
Greensboro – March 17/19 Orlando – March 16/18
6) Miami (FL) 6) San Diego St.
11) Northwestern
11) Kentucky / Memphis
3) Kansas St. 3) Baylor
14) Princeton 14) Furman
Sacramento – March 16/18 Denver – March 17/19
7) NC State 7) Providence
10) West Virginia 10) North Carolina
2) UCLA 2) Arizona
15) E. Washington 15) UNC-Asheville

Last Four In:

Kentucky – A huge road win at Tennessee is keeping Kentucky in the field at this point, but despite improved play of late, the Wildcats are just 1-6 in Q1 with a Q4 home loss to South Carolina. Victories over Texas A&M and Florida help a bit for bubble purposes, as do strong predictive metrics. Thanks to some recent wins, the Wildcats are 7-6 in Q1/Q2, but a couple of marquee victories could provide much-needed breathing room.

Nevada – The Wolf Pack’s five best wins have all come at home, although they do have a 4-5 road mark. Nevada is 8-6 in the top two quadrants with a pair of Q1 wins. They also have no bad losses and strong results-based metrics, although their predictive metrics average out in the mid-50s.

Memphis – Following Saturday’s OT loss to Tulane, the Tigers are in a precarious position. They are 6-5 in the top two quadrants, but only one win came against a team that is safely in the field (Auburn). A 7-5 mark in road/neutral games certainly helps, as do results-based metrics in the mid-30s. The issue is that the AAC provides relatively few cracks at top-notch victories, which puts a ton of pressure on the two games versus Houston down the stretch.

Oklahoma State – Saturday’s win over TCU bumped the Cowboys onto the right side of the cut line. They are now 4-7 in Q1 and have six victories in the top two quadrants, including home wins over Iowa State, TCU, and West Virginia to go with a sweep of Oklahoma. The predictive metrics like the Pokes, but at just 9-9 in non-Q4 contests, there is still work to do as the Big 12 gauntlet rages on.

First Four Out:

Seton Hall – The Big East may still end us as a five-bid league, but the Pirates are making things interesting. They boast three solid Q1 wins, beating UConn at home, winning at Rutgers, and knocking off fellow bubbler Memphis on a neutral court. Even so, Seton Hall is just 5-8 in the top two quadrants with a Q3 loss to Siena. None of the team sheet metrics stand out one way or the other, but the Pirates have managed to go 5-4 in true road games. Wednesday’s date with Creighton is a huge opportunity to bolster their case.

Texas A&M – The Aggies have played extremely well since SEC play began, but a relatively poor non-conference strength of schedule and a lack of quality wins in non-conference play are working against A&M. They are 4-5 in the top two quadrants with a road win at Auburn, a home win over Missouri, and a sweep of Florida. Eight of the Aggies’ 16 victories fall in Q4, and they are also saddled with one loss in Q3 and another in Q4.

Wisconsin – The Badgers have fallen to 77th in the NET and have predictive metrics that are poor relative to other bubble teams. However, they are 4-6 in Q1, including impressive road wins at Marquette and Iowa. Wisconsin also has three Q2 wins and sits at 7-9 in the top two quadrants. Tyler Wahl’s injury will be considered by the committee, but it also isn’t a free pass for the games Wisconsin lost with him sidelined.

Utah State – The Aggies boast an incredibly odd resume, sitting at 0-3 in Q1 but 6-0 and 9-0 in Q2 and Q3, respectively.  Sounds great, until you scan over to Q4 where Utah State its just 3-2. While they have lost their three toughest road games in league play, the Aggies are still 8-4 in road/neutral games. Still, they will need to perform well in remaining home games against San Diego State, Nevada, and Boise State.

Conference Breakdown:

Big Ten (8): Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers

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

ACC (7): Clemson, Duke, Miami (FL), North Carolina, North Carolina State, Pittsburgh, Virginia

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

Big East (5): Connecticut, Creighton, Marquette, Providence, Xavier

Mountain West (4): Boise State, Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State

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

American (2): Houston, Memphis

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s

Atlantic 10: VCU

America East: Vermont

Atlantic Sun: Liberty

Big Sky: Eastern Washington

Big South: UNC Asheville

Big West: UC Santa Barbara

Colonial: Hofstra

Conference USA: Florida Atlantic

Horizon: Youngstown State

Ivy: Princeton

MAAC: Rider

MAC: Akron

MEAC: Maryland Eastern Shore

Missouri Valley: Drake

Northeast: Fairleigh Dickinson

Ohio Valley: Morehead State

Patriot: Colgate

Southern: Furman

Southland: Texas A&M-CC

SWAC: Alcorn State

Summit: Oral Roberts

Sun Belt: Louisiana

WAC: Utah Valley

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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