Here is the final edition of bracketology before we get to the Selection Show! And I don’t know about you, but I’m really glad the tournament will return to its traditional Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday format this year. I’ve always thought that the opening Thursday of the tournament should be a national holiday, and it was just weird to have it start on a Friday last year (of course, that was far better than the year before…).
Disclaimer: this feels like the most wide-open year as far as the cut line in a long time. I get that sense from doing my own work and talking with other bracketologists on Twitter (and we’ve all been at this for hours every day all week!). Projections are all over the place here, and I truly wouldn’t be surprised to see any of about 10 different teams either in or out, including:
- Michigan, Wyoming, Texas A &M, and Rutgers (above the cut line for me).
- SMU, Notre Dame, Xavier, Oklahoma, Wake Forest, Dayton (below the cut line for me).
- Even if a VCU, a BYU, or a North Texas gets in – who I have as 7th, 8th, and 9th out – I wouldn’t be shocked, as there tends to be a surprise team in the field. And I’d love to be wrong about one of these teams (ala Belmont in 2019), as I think it’s great for the game and the fans to get more solid mid-major teams in the tournament.
But this is a prediction of what the Committee will do, not what I want to see. On that note, it’s also worth saying thatas I scrubbed, I applied a rule I want to see for replay in college basketball: if you can’t make a decision after a couple minutes, stick with what you had. I’d rather be wrong about something in which I was semi-confident than wrong about something I felt compelled to change for some reason I couldn’t really explain.
With that said, here are some changes to highlight since last night:
- Tennessee moves up to the 2 line, Duke moves down to the 3 line. Tennessee is now 11-7 in Quad 1 and has 5 wins vs. teams who are likely on the top 4 lines. Duke did well in their limited opportunities to pick up high-end wins but in the end, I think Tennessee will have the resume that impresses the Committee more.
- Iowa jumps all the way up to the 5 line (from 7 yesterday, and 8 on Friday) after a scrub. I wasn’t nearly as sold on them as other bracketologists seemed to be until I took a really close look at metrics along with quality wins. They edged out Texas for the last 5 seed on the basis of going 11-9 vs. Quad 1/2 to Texas’ 10-11 record versus the same group (the teams were really close for me).
- There were numerous changes along the 8-11 lines, as always seems to be the case for me when I do my final projection. It always feels like there is a lot of interchangeability between these lines, so I looked at them very closely and made my best guess!
- And the big ones: Richmond’s bid thievery in a classic Atlantic 10 final over Davidson causes all kinds of chaos on the bubble. It came down to Rutgers or SMU as the team I’d eliminate (I had already decided it’d be one of those two teams in the morning). I stuck with Rutgers because I had them in the field from the beginning of the week, while SMU jumped in later (my replay rule!). And I had Rutgers in the field to begin with despite their relatively poor metrics because in the past, good wins seem to be the most important criterion and the February bracket reveal suggested good wins will be prioritized more than metrics. In fact, I used that theory for my close decisions throughout the field.
- Of course, we have a couple of auto-qualifiers that weren’t projected last night either: Yale (defeating Princeton in the Ivy League final) and Cal State Fullerton (defeating Long Beach State in the Big West final). You know what these games had in common? The losing team failed to get a shot off before the buzzer in a one-possession game! It’s March, and it’s madness!
So here we go! As usual, moves up or down since last time are in parentheses, auto-qualifiers are in bold. Thanks for reading and following along this past week! Before the tournament tips off on Thursday, I’ll bring you my thoughts on the bracket here and on Twitter, so stay tuned.
In since last night: Virginia Tech, Richmond, Yale, Cal State Fullerton
Out since last night: Notre Dame, SMU, Princeton, Long Beach State
1s: Gonzaga, Arizona, Kansas, Baylor
2s: Kentucky, Auburn, Villanova, Tennessee (+1)
3s: Purdue, Duke (-1), Texas Tech, Wisconsin
4s: UCLA, Providence, Arkansas, Illinois
5s: Connecticut, Houston, Saint Mary’s, Iowa (+2)
6s: Texas (-1), LSU, Alabama, Colorado State
7s: Southern Cal, Michigan State, Ohio State (-1), Boise State (+1)
8s: Murray State (-1), San Diego State, Seton Hall, Creighton (+1)
9s: TCU, Memphis (+1), Marquette, North Carolina (+1)
10s: Iowa State (-2), Davidson (-1), Loyola-Chicago (+1), San Francisco
11s: Virginia Tech (new), Miami (-1), Indiana, Michigan, Wyoming (+1)
12s: Texas A & M, Rutgers, UAB, South Dakota State, Richmond (new)
13s: Chattanooga, Vermont, New Mexico State, Akron (+1)
14s: Longwood, Montana State, Colgate (+1), Delaware
15s: Yale (new), Saint Peter’s, Georgia State, Jacksonville State (+1)
16s: Cal State Fullerton (new), Norfolk State, Bryant, Wright State, Texas A & M – CC, Texas Southern
Last Four Byes: Davidson, San Francisco, Miami, Indiana
Last Four In: Michigan, Wyoming, Texas A & M, Rutgers
First Four Out: SMU, Notre Dame, Xavier, Oklahoma
Next Five Out: Wake Forest, Dayton, VCU, BYU, North Texas
Thanks for reading, and check out the Bracket Matrix to see where other bracketologists have the teams!