Welcome to my second bracket projection! In my 2022 debut last night, I told you that tonight, I’d take a closer look at how the field is shaping up. So let’s get right to the burning questions that are on college basketball fans’ minds at this time every year.
First, who will be a 1 seed?
For the sake of keeping this a blog post and not turning it into a book, I’ll dive deeper into the rationale behind my next statement tomorrow. But I think Gonzaga and Baylor are locked in as 1s, while Arizona, Auburn, Kansas, Kentucky, and Duke are in the running.
Who else is safely in?
So I think everyone from Wisconsin (#8 overall) to Texas (#21 overall) is in the running for a protected seed. This means they are a 4 seed or better and the Selection Committee tries to have them play as close to home as possible in the first weekend. Of course, Texas, who is now a 6 seed, has no shot to move up to Wisconsin’s spot. All I’m saying is I see them as the lowest team in tonight’s projection who could possibly get up to a 4.
Then, I’d say that everyone from Colorado State (#22 overall) to San Diego State (#32 overall) is in the field, period. And now, the biggest question of all…
Who’s on the bubble?
If we start at Boise State (#33 overall) and go down to SMU (#48 overall, last team in) – that gives us 14 teams on the right side of the bubble (Loyola-Chicago, in that range, has won their conference tournament and Davidson is projected to do so, giving them automatic bids). Seems like a lot of teams to still be unsafe this late, right? Yeah, but there are a lot of moving parts.
First of all, I feel there are almost as many teams on the wrong side of the bubble with more than a minimal chance of getting an at-large (and obviously the closer you get to the cut line, the higher the chance). Second of all, we have to be weary of the classic “bid steal,” in which a team who would only get in by winning its conference tournament does so and the top team in that conference is also getting in (i.e., the bid stealer turns a projected auto-qualifier into an at-large qualifier, thereby shrinking the field). I think that there is a decent chance of a bid steal from these conferences:
- ACC. Did you see Syracuse beat Florida State by 39 today? Neither did I, but Syracuse has a way of heating up at just the right time, and the ACC isn’t that strong. If they knock off Duke tomorrow, all bets are off.
- Pac-12. Oregon also has a way of heating up at the right time. I think they’re closer to the field than most do anyway but still not in. Competition in the Pac-12, like the ACC, is not that stiff and so it wouldn’t surprise me if the Ducks swiped a bid.
- Mountain West. Utah State, Fresno State, and UNLV are all good enough to make a run and crush some bubble team’s dreams.
- Atlantic 10. Some only have one A10 team in (Davidson) and that is understandable. I also have VCU in but even with that, watch out for Dayton. They just beat Davidson last week and it’s not hard to imagine them taking the A10 crown.
- American. Houston has not been tested much and when they have, their results haven’t been optimal, going just 1-4 in Quad 1. Memphis and SMU are playing well but are certainly beatable. So watch out for someone unexpected taking the American.
So, when we consider all of the above, it’s no wonder that there are still a fair number of teams who aren’t safe. That said, I think everyone down to Memphis (#40 overall) will make it, but we can’t be sure in this part of the field. Which brings up…
Yes, Michigan, who seemed to alternate between playing their way in and playing their way out on a game to game basis the past month. I think the Wolverines picked up enough good wins in that stretch alone – vs. Purdue, at Iowa, at Ohio State, vs. Michigan State, vs. Rutgers – that when combined with their overall strong metrics, they will make it. But what if they lose to Indiana on Thursday afternoon to fall to 17-14? History has not been kind to teams only 3 games above .500 when it comes to getting an at-large. So Michigan could really solidify their cause by winning tomorrow.
And what about their in-state rival, Michigan State?
The Spartans have played poorly the past few weeks, going only 3-7 and even getting blown out on several occasions (87-70 by Michigan, 86-60 by Iowa, etc.) But this is about the whole body of work, and Michigan State simply has too good a resume to be left out. They piled up quality wins early on against the likes of Purdue, Wisconsin (away), Connecticut (neutral), Loyola-Chicago (neutral), and Michigan, and their metrics are solid. I have them on the 7 line, which is a bit higher than most, but I still see absolutely no way the Spartans will be left out of the Big Dance.
Keep in mind, too, that every bracketologist will do their share of “seed scrubbing” these next few days, meaning they look closely at the resume of every team they are considering. This will lead them to change their projections. For that matter, the Selection Committee will do this too. And of course, with the conference tournaments really gearing up, we’re sure to have games that produce some movement in the field (a topic I’ll cover in greater depth tomorrow or Friday). With that said, let’s check out tonight’s updated field.
Clinched bids since last time: Colgate
In since last time: St. Peter’s, SMU
Out since last time: Iona, Wake Forest
Eliminated from consideration since last time: none yet, but I anticipate several teams will be when I’m able to do more “scrubbing” leading up to the weekend.
1s: Gonzaga, Baylor, Arizona, Auburn (+1)
2s: Kansas (-1), Kentucky, Duke, Wisconsin
3s: Villanova, Purdue, Tennessee, Providence
4s: Texas Tech, UCLA, Illinois, Arkansas
5s: Connecticut, Saint Mary’s, Houston, Alabama
6s: Texas, Colorado State, Ohio State, Marquette
7s: LSU, Southern Cal, Murray State, Michigan State
8s: Iowa State, Seton Hall, Iowa, San Diego State
9s: Boise State, TCU, Creighton, North Carolina
10s: Davidson, San Francisco, Miami, Memphis
11s: Michigan, Notre Dame, Loyola Chicago, Wyoming
12s: Rutgers, Xavier, VCU, SMU (new), North Texas, South Dakota State
13s: Chattanooga, New Mexico State, Toledo, Vermont (+1)
14s: Princeton, Delaware, Montana State, St. Peter’s (new)
15s: Jacksonville State, Georgia State, Long Beach State, Longwood
16s: Colgate, Nicholls State, Norfolk State, Bryant, Wright State, Alcorn State
Last Four In: Rutgers, Xavier, VCU, SMU
First Four Out: Wake Forest, BYU, Indiana, Oregon
Others Still Alive: Texas A & M, Florida, Virginia Tech, UAB, Dayton, Oklahoma, Saint Louis, Virginia, Saint Bonaventure, Mississippi State, Santa Clara, Belmont, Saint John’s, Colorado, Drake, South Carolina, UNLV, UCF
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you on Thursday with an updated projection and a closer look at the top seed lines. Also, check out the Bracket Matrix if you want to see over 100 more of these.