As I said earlier today, I want to bring you a breakdown of all of the teams who stand a chance to make the NCAA tournament (and those who are surely in the field). Check out that post to read about how awesome Motor City Madness was last night. Now, let’s get to the breakdown. First, to reiterate, here is my projection for today.
I’ve bolded auto-qualifiers, and noted moves up or down since yesterday in parentheses following the team’s name.
1s: Virginia, Gonzaga, Kentucky, North Carolina
2s: Duke, Michigan State, Tennessee, Michigan
3s: LSU, Texas Tech, Houston, Purdue
4s: Kansas, Florida State, Kansas State, Wisconsin
5s: Marquette, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Mississippi State
6s: Villanova, Auburn, Cincinnati, Buffalo (+1)
7s: Wofford, Nevada, Iowa State (-1), Louisville
8s: Oklahoma, Iowa, Ole Miss, UCF (+1)
9s: VCU (-1), Baylor, Syracuse, Washington
10s: Seton Hall, Minnesota, Utah State, St. John’s
11s: Indiana, Ohio State, Florida, TCU (+1)
12s: Temple (-1), Creighton, Clemson, Arizona State (new), Murray State, Liberty
13s: New Mexico State, UC-Irvine, Vermont, Hofstra
14s: Old Dominion, Yale, Georgia State, Northern Kentucky
15s: Montana, Bucknell, Nebraska-Omaha, Gardner-Webb
16s: Bradley, Sam Houston State, Texas Southern, Iona, Norfolk State, St. Francis-PA
Last Four Byes: Indiana, Ohio State, Florida, TCU (+1)
Last Four In: Temple (-1), Creighton, Clemson, Arizona State (new)
First Four Out: Belmont (+1), North Carolina State, Alabama, Furman (+1)
Next Four Out: Georgetown (-1), Lipscomb, UNC-Greensboro (-1), Texas
Still Alive but Hanging by a Thread: Dayton, Memphis, St. Mary’s, Toledo, Oregon, Fresno State, Davidson, Xavier, Providence
Within the field (or just below it), we can distinguish several tiers of teams:
Tier 1, Overall Seeds 1-8: This is Virginia down to Michigan. What distinguishes these teams is that a 1-seed is still in play for all of them. We can even further subdivide this group and say that a 1-seed is nearly a lock for Virginia and Gonzaga, a toss-up for Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, and Michigan State depending on conference tournament performance and potential changes in records by quadrant, and unlikely but still a possibility for Tennessee and Michigan.
Tier 2, Overall Seeds 9-13: This ranges from LSU down to Kansas. The floor for these teams is a 4-seed. And any could rise to the 2 line, depending on the multitude of factors that come into play this week.
Tier 3, Overall Seeds 14-21: This ranges from Florida State to Villanova. For one reason or another, these teams are all likely to settle in the 4-5 seed range, though of course, the worst of the bunch would fall on the 6-line.
The main feature that separates them from Tier 2 is more losses outside of Quadrant 1. The exceptions would be LSU (Tier 2), who has 3 Quad 2 losses, and Virginia Tech (Tier 3), who has no losses below Quad 1. But, LSU stands out because of a road win at Kentucky (who I have in Tier 1) and Virginia Tech has only gone 4-7 against Quad 1, making them the only team in these top 3 tiers to be substantially below .500 in that quadrant.
Tier 4, Overall Seeds 22-28: This ranges from Auburn to Louisville. These teams should settle on the 6 or 7 lines, though rising to 5 or falling to 8 is possible.
Tier 5, Overall Seeds 29-37: This is the last tier of teams that is safely in, and ranges from Oklahoma to Seton Hall. Seton Hall put themselves in this position by virtue of recent home wins over Marquette and Villanova to complement a neutral-court win against Kentucky, bringing them to a respectable 6-7 in Quad 1. This helps offset their 5 losses below that quadrant. The teams on the higher end of this group might rise to a 7 seed. The lower end seem likely to maintain at least a 10 seed.
Tier 6, Overall Seeds 38-45: This tier ranges from Minnesota to Temple. These teams are likely in, but absolutely on the bubble. A poor performance this week along with a strong performance by the teams below them could flip the script.
A word about Indiana – every year, the Selection Committee surprises us by not only including a team with a severely flawed resume, but putting them on the 11-line or higher (the 11-seed Arizona State last year and the 11-seed Tulsa in 2016 come to mind as recent examples). The Hoosiers have a sweep of Michigan State among their six Quadrant 1 wins. This is in 15 chances and accompanies five Quad 2 losses, but I see them in as of now.
Tier 7, Overall Seeds 46-48 and 69-72: This is the last three teams in and the First Four Out, ranging from Creighton (who is an unsightly 3-10 vs. Quadrant 1 but owns a win at Marquette) to Furman (whose only high-quality win right now is at Villanova but has mostly avoided bad losses).
North Carolina State has fallen out of the field today due to their terrible non-conference SOS and nothing even resembling a good win away from home, but I see all of these teams as a toss-up to get in the field right now. You could put them in any order and I wouldn’t argue with you. My reasoning is that the three who are in have some combination of better wins or “better” losses compared to the four who are out. But, expect this grouping to keep changing throughout the week, not only within the tier, but even with some rising to the “likely in” category and some falling to the “likely out” category.
Tier 8, Overall Seeds 73-76: This is the Next Four Out. These teams either have serious work to do (Georgetown and Texas) or need serious help (UNC-Greensboro and Lipscomb). On that note, what separates Belmont (Tier 7) and Lipscomb? They are very similar in NET, records by quadrants, and non-conference SOS. It is that Belmont beat Lipscomb twice. So, in what is no doubt the most interesting in or out of the field debate so far this week, I see Belmont with a decent shot at getting in.
I’ll bring you another breakdown like this later in the week, as things continue to take shape. In the meantime, look for my next projection tomorrow (Wednesday, March 13) and don’t forget to check out the Bracket Matrix!