And the team most hurt by Middle Tennessee’s surprising loss to Southern Miss in the Conference USA quarterfinals is… Saint Mary’s. This was a really, really tough call. First, I had to move Alabama into the field after their buzzer beating win over Texas A & M in the SEC’s second round yesterday. The Crimson Tide have the #5 strength of schedule and six Quadrant 1 wins, including home against Auburn and Tennessee and at Florida (and are blowing out Auburn in the SEC quarters as I write this). That meant if Middle Tennessee was going to stay in the field, two teams had to drop out.
With USC winning yesterday (previously the second to last team in), they moved ahead of Syracuse. This left me with Syracuse and Saint Mary’s as my last two teams in. I also strongly considered dropping Baylor out of the field. So I carefully compared Syracuse, Saint Mary’s, Baylor, and Middle Tennessee.
Baylor has by far the worst RPI of the group, at 64. As I discussed yesterday, they are in great jeopardy of missing the NCAA tournament now, based on historical trends. But, they also have four Quadrant 1 wins, including home against Kansas and Texas Tech, and the nation’s #18 strength of schedule. So they stayed in.
It is almost too close to call between Middle Tennessee, Syracuse, and Saint Mary’s, and I will probably go back and forth on it at least 100 times between now and my final projection on Sunday afternoon. Not to mention, other teams (such as Georgia) could work their way into the discussion. For now, I’m sticking with the Blue Raiders. Their three Quadrant 1 wins matches Syracuse and beats out Saint Mary’s by one. They have four losses in Quadrant 2 or worse, but so does Saint Mary’s and Syracuse, in fact, has five.
I really won’t be surprised to see this go either way on Sunday, but I’m sticking with Middle Tennessee for now. Something tells me that even though it’s not supposed to be a factor in selection, they will also be rewarded for their performance in the previous two years’ NCAA tournaments.
Now, before we get to today’s projection, let’s revisit a major point of discussion from Wednesday – Notre Dame. It seems like the Committee does something ridiculous every year, but I can’t project the Irish as a member of the field right now (in other words, it would be ridiculous, in my opinion, if they got in). They only have two Quadrant 1 wins (neutral against Wichita State and at Syracuse), three Quadrant three losses, and an RPI of 68. That is not an NCAA tournament-worthy resume.
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: None
In since last time: Western Kentucky, North Carolina A & T, Alabama
Out since last time: Saint Mary’s, Savannah State, Syracuse
1s – Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Kansas
2s – Duke, North Carolina, Cincinnati, Purdue
3s – Tennessee, Auburn, Michigan, Michigan State
4s – Texas Tech, West Virginia, Wichita State, Clemson
5s – Gonzaga, Arizona, Kentucky, Florida
6s – Ohio State, Houston, Arkansas (+2), TCU
7s – Texas A &M, Nevada, Miami (-1), Seton Hall (-1)
8s – Rhode Island (-1), Butler (+1), Missouri, Oklahoma
9s – Creighton (-1), Kansas State (+1), Virginia Tech, Florida State
10s – North Carolina State (-1), Texas, Providence (+1), Saint Bonaventure
11s – Alabama, UCLA, USC, Louisville, Loyola-Chicago (+1)
12s – Baylor (-2), Middle Tennessee, New Mexico State, Murray State (+1), South Dakota State
13s – Western Kentucky (new), Vermont, Buffalo, Louisiana
14s – UNC-Greensboro, Charleston, Montana, Bucknell
15s – Wright State, UC Davis, Penn, Lipscomb
16s – Nicholls State, Iona, Radford, North Carolina A & T (new), LIU-Brooklyn, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
LAST FOUR IN – USC, Louisville, Baylor, Middle Tennessee
FIRST FOUR OUT – Saint Mary’s, Syracuse, Marquette, Arizona State
NEXT FOUR OUT – Georgia (+2), Notre Dame (-1), Mississippi State (+1), Oregon (+1)
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.