Champ Week update: only 2 of 11 top seeds have won conference tournaments so far. The madness is truly here.
One of those top seeds who didn’t win their tournament was Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference (WCC). Yesterday, I opined that Gonzaga was nearly a lock for a 1 seed. Today, I’m not sure of that, as that statement was partly based on the belief that they would beat St. Mary’s in the WCC final. If they had beaten St. Mary’s, they would be close to a lock for a 1 seed. But now, let’s take a closer look.
Right now, I see Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky with the inside track to claiming top seeds. A variety of factors come into play here. One of the critical ones is “1A” wins, which I consider to be wins over teams with a shot at a protected (top 4 lines) seed. Virginia has six such wins, while UNC and Kentucky have five each. Next, we have to look at Duke, who has five such wins, including at Virginia.
Gonzaga only has a single 1A win (Duke on a neutral court). So, I’ve moved them down to the 2 line, just below Duke and ahead of Michigan State, Tennessee, and Michigan. Gonzaga played a stronger non-conference schedule that those three – capitalizing with the win over Duke – and avoided any bad losses. So did Tennessee, but they are also short on 1A wins relative to other teams on the top two lines.
As for who is the victim of St. Mary’s “bid steal,” that is Florida for right now. I had the Gators as an 11 seed yesterday, but a careful analysis of the bubble reveals some ugly truths for them. They are a terrible 3-11 in Quadrant 1, have only two wins against teams currently projected in the NCAA tournament, and have two Quadrant 3 losses. The same claims can be made about Creighton, Temple and Clemson regarding terrible Quad 1 records (3-10, 2-6 and 1-9, respectively) and lack of wins over teams in the field. But, the only loss below Quad 2 among those three teams is Temple’s loss vs. Penn.
The other problem for Florida is their 17-14 overall record. Historically, a team must be at least 4 games above .500 to be selected as an at-large participant. That barrier might be broken this year, but if so, it will be by a team with more quality wins, such as Indiana, who is also 17-14.
Yesterday, I introduced eight tiers that I see as separating teams from others. Let’s get to today’s projection, then I’ll offer some comments on how I see the tiers today.
Clinched bids yesterday: Fairleigh Dickinson, North Dakota State, Northeastern, Northern Kentucky, St. Mary’s
In since yesterday: Fairleigh Dickinson, North Dakota State, Northeastern, St. Mary’s
Out since yesterday: St. Francis-PA, Nebraska-Omaha, Hofstra, Florida
I’ve bolded auto-qualifiers, and noted moves up or down in parentheses following the team’s name.
1s: Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Duke (+1)
2s: Gonzaga (-1), 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
7s: Wofford, Nevada, Iowa State, Louisville
8s: Oklahoma, Iowa, Ole Miss, UCF
9s: VCU, Baylor, Syracuse, Washington
10s: Seton Hall, Minnesota, Utah State, St. John’s
11s: Indiana, Ohio State, TCU (+1), Arizona State (+1), Creighton (+1)
12s: Temple, Clemson, St. Mary’s (new), Murray State, Liberty
13s: New Mexico State, UC-Irvine, Vermont, Northeastern (new)
14s: Old Dominion, Yale, Georgia State, Northern Kentucky
15s: Montana, Bucknell, Gardner-Webb, Bradley
16s: Sam Houston State, Texas Southern, Iona, Fairleigh-Dickinson (new), North Dakota State (new), Norfolk State
Last Four Byes: St. John’s, Indiana, Ohio State, TCU
Last Four In: Arizona State, Creighton, Temple, Clemson
First Four Out: Florida, North Carolina State, Belmont, Alabama
Next Five Out: Furman, Georgetown, Lipscomb, UNC-Greensboro, Texas
Still Alive but Hanging by a Thread: Dayton, Memphis, Toledo, Oregon, Fresno State, Davidson, Xavier, Providence
Now, let’s look at how the tiers are shaping up today. The top three tiers are the “1A” group I discussed above, those that definitely will be a 4 seed or higher or still have a shot at it.
Tier 1 (Shot at a 1 Seed): This is the current 1 and 2 lines, ranging from Virginia down to Michigan.
Tier 2 (Lock for a Protected Seed): This is the current overall 9 to 13 seeds, ranging from LSU down to Kansas. These teams could rise to the 2 line and will not land lower than the 4 line.
Tier 3 (Still Have a Shot at a Protected Seed): This is the current 14 to 21 overall seeds, ranging from Florida State to Villanova. The higher end of this group could rise to the 3 line, with the worst landing as a 6-seed.
Tier 4 (Middle of the At-Large Pack): This is the current overall 22 to 28 seeds, ranging from Auburn to Louisville. These teams could rise as high as 5 and fall as far as 8.
Tier 5 (Last Group Safely In): This is overall seeds 29 to 37, ranging from Oklahoma to Seton Hall. The better end of this group could rise to the 7-line, and I don’t see any falling lower than the 10-line as of now.
Tier 6 (Would be in Today, But Not a Lock): This is overall seeds 38 to 42, which is Minnesota to Ohio State. These teams could be anywhere from the 9-line to out of the field, which reflects the volatility of the bubble at this point.
Tier 7 (Absolute Toss-ups): This is overall seeds 43 to 47 and 69 to 71, which ranges from TCU to Belmont. All of these teams have some quality attributes in their body of work, but also serious flaws that expose them to falling out of the field even more so than the Tier 6 teams. Chances are, these teams rise as high as the 10-line, with some being banished to the NIT.
Tier 8 (The Situation is Dire): This is overall seeds 72 to 77, ranging from Alabama to Texas. These teams either have serious work to do in their conference tournaments (Alabama, Georgetown, Texas) or need a lot of help due to their resumes now being in the books (Furman, Lipscomb, UNC-Greensboro).
So, that’s how I see it today. Enjoy the games, and look for my detailed breakdown of the teams later today. Check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!