With just two hours until the Selection Show, here is my final bracket projection. I’ve had a great time taking a more in-depth look at the field in my second season of doing this, and I thank everyone who has read these projections since I did my first one of the season on January 31 (and look at how much it has changed since then).
The battle for the final #1 seed is very close. The majority opinion at this point seems to be that Michigan State will edge Oregon for that spot. However, I see it differently. Here is a head-to-head comparison that illustrates why I have chosen to project Oregon as the final #1 seed, regardless of whether Michigan State wins or loses against Purdue in the Big Ten tournament final this afternoon:
- Non-conference strength of schedule: Oregon’s is 16, Michigan State’s is 131
- Record vs the RPI Top 50: both teams are 5-1 against RPI 1-25. But when we move to RPI 26-50, Oregon is 5-2, while Michigan State is 2-3.
- Record vs the RPI 51-100: Oregon is 10-1, while Michigan State is 5-0.
- Indeed, Oregon has only played 9 games outside of the RPI Top 100, while Michigan State has played 17 games against such teams. This is reflected in the teams’ non-conference strength of schedule (mentioned above) and overall strength of schedule: 5 for Oregon, 65 for Michigan State
- Finally, Oregon’s’ RPI rank is 2, while Michigan State’s is 11. Note that 11 is the lowest RPI rank with which a team has ever gotten a #1 seed, which happened for the 2006-07 Kansas Jayhawks.
These are the debates that make Selection Sunday, and all the craziness leading up to it during the conference tournaments, fun. Well, it’s fun anyway, but this adds to it!
Elsewhere, San Diego State is projected as an at-large team after losing to Fresno State in the Mountain West final last night, which shakes up the Last Four In. After closer review, I’m projecting that the Aztecs will take the spot previously occupied by South Carolina. The problem for the Gamecocks is that they rank 270th in non-conference strength of schedule and have only one win against a team projected to make the field, which is Texas A & M. Making matters worse, they have 3 losses to teams outside of the RPI Top 100.
This caused me to project Michigan as the last team in, just edging out South Carolina thanks to four wins over teams projected to be on the 5 line or better, no bad losses, and an unimpressive-but-better-than-South Carolina’s non conference strength of schedule, at 189th.
The major contingency in this projection is based on what happens between Connecticut and Memphis in the American Athletic Conference final. The projection below assumes Connecticut wins. But should Memphis win, the following changes occur in the final projected field of 68:
- Connecticut and Cincinnati trade spots, such that Cincinnati gets a 9 seed and Connecticut gets a 10 seed
- Michigan drops out of the field (unfortunately for me and my fellow Wolverines)
- The new First Four becomes #10 Pittsburgh vs #10 Monmouth and #11 Temple vs #11 San Diego State
- Chattanooga moves up to the 11 line, UNC-Wilmington moves up to the 12 line, and Buffalo moves up to the 13 line.
- Memphis settles in on the 14 line.
There is one other contigency in this projection, which is much simpler than the one above: if Purdue beats Michigan State, they receive a 3 seed and Utah falls to the 4 line.
With that said, here’s how the final projected bracket looks!
In since 3/12 update: Fresno State, Buffalo, Southern, CSU-Bakersfield, Hawaii
Out since 3/12 update: South Carolina, Akron, Jackson State, New Mexico State, Long Beach State
Eliminated from consideration: Florida State, George Washington, Georgia Tech, Hofstra, Washington
As always, moves up or down are in parentheses, and teams who have clinched auto bids (as well as projected winners in the current time slot, Michigan State and Connecticut) are in bold.
1s: Kansas, North Carolina, Virginia, Oregon (+1)
2s: Michigan State, Villanova (-1), Oklahoma, West Virginia
3s: Miami, Xavier, Kentucky (+1), Utah
4s: Purdue (-1), Texas A & M, Indiana, Duke
5s: California, Maryland, Texas, Seton Hall (+1)
6s: Iowa State (-1), Arizona, Baylor, Notre Dame
7s: Iowa, Dayton, Colorado, Saint Joe’s (+1)
8s: Providence (-1), Texas Tech, Wisconsin, Oregon State
9s: Southern California, Butler, Wichita State (+1), Connecticut
10s: Cincinnati, Saint Bonaventure, Virginia Commonwealth (-1), Pittsburgh
11s: Monmouth, Temple, San Diego State, Michigan, Gonzaga, Northern Iowa (+1)
12s: Chattanooga (+1), Arkansas-Little Rock (+1), Yale, South Dakota State (+1)
13s: UNC-Wilmington, Stephen F. Austin (+1), Stony Brook (+1), Iona (+1)
14s: Buffalo, Middle Tennessee, Hawaii, Fresno State
15s: Green Bay, UNC-Asheville, Weber State, CSU-Bakersfield
16s: Hampton, Florida Gulf Coast, Austin Peay, Fairleigh-Dickinson, Southern, Holy Cross
Last Four In: Monmouth, Temple, San Diego State, Michigan
First Four Out: South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Valparaiso, Syracuse
Next Four Out: Saint Mary’s (-1), Florida, Tulsa, Georgia
Again, thanks for reading the last few weeks, and check out the Bracket Matrix to see how this compares to over a hundred other projections!