Here’s a bracket projection for today, as the major conference tournaments get into full swing. None of this is easy to project, but by far the most difficult right now is the teams right around the cut line. You could easily make a case for any of today’s Last Four In – UCLA, Syracuse, USC, and Baylor – to be out. And you could just as easily make a case for today’s First Four Out – Marquette, Louisville, Alabama, and Notre Dame – to be in. The good news is, conference tournament results are likely to bring some separation between these teams.
The most interesting team on these lines, to me, is Notre Dame. A ton has been written and said about the difference in how the Irish have played with Bonzie Colson vs. without him. People often overstate how the Selection Committee accounts for a team who had a star player injured for most of the season when that team gets that player back late. It won’t make a difference of more than one seed line.
When we look at the Irish’s current resume, it is competitive (relative to other teams on the cut line), but they certainly have work to do. They have a nice neutral-court win over Wichita State, but their best road win is at Syracuse, who is also right around the cut line. They have a solid strength of schedule, but they lost to a few bad teams, including Georgia Tech, Indiana, and Ball State – the last of those coming at home, and before Colson was hurt. Finally, they are only 2-8 against Quadrant 1 and have an RPI of 70. Were the field to be seeded today and were the Irish to be in, that would be the second lowest RPI ever for an at-large team.
So, unlike some others, I don’t think beating Virginia Tech today is enough for the Irish to get in. It is going to take more than that. That would include a combination of beating Duke tomorrow in the ACC quarterfinals and/or some quick losses (i.e., first conference tournament game) by the teams above them.
With all that said, here’s today’s projection. Moves up or down since last time are in parentheses after the team’s name. Those who have earned an automatic bid are underlined.
Bids clinched since last time: Gonzaga, UNC-Greensboro, Iona, Wright State, LIU-Brooklyn, South Dakota State, Charleston
In since last time: LIU-Brooklyn, Charleston, UCLA
Out since last time: Wagner, Northeastern, Marquette
1s – Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Kansas
2s – Duke, North Carolina, Purdue, Cincinnati
3s – Auburn, Tennessee, Michigan, Michigan State
4s – Texas Tech, West Virginia, Wichita State, Clemson
5s – Gonzaga, Arizona, Kentucky, Florida (+1)
6s – Houston (-1), TCU, Ohio State, Miami (+1)
7s – Texas A & M, Seton Hall (-1), Nevada, Rhode Island
8s – Florida State, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma (+1)
9s – North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Creighton (-1), Arizona State (+1)
10s – Kansas State, Butler, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Mary’s (-1)
11s – Texas, Providence, UCLA (new), Syracuse, USC, Baylor
12s – Middle Tennessee, Loyola-Chicago, New Mexico State, South Dakota State
13s – Murray State, Vermont, Buffalo, Louisiana
14s – UNC-Greensboro, Charleston (new), Montana, Bucknell
15s – Wright State, UC Davis, Penn, Lipscomb
16s – Iona, Radford, Nicholls State, LIU-Brooklyn (new), Bethune-Cookman, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
LAST FOUR IN – UCLA (new), Syracuse, USC, Baylor
FIRST FOUR OUT – Marquette, Louisville, Alabama, Notre Dame (+1)
NEXT FOUR OUT – Utah (-1), Oklahoma State, Washington, LSU
As always, if you want to rip me because I have your team too low or want to discuss anything else related to bracketology, feel free to do so in the comments. Look for my next update tomorrow, and check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime.