Bracketology: We Made it to Selection Sunday!

Here we go, Selection Sunday, one of the greatest days on the calendar, a day that should be declared a national holiday!

*** This paragraph is an update at 3:30 Eastern, with Colgate having earned the Patriot League autobid and my decision to put Louisville in the field and drop Wichita State out. When I looked at it more closely, Louisville does have 5 wins vs. at-large quality or close to it teams. And simply put, I don’t think Wichita State’s wins vs. Houston and at Ole Miss will be enough to overcome their poor NET ranking of 72 (You can see below why I originally had it the other way around with these two. Hopefully this change is correct!) ***

I mostly didn’t make a lot of changes since yesterday, after going through the data for hours late last night while watching the Pac-12 and other conference finals (and man, if you missed Bill Walton declaring “you can’t make your picks after the tournament starts, please!” in reference to Joe Lunardi, and his barrage of animal noises, you just missed out on life). This means I believe in what I’m doing here, which is a good thing! I’ll let the chips fall where they may. Before I get to the projection, here’s a quick update on the changes.

Texas and Oklahoma State flipped because I think the Big 12 winner will be rewarded, and even more so because they are similar enough in resume to justify it. And with all due respect to a very good Houston, their resume just isn’t good enough to put them on the 2 line. It might happen- but I don’t see a credible argument for it. (Of course, it wouldn’t be a Selection Sunday without at least one such occurrence, so we’ll see!)

Georgia Tech and Saint Bonaventure flipped because the Yellow Jackets have a slightly better body of work at this point, after beating Florida State for the second time this season in last night’s ACC final. The same can be said for LSU moving up to a 7 and Clemson dropping to an 8, as well as North Carolina moving up to a 9 and Maryland dropping to a 10, and San Diego State to a 7, Oklahoma to an 8.

I had my hardest time with the cut line today, as I’m sure most bracketologists are. Georgetown and Oregon State broke a lot of hearts last night with their bid thievery. Neither was going to make it as an at-large – but both won their conference finals in impressive fashion and knocked two teams out of the bracket.

Yesterday, I wrote about having Boise State in and Syracuse out. Today, they’re both out.

  • Louisville was one victim of the bid thievery, because – while I get that their 6-0 Quad 2 record could help them – they are just 1-6 vs. Quad 1, a far worse mark than any at-large team I have in. And if you’re relying on your record vs. Quad 2 – which can consist of good teams but also bad ones – to make up for a terrible Quad 1 mark, that shouldn’t be enough. (Updated at 3:30 EST; see above.)
  • Boise State was the other victim of the bid thievery because, while they do have two good road wins, as I noted yesterday, they also have a Quad 4 loss. No team I’m projecting as an at-large has this dubious claim. They also have a 14-6 conference record in the Mountain West, in which everyone plays everyone else twice. While conference record isn’t a criterion for the Selection Committee per se, it does tell us something when the conference schedule is balanced. And….
  • Colorado State went 14-3 in the Mountain West. They could have gone 14-6 if they got all their games in, but they also could have gone 17-3. Either way, 14-3 > 14-6. And the Mountain West just feels like a three-bid conference to me, plus Colorado State has two quality road wins (at San Diego State, at Utah State).
  • Drake also stays in. While their overall body of work is light on quality wins (just one vs. a good Loyola-Chicago), it’s also light on bad losses. And I think/hope the Committee will reward them for a great overall record (25-4) combined with a solid NET (45), as they did fellow mid-major Belmont in 2019.
  • Finally, Wichita State is in serious jeopardy of being snubbed after falling to a bad Cincinnati team yesterday and their NET ranking being a middling 72 (was 64). But I left them in on the strength of a great win vs. Houston this season. We’ll see! (Updated at 3:30 EST; see above.)

Nothing would surprise me here, but I have to make a decision and live with it. And I’m fine with these decisions given the rationale I have for them! No one is going to do this perfectly, and it is better to be wrong with conviction than to be wrong with no conviction.

So here’s today’s projection. As always, moves up or down since last time are in parentheses. Please note that there were three contingencies, now just one (the “if Cincinnati wins” one):

  1. If Loyola-Maryland beats Colgate in the Patriot League final:
    1. Loyola-Chicago is a 16 seed. This means:
    1. UNC-Greensboro jumps to a 13
    1. Cleveland State jumps to a 14
    1. Iona jumps to a 15
    1. All else remains as it is below
  2. If Cincinnati beats Houston in the American Athletic final:
    1. Cincinnati is a 14 seed. This means:
    1. A third bid thief! Unfortunately in this scenario, Colorado State is victimized and falls out of the field.
    1. Georgetown jumps to an 11
    1. UC-Santa Barbara jumps to a 12
    1. UNC-Greensboro jumps to a 13
    2. All else remains as it is below.
  3. If Loyola-Maryland AND Cincinnati win their finals – this is a nightmare for everyone involved, and the kind of thing that will make you start using Excel sheets if you’re not already (I already am, so good for me):
    1. Colorado State falls out of the field
    1. Georgetown jumps to an 11
    1. UC-Santa Barbara jumps to a 12
    1. UNC-Greensboro AND Abilene Christian jump to a 13
    1. Cleveland State jumps to a 14
    1. Iona jumps to a 15
    2. All else remains as it is below.

There, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Here we go with the projection!

In since last time: Georgetown, Oregon State, North Texas, Ohio, Texas Southern

Out since last time: Wichita State, Boise State, Western Kentucky, Buffalo, Prairie View

1s: Gonzaga, Baylor, Illinois, Michigan

2s: Ohio State, Alabama, Iowa, Texas (+1)

3s: Oklahoma State (-1), Houston, Kansas, Arkansas

4s: West Virginia, Virginia, Purdue, Florida State

5s: Tennessee, Villanova, Creighton, Colorado

6s: USC, Missouri, BYU, Texas Tech

7s: Oregon, Wisconsin, LSU (+1), San Diego State (+1)

8s: Clemson (-1), Oklahoma (-1), Florida, Loyola Chicago

9s: Connecticut, Rutgers, Georgia Tech (+1), North Carolina (+1)

10s: Maryland (-1), Saint Bonaventure (-1), Virginia Tech, VCU

11s: Michigan State, UCLA, Drake (+1), Utah State, Louisville (+1), Colorado State (+1)

12s: Georgetown (new), Winthrop, North Texas (new), Oregon State (new)

13s: UC-Santa Barbara, Colgate, Liberty, Ohio (new)

14s: UNC-Greensboro, Abilene Christian, Morehead State, Eastern Washington

15s: Cleveland State, Grand Canyon, Oral Roberts, Drexel

16s: Iona, Hartford, Mount Saint Mary’s, Appalachian State, Norfolk State, Texas Southern (new)

Last Four Byes: Virginia Tech, VCU, Michigan State, UCLA

Last Four In: Drake (+1), Utah State, Louisville (+1), Colorado State (+1),

First Five Out: Wichita State (-1), Boise State (-1), Ole Miss, Syracuse, Saint Louis

Thanks for reading, and check out the Bracket Matrix to see 150-200 projections and how they all stacked up! And, enjoy March Madness!

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Bracketology: The Final Countdown to Selection Sunday

Here we go, the day before Selection Sunday, one of the greatest days on the calendar! At this point, most of the teams outside of the one-bid conferences are entrenched on their seed line, in my opinion. Also, from what we know, the Selection Committee doesn’t make a lot of changes from this point forward. So, with that in mind, here’s some insight into a few specifics in today’s projection.

Oklahoma State is the biggest mover, rising from the 4 line all the way to the 2 line. Interestingly, I’ve been high on Oklahoma State since I started my projections in February. Their run as of late – most recently defeating a sure 1 seed in Baylor yesterday – now has them with 10 Quad 1 wins. This is second in the nation only to Illinois, a likely 1 seed.

I rarely make such drastic moves this late in the process but when I compared Oklahoma State to Houston, who had the final 2 seed yesterday, I had to make this move. No disrespect to Houston, as they are a very good team. They only have 2 Quad 1 wins, though, and I don’t see any way this will be enough to surpass Oklahoma State – or potentially Texas, should they defeat Oklahoma State in tonight’s Big 12 final.

As we work our way down a bit further, we see that Colorado and USC flipped, such that Colorado is now a 5 and USC is now a 6. You could make a case either way; to their discredit, Colorado has 3 Quad 3 losses, while USC has none. But, USC has lost to Oregon State and Utah – neither of whom is good – and most importantly here, they’ve now lost three times to Colorado after dropping last night’s Pac-12 semifinal to the stampeding Buffaloes.

Descending further into the (March) madness, I had my hardest time with the 9 and 10 lines today. There are just so many teams with basically the same pros/cons here. Ultimately, I just left it the same as yesterday instead of out-thinking myself. The one exception is VCU rose up to the 10 line while UCLA fell to the 11 line. It was a “which one of these isn’t like the others” situation” where UCLA’s resume is clearly inferior to the other previous 9s and 10s (UConn, Rutgers, Maryland, St. Bonaventure, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech) and just a bit worse than VCU’s.

Finally, I’ve been in the minority with Boise State in and Syracuse out the last couple days. I believe in it and I’m sticking with it. Why? Well, let’s look back to 2019 for a historical precedent, first of all. That year, when Belmont picked up an at-large – to many bracketologists’ surprise – it was established that being able to pick up a good road win will be a decision point for teams at the cut line. Actually, this has long been true, but obviously, 2019 is the most recent example. So here’s the deal:

  • Boise State has 2 Quad 1 road wins (at BYU, at Colorado State)
  • Syracuse has just 1 – in 7 tries – and that’s at North Carolina State, who isn’t a tournament-quality team
  • Let’s throw in Drake and Louisville too, because the way I see it, the last spot is between these two and Syracuse. Drake has beaten the best team of the bunch, in terms of beating Loyola-Chicago this season (though it was at home, so I’ll give this one more look before my final projection tomorrow). Louisville won at Duke, who was on the fringes of the discussion before withdrawing from the ACC tournament… so there’s that.

Nothing would surprise me here, but I have to make a decision and live with it. And I’m fine with that decision given the rationale I have for it!

So here’s today’s projection. As always, moves up or down since last time are in parentheses.

In since last time: Buffalo, Norfolk State

Out since last time: Toledo, North Carolina A & T

Gone Fishin’ (i.e. eliminated from at-large consideration; I named this section in honor of the greatest sports studio show on earth, that of the NBA on TNT, who will bring us March Madness coverage):

  • Seton Hall (losing to Georgetown in the Big East semis yesterday tops off what was already not a very impressive body of work; they have one win over a tournament-quality team at UConn, and several bad losses)
  • Saint John’s (similar to Seton Hall, plus a home win vs. Villanova; still not enough)
  • Xavier (similar to their Big East counterparts I just discussed)
  • SMU (they were treading water to begin with and probably needed to win the American Athletic tournament to get in)

1s: Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan, Illinois

2s: Ohio State, Iowa, Alabama, Oklahoma State (+2)

3s: Texas, Houston (-1), Kansas, Arkansas

4s: West Virginia, Virginia, Purdue, Florida State (+1)  

5s: Creighton, Tennessee, Villanova (-1), Colorado (+1)

6s: USC (-1), Missouri, Texas Tech, BYU

7s: Oklahoma, Oregon, Wisconsin, Clemson  

8s: LSU, Florida, Loyola Chicago, San Diego State  

9s: Connecticut, Rutgers, Maryland, Saint Bonaventure

10s: North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, VCU (+1)

11s: UCLA (-1), Wichita State, Michigan State, Utah State (+1)

12s: Colorado State (-1), Boise State, Drake, Louisville, Winthrop, Western Kentucky

13s: Colgate, UC-Santa Barbara, Liberty, Buffalo (new)

14s: Abilene Christian, Morehead State, UNC-Greensboro, Eastern Washington

15s: Cleveland State, Grand Canyon, Oral Roberts, Drexel

16s: Iona, Hartford, Mount Saint Mary’s, Prairie View, Appalachian State, Norfolk State (new)

Last Four Byes: UCLA (-1), Wichita State, Michigan State, Utah State (+1)

Last Four In: Colorado State (-1), Boise State, Drake, Louisville

First Four Out: Syracuse, Ole Miss, Saint Louis, Memphis (+1)

Thanks for reading, and look for my final update tomorrow before the Selection Show! Check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!

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Bracketology: Bubble Watch!

It was a rough day for bubble teams yesterday. Michigan State continued their incredibly inconsistent (sometimes incompetent) ways, going on their second 10-minute-plus field goal drought in their past 3 games and dropping a 68-57 decision to Maryland. Boise State lost to Nevada for the third time this season. And Syracuse came close to solidifying their case for a bid against Virginia, but fell on a buzzer-beating 3.

As I wrote yesterday though, we had already hit the point where other than extreme cases, teams were likely to stay within a seed line of where they were. Michigan State was an 11 and stays in today. Boise State and Syracuse were both 12s, so they were in more jeopardy of falling out of the tournament field entering yesterday.

Here’s the thing: Boise State has road wins at BYU (a 6 seed in today’s projection) and Colorado State (an 11 in today’s projection), while Syracuse has no road wins over a team of any quality. Thus, Syracuse fell out of the field today and they were replaced by Louisville. The Cardinals don’t have an impressive body of work either, but at least they beat Duke – who was pushing the cut line before yesterday’s unfortunate news (see below) – on the road. So, whatever, I might change my mind about these two teams again tomorrow, but for now, it’s Louisville in, Syracuse out.

So here’s today’s projection. As always, moves up or down since last time are in parentheses.

In since last time: Louisville

Out since last time: Syracuse

Gone Fishin’ (i.e. eliminated from at-large consideration; I named this section in honor of the greatest sports studio show on earth, that of the NBA on TNT, who will bring us March Madness coverage):

  • Duke. Whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em (and believe me, I don’t love ‘em), no one should be happy about how this happened. The Blue Devils had a positive COVID test come up before they were to play Florida State in the ACC quarters yesterday and decided to end their season. They were still on the wrong side of the bubble but obviously, a W over Florida State would have really helped their cause. Let’s hope that there won’t be more COVID casualties in March Madness.
  • Minnesota. The Golden Gophers had enough quality wins before their February/early March meltdown (Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Purdue) that an at-large was in the realm of possibility if they picked up a W vs. Ohio State yesterday and kept it rolling vs. Purdue today. But, they didn’t, and so they’ve gone fishin’, or probably ice fishin’ given that it’s March in the coldest metro area in the United States.

1s: Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan, Illinois

2s: Alabama, Iowa, Ohio State, Houston

3s: Texas, Kansas, West Virginia, Arkansas

4s: Oklahoma State, Virginia, Purdue, Villanova  

5s: USC, Creighton, Florida State, Tennessee

6s: Missouri, Colorado, Texas Tech, BYU (+1)

7s: Oklahoma (-1), Oregon, Wisconsin, Clemson  

8s: Florida, LSU, Loyola Chicago, San Diego State  

9s: Connecticut, Rutgers, Maryland (+1), Saint Bonaventure (+1)

10s: North Carolina, Virginia Tech (-1), Georgia Tech (+1), UCLA (-1)

11s: VCU (-1), Wichita State, Michigan State, Colorado State

12s: Boise State, Utah State, Drake, Louisville (new), Winthrop, Western Kentucky

13s: Colgate, Toledo, UC-Santa Barbara, Liberty

14s: Abilene Christian, Morehead State, UNC-Greensboro, Eastern Washington

15s: Cleveland State, Grand Canyon, Oral Roberts, Drexel

16s: Iona, Hartford, Mount Saint Mary’s, Prairie View, Appalachian State, North Carolina A & T

Last Four Byes: VCU (-1), Wichita State, Michigan State, Colorado State

Last Four In: Boise State, Utah State, Drake, Louisville (new)

First Four Out: Syracuse (-1), Ole Miss, Seton Hall (+1), Saint Louis (+1)

Next Four Out: Saint John’s (-1), Xavier, Memphis, SMU

Thanks for reading, and look for my next update tomorrow (Saturday). Check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!

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Bracketology: What Will it be for Duke and Michigan State?

After a couple days/nights of bids being clinched and some key wins for at-large contenders (Duke beating Louisville for example), we have a few shifts in the NCAA tournament projection. These are mostly towards the cut line, as the high seed contenders will be getting into the action today after receiving byes from the opening rounds of their conference tournaments.

Generally speaking, I’d say just about every team is capable of rising or falling one line from here; in extreme cases, a team might rise or fall two lines. So, in my view, everyone from Michigan State (the 3rd team on the 11 line) on up is safely in the field. The last five spots (Colorado State, Boise State, Syracuse, Utah State, Drake) are precarious. And with three of those five being occupied by Mountain West teams, that conference tournament alone could really shake things up.

So here it is. As always, moves up or down since last time are in parentheses.

Clinched bids since last time: Drexel (Colonial Athletic), Mount Saint Mary’s (Northeastern), Cleveland State (Horizon), Oral Roberts (Summit), Gonzaga (West Coast) (these teams and other auto-qualifiers are bolded below)

In since last time: Mount Saint Mary’s, Iona, Syracuse

Out since last time: Bryant, Siena (both eliminated due to losing in one-bid conference tournaments), Louisville (first team out today after their loss to Duke last night)

Gone Fishin’ (i.e. eliminated from at-large consideration; I named this section in honor of the greatest sports studio show on earth, that of the NBA on TNT, who will bring us March Madness coverage):

  • Providence (lost to Depaul in the Big East 1st round), though they were barely ever in consideration. But a couple of good wins in the Big East tournament could have given them an argument for being included in the March Madness field.
  • North Carolina State (lost to Syracuse in the ACC 2nd round). Like Providence, they were barely in consideration, but a couple of good wins in the ACC tournament could have given them a case.
  • Stanford (lost to Cal in the Pac-12 1st round). Stanford is the ultimate example of a team worn down by COVID-19 protocols, having spent nearly three months straight on the road. Historically though, the Selection Committee tends to surprise us each year by including one team as an at-large that no one saw in the field… and that team is often on the 11 line. So why do I have a weird feeling the Selection Committee will use Stanford’s crazy schedule as a reason to overlook their poor performance of late and put them in the field? Stay tuned….

1s: Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan, Illinois

2s: Alabama, Iowa, Ohio State, Houston

3s: West Virginia, Arkansas, Texas, Kansas (+1)

4s: Villanova (-1), Oklahoma State, Virginia, Purdue

5s: USC, Creighton, Florida State, Tennessee (+1)  

6s: Texas Tech (-1), Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma

7s: Oregon, Wisconsin, BYU, Clemson  

8s: Florida, LSU, San Diego State, Loyola Chicago  

9s: Connecticut, Virginia Tech, Rutgers, UCLA

10s: Maryland, Saint Bonaventure, North Carolina (+1), VCU

11s: Georgia Tech (-1), Wichita State, Michigan State, Colorado State

12s: Boise State, Syracuse (new), Utah State, Drake, Winthrop, Western Kentucky

13s: Colgate, Toledo, UC-Santa Barbara, Liberty

14s: Abilene Christian, Morehead State, UNC-Greensboro, Eastern Washington

15s: Cleveland State, Grand Canyon, Oral Roberts, Drexel

16s: Iona (new), Hartford, Mount Saint Mary’s (new), Prairie View, Appalachian State, North Carolina A & T

Last Four Byes: Georgia Tech (-1), Wichita State, Michigan State, Colorado State

Last Four In: Boise State, Syracuse (new), Utah State, Drake

First Four Out: Louisville (-1), Ole Miss, Duke (+2), Saint John’s (+1)

Next Six Out: Saint Louis (-1), Seton Hall, Xavier (-1), Memphis, SMU, Minnesota (+1)

Thanks for reading, and look for my next update tomorrow (Friday). Check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!

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Bracketology: Get Ready for Appalachian St. vs. Michigan

Conference tournament week has already delivered. Last night, Appalachian State won the Sun Belt. Because they will almost surely be a 16 seed, expect them to match up with Michigan in the first round. You just know the selection committee is going to do this.

All joking (but not really joking) aside, Oral Roberts hit a buzzer beater to knock off the top-seeded South Dakota State in the Summit League. If I’m counting correctly, that’s now 7 top seeds who have fallen in one-bid conference (there are 20) tournaments!

Speaking of Michigan, I’m going to revise something I said yesterday. Looking at it closer, the Wolverines are a sure shot to get a 1 seed. This is instructive, too: they had a rough week last week (with 2 losses sandwiched around the win that clinched the Big Ten), but it’s about the whole season. And for the whole season, the Wolverines, along with Gonzaga and Baylor, simply have a body of work that is 1-seed worthy.

I’m also going to say that Ohio State, contrary to what I said yesterday, has a small chance at a 1 seed still. This is for basically the same reasons as Alabama and Iowa and is equally unlikely; see the post from yesterday if you want more detail on that.

With that said, not a lot of changes since yesterday. That’s typical at the beginning of this week, when hardly anyone capable of earning an at-large bid plays until Wednesday. So the changes you see below either reflect re-analysis of a few teams or addition/subtraction based on last night’s conference tournament results.

So here it is. As always, moves up or down since last time are in parentheses.

Clinched bids since last time: Appalachian State (Sun Belt), UNC-Greensboro (Southern) (these teams and other auto-qualifiers are bolded below)

Bids up for grabs tonight: There are 5 conference finals tonight! These will be in the West Coast (Gonzaga vs. BYU), Colonial Athletic (Elon vs. Drexel), Horizon (Oakland vs. Cleveland State), Northeast (Mt. St. Mary’s vs. Bryant), and Sun Belt (Oral Roberts vs. North Dakota St.).

In since last time: Oral Roberts, Appalachian State, Drexel

Out since last time: South Dakota State, Georgia State, Northeastern (all are eliminated from consideration after losing in one-bid conference tournaments last night).

1s: Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan, Illinois

2s: Alabama, Iowa, Ohio State, Houston

3s: West Virginia, Arkansas, Texas, Villanova

4s: Kansas, Oklahoma State, Virginia, Purdue

5s: USC, Creighton, Florida State, Texas Tech        

6s: Tennessee, Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma

7s: BYU, Clemson, Oregon, Wisconsin (+1)

8s: Florida (-1), LSU, San Diego State, Loyola Chicago (+1)

9s: Connecticut, Virginia Tech (-1), Rutgers, UCLA

10s: Maryland, Saint Bonaventure, VCU, Georgia Tech

11s: Wichita State, Michigan State, Colorado State, North Carolina

12s: Louisville, Boise State, Utah State, Drake, Winthrop, Western Kentucky

13s: Colgate, Toledo, UC-Santa Barbara, Liberty

14s: Abilene Christian, Morehead State, UNC-Greensboro, Eastern Washington (+1)

15s: Cleveland State, Siena, Grand Canyon (+1), Oral Roberts (new)

16s: Bryant, Drexel (new), Hartford, Prairie View, Appalachian State (new), North Carolina A & T

Last Four Byes: Wichita State, Michigan State, Colorado State, North Carolina

Last Four In: Louisville, Boise State, Utah State, Drake

First Four Out: Ole Miss, Xavier, Syracuse, Saint Louis (+1)

Next Six Out: Saint John’s (-1), Seton Hall, North Carolina State, Stanford, Memphis, SMU

Barely Hanging On: Minnesota, Providence, Duke

Thanks for reading, and look for my next update tomorrow (Wednesday). Check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!

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Bracketology: Champ Week is Here!

Conference tournament week, here we go! The beginning of the greatest period of time in sports – March Madness and the games leading right up to it.

It has only been 2 days, but a lot has happened since I last did a projection, on Saturday morning. First of all, remember how I told you I wasn’t going to agonize over the auto-qualifiers from the one-bid conferences because of how much it could change as the conference tournaments unfolded? Well, six of those teams I had in on Saturday lost over the weekend to fall out of consideration altogether, as if to prove my point. So you will see quite a few changes on the 12-16 lines – and remember that it is certain there will be more shifts as conference tournaments play out.

I also said on Saturday that I’d bring you an update on who could get a 1 seed. Well, that got remarkably easier that same day when Illinois beat Ohio State, almost surely guaranteeing the former a 1 seed and all but ending the chances of the latter getting one. West Virginia also lost that day and while there is absolutely no shame in losing to a very good Oklahoma State squad, the Mountaineers just have no shot at a 1 seed now. The only teams that could still rise up to the 1 line are:

TeamWhy a 1 seed is still possibleWhy it is highly unlikely
AlabamaThis is a team that has gone 7-4 vs. Quad 1 teams, including a win over a rapidly ascending Arkansas. They are also 7-3 on the road. They have a couple of questionable losses (Stanford, Western Kentucky) but none that are truly bad.The Tide are playing from behind and won’t have a good win opportunity until Saturday, when they could face Tennessee or Florida in the SEC semifinals. And – as I’ll get into later this week – nothing that happens on Selection Sunday matters for the sake of seeding, at least not historically. Is that stupid? Yes. But it’s reality.  
IowaThey are 7-5 vs. Quad 1, including W’s at Ohio State and home to Purdue. They also have several wins that are not against top-tier teams but surefire tournament teams (Wisconsin x 2, Rutgers x 2, and at Maryland).Unlike Alabama, the Hawkeyes will have two good win opportunities prior to Sunday (potentially Wisconsin Friday, then Illinois Saturday). But also unlike Alabama, the Hawkeyes have three losses collectively vs. the two teams who’ve undergone the greatest collapses of the year – Indiana (x2) and Minnesota. While the losses were not bad at the time, they are bad now and that will be a factor.
Can Alabama or Iowa get a 1 seed? Not likely. Can Alabama AND Iowa get a 1 seed? Please!

For more clarity: Gonzaga and Baylor are getting 1 seeds. I’m as sure of it as I am sure that it will get light out tomorrow morning, or that I will be glued to multiple screens watching the tournament. Illinois very likely is (see above) and while Michigan has now made it less than certain, it’s still about a 90% chance given their overall win profile.

Let’s touch on the bubble now too. I’ll get into this much more as the week unfolds, but a couple of quick things for now:

  • I believe the teams on the 11 and 12 lines are not safe – though the 11s are likely in, while it’s much iffier for the 12s.
  • To that point, the margin between Drake – last team in today – and Ole Miss – first team out today – is razor thin. Drake is also in a precarious position because they are out of games to play, while those below them in the First Four Out all await the openings of their conference tournaments.
  • Oh yeah, one more thing – they’re not a bubble team after clinching an auto-bid, but I have to tell you that Winthrop is going to be a nightmare for some unfortunate 5 seed.

So here it is. As always, moves up or down since last time are in parentheses.

Clinched bids since last time: Liberty (Atlantic Sun), Morehead State (Ohio Valley), Winthrop (Big South), Loyola Chicago (Missouri Valley) (these teams are bolded below)

Bids up for grabs tonight: Southern Conference (UNCG vs. Mercer), Sun Belt (Georgia State vs. Appalachian State)

In since last time: Michigan State, Utah State, Georgia State, Morehead State, UNC-Greensboro, Bryant, Northeastern, Hartford

Out since last time: Syracuse, Xavier, Belmont, Furman, Vermont, Texas State, James Madison, Wagner (Syracuse and Xavier are still in consideration; the others are eliminated altogether due to losing in one-bid conference tournaments).

Eliminated from at-large consideration: Indiana, Richmond

1s: Gonzaga, Baylor, Illinois, Michigan

2s: Alabama, Iowa, Ohio State, Houston (+1)

3s: Arkansas, Texas (+1), West Virginia (-1), Villanova

4s: Kansas (-1), Oklahoma State, Virginia (+1), Purdue (+1)

5s: USC, Creighton, Florida State (-1), Texas Tech (-1)

6s: Tennessee, Missouri, Oklahoma, Colorado

7s: BYU, Clemson, Oregon (+1), Florida  

8s: LSU, Wisconsin (-1), San Diego State, Virginia Tech

9s: Connecticut, Loyola Chicago, Rutgers, UCLA (+1)

10s: Maryland (-1), Saint Bonaventure, VCU (+1), Georgia Tech

11s: Wichita State, Colorado State (-1), Michigan State (new), North Carolina (+1)

12s: Louisville (-1), Boise State (-1), Utah State (new), Drake, Winthrop, Western Kentucky

13s: Colgate, Toledo, UC-Santa Barbara, Liberty (+1)

14s: Abilene Christian, South Dakota State (+1), Georgia State (new), Morehead State (new)

15s: UNC-Greensboro (new), Eastern Washington, Siena, Cleveland State

16s: Grand Canyon, Bryant (new), Northeastern (new), Hartford (new), Prairie View, North Carolina A & T

Last Four Byes: Wichita State, Colorado State (-1), Michigan State (new), North Carolina (+1)

Last Four In: Louisville (-1), Boise State (-1), Utah State (new), Drake

First Four Out: Ole Miss, Syracuse (-1), Xavier (-1), Saint John’s (+1)

Next Six Out: Saint Louis (-1), Seton Hall, North Carolina State, Stanford, Memphis, SMU

Barely Hanging On: Minnesota, Providence, Duke

Thanks for reading, and look for my next update tomorrow (Tuesday). Check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!

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Bracketology: The Ohio Valley Brings March Back!

Here’s a quick update as we head into the final weekend of the regular season. Of course, some conferences are already well into their tournaments, and reminding us that March is back. For example, the Ohio Valley semifinals last night between Jacksonville State and Belmont, and Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State, had everything we live for at this time of year. And both games set us up for what should be an epic confrontation between Belmont and Morehead State for the championship tonight!

Overall, we’re far enough along that the top of the field is starting to stabilize, in my view. You’ll see that there were no changes in the top 4 lines since Wednesday. Tomorrow (Sunday), I’ll bring you a closer look at who can still grab a 1 seed (briefly for now, Gonzaga, Baylor, and Michigan have that locked up, so it’s just the last one that’s up for grabs).

The middle of the field (the 5-12 lines, or the middle and bottom of the at-large bids) is anything but stable. As next week unfolds, I’ll bring you a closer look at where I see things in terms of how high different teams could rise – or how far they could fall. You won’t see a drastic change for any given team, but even a 2-line change between today and Selection Sunday could be the difference between making the tournament and not (for those in the 11, 12, First Four Out, and Next Six Out range), or between getting a favorable first round draw and not.

Lastly, you’ll see I’ve made no changes to the one-bid conference projections (Western Kentucky down to North Carolina A & T) since Wednesday. This time of year, I tend to update these as conference tournaments finalize, or if projected auto-qualifiers lose in those conference tournaments. There’s little point in agonizing over whether UC-Santa Barbara or Furman should be the last 13 seed, only to have both fall in their conference tournaments, for example. So you’ll see changes in those lines as the next week rolls on and those changes become necessary.

So here it is. As always, moves up or down since last time are in parentheses.

In since last time: Syracuse

Out since last time: Seton Hall

1s: Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan, Illinois

2s: Ohio State, West Virginia, Alabama, Iowa

3s: Houston, Villanova, Kansas, Arkansas

4s: Florida State, Texas, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech

5s: Purdue, Virginia, USC (+1), Creighton

6s: Missouri, Tennessee, Colorado (-1), Oklahoma

7s: BYU (+1), Clemson, Wisconsin, Florida  

8s: Oregon, Virginia Tech (-1), San Diego State, LSU (+1)

9s: Loyola Chicago, Maryland (-1), Connecticut (+1), Rutgers

10s: UCLA, Georgia Tech, Colorado State (-1), Saint Bonaventure (+1)

11s: VCU, Louisville (-1), Wichita State (+1), Boise State

12s: North Carolina, Drake (-1), Xavier, Syracuse (new), Western Kentucky, Winthrop

13s: Colgate, Toledo, Belmont, UC-Santa Barbara

14s: Furman, Liberty, Abilene Christian, Vermont

15s: South Dakota State, Eastern Washington, Siena, Cleveland State

16s: Texas St., James Madison, Grand Canyon, Prairie View, Wagner, North Carolina A & T

Last Four Byes: VCU, Louisville (-1), Wichita State (+1), Boise State

Last Four In: North Carolina, Drake (-1), Xavier, Syracuse (new)

First Four Out: Saint Louis (+1), Utah State, Michigan State, Ole Miss

Next Six Out: Seton Hall, Saint John’s, North Carolina State (+1), Stanford (-1), Memphis, SMU

Barely Hanging On: Minnesota (-2), Providence (-1), Indiana, Richmond, Duke

Thanks for reading, and look for my next update Sunday. Check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!

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Bracketology: March Madness is Here!

March Madness is here! And we have our first victim, as the Horizon’s League #1 seed, Wright State, fell in their conference tournament opener last night. Unfortunately, that will do it for them, as there is no possibility of them earning an at-large bid.

As I moved through the field today, what stood out to me is that it is an absolute mess near the cut line. Multiple teams in that area suffered terrible losses so far this week. Saint Bonaventure lost to a bad Dayton team, Xavier lost at a bad Georgetown team, and Boise State lost to a really bad Fresno State team – making them the only team with a Quad 4 loss in today’s projected field.

And that is a precarious spot for Boise State. In my view, everyone down to the Third Four Out (you’ll see this below) has a shot at an at-large. We also could see a bid stealer or two, as usual. So really, no one on the 11 line, and probably even a couple of teams higher than that, aren’t safe.

The last thing I’ll say before getting to it is that Duke, Indiana, and Richmond are hanging on by a thread at this point. You might ask why I don’t eliminate, for example, Indiana, who I opined on Monday isn’t a good team at all and is now 12-13. Well, there’s some weird world where they beat Purdue this weekend, then pick up a couple of good wins in the Big Ten Tournament and get an at-large. And that’s really a statement about the weakness of the lower part of the field – or the lack of opportunities to pick up quality non-conference wins this season, however you choose to look at it.

So here it is. As always, moves up or down since last time are in parentheses.

Eliminated from consideration: Wright State (lost in 1st round of Horizon League tournament)

In since last time: Cleveland State

Out since last time: Wright State

1s: Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan, Illinois

2s: Ohio State, West Virginia, Alabama, Iowa

3s: Houston, Kansas, Villanova, Arkansas (+1)

4s: Oklahoma State, Florida State (-1), Texas, Texas Tech (+1)

5s: Purdue (+1), Creighton, Virginia (+1), Colorado

6s: Oklahoma (-1), Tennessee (-2), USC, Missouri

7s: Clemson, Florida, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin

8s: BYU, Oregon (+1), San Diego State, Maryland

9s: Loyola Chicago, LSU, Colorado State, Rutgers (-1)

10s: UCLA, Louisville, Connecticut (+1), Georgia Tech (+2)

11s: VCU, Drake, Saint Bonaventure (-1), Boise State (-1)

12s: Wichita State, Xavier (-1), North Carolina, Seton Hall, Western Kentucky, Winthrop (+1)

13s: Colgate, Toledo (-1), Belmont, UC-Santa Barbara

14s: Furman, Liberty, Abilene Christian, Vermont (+1)

15s: South Dakota State, Eastern Washington, Siena, Cleveland State (new)

16s: Texas St., James Madison, Grand Canyon, Prairie View, Wagner, North Carolina A & T

Last Four Byes: VCU, Drake, Saint Bonaventure (-1), Boise State (-1)

Last Four In: Wichita State, Xavier (-1), North Carolina, Seton Hall

First Four Out: Michigan State, Utah State, Ole Miss, Stanford

Next Four Out: Saint Louis, Saint John’s, Minnesota, SMU (+1)

Third Four Out: Syracuse, Memphis, North Carolina State, Providence

Barely Hanging On: Indiana (-), Richmond (-), Duke (-)

Thanks for reading, and look for my next update Thursday or Friday. Check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!

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Bracketology: Illinois Grabs the Last 1 Seed

It’s hard to imagine Gonzaga, Michigan, or Baylor falling off the 1 line. To put that into perspective, these three teams have fewer losses combined (2) than any other single team has! But as for that last 1 seed, Ohio State’s struggles lately warrant a drop, though it is not at all a wide margin between them and Illinois, who I’ve moved up. In fact, I expect a few teams to slug it out for the last 1 seed over the next couple of weeks.

I also wanted to give some commentary on the teams who moved into or dropped out of the field since Saturday.

In since last time: Xavier, North Carolina, Georgia Tech.

  • Xavier picked up a really nice win against Creighton on Saturday, to go with another strong win against Oklahoma earlier in the year.
  • North Carolina picked up a key win against Florida State on Saturday.
  • Meanwhile, Georgia Tech won at Virginia Tech last week, to go along with an earlier win against Florida State. They are also the beneficiary of having the best resumé of anyone below the cut line after I moved Xavier and North Carolina in.

Of course, these moves never happen in isolation. If you’re on the wrong side of the cut line, you pick up a great win, and so do several teams just above you, you’ll have more work to do. So let’s look at the teams who are out since last time: Indiana, Stanford, Ole Miss.

  • Indiana, to put it bluntly, just isn’t very good. They are now an even .500 (12-12) after getting blown out by Michigan on Saturday. That last part is forgivable, but a .500 record is not – no one has ever gained an at-large bid with such a mark.
  • On the other hand, Ole Miss and Stanford both have marginally acceptable records, as each is 3 games over .500. But, both suffered a bad loss this weekend to add to a long list of such. And, with NET ratings now at 61 and 64 (respectively), they’re really on the wrong side of history at this point.

Another “on the wrong side of the bubble” team worth commenting on here is Minnesota. In my initial projection last Monday, I opined that the Golden Gophers’ atrocious road record (0-8 at the time, 0-9 now – seriously, it hurts my eyes every time I see it in my spreadsheet) would work against them if they were right around the cut line come Selection Sunday. Not to worry, they decided to go ahead and prove that they shouldn’t receive a bid by losing to Northwestern and Nebraska in succession last week! They still have a solid collection of wins, but they are just doing too many things wrong at the worst possible time.

Other than that, I can really see how similar teams are across a couple or even a few adjacent seed lines. This is always part of the fun and challenge of doing these projections. I’ll get more into that next week, when I get into which teams fall into which tiers. For now, let’s get to today’s projection. Moves up and down since last time are in parentheses.

1s: Gonzaga, Michigan, Baylor, Illinois (+1)

2s: Ohio State (-1), West Virginia, Iowa (+1), Alabama

3s: Houston, Kansas (+2), Villanova (-1), Florida State

4s: Arkansas (+1), Oklahoma State (+1), Texas, Tennessee (-1)

5s: Oklahoma (-1), Creighton (-1), Texas Tech (+1), Colorado (+2)

6s: USC (-2), Virginia (-1), Missouri, Purdue

7s: Clemson, Wisconsin (-1), Florida (+1), Virginia Tech

8s: BYU (-1), Rutgers, San Diego State, Maryland (+1)

9s: Loyola Chicago (-1), Oregon, Colorado State (+1), LSU

10s: Boise State (-1), UCLA, Louisville (+1), Saint Bonaventure

11s: Xavier (new), Connecticut (+1), Drake (-1), VCU

12s: Georgia Tech (new), Wichita State, North Carolina (new), Seton Hall, Western Kentucky, Toledo

13s: Winthrop, Colgate, Belmont, UC-Santa Barbara

14s: Furman, Wright State, Abilene Christian, Liberty

15s: South Dakota State, Vermont, Eastern Washington, Siena

16s: Texas St., James Madison, Grand Canyon, Prairie View, Wagner, North Carolina A & T

Last Four Byes: Xavier (new), Connecticut (+1), Drake (-1), VCU

Last Four In: Georgia Tech (new), Wichita State, North Carolina (new), Seton Hall

First Four Out: Utah State (+1), Michigan State, Stanford, Ole Miss

Next Five Out: Saint Louis, Indiana, Minnesota (-1), Richmond, St. John’s (+1)

Others in Consideration: Duke (-1), SMU, Syracuse, Memphis, North Carolina State, Providence

Thanks for reading, and look for my next update Wednesday, March 3. Check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!

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Bracketology: Michigan State, Ohio State, and the Last 1 Seed

Did Michigan State put the last #1 seed in play? No, they’re obviously not going to jump from out of the field to a #1! But, my gut reaction when I saw them beat Ohio State on Thursday was that Ohio State should drop a line. They’re a great team, but they haven’t looked as good the last couple times out (granted, that’s against an even better Michigan and a rapidly rising Michigan State). They also now have 6 losses on the season – historically, this is about the limit for a #1 seed.

But here’s the thing: no one else is making a strong enough case to move up. Illinois is the closest, followed by West Virginia and Alabama, but all three also have 6 L’s. Villanova is 15-3 on the season, but they don’t have nearly the win profile that Ohio State owns. And ultimately, that’s what it comes down to right now – Ohio State has a great collection of wins, including on the road at Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Rutgers, and Maryland.

So Ohio State maintains their #1 seed for the time being – but their position isn’t as solid as is Gonzaga’s, Baylor’s, or Michigan’s.

Next Friday, as I traditionally do heading into the final weekend of regular season action, I’ll give a more detailed look at who’s in position to get a 1 seed. For now, with an awesome slate of games about to tip off today, let’s get right to the projection. Moves up or down since last time are in parentheses.

In since last time: Louisville, Wichita State

Out since last time: Minnesota, North Carolina

1s: Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan, Ohio State

2s: Illinois, West Virginia, Alabama, Villanova

3s: Iowa, Houston, Florida State, Tennessee

4s: Oklahoma, Texas, USC, Creighton (+1)

5s: Arkansas (+1), Virginia (-1), Oklahoma State, Kansas

6s: Texas Tech (-1), Wisconsin, Missouri, Purdue

7s: Colorado, Clemson, BYU, Virginia Tech

8s: Florida, Rutgers, Loyola Chicago, San Diego State (+1)

9s: Boise State (-1), Oregon, Maryland, LSU

10s: UCLA, Colorado State, Saint Bonaventure (+1), Drake (+1)

11s: Indiana (-1), VCU (+1), Louisville (new), Stanford (-1)

12s: Ole Miss, Connecticut, Wichita State (new), Seton Hall (-1), Western Kentucky, Toledo

13s: Winthrop, Colgate, Belmont, UC-Santa Barbara

14s: Furman, Wright State, Abilene Christian, Liberty

15s: South Dakota State, Vermont, Eastern Washington, Siena (+1)

16s: Texas St., James Madison (-1), Grand Canyon, Prairie View, Wagner, North Carolina A & T

Last Four Byes: Indiana (-1), VCU (+1), Louisville (new), Stanford (-1)

Last Four In: Ole Miss, Connecticut, Wichita State (new), Seton Hall (-1)

First Four Out: Michigan State (+1), Minnesota, Xavier, North Carolina

Next Four Out: Utah State (-1), Saint Louis, Duke, Richmond

Others in Consideration: Georgia Tech, Saint John’s, Syracuse, North Carolina State, SMU, Memphis, Providence

Thanks for reading, and look for my next update tomorrow, February 28. Check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!

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