Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of March 5, 2024

  • 03/05/2024 9:57 am in

With less than two weeks until Selection Sunday, there is still plenty of intrigue on the one line. Purdue, UConn and Houston have all but sewn up top seeds, but the Cougars and Huskies are jockeying for the second overall spot while the fourth one seed remains up for grabs.

UConn was second at the selection committee’s reveal a couple of weeks ago and the Huskies are 3-1 since with a loss at Creighton. Houston, meanwhile, is a perfect 5-0 since then and has picked up four more Q1 victories in the process. Both teams are 26-3 with identical 10-3 records in Q1 and 15-3 marks in the top two quadrants. The Cougars are ranked higher in both the results-based and predictive metrics, while UConn has a better non-conference strength of schedule. So, while they will both end up on the one line in their preferred region, they are currently neck and neck for the second overall seed.

Then you have the race for the final top seed, with Tennessee, Arizona and North Carolina all in the mix. Like Houston, the Vols and Heels are both unbeaten since the reveal, with Arizona’s lone loss coming at the hands of Washington State. Tennessee has the edge in results-based metrics, while Arizona is best on the predictive side and UNC leads the group with 10 road/neutral victories. Arizona boasts the most Q1 victories of the group with eight, while Tennessee and UNC both have six. But it’s worth noting that the Vols have an impressive six wins in Q1A, compared to four for Arizona and three for North Carolina. Arizona also has the most wins against the top two quadrants, but they are the only team in the group to have a Q3 loss. The net result of all that for this week is that I have Tennessee as the final one seed, but that could certainly change between now and Selection Sunday given how closely matched these teams are right now.

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 March 4, 2024. Following the bracket, I included some quick notes on the last four in and first five teams out.

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

Last Four In:

Virginia: The Cavaliers briefly stopped their skid with a win at Boston College, but they followed that up with another blowout road loss at Duke, leaving them where they were last week. UVA now sits at 8-9 in the top two quadrants with two Q1 wins and no other losses, but the Hoos have lost all nine games by double digits and damaged their predictive metrics in the process. Their lone game this week comes at home against Georgia Tech.

Seton Hall: There’s no shame in losing on the road at Creighton and UConn, but the Pirates lost those games by a combined 51 points. That hurt their predictive metrics and dropped them into the upper 60s in the NET. Still, Seton Hall’s five Q1 victories compare favorably to other bubble teams and the sweep of St. John’s is helpful for bubble purposes. The Pirates are just 10-11 in non-Q4 contests heading into the week’s final season, where they will host Villanova and DePaul.

St. John’s: Things were looking bleak for Rick Pitino’s squad, but recent wins over Creighton at home and on the road against Butler have the Red Storm back in the mix. They now have five Q1 wins and nine victories in the top two quadrants, including a sweep of Villanova and a neutral-court win over fellow bubbler Utah. Games against DePaul and Georgetown this week are opportunities to pad the win total but won’t move the needle on their at-large case.

New Mexico: The Lobos are clinging to a spot in the field after losing at Boise State over the weekend. They have five wins in the top two quadrants, with all of them coming in Mountain West play and just one on the road, but they have also been swept by UNLV and are saddled with a Q4 home loss to Air Force. New Mexico’s non-conference strength of schedule is a potential issue, and even though they are 9-5 in road/neutral games, eight of those victories fall in Q3 or Q4. The Lobos need to take care of business at home against Fresno State before closing the regular season with a massive road opportunity against Utah State.

First Five Out:

Utah: The Utes picked up a pair of blowout wins at home last week, but neither victory did much for their at-large case. Non-league wins over BYU (home), Saint Mary’s (road), and Wake Forest (neutral) all fall in Q1, but they are just 8-10 in the top two quadrants with several losses to teams not in the at-large picture. Utah is only 2-7 in true road games and ranks in the upper 40s in most of the team sheet metrics. A trip to the Oregon schools gives Utah a chance to bolster its road record this week.

Providence: The Friars suffered a pair of double-digit losses last week, first on the road at Marquette and then at home against Villanova. They still boast five Q1 wins, although many came before the Bryce Hopkins injury. Most of the team sheet metrics are outside of the top 50, while a relatively poor non-con SOS has left them at just 8-11 in non-Q4 contests. Providence needs to take care of business at Georgetown before hosting UConn in the season finale.

Iowa: After winning four of their last five, the Hawkeyes are firmly in the bubble mix as we head down the stretch. They are 3-8 in Q1 with wins over Michigan State and Northwestern on the road and Wisconsin at home. Iowa boasts five other victories in Q2, but a Q3 loss to Michigan continues to look worse and worse. A huge Q1 opportunity awaits as Iowa hosts Illinois to close out the season on Sunday.

Colorado: The Buffs have now won four straight after taking care of Cal and Stanford at home. Their lone Q1 win came at Washington, but they have seven victories in Q2 to go with decent metrics compared to most bubble teams. Colorado is also just 2-7 in true road games and has just one win over an at-large team in this week’s field. The Buffaloes head to the Oregon schools this week with a chance to impact the first of those concerns.

Wake Forest: After beating Duke, the Demon Deacons’ road woes continued as they lost to Notre Dame and Virginia Tech last week. They are now just 2-9 in true road games and 3-11 in road/neutral contests, which may be too much to overcome. All three of Wake’s wins against the field have come at home against Duke, Florida, and Virginia, but their predictive metrics remain strong. The Deacs close out the season with home dates against Georgia Tech and Clemson with a chance to post a perfect 17-0 mark in home games.

Conference Breakdown:

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

SEC (7): Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee

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

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

American (2): Florida Atlantic, South Florida

Atlantic 10 (2): Dayton, Richmond

Pac-12 (2): Arizona, Washington State

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s

America East: Vermont

Atlantic Sun: Eastern Kentucky

Big Sky: Eastern Washington

Big South: High Point

Big West: UC Irvine

Coastal: Charleston

Conference USA: Louisiana Tech

Horizon: Oakland

Ivy: Princeton

MAAC: Quinnipiac

MAC: Akron

MEAC: Norfolk State

Missouri Valley: Indiana State

Northeast: Central Connecticut State

Ohio Valley: Little Rock

Patriot: Colgate

Southern: Samford

Southland: McNeese State

SWAC: Grambling

Summit: South Dakota State

Sun Belt: Appalachian State

WAC: Grand Canyon

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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