Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of February 20, 2024

  • 02/20/2024 10:10 am in

As mentioned last week, the NCAA Selection Committee revealed its Top 16 on Saturday. While there weren’t many surprises and the committee chair didn’t share much detail on any of the teams or the discussions surrounding them, there were a few key takeaways heading into this week.

• North Carolina being fifth overall was a surprise. I had them pegged behind Marquette and Tennessee, both of which had more Q1A victories than the Heels as of Saturday. UNC also has a Q3 loss and ranks behind Tennessee in all of the team sheet metrics with pretty similar numbers as the Golden Eagles (at least before they got smashed by UConn). The Heels do have the best road record of that trio and they were the only one of the three to be leading their conference at the time of the reveal.

• Seeing Iowa State at 11th on the seed list implies that their poor non-conference strength of schedule did push them down a bit further than their wins and losses might suggest. This might be bad news for other teams who did most of their early season damage in Q4.

• San Diego State wasn’t widely projected to be on the top four seed lines, but they were safely included at 14th overall. The Aztecs entered Saturday with five Q1 victories and no losses outside of the top quadrant, and they also ranked 14th in non-conference SOS and 15th in the NET. The potential for a six-bid Mountain West is still alive.

• The importance of the team sheet metrics was reinforced, particularly the results-based metrics, as all 16 teams revealed were ranked 18th or better in both KPI and SOR. The only team to rank outside the top 20 in either of the predictive metrics was San Diego State, which was 34th in BPI, which has typically undervalued Mountain West teams.

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

Last Four In:

Nebraska: The Huskers have solid metrics and strong home wins over Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan State. Nebraska also doesn’t have a loss outside the top two quadrants, but the key issues are a non-con SOS ranked 324th and a 1-7 mark in true road games. There are just three chances left to rectify the latter, starting this week at Indiana.

Ole Miss: Strong result-based metrics and a gaudy 19-6 overall record paint a positive story for the Rebels, but they rank 68th or worse in both predictive metrics, leaving their case tricky. Ole Miss has three Q1 wins, but they have lost their four toughest games by at least 12 points each. Like many other teams mentioned, the non-conference strength of schedule is a potential issue at 328th. A massive three-game stretch starts this week with a trip to Mississippi State.

Utah: The Utes snapped a three-game losing streak with a last-second win at UCLA on Sunday and they snuck back into the field as a result. Non-league wins over BYU (home), Saint Mary’s (road), and Wake Forest (neutral) are all solid, and Utah’s eight victories in the top two quadrants compare favorably to other bubble teams. Still, a 2-6 mark in true road games doesn’t leave much room for error, and Utah’s next game at Colorado is its toughest remaining contest.

Seton Hall: Sunday’s comeback win over St. John’s gave the Pirates their fifth Q1 victory and pushed them into the field. They are also 5-4 in true road games to go with marquee home wins over Connecticut and Marquette. The quality metrics aren’t particularly great, but there are plenty of chances to improve those with a tough slate of games coming up, starting at home against Butler on Saturday.

First Four Out:

Providence: The Friars picked up a pair of home wins last week but remain right around the cut line. They have four Q1 victories, although some of those came before the Bryce Hopkins injury. Even so, the results-based metrics still average in the mid-50s, and a relatively poor non-con SOS has left Providence at just 7-9 in non-Q4 contests. Opportunities await, with the next two on the road at Xavier and Marquette.

Gonzaga: Even with the recent win at Kentucky, the Bulldogs are still just 1-5 in Q1 contests and 3-6 in the top two quadrants. Eleven of Gonzaga’s 19 victories fall in Q4, and the results-based metrics aren’t overly impressive. Still, the predictive metrics rank in the top 20 as they enter the stretch run. The Zags need to take care of business this week before closing the regular season with road games at San Francisco and Saint Mary’s.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats split games last week and basically stayed in the same place as a result. The predictive metrics are solid, but Cincinnati is now just 3-6 in Q1 games and 8-9 in non-Q4 contests with a sub-300 non-conference strength of schedule. So, while they have “passed the eye test” in several close losses, the Bearcats need to start stacking wins with games at home against Oklahoma State and then at TCU this week.

Villanova: After winning three of four, the Wildcats are back to three games over .500 at 14-11. The quality metrics are very strong, but the results-based metrics are lagging, partly due to three Q3 losses. A huge week awaits as Nova hosts Butler and then travels to UConn.

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

Big East (5): Butler, Connecticut, Creighton, Marquette, Seton Hall

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

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

American (2): Florida Atlantic, South Florida

America East: Vermont

Atlantic Sun: Eastern Kentucky

Atlantic 10: Dayton

Big Sky: Eastern Washington

Big South: High Point

Big West: UC Irvine

Coastal: Charleston

Conference USA: Louisiana Tech

Horizon: Oakland

Ivy: Yale

MAAC: Quinnipiac

MAC: Akron

MEAC: Norfolk State

Missouri Valley: Indiana State

Northeast: Merrimack

Ohio Valley: Morehead State

Patriot: Colgate

Southern: Samford

Southland: McNeese State

SWAC: Southern

Summit: North Dakota

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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