Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of February 13, 2024

  • 02/13/2024 9:37 am in

With the NFL season in the rearview and less than five weeks until Selection Sunday, it’s nearly time for the annual Selection Committee reveal of the top 16 teams, which will take place on Saturday. Barring a couple of upsets in the next few days, the top two lines seem fairly straightforward, but the team I’m most interested in seeing revealed is Iowa State. The Cyclones are currently on the three-line for me, but understanding how the committee assesses them could go a long way toward sorting out where to seed what has become a lengthy list of Big 12 teams with strong metrics but poor non-conference strength of schedule numbers.

Iowa State has served as the poster child for those who want to rail against the NET, as the Cyclones made a habit of blowing out lesser opponents in the non-con, which boosted their quality metrics and, consequently, their NET ranking. Nine of ISU’s 11 non-conference wins fall in Q4, with the only exceptions a neutral court win over VCU and a home victory over Iowa, both of which sit in Q2. The Cyclones lost their two toughest non-league games, falling to Texas A&M and Virginia Tech in the ESPN Events Invitational. Big 12 play has given the Cyclones a chance to prove themselves though, and they’ve picked up four Q1 wins, another in Q2, and their only two Q3 victories. The committee has made a point of punishing teams with poor non-conference schedules in the past, and the reveal on Saturday will give us a glimpse of how this season’s committee may view such an approach to scheduling.

The Cyclones are hardly alone, as multiple Big 12 teams are in a similar boat, such as:

• BYU (NET 8): 3-5 Q1 / 2-1 Q2 / Non-Con SOS 292 / 9 of 17 wins in Q4

• Texas Tech (NET 26): 4-5 Q1 / 1-1 Q2 / Non-Con SOS 296 / 8 of 18 wins in Q4

• Oklahoma (NET 31): 3-5 Q1 / 3-1 Q2 / Non-Con SOS 283 / 8 of 18 wins in Q4

• Cincinnati (NET 35): 2-6 Q1 / 2-2 Q2 / Non-Con SOS 297 / 8 of 15 wins in Q4

• TCU (NET 42): 3-6 Q1 / 1-1 Q2 / Non-Con SOS 323 / 8 of 17 wins in Q4

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 February 12, 2024. Following the bracket, I included some quick notes on the last four in and first four teams out. Note: BYU was moved a seed line in order to be placed in sites that play on Thursdays and Saturdays.

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

Last Four In:

Nevada: The Wolf Pack had a tremendous week, winning at Utah State and following that up with a home victory over San Diego State. That makes five Q1 wins for Nevada, who also has a Q3 loss at Wyoming. Despite eight of their 18 victories falling in Q4, the Wolf Pack still have solid result-based metrics, but their predictives (particularly BPI) are lagging behind. They host New Mexico on Tuesday before traveling to UNLV.

Utah: A heartbreaking loss to Arizona in triple overtime was one thing, but the Utes followed that up with a loss to Arizona State and have now dropped four of five. Non-league wins over BYU (home), Saint Mary’s (road), and Wake Forest (neutral) are all solid, but Utah is now just 10-9 in non-Q4 contests. A 1-5 mark in true road games doesn’t help matters either, although the Utes have three straight road contests up next, which provides a chance to rectify that.

Nebraska: The Huskers have similar road woes with a 1-7 mark in true road games and a 2-7 record in road/neutral games. Not surprisingly, all three of Nebraska’s Q1 wins have come at home, where they have knocked off Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan State. Three other Q2 wins are helpful, as is the fact that the Huskers don’t have a loss outside of the top two quadrants, but a non-conference schedule ranked 328th doesn’t help matters. They have the week off before hosting Penn State on Saturday.

Ole Miss: Strong result-based metrics and a gaudy 18-5 overall record paint tell a positive story for the Rebels, but they rank 60th or worse in the predictive metrics, leaving their case tricky. Both Q1 wins have come on the road at Texas A&M and UCF, but they have been blown out in their three toughest games. Like many other teams mentioned, the non-conference strength of schedule is a potential issue at 321st. Ole Miss heads to Kentucky this week and then hosts Missouri on Saturday.

First Four Out:

Cincinnati: The Bearcats held a second half lead over Houston but could not close the deal, so even with solid predictive metrics, they are on the outside looking in for now. Cincinnati is now just 2-5 in Q1 games and 7-8 in non-Q4 games with a poor non-conference strength of schedule. So, while they have “passed the eye test” in a number of close losses, the Bearcats need more quality wins starting Tuesday when they host Iowa State.

Gonzaga: Saturday’s win at Kentucky was massive for the Zags, who now have a Q1 win on their ledger. That said, the Bulldogs are still just 1-5 in Q1 contests and 3-6 in the top two quadrants. Nine of Gonzaga’s 17 victories fall in Q4, and the result-based metrics aren’t overly impressive as a result. Still, the predictive metrics rank in the top 20 as they enter the stretch run. The next four games are all easily winnable before the Zags close out the regular season with road games at San Francisco and Saint Mary’s.

Memphis: It’s been quite a fall for the Tigers, who were once a protected seed and now sit at 75th in the NET with poor quality metrics. The results-based metrics are better thanks to wins over Texas A&M, Clemson, and Virginia, but a Q4 home loss to Rice is hard to overlook. A pair of huge road games await this week as Memphis travels to North Texas and SMU.

Wake Forest: Like Cincinnati, Wake looks like a tournament team, but the wins aren’t there yet. The Demon Deacons are 0-4 in Q1 games and just 5-4 in Q2, with their best wins coming at home against Florida and Virginia, both of which are looking better of late. They do not have a loss in Q3 or Q4, and their metrics are solid, particularly their predictives which both fall in the Top 30. Wake missed a massive opportunity at Duke on Monday, but they head to Virginia on Saturday with a chance for the season sweep.

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

Mountain West (6): Boise State, Colorado St., Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State, Utah State

ACC (4): Clemson, Duke, North Carolina, Virginia

Big East (4): Butler, Connecticut, Creighton, Marquette

Pac-12 (3): Arizona, Utah, Washington State

American (2): Florida Atlantic, South Florida

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: UNC Wilmington

Conference USA: Louisiana Tech

Horizon: Green Bay

Ivy: Yale

MAAC: Quinnipiac

MAC: Akron

MEAC: North Carolina Central

Missouri Valley: Indiana State

Northeast: Merrimack

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

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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