Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of January 30, 2024

  • 01/30/2024 10:00 am in

The Big Ten has earned at least eight bids in the last four NCAA tournaments and has had at least seven teams in the field in seven of the last eight, with the lone exception coming in 2018 when just four schools went dancing. While this season isn’t shaping up to be as bleak, the streak of 8+ bids is almost certainly ending.

From a bracketology perspective, the reason ties back to performance in the non-conference. The league struggled, and as a result, the opportunities to pick up quality wins in conference play became limited. Based on Monday’s NET rankings, the Big Ten notched only 16 Q1 victories in the non-conference, with Purdue accounting for five of them. Just three schools had more than one Q1 victory, while five failed to earn one such win. If you look at Q2, the league added just four more victories. Overall, the Big Ten sits at 16-23 in Q1 and 4-7 in Q2 for a total of 20-30 in games that can move the needle with the selection committee.

At the same time, Big Ten teams picked up four losses in Q3 and three more in Q4. In total, 77 of the league’s 117 non-conference victories fell in Q4, which accounts for nearly 66 percent. So, with limited top-end wins and profiles heavily weighted with empty-calorie Q4 victories, six bids feel like the ceiling for the conference this year.

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 29, 2024. Following the bracket, I included some quick notes on the last four in and first four teams out.

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

Last Four In:

Seton Hall: The Pirates have lost two straight with star Kadary Richmond sidelined, but their four Q1 wins are enough to keep them in the field for now. They are just 7-8 in non-Q4 contests with relatively unimpressive quality metrics. They cannot afford to fall at DePaul this week.

Florida: Despite having just one win over an at-large team in this week’s field, the Gators rank in the top 40 in all four team sheet metrics. Florida is 0-6 in Q1 with no other losses though, but a challenging week awaits with trips to Kentucky and Texas A&M

Washington State: The Cougars have a sub-300 non-conference strength of schedule, but they have six Q1/Q2 victories, including wins over Arizona, Boise State, Utah, and fellow bubbler Colorado. Wazzu does have a Q3 loss, but the quality wins outweigh that for now.

Providence: Life without Bryce Hopkins has been difficult for the Friars, but they are hanging on for now. They are 5-6 in the top two quadrants, but their other nine victories are in Q4. A pair of road tests await this week at UConn and Villanova.

First Four Out:

Villanova: The Wildcats have some terrific wins on their profile, winning neutral court games against North Carolina and Texas Tech and picking up an overtime victory at Creighton. But following Saturday’s loss at Butler, Villanova is just 11-9. The last team to earn an at-large bid after finishing just two games over .500 was Georgia in 2001, so history is not on Nova’s side. Just three teams have been selected at three games over .500, with two coming in the COVID-impacted 2021 season, where many teams played fewer games than usual. All that to say, the Wildcats need to perform well in home games against Marquette and Providence this week.

Colorado: While both sets of metrics look decent for the Buffs, a lack of top-end wins remains the issue. Colorado is 1-3 in Q1 contests but 6-6 in the top two quadrants with a home win over Washington State their lone victory over a team in the field. Opportunity awaits as the Buffaloes travel to Utah this week.

Virginia: The Cavaliers have a solid but unspectacular profile with a 4-4 mark in the top two quadrants, metrics hovering around 50th, and a 4-5 record in road/neutral games. UVA’s best wins have come at home against Texas A&M and on a neutral court to Florida, but all five losses have come by at least 16 points. The Hoos can avenge one of those losses when they host Notre Dame this week before traveling to Clemson.

Kansas State: Overtime has been kind to the Wildcats, whose victories over Baylor, Villanova, and Providence have all come in OT contests. Those are among K-State’s five Q1/2 wins, but their NET is trending toward the mid-70s with metrics that are middle of the road. This week, the Wildcats will host Oklahoma before visiting Oklahoma State.

Conference Breakdown:

Big 12 (9): Baylor, BYU, Houston, Iowa St., Kansas, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech

SEC (9): Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M

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

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, Utah, Washington State

American (2): Florida Atlantic, Memphis

Atlantic 10 (2): Dayton, Richmond

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: Yale

MAAC: Quinnipiac

MAC: Akron

MEAC: North Carolina Central

Missouri Valley: Indiana State

Northeast: Central Connecticut State

Ohio Valley: Morehead State

Patriot: Colgate

Southern: Samford

Southland: McNeese State

SWAC: Southern

Summit: South Dakota State

Sun Belt: Appalachian State

WAC: Grand Canyon

West Coast: Saint Mary’s

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