Here we are, on the eve of Selection Sunday. Every bracketologist out there is closely watching and enjoying the games, trying to get their projections as close to what the committee will actually do as possible. As I said earlier in the week, any fan who’s not watching the conference tournaments is missing out, because March Madness is already in full effect. From Kam Chatman’s buzzer beater to give Michigan a win over Indiana, Buddy Hield’s buzzer beater that wasn’t, Connecticut’s four-overtime win over Cincinnati, and a ton of other great games the last two days, the party has already started.
One of the teams I am having the hardest time with, in terms of seeding, is Arizona. The Wildcats don’t have an impressive strength of schedule, 71st overall and a terrible 236th non-conference. They are 25-8. They don’t have a ton of good wins – six against teams I’m currently projecting to be in the field, but only one against a team above the 7 line. On the other hand, Arizona’s worst loss is by 8, at home against Oregon. Their other losses? Those came by 1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 6, and 6 points. So this team is a few possessions away from being, say, 30-3. I have them as a 6 today but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them anywhere from 4-7 when the bracket becomes official Sunday night.
Elsewhere, there was a lot of movement on the bubble. Connecticut, behind a thrilling four overtime win against Cincinnati and a 15-point win today vs Temple in the AAC semis, is up to a 9. Monmouth is now in as well, thanks to some quality non-conference wins.
Michigan, despite a 17-point loss today against Purdue in the Big Ten semifinals, is just holding on, projected as the second to last team in. This is another difficult team to project. They have wins against Purdue (projected to be a 3 seed), Indiana (4), Maryland (5), and Texas (5). But, they have no other wins against the RPI Top 100, and 11 of their 12 losses came by double digits. Fortunately for them, only one of those losses came outside of the RPI Top 50, to #72 Ohio State.
Falling onto the wrong side of the bubble since yesterday’s update are Saint Mary’s, Vanderbilt, and Tulsa. A closer look at Saint Mary’s’ resume reveals 18 wins vs the RPI Top 200 – which, of course, I already knew was the case. But what I didn’t know until I did more research today is that the Gaels’ resume is very similar to that of last year’s Murray State squad, another decent team from a middling mid-major conference who was left out on Selection Sunday. This led me to drop Saint Mary’s out of the field of 68.
Vanderbilt has a good strength of schedule, but a middling RPI (63) and is hurt by a 3-9 record in true road games and 3 bad losses in SEC play. Tulsa has been the subject of bubble controversy all year; their blowout loss to a bad Memphis team in yesterday’s AAC semifinals may have sealed their fate.
Finally, Long Beach State is the new projected winner of the Big West (they face Hawaii at 11:30 Eastern tonight) after beating UC-Irvine in the semifinals. LBSU actually has the #1 non-conference strength of schedule and boasts a win over Seton Hall. Plus, Hawaii is the #1 seed in the Big West conference tournament, which doesn’t bode well based on how this week has gone so far.
And with all that written, on to the projection.
In since 3/11 update: Connecticut, Michigan, Monmouth, Long Beach State, Jackson State
Out since 3/11 update: Saint Mary’s, Vanderbilt, Tulsa, UC-Irvine, Texas Southern
New automatic qualifiers: Stony Brook (America East), Hampton (MEAC), Middle Tennessee (Conference USA). Congratulations to these teams.
Eliminated from consideration since 3/11: Houston, Alabama, Ohio State, Princeton, Louisiana State, Davidson
As usual, moves up or down are in parentheses, projected auto qualifiers are in bold, and teams who have clinched auto bids are in bold and underlined.
1s: Kansas, Virginia, Villanova, North Carolina (+1)
2s: Michigan State, Oklahoma (-1), Oregon, West Virginia (+1)
3s: Utah, Miami, Purdue, Xavier (-1)
4s: Texas A & M, Kentucky, Indiana, Duke (+1)
5s: California (-1), Maryland, Texas (+1), Iowa State (+1)
6s: Arizona (-1), Baylor (-1), Seton Hall (+1), Notre Dame
7s: Iowa, Dayton (-1), Colorado, Providence
8s: Saint Joe’s (+1), Texas Tech, Wisconsin, Oregon State
9s: Southern California, Butler, Connecticut, Virginia Commonwealth (+1)
10s: Wichita State (-2), Saint Bonaventure (-1), Cincinnati, Pittsburgh (+1)
11s: Monmouth, South Carolina (-1), Michigan, Temple (-1), Gonzaga, San Diego State
12s: Northern Iowa, (+1) Long Beach State, Akron, Yale
13s: Chattanooga (-1), UNC-Wilmington (-1), Arkansas-Little Rock, South Dakota State
14s: Stephen F. Austin, Stony Brook, Iona, Middle Tennessee
15s: Green Bay, UNC-Asheville, New Mexico State, Weber State
16s: Florida Gulf Coast, Austin Peay, Fairleigh Dickinson, Hampton, Jackson State, Holy Cross
Last Four In: Monmouth, South Carolina, Michigan, Temple
First Four Out: Vanderbilt, Valparaiso, Syracuse (+1), Saint Mary’s
Next Eight Out (the remaining teams still in at-large consideration, in order by rank): Florida, Washington, Tulsa, Georgia, George Washington, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Hofstra
As always, check out the Bracket Matrix. And look for one last update before the Selection Show tomorrow!