As we approach the Selection Show and the three most exciting weeks in sports, I want to thank everyone who has read my blog this season. Once again, it has been a blast watching so much college basketball and putting out these projections. Two years ago, when I first did this, I started in late February; last year, I started at the end of January; this season, I started on December 12. At that rate, a preseason projection might be in the works this year!
The final 1 seed figures to be hotly debated. I have kept Villanova, Kansas and Gonzaga on the 1 line. But in a twist that seemed hard to imagine a few days ago, I have replaced North Carolina with Duke as the final 1 seed. Let’s look at the comparison:
- First, Duke won the ACC tournament, beating Louisville, North Carolina, and Notre Dame in the span of three days. No team in the country can claim such an impressive run.
- Looking at the entire body of work – which is the most important – we see that Duke went 8-4 vs teams in the Top 25 of the RPI. No other team in the nation can claim eight wins against that tier. North Carolina went 5-3 against RPI Top 25 teams.
- Continuing the RPI discussion, Duke has eight wins on the road against RPI Top 50 teams! (Thanks to this article on CBS Sports for that stat.)
- We’ve seen in the past that the Selection Committee bumps teams up a bit when they lost games with key injuries, or if the coach missed games for some reason (see Syracuse and Jim Boeheim last year). Duke did lose 8 games overall, and no team with that many losses has ever gotten a 1 seed. But, North Carolina lost 7, and Duke can claim that only 2 of theirs were at full strength. Also, Duke went 4-3 when Mike Krzyzewski was out at the start of the year.
- Finally, let’s face it; a very strong case can be made for either team. But this tips it in Duke’s favor: the teams each won on the other’s home floor, and then Duke beat UNC in the ACC semifinals.
So, advantage, Duke. Of course, I won’t be surprised if UNC keeps the 1 seed. I would be very surprised if Arizona got a 1 because even with wins over UCLA and Oregon the past two nights, their resume isn’t as strong as that of Villanova, Kansas, Gonzaga, Duke, or UNC. Also, by getting a 2, Arizona can remain in the West regional, on a collision course with Gonzaga in the Elite Eight.
Elsewhere, in some bubble news, Rhode Island took matters into their own hands by beating VCU in the Atlantic 10 championship game this afternoon. The majority of bracketologists on the Bracket Matrix had Rhode Island in as an at-large anyway, but this of course seals the deal. For those who felt Rhode Island wouldn’t get an at-large, this shrinks the bubble by one bid.
So, with that analysis in mind, let’s jump into the projection. There are two contingencies. One is regarding the Big Ten championship game. If Michigan beats Wisconsin (as I am projecting currently), they stay on the 6 line. If they lose, they fall to the 7 line and Creighton jumps to the 6 line. Wisconsin remains on the 6 line regardless of outcome.
The other is regarding the AAC championship game. I am projecting that Cincinnati beats SMU. If this happens, they remain seeded as they are below, with Cinci at a 5 and SMU at a 6. If not, they switch, such that SMU is a 5 and Cinci is a 6.
And here we go. Moves up or down are in parentheses after the team’s name, and automatic qualifiers are in bold.
In since yesterday: UC-Davis, New Mexico State, Kent State
Out since yesterday: UC-Irvine, Cal-Bakersfield, Akron
1s: Villanova, Kansas, Gonzaga, Duke (+1)
2s: North Carolina (-1), Arizona, Kentucky, Baylor (+1)
3s: Oregon (-1), Louisville, UCLA, Florida State
4s: Florida, West Virginia, Butler, Notre Dame
5s: Purdue, Virginia, Iowa State (+1), Cincinnati
6s: Minnesota (-1), SMU, Wisconsin, Michigan (+1)
7s: Creighton (-1), Saint Mary’s, Maryland, Wichita State
8s: Miami, Oklahoma State, Arkansas (+1), Virginia Tech (+1)
9s: Dayton (-1), South Carolina (-1), Northwestern, Seton Hall (+1)
10s: VCU (-1), Xavier, Michigan State, Marquette (+1)
11s: Rhode Island, Vanderbilt, Providence (-1), Wake Forest, Middle Tennessee
12s: Kansas State, Southern California, Nevada, UNC-Wilmington, Vermont
13s: Princeton, East Tennessee State, New Mexico State (new), Bucknell
14s: Winthrop (-1), Florida Gulf Coast, Iona, Northern Kentucky (+1)
15s: Texas Southern, North Dakota, Kent State (new), Troy (+1)
16s: South Dakota State, Jacksonville State, Mount Saint Mary’s, New Orleans, UC-Davis (new), North Carolina Central
Last Four In: Providence, Wake Forest, Kansas State, Southern California
First Five Out: Illinois State, Syracuse, California, Texas Arlington, Iowa
New auto qualifiers: UC-Irvine, Cal-Bakersfield, Akron
Out since yesterday: Fresno State, Tennessee (these were my last two at-large teams in the NIT, so they fall out because of UC-Irvine and Akron getting auto bids. Cal-Bakersfield replaced New Mexico State.)
1s: Illinois State, Syracuse, California, Texas-Arlington
2s: Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Houston
3s: Alabama, Ole Miss, TCU, Georgia
4s: Utah, Clemson, Monmouth, Charleston
5s: Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Boise State, BYU
6s: Central Florida, Richmond, Texas Tech, Colorado State
7s: Valparaiso, Akron, Cal-Bakersfield, Belmont
8s: UC-Irvine, Oakland, UNC-Greensboro, South Dakota
Thanks for reading. Look for some recaps and reactions from me to the tournaments as they unfold over the next couple of weeks. Check out the Bracket Matrix to see everyone’s final projections!