Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of January 23, 2024

  • 01/23/2024 9:12 am in

At this point in the season, the bubble is expansive (albeit unimpressive), featuring teams with just one or two decent wins and profiles that are easy to poke holes in. Consequently, my confidence level in the last few teams in is low, but as we get more data points for bubble teams, expect plenty of movement along the cut line in the coming weeks.

So, while there isn’t much separation on the bubble, we’re already seeing some at the top of the bracket, with a handful of teams establishing themselves as contenders for a top seed. Purdue and UConn are the top two overall seeds, and both have a little breathing room at this point. The Boilers have seven Q1 victories already, including five in Q1A and a total of 11 wins in the top two quadrants. As a result, they rank first in both result-based metrics, while also managing to land at second in both predictive metrics on the team sheet. UConn boasts six Q1 victories of its own and has no losses outside of the top quadrant. They rank in the top 10 of all four team sheet metrics and have done all that despite Donovan Clingan missing games with an injury.

All of the other teams on the top two seed lines of this week’s bracket are in play for a one-seed if things go their way over the next couple of months (and others in front of them falter).

North Carolina: Monday’s win against Wake Forest makes nine straight for the Heels, who are 4-3 in Q1 and 8-3 in the top two quadrants. UNC is a perfect 4-0 in true road games and ranks eighth or better in all team sheet metrics. One of the Heels’ top victories came against Tennessee at home, but they lost to UConn on a neutral court.

Houston: The Cougars rank first in both sets of predictive metrics and are 4-2 in Q1, with the only losses coming at Iowa State and TCU. Nearly half of Houston’s 16 victories fall in Q4, but the Big 12 will provide plenty of opportunities to bolster the Cougars’ resume.

Arizona: Four Q1A wins loom large for the Wildcats, but a loss at Stanford currently sits in Q2. Arizona ranks in the top 10 in all team sheet metrics and has six wins in the top two quadrants, but the Wildcats do already have four total losses, including two to teams not in this week’s field. Zona has faced two of the top eight teams in this week’s bracket, routing Wisconsin at home but falling to Purdue in Indianapolis.

Tennessee: The Vols also have four losses, but all four fall in Q1A. Tennessee has just three Q1 wins, while they are also 5-0 in Q2 and are ranked fifth or better in each of the four team sheet metrics. Tennessee has played four of the top eight teams on this week’s seed list, winning at Wisconsin but losing to Purdue (neutral), North Carolina (road), and Kansas (neutral).

Kansas: The Jayhawks bounced back from Saturday’s Q3 loss at West Virginia by knocking off Cincinnati on Monday night. KU now has four Q1 victories and is 7-2 against the top two quadrants. Their predictive metrics lag behind the other competitors for a top seed as of now, but they do own wins against Tennessee and UConn.

Wisconsin: Last week’s loss at Penn State definitely hurts the Badgers’ case, but they still have five Q1 wins and a 7-4 mark in the top two quadrants. Three of their four losses came by double digits, but Wisconsin did knock off Marquette at home and won at Michigan State. With the Big Ten a bit down this season, they will need to post a gaudy conference record to have a chance.

I do think a few other squads could play their way into the mix in the coming weeks, but there is already a pretty accomplished group of teams at the top of 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 1A: Home vs. teams ranked 1-15 / Neutral vs. teams ranked 1-25 / Road vs. teams ranked 1-40
· 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 January 22, 2024. Following the bracket, I included some quick notes on the last four in and first four teams out. Please note that BYU was moved down a seed line to accommodate their requirement to play only at Thursday/Saturday sites.

Indianapolis – March 22/24 Brooklyn – March 22/24
1) Purdue 1) Connecticut
16) Delaware St. / Lafayette 16) Eastern Kentucky
8) Seton Hall
8) Texas A&M
9) TCU 9) Michigan St.
Spokane – March 22/24 Brooklyn – March 22/24
5) Alabama
5) Duke
12) Grand Canyon 12) McNeese St.
4) Oklahoma 4) Dayton
13) UC Irvine 13) Samford
Omaha – March 21/23 Salt Lake City – March 21/23
6) Utah 6) Clemson
11) Indiana St. / Ole Miss 11) Princeton
3) Marquette 3) Baylor
14) Louisiana Tech 14) Eastern Washington
Charlotte – March 21/23 Indianapolis – March 22/24
7) Memphis 7) Florida Atlantic
10) Boise St. 10) South Carolina
2) Tennessee 2) Wisconsin
15) Morehead St.
15) High Point
Memphis – March 22/24 Charlotte – March 21/23
1) Houston 1) North Carolina
16) South Dakota St. 16) C. Connecticut St. / Jackson St.
8) St. John’s 8) Texas Tech
9) New Mexico 9) Mississippi St.
Spokane – March 22/24 Pittsburgh – March 21/23
5) San Diego St. 5) Iowa St.
12) Cincinnati / Oregon 12) Drake
4) Creighton 4) Illinois
13) Akron 13) Appalachian St.
Pittsburgh – March 21/23 Memphis – March 22/24
6) BYU 6) Colorado St.
11) Saint Mary’s
11) Kansas St.
3) Kentucky 3) Auburn
14) Drexel 14) Vermont
Salt Lake City – March 21/23 Omaha – March 21/23
7) Villanova 7) Utah St.
10) Nebraska 10) Northwestern
2) Arizona 2) Kansas
15) Oakland 15) Saint Peter’s

Last Four In:

Ole Miss: The Rebels are just 2-3 in their last five games after starting 13-0, with those defeats coming by a total of 58 points. As a result, Ole Miss sits outside the top 75 in both predictive metrics, but they rank in the top 25 in both result-based metrics, thanks in part to wins against Florida, Memphis, and UCF. Despite all that, the Rebels’ non-con SOS sits outside the top 300, which will make picking up key wins in SEC play critical for their at-large hopes.

Indiana State: I included Drake as the automatic bid for the MVC by virtue of their head-to-head win against Indiana State, but the Sycamores are now 15-3, with all three losses falling in Q1 (at Alabama, at Michigan State, at Drake). Their lone Q1 victory came at Bradley, but they rank around 40th in both predictive metrics, and they are 26th in SOR. So, while the high-end wins aren’t there, ISU has four true road wins and has a profile worthy of consideration, given how few quality wins other bubble teams have.

Cincinnati : The Bearcats suffered another close loss at Kansas on Monday, their fifth by five points or less. The headline victory for the Bearcats came at BYU, while last week’s home win against TCU gives Cincinnati a second win against the field. The result-based metrics are hovering in the 50s, but the predictives are much stronger.

Oregon: After dropping road games to Colorado and Utah last week, the Ducks are no longer the projected auto-bid for the Pac-12 but still barely managed to sneak in the field. Their two best wins came on the road against Washington State and Washington, and a neutral court win against Georgia has aged relatively well. However, Oregon has a Q3 loss and no wins against at-large teams in the field.

First Four Out:

Colorado: The Buffs picked up a nice win against fellow bubbler Oregon last week, but they are 0-4 in true road games with no Q1 victories. Colorado does have a quartet of Q2 victories, but they also have three Q2 losses and are just 4-4 in the top two quadrants and 7-5 in non-Q4 contests.

Texas: Saturday’s buzzer-beating win against Baylor vaulted the Longhorns back into the conversation. They now have a pair of Q1 wins, with the other coming at Cincinnati, but they are just 3-4 in Q1 and Q2 and are also below .500 in non-Q4 games. With nine victories currently in Q4, Texas has to rack up some quality wins sooner or later, but luckily, the Big 12 will afford them plenty of opportunities.

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons held a one-point halftime lead in Chapel Hill on Monday, but they wound up losing by 21 points and remain winless in Q1. Wake does have five wins in Q2 and is just 7-6 in non-Q4 contests. Decent metrics in both categories help their cause, but most of Wake’s best wins (Florida, Virginia Tech, Miami FL, and Virginia) have come at home.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies boast wins against three teams in this week’s field (Clemson at home and Iowa St. and Boise St. on neutral floors), which is more than most bubble teams can claim. Unfortunately, Va Tech is just 5-7 in non-Q4 games, and they rank outside the top 50 in most team sheet metrics.

Conference Breakdown:

Big 12 (10): Baylor, BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Iowa St., Kansas, Kansas St., Oklahoma, TCU, Texas Tech

SEC (8): Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M

Big East (6): Connecticut, Creighton, Marquette, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Villanova

Big Ten (6): Illinois, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin

Mountain West (5): Boise State, Colorado St., New Mexico, San Diego State, Utah State

ACC (3): Clemson, Duke, North Carolina

Pac-12 (3): Arizona, Oregon, Utah

American (2): Florida Atlantic, Memphis

Missouri Valley (2): Drake, Indiana State

Atlantic 10: Dayton

America East: Vermont

Atlantic Sun: Eastern Kentucky

Big Sky: Eastern Washington

Big South: High Point

Big West: UC Irvine

Coastal: Drexel

Conference USA: Louisiana Tech

Horizon: Oakland

Ivy: Princeton

MAAC: Saint Peter’s

MAC: Akron

MEAC: Delaware State

Northeast: Central Connecticut State

Ohio Valley: Morehead State

Patriot: Lafayette

Southern: Samford

Southland: McNeese State

SWAC: Jackson State

Summit: South Dakota State

Sun Belt: Appalachian State

WAC: Grand Canyon

West Coast: Saint Mary’s

Follow Andy on Twitter (@andybottoms) for more thoughts on college hoops and to receive an update whenever new brackets are posted.

Filed to: