Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of March 7, 2023

  • 03/07/2023 8:14 am in

Championship Week is here, which means the potential for bid thieves will ratchet up in the coming days. With that in mind, here’s a quick look at the mid-major tournaments that bubble teams will closely monitor in the coming days.

• Conference USA – Of the traditional one-bid leagues, C-USA is the only one with a team considered a lock, as Florida Atlantic is going dancing regardless of what happens in Frisco, TX. North Texas and UAB won’t make it easy for FAU to claim the auto-bid, but bubble teams desperately need the Owls to run the table.

• Colonial – Top seed Hofstra was eliminated on Monday night, but the intrigue here is around Charleston. The Cougars are now 29-3 in D-I games, but they may not have the high-end wins to survive a loss to UNC-Wilmington in the final. Still, bubble teams would prefer Charleston just win the auto-bid on Tuesday night and remove any doubt.

• Summit – Oral Roberts was the only team to go unbeaten in conference play this season, and they are looking to close things out against North Dakota State in the Championship game on Tuesday. The Golden Eagles are 25-4 in D-I contests and have lost just once since late November, but outside of a home win over Liberty, the quality wins aren’t there for a legitimate at-large case should they come up short in the finals.

With Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s set to face off in the WCC Final, bubble teams can breathe a sigh of relief since will be no bid thief there. They will be rooting for a similar scenario in the AAC, where just Houston and Memphis are in the at-large mix. It’s too early to look at potential bid thieves in the major conferences, but we will track that once those get underway later this week.

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 March 6, 2023. Following the bracket, I included my current last four in and first five out.

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

Last Four In:

Utah State – The Aggies have strong results-based metrics but just picked up their first Q1 win over the weekend when they knocked off Boise State. Even so, USU ranks 21st in the NET despite owning just two wins against the at-large field plus a win over Oral Roberts. They have eight Q2 victories and are 12-0 in Q3 games, but they own a pair of Q4 losses, which leaves the Aggies’ grip on an at-large bid rather tenuous. A 10-5 mark in road/neutral games is impressive, and if Utah State can take care of the winner of New Mexico-Wyoming, they will get another shot at Boise in the MWC Semifinals.

Rutgers – Since losing Mawot Mag to a season-ending injury, the Scarlet Knights are just 2-6, and that injury is something the committee must consider. Their results-based metrics average out in the upper-50s, which doesn’t bode well for selection, but Rutgers does have five Q1 victories, including huge road wins at Purdue and Northwestern. However, a trio of Q3 losses and a woeful non-conference strength of schedule could prove too much to overcome, especially since Rutgers is just 11-13 in non-Q4 contests. Thursday’s game against Michigan is shaping up as an elimination game.

Nevada – Like conference mate Utah State, the Wolf Pack have solid results-based metrics, but their predictive metrics lag behind. Most of Nevada’s best wins have come at home against San Diego State, Boise State, and Utah State to go with a sweep of New Mexico. A pair of Q3 losses aren’t ideal, which means they need to take care of business against San Jose State to set up a likely matchup with San Diego State in the semis.

Penn State – A pair of last-second victories on the road at Northwestern and at home against Maryland have propelled the Nittany Lions into this week’s field. Penn State now has five Q1 victories, including a road win at Illinois and a home victory over IU to go with the two key wins from last week. They have just one loss outside of the top two quadrants, a home loss in overtime at the hands of Wisconsin. The non-conference strength of schedule isn’t particularly compelling, which means PSU’s Big Ten tournament opener against Illinois is a huge opportunity to bolster their case.

First Five Out:

Oklahoma State – The Cowboys stopped a five-game losing streak and stayed alive for an at-large with a win at Texas Tech on Saturday. Even so, they are just three games over .500 at this point, which means a loss in their Big 12 opener would leave them at just 17-15 and in deep trouble if you look historically. Oklahoma State has six Q1 victories, but they have also lost 11 such games and are just 1-10 in high Q1 contests. At this point, the Pokes need to beat Oklahoma for a third time and likely beat Texas in the Big 12 quarterfinals.

Wisconsin – After losing to Purdue earlier in the week, the Badgers avoided disaster by coming through late at Minnesota. They are now 78th in the NET but have six Q1 wins and seven victories against the at-large field. The predictive metrics are relatively poor compared to other bubble teams, and Wisconsin is just 12-13 in non-Q4 contests. Key road wins at Marquette and Iowa loom large, but the Badgers cannot afford to lose to Ohio State on Wednesday in the Big Ten tournament. A win there sets up a matchup with Iowa that could help bolster Wisconsin’s case.

Arizona State – A miracle shot gave the Sun Devils a massive road win at Arizona in late February, but ASU came up empty in its trip to the LA schools last weekend. The Sun Devils are now just 8-10 in the top two quadrants, with several of those victories coming in road/neutral games where they are 10-6. A Q4 overtime loss at Texas Southern definitely hurts, as does the fact that ASU boasts just two wins against the at-large field. They need to knock off Oregon State in their Pac-12 opener to get another crack at USC.

North Carolina – Despite coming up short in the regular season finale against Duke, the Heels are still in the mix somehow. UNC is now just 1-9 in Q1 with two wins over at-large teams in this week’s field, 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 have also struggled on the road, with their best true road win coming at Syracuse. Their first ACC tournament game will come against the winner of Boston College-Louisville, which they cannot afford to lose. A win there would give them a chance to pick up a second win against Virginia.

Michigan – After a pair of overtime losses at Illinois and Indiana last week, the Wolverines enter the Big Ten tournament with work to do. They are now just 3-11 in Q1 games, and while they do have seven wins against the at-large field, a Q4 home loss to Central Michigan, a 5-10 mark in road/neutral games, and results-based metrics in the upper 50s are all working against Michigan. Thursday’s game with Rutgers is a must-win, and it feels like the Wolverines would need to follow that up with a win over Purdue to make their way into the field.

Conference Breakdown:

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

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

Mountain West (4): Boise State, Nevada, San Diego State, Utah 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: Kennesaw State*

Big Sky: Montana State

Big South: UNC-Asheville*

Big West: UC Irvine

Colonial: Charleston

Conference USA: Florida Atlantic

Horizon: Cleveland State

Ivy: Yale

MAAC: Iona

MAC: Toledo

MEAC: Howard

Missouri Valley: Drake*

Northeast: Fairleigh Dickinson*

Ohio Valley: SE Missouri State*

Patriot: Colgate

Southern: Furman*

Southland: Texas A&M-CC

SWAC: Alcorn State

Summit: Oral Roberts

Sun Belt: Louisiana*

WAC: Utah Valley

* – Auto-bid

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