Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of February 28, 2023

  • 02/28/2023 9:07 am in

With just one week left in the regular season for the major conferences, there is still some intrigue on the one line.

Alabama and Houston were the top two teams during the committee’s reveal on February 18th, and neither has lost since then. For now, I’ve left them in the top two spots, but Kansas is making a compelling case to pass one, if not both, of them. Since the reveal, the Jayhawks, who the committee slotted at fourth overall, have beaten Baylor and West Virginia at home with a road win at TCU sandwiched in between. As a result, KU now boasts 15 Q1 wins, including six in Q1A. While the committee didn’t indicate how much separation there was among those top teams, the gap between Houston and Kansas has to be getting pretty slim by now.

Following Purdue’s home loss to Indiana, the other area of intrigue surrounds the fourth number-one seed. I still believe the Boilers have the edge over UCLA for various reasons. Purdue is 9-4 in Q1 with a 5-2 mark in Q1A, while UCLA is 7-4 and 2-2, respectively. The Boilers are 11-3 in road/neutral games compared to 10-4 for UCLA, and Purdue has eight wins against the at-large field whereas UCLA has just four. As a result, the Boilers rank higher in the results-based metrics, while UCLA has the edge in the predictives. That being said, Purdue can’t afford to stumble in games at Wisconsin and home against Illinois, because UCLA welcomes the Arizona schools to LA this weekend where a sweep could bolster their profile.

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 27, 2023. Following the bracket, I included my current last four in and first six out.

Birmingham – March 16/18 Birmingham – March 16/18
1) Alabama 1) Houston
16) Alcorn St. / F. Dickinson 16) Youngstown St.
8) Illinois
8) Iowa
9) FAU 9) Missouri
Orlando – March 16/18 Albany – March 17/19
5) Saint Mary’s
5) TCU
12) Southern Miss. 12) VCU
4) Xavier 4) Indiana
13) Iona 13) Toledo
Des Moines – March 16/18 Columbus – March 17/19
6) Northwestern 6) Maryland
11) Arizona St. / Mississippi St. 11) Auburn
3) Kansas St. 3) Marquette
14) UC Irvine 14) Furman
Sacramento – March 16/18 Denver – March 17/19
7) Duke 7) Kentucky
10) Memphis 10) Nevada
2) Arizona 2) Baylor
15) E. Washington
15) Kennesaw St.
Columbus – March 17/19 Des Moines – March 16/18
1) Purdue 1) Kansas
16) Howard / Texas A&M-CC 16) Morehead St.
8) Arkansas 8) Providence
9) Pittsburgh 9) Rutgers
Albany – March 17/19 Orlando – March 16/18
5) Miami (FL) 5) San Diego St.
12) Bradley 12) Oral Roberts
4) Connecticut 4) Virginia
13) Hofstra 13) Utah Valley
Greensboro – March 17/19 Greensboro – March 17/19
6) Iowa St. 6) Creighton
11) NC State
11) Boise St. / Wisconsin
3) Tennessee 3) Gonzaga
14) Yale 14) Colgate
Denver – March 17/19 Sacramento – March 16/18
7) Michigan St. 7) Texas A&M
10) USC 10) West Virginia
2) Texas 2) UCLA
15) UNC-Asheville 15) Vermont

Last Four In:

Mississippi State – With West Virginia winning at Iowa State on Monday, the Mountaineers have escaped Dayton for now, but that also meant I needed to figure out who would slide down into one of the last four in. It came down to a few teams, but the Bulldogs will land here for now. They have four Q1 wins, including a neutral court victory over Marquette, a win at Arkansas, and home wins over TCU and Texas A&M, but their results-based metrics lagged behind the other teams I considered. MSU feels relatively safe for now, and if they can take care of business in games versus South Carolina and on the road at Vanderbilt they should solidify their case.

Boise State – I’d consider the Broncos a bit safer than the next two teams listed here, thanks partly to a 9-5 mark in the top two quadrants and solid metrics. However, just two of those wins have come against teams on the right side of the cut line, and Boise State is saddled with a pair of Q3 losses. This sets up to be a huge week for the Broncos, as they host San Diego State before traveling to Utah State for the regular season finale.

Wisconsin – The Badgers have now alternated losses and wins over their last nine games, as they continue to tread water on the bubble. They boast six Q1 wins, including road wins at Marquette and Iowa, which presumably will mean a lot to the committee. The predictive metrics are poor though, and they are just 11-12 in Q1-3. Wisconsin has a huge opportunity to make a statement when Purdue comes to Madison this week before they finish up at Minnesota.

Arizona State – A miracle shot gave the Sun Devils a massive road win at Arizona and vaulted them back into the field. ASU is now 9-8 in the top two quadrants, with several of those victories coming in road/neutral games where they are 10-4. A Q4 overtime loss at Texas Southern looms large, but the Sun Devils can bolster their case with games at UCLA and USC this weekend.

First Six Out:

North Carolina – For now, the Heels picked up that elusive Q1 win over Virginia, but the Cavaliers may not qualify as a Q1 win for long. Regardless, UNC is now just 1-8 in Q1 with two wins over at-large teams in this week’s field to go with two wins over teams on the outside looking in (Michigan and Clemson). The predictive metrics are solid, but the results-based metrics are lagging, which isn’t a great sign for their selection hopes. The Heels avoided disaster by beating Notre Dame and Florida State on the road, setting up a huge game against Duke on Saturday.

Charleston – At 27-3, the Cougars did what they needed to do down the stretch as they head into the CAA Tournament. Charleston is an impressive 11-2 away from home with a pair of Q2 wins over Virginia Tech and Kent State. Without a true marquee win, a run to the CAA Finals feels like a must, but if they get there and lose, Charleston would be 29-4 and a tough team to leave out.

Michigan – The Wolverines stayed alive with an overtime win over Wisconsin on Sunday. Even so, Michigan is just 3-10 in Q1, but the Wolverines do have nine wins in the top two quadrants, including seven over at-large teams in this week’s field. Road wins at Rutgers and Northwestern loom large, but so does a Q4 home loss to Central Michigan. This week features a pair of massive road opportunities against Illinois and Indiana.

Utah State – The Aggies have gaudy results-based metrics but just one victory over an at-large team in this week’s field (Nevada) and no wins in Q1. Utah State has racked up six Q2 victories, but they have one loss each in Q3 and Q4 to weight them down. Their NET ranks among the top 30, and a 9-5 road/neutral mark also helps. The Aggies hit the road to take on UNLV before hosting Boise State to close the season.

Clemson – Contrary to popular belief, losing at Louisville does not automatically eliminate the Tigers from consideration. Still, they do have two losses each in Q3 and Q4, which might prove hard to overcome. On the other hand, Clemson is 4-2 in Q1 and 7-4 in the top two quadrants, including a win over Duke, a sweep of NC State, and a road win at Pitt. An incredibly poor non-conference strength of schedule doesn’t help matters either, but Clemson still has a chance if they can win at Virginia and then beat Notre Dame at home.

Oklahoma State – Monday’s loss to Baylor leaves the Cowboys just two games over .500, which history suggests is a deal-breaker. That leaves them on the outside looking in for now, which means they have to win at Texas Tech on Saturday and then win at least one game in the Big 12 tournament.

Conference Breakdown:

Big Ten (9): Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin

SEC (8): Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas A&M

Big 12 (7): Baylor, Iowa St., Kansas, Kansas St., TCU, Texas, West Virginia

ACC (5): Duke, Miami (FL), North Carolina State, Pittsburgh, Virginia

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

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

Mountain West (3): Boise State, Nevada, San Diego State

American (2): Houston, Memphis

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s

Atlantic 10: VCU

America East: Vermont

Atlantic Sun: Kennesaw State

Big Sky: Eastern Washington

Big South: UNC-Asheville

Big West: UC Irvine

Colonial: Hofstra

Conference USA: Florida Atlantic

Horizon: Youngstown State

Ivy: Yale

MAAC: Iona

MAC: Toledo

MEAC: Howard

Missouri Valley: Bradley

Northeast: Fairleigh Dickinson

Ohio Valley: Morehead State

Patriot: Colgate

Southern: Furman

Southland: Texas A&M-CC

SWAC: Alcorn State

Summit: Oral Roberts

Sun Belt: Southern Miss

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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