Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of March 14, 2024

  • 03/14/2024 9:58 am in

Colgate, McNeese State and Montana St. all punched their tickets to the Big Dance on Wednesday, while all of the major conference tournaments are underway. Thursday is shaping up to be a massive day, with key matchups on tap in each conference. Here’s one game from each tournament that should have major implications:

• ACC: Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest – This is a de facto elimination game for two teams still hanging around the bubble. The winner will likely face North Carolina in the semifinals on Friday in a game that can move the needle.

• Big East: Seton Hall vs. St. John’s – I’m inclined to believe that Seton Hall would be safe even with a loss, while a win would make them a lock to go dancing. On the other hand, St. John’s is sitting right near the cutline and may not be able to absorb another loss.

• Big Ten: Iowa vs. Ohio State – Much like the ACC matchup mentioned above, the loser of this one is eliminated. At the same time, the winner gets a crack at Illinois in the quarterfinals on Friday.

• Big 12: Iowa State vs. Kansas State – The Wildcats picked up arguably the biggest win on Wednesday by coming back to knock off Texas. That win isn’t enough to get them in the field, but beating the Cyclones on a neutral floor might.

• Mountain West: Boise State vs. New Mexico – There’s no shortage of good games in the MWC quarters, but the team that needs a win the most is New Mexico. The Lobos lost both regular season matchups against Boise, so it won’t be easy.

• Pac-12: Colorado vs. Utah – The Buffs are either barely in or barely out of the field, depending on where you look, which means they can ill afford a loss here against the Utes, who are more in the “Next Four Out” range at this point. The winner helps their case and likely gets a crack at Washington State in the semis.

• SEC: Texas A&M vs. Ole Miss – These teams just met in the regular season finale, but with the Aggies right on the cutline, they need to take the rubber match with the Rebels to stay alive.

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 13, 2024. Following the bracket, I included some quick notes on the last four in and first four teams out.

Indianapolis – March 22/24 Memphis – March 22/24
1) Purdue 1) Houston
16) Norfolk St. / Wagner 16) Longwood
8) Boise State
8) Florida
9) Texas 9) Nebraska
Spokane – March 22/24 Spokane – March 22/24
5) San Diego State
5) Utah State
12) James Madison 12) Richmond
4) Alabama 4) Illinois
13) McNeese State 13) Vermont
Pittsburgh – March 21/23 Brooklyn – March 22/24
6) Clemson 6) Dayton
11) Drake 11) Indiana St. / Virginia
3) Creighton 3) Kentucky
14) Charleston 14) Morehead State
Memphis – March 22/24 Indianapolis – March 22/24
7) Gonzaga 7) Texas Tech
10) Mississippi State 10) Michigan State
2) Baylor 2) Marquette
15) Sam Houston
15) Quinnipiac
Charlotte – March 21/23 Brooklyn – March 22/24
1) Tennessee 1) Connecticut
16) Grambling / Montana St. 16) Stetson
8) Colorado State 8) Northwestern
9) Florida Atlantic 9) TCU
Omaha – March 21/23 Salt Lake City – March 21/23
5) South Carolina 5) BYU
12) South Florida 12) Grand Canyon
4) Kansas 4) Auburn
13) UC Irvine 13) Samford
Pittsburgh – March 21/23 Omaha – March 21/23
6) Wisconsin 6) Nevada
11) St. John’s / Texas A&M
11) Princeton
3) Duke 3) Iowa State
14) Oakland 14) Toledo
Salt Lake City – March 21/23 Charlotte – March 21/23
7) Saint Mary’s 7) Washington State
10) Oklahoma 10) Seton Hall
2) Arizona 2) North Carolina
15) South Dakota State 15) Colgate

Last Four In:

Virginia: The Cavaliers closed the season with a 15-point win over Georgia Tech on Saturday. UVA sits at 9-9 in the top two quadrants with two Q1 wins (at Clemson and Florida on a neutral court) and no other losses. However, all nine losses have come by double digits, damaging their predictive metrics in the process. Virginia will take on Boston College, who just upset Clemson, in the ACC quarterfinals on Thursday.

St. John’s: After avoiding disaster in games against DePaul and Georgetown, the Red Storm remain firmly in the bubble mix. They now have four Q1 wins and nine victories in the top two quadrants, including a sweep of Villanova and a neutral-court win over fellow bubbler Utah. However, just one of their victories came against an at-large team in today’s field (Creighton). Thursday’s date with Seton Hall is shaping up to be an important one for both squads.

Indiana State: It will be a long few days of waiting for the Sycamores. All four team sheet metrics are hovering around 40th and ISU is 27th in the NET. That said, their lone Q1 victory came at Bradley, and their other two Top 100 victories were at home against Drake and Bradley. ISU has just two losses outside the top quadrant, but one is a brutal Q4 loss to Illinois State. It feels like we’ve seen the committee give some top mid-majors the benefit of the doubt in recent years, and I plan to dig in more this week to find out whether those comparisons reflect favorably on Indiana State.

Texas A&M: The Aggies have assembled an odd profile. On the one hand, they have five Q1 victories and are 11-9 against the top two quadrants, with wins over Tennessee and Kentucky at home and Iowa State on a neutral floor. A top 25 non-conference strength of schedule may help A&M as well, but they’ve also managed to go just 2-4 in Q3, contributing to their 13 total losses. The Aggies won at Ole Miss to close out the regular season and will take on the Rebels again in their first SEC Tournament contest.

First Four Out:

Colorado: The Buffs swept the road trip to the Oregon schools, which helped to bolster their road record. Their two Q1 wins came at Washington and Oregon, while they have just one victory over an at-large team in this week’s field (Washington State). Colorado’s team sheet metrics tend to compare favorably to other bubble teams, and even though the Buffs don’t have any losses outside of the top two quadrants, they do have four losses to teams ranked 90th or worse in the NET that sit on the low end of Q2. CU will face either Utah on Thursday.

New Mexico: After dropping a close game at Utah State last weekend, the Lobos are on the outside looking in. They have six wins in the top two quadrants, with a home win over UC Irvine, which is the only one not to come in MWC play. New Mexico has also been swept by UNLV and is saddled with a Q4 home loss to Air Force. A poor non-conference strength of schedule is also a potential issue and even though they are 9-6 in road/neutral games, eight of those victories fall in Q3 or Q4. The Lobos blew out Air Force on Wednesday, setting up a date with Boise State in the quarterfinals.

Villanova: The Wildcats narrowly escaped disaster against DePaul on Wednesday, moving their record to 18-14 but doing some damage to their predictive metrics in the process and dropping them seven spots in the NET. They have 10 wins in the top two quadrants, including marquee wins over North Carolina and Texas Tech on neutral floors and on the road at Creighton. But three Q3 losses have left Villanova at 12-14 in non-Q4 contests. The Wildcats desperately need to beat Marquette on Thursday.

Kansas State: As mentioned above, this group of Wildcats are probably the team that helped itself the most on Wednesday by beating Texas. K-State now has five Q1 victories, including three in Q1A. They are now 9-12 in the top two quadrants with a couple losses in the lower part of Q2 and another in Q3. A 2-8 mark in true road games and a relatively poor non-conference strength of schedule aren’t helping matters, but if the Wildcats can beat Iowa State for a second time in the last week, their case becomes very compelling.

The other teams considered for the first four out were Iowa, Pittsburgh, and Providence.

Conference Breakdown:

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

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

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

Big East (5): Connecticut, Creighton, Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall

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

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

American (2): Florida Atlantic, South Florida

Atlantic 10 (2): Dayton, Richmond

Missouri Valley: Drake*, Indiana State

Pac-12 (2): Arizona, Washington State

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s*

America East: Vermont

Atlantic Sun: Stetson*

Big Sky: Montana State*

Big South: Longwood*

Big West: UC Irvine

Coastal: Charleston*

Conference USA: Sam Houston

Horizon: Oakland*

Ivy: Princeton

MAAC: Quinnipiac

MAC: Toledo

MEAC: Norfolk State

Northeast: Wagner*

Ohio Valley: Morehead State*

Patriot: Colgate*

Southern: Samford*

Southland: McNeese State*

SWAC: Grambling

Summit: South Dakota State*

Sun Belt: James Madison*

WAC: Grand Canyon

* – Automatic Bid

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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