Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of March 10, 2023

  • 03/10/2023 12:14 pm in

Thursday was an incredibly full day of hoops, with some bubble teams picking up key wins but others stumbling in their conference tournaments and setting up some long days of waiting. Here’s a quick spin around what happened in the top conferences and what to look for today:

ACC – After losing to Virginia, we can officially stick a fork in North Carolina, but a pair of blowouts will have some impact around the bubble. Duke crushed Pitt by 27, and Clemson beat NC State for a third time this season, this time by 26 points. More on these teams later, but the trio of Clemson, NC State, and Pitt will be featured prominently in bubble discussions. The Tigers’ profile is strange at best, which means today’s matchup with Virginia is critical for their at-large hopes.

Big East – Like the ACC, the top four seeds all advanced to the semis. Providence is trending in the wrong direction after losing to UConn, but it feels like the Friars are still safe for now.

Big Ten – Rutgers and Penn State picked up huge wins to bolster their at-large cases, while Ohio State knocked off Iowa to stay alive as a potential bid thief.

Big 12 – I guess Iowa State just has Baylor’s number, as the Cyclones knocked off the Bears for a third time this season. The only bubble-related result was Oklahoma State losing to Texas, leaving them just three games over .500.

Mountain West – There were plenty of close games in the MWC, with the only exception Utah State’s big win over New Mexico. The notable bubble result here came when San Jose State knocked off Nevada and potentially knocked them out of the field.

Pac-12 – Oregon took care of Wazzu, which sets up a huge opportunity against UCLA today. The Ducks are still more in the Next Four Out range, so a win there is critical. On the other side of the bracket, Arizona State beat UCLA to pick up another quality win, which also lines up a semifinal matchup with Arizona.

SEC – Mississippi State survived in overtime, while Vanderbilt kept its hopes alive by beating LSU to set up another game against Kentucky. The Commodores are the only team left that isn’t in the at-large field today.

My next set of projections will be up on Sunday morning. Based on what we’ve seen historically, I wouldn’t expect a ton of movement between now and then, but there are a couple areas of the seed list I plan to dig into a bit more.

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 9, 2023. Following the bracket, I included my current last four in and first four out.

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

Last Four In:

Providence – The Friars ultimately feel pretty safe to me with home wins over UConn, Marquette, and Creighton, but it’s also worth noting those are their only wins against the at-large field. Providence has just one loss outside of the top two quadrants, but they are just 10-11 in non-Q4 games, where they are 11-0. As you might suspect, a poor non-conference strength of schedule contributes to that.

Pittsburgh – The Panthers were crushed by Duke on Thursday, dropping them to 67th in the NET. They boast home wins over Virginia and Miami (FL) to go with solid road victories at Northwestern, fellow bubbler NC State, and North Carolina, all of which fall in Q1. However, they have a Q3 loss at Notre Dame and a Q4 home loss to Florida State. Ten of their 22 overall wins fall in Q4, and they rank outside the Top 50 in all team sheet metrics. I think for now the high-end wins, particularly the Q1 road wins, keep them in the field, but they are not safe by any means.

NC State – A third loss to Clemson has bracketologists taking a closer look at NC State’s profile, and there are some holes in it. On the positive side, they have beaten Duke and Miami (FL), but both of those have come at home. They do have a pair of Q2 road victories but none over tournament-caliber teams. The Wolfpack have no losses outside the top two quadrants, but they are just 13-10 in non-Q4 games. Even so, they rate well in the results-based metrics and still average out in the mid-4os in the predictives, but with just two wins against the field, they could be in trouble.

Arizona State – Unlike several other bubble teams, ASU did what it needed to do on Thursday by knocking off USC. That sets up another shot at Arizona, who the Sun Devils beat on a miracle shot in Tucson just a few weeks ago. They have five Q1 wins and are 9-10 against the top two quadrants. Several of those victories came in road/neutral games where they are now 12-6. A Q4 overtime loss at Texas Southern certainly hurts, but a second win over Arizona would more than offset it.

First Four Out:

Nevada – Thursday’s loss to San Jose State knocked Nevada out of the field for now, but I will continue looking at resumes over the next couple days. The Wolf Pack average out well in the results-based metrics, but they are outside of the top 70 in two of the three predictives. 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, so Nevada will have a long wait over the next few days.

Clemson – At this point, it’s clear the Tigers own NC State, and while those wins have all been impressive, they only tell part of the story. The good news for Clemson is that they are 4-3 in Q1 and 3-2 in Q2, and teams over .500 in the top two quadrants have a strong track record of getting in the field. Those victories include home wins over Duke and Penn State, the trio of wins over the Wolfpack, and a road win at Pitt. They also land right around 50th in all of the team sheet metrics. That said, their non-conference strength of schedule is ranked 333rd in the country, and they have four Q3 and Q4 losses, three of which came by at least eight points. The strong wins might well be enough to offset the holes in their profile, but a win over Virginia today would almost certainly push them inside the cutline. The Tigers are a team I will be digging into more in the coming days.

Oklahoma State – The Pokes fell to 1-11 in high Q1 games by losing to Texas on Thursday, and at just three games over .500, history is not on their side. A 4-12 mark against the at-large pool is also hard to overlook. 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.

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.

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

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

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

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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