Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of March 9, 2023

  • 03/09/2023 11:08 am in

After a few relatively uneventful days, Thursday is shaping up to be a huge day for the bubble. Here’s a look at the most impactful games for each conference:

ACC – The big one here is Virginia-North Carolina. The Heels crushed Boston College, but that win didn’t help their at-large case. A second win over Virginia certainly would. Pitt is relatively safe and hanging out in the 10-11 range, but a victory over Duke would push them into lock status. The final game of the day will be Clemson-NC State, where the Tigers will be looking for a third win over the Wolfpack, who crushed Virginia Tech to give themselves a little breathing room.

Big Ten – The opener featuring Michigan and Rutgers is a huge game for both teams, with the loser likely to find itself on the outside looking in. Illinois-Penn State gives the Nittany Lions an opportunity to pick up its third straight Q1 victory.

Big 12 – Oklahoma State knocked off Oklahoma for a third time on Wednesday, setting up a matchup with Texas in the quarterfinals. The Pokes are right on the cut line, but a win over the Longhorns would ensure they finish at least four games over .500 and greatly boost their at-large case.

Mountain West – Two of the four quarterfinals have bubble implications, as Nevada needs to take care of a surprising San Jose State squad to remain in the field. Utah State faces New Mexico in the nightcap in what is shaping up to be a massive game for the Aggies.

Pac-12 – A win over Washington State would help Oregon’s at-large profile a little, but most importantly it would give the Ducks a shot at UCLA in the semifinals. On the other side of the bracket, Arizona State avoided disaster by beating Oregon State, which sets up a matchup with USC. A win there would make ASU’s case more compelling.

SEC – Auburn-Arkansas should be an interesting game, but it shouldn’t have major bubble implications unless one (or both) is closer to the cut line than I have them. Florida hasn’t been the same without Colin Castleton, which means Mississippi State can ill afford to slip up against the Gators.

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 8, 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 / TXAM-CC 16) Grambling
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) Howard / SE Missouri St. 16) Northern Kentucky
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 22nd 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 13-0 in Q3 games, but they have taken 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 New Mexico, they would pick up another Q1 win and earn another shot at Boise in the MWC Semifinals, assuming the Broncos beat UNLV.

Penn State – A pair of last-second victories on the road at Northwestern and at home against Maryland have propelled the Nittany Lions into the 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.

Nevada – Like conference mate Utah State, the Wolf Pack have solid results-based metrics, but their predictive metrics lag. 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.

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 quartet 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.

First Five Out:

Oklahoma State – I was very tempted to move the Cowboys into the field after they picked up their third win of the season over Oklahoma on Wednesday night, but a 4-11 record against the at-large pool was hard to overlook. Other teams losing in front of them might be enough to get them in the field, but Thursday’s quarterfinal game against Texas is critical. To be fair, the Pokes have six Q1 victories, including a sweep of Iowa State and home wins over West Virginia and TCU. The predictive metrics are strong compared to other bubble teams, but historically the results-based metrics have been more important for selection, particularly around the cut line.

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 11-6. A Q4 overtime loss at Texas Southern hurts, as does the fact that ASU boasts just two wins against the at-large field. Thursday’s quarterfinal game against USC is a chance to pick up a third.

Wisconsin – After losing to Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament opener, it feels like the Badgers are done. They are now 81st in the NET but have six Q1 wins and seven victories against the at-large field. However, the predictive metrics are relatively poor compared to other bubble teams, and Wisconsin is just 12-14 in non-Q4 contests. Key road wins at Marquette and Iowa loom large, but it’s tough to justify Wisconsin making the field.

North Carolina – Despite coming up short in the regular season finale against Duke, the Heels are still in the mix. UNC is now just 1-8 in Q1 with two wins over at-large teams in my projected field, with two other 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. A blowout win over Boston College sets up another matchup with Virginia as they look to stay alive.

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: Northern Kentucky*

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: Grambling

Summit: Oral Roberts*

Sun Belt: Louisiana*

WAC: Utah Valley

* – Auto-bid

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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