Yesterday, I wrote a ton about the bubble and the concept of elimination games in the conference tournaments. I also explored the debate over whether Gonzaga will get a 1 seed. Later in the day, I put Gonzaga ahead of Duke for that last 1 seed. A couple thoughts to add here: Gonzaga remains the only team to beat Duke when Duke was at full strength, and it’s hard to see the Selection Committee giving three 1-seeds to the same conference. But this is March Madness, where anything can and does happen, so stay tuned.
I’ll continue looking at this and the rest of the field throughout the day but for now, let’s get right to it. I’ve bolded auto-qualifiers and noted moves up or down since yesterday in parentheses. Below the projection, I’ve included more detail on the teams.
In since yesterday: Florida, Alabama
Out since yesterday: Creighton, Indiana
I’ve bolded auto-qualifiers, and noted moves up or down in parentheses following the team’s name.
1s: Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Gonzaga
2s: Duke, Michigan State, Tennessee, Michigan
3s: LSU, Houston, Purdue, Kansas (+1)
4s: Texas Tech (-1), Florida State, Kansas State, Wisconsin
5s: Marquette, Virginia Tech, Villanova (+1), Mississippi State
6s: Auburn, Maryland (-1), Nevada, Buffalo
7s: Iowa State, Wofford, Cincinnati, Louisville
8s: UCF, Iowa, VCU (+1), Seton Hall (+1)
9s: Ole Miss (-1), Baylor, Oklahoma (-1), Syracuse
10s: Washington, Utah State, Minnesota, Ohio State
11s: TCU, Arizona State, Temple (+1), Florida (new), St. John’s (-1)
12s: Alabama (new), North Carolina State, St. Mary’s, Murray State, Liberty
13s: New Mexico State, UC-Irvine, Vermont, Northeastern
14s: Old Dominion, Yale, Georgia State, Northern Kentucky
15s: Montana, Colgate, Bradley, Gardner-Webb
16s: Sam Houston State, Texas Southern, Iona, Fairleigh-Dickinson, North Dakota State (new), Norfolk State
Last Four Byes: Ohio State, TCU, Arizona State, Temple
Last Four In: Florida, St. John’s, Alabama, North Carolina State
First Four Out: Indiana, Creighton, UNC-Greensboro, Xavier (+1)
Next Four Out: Belmont, Furman, Clemson, Lipscomb
Still Alive but Hanging by a Thread: Memphis, Oregon, Dayton, Davidson, Fresno State, Nebraska (back on the fringes of the discussion after a surprising win against Maryland, but still a very long shot short of winning the Big Ten Tournament.
Gone Fishin’: These teams no longer have any control over their own fate, and it’s hard to see them getting in with the resumes they have. Arkansas, Providence, Georgetown, and Texas. The Longhorns have been getting a lot of discussion as a bubble team, but 16-16? That simply isn’t good enough and it would set a terrible precedent if the Selection Committee included such a team. I don’t see it happening.
Now, let’s look at how the tiers are shaping up today:
Tier 1 (Shot at a 1 Seed): This is teams 1 through 9, ranging from Virginia to LSU. Note that Michigan and LSU are very long shots, but not totally out of this discussion. Their scenarios are the equivalent of the final week of the NFL season where if 4 other teams lose, one ties, and one wins by exactly 10 points, your team gets in. But, you never know, especially this season. The biggest debate continues to be where Gonzaga will land in this area.
Tier 2 (Lock for a Protected Seed): This is the current overall 10 to 13 seeds, ranging Houston to Texas Tech. Houston, Purdue, and Kansas could rise to the 2-line, and Texas Tech won’t go lower than a 4, even with the bad loss to West Virginia. Their entire body of work is sufficient to be among the top 16 teams.
Tier 3 (Still Have a Shot at a Protected Seed): This is the current 14 to 21 overall seeds, ranging from Florida State to Auburn. 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 30 seeds, ranging from Maryland to Iowa. The best of these teams could rise as high as the 5 line, and the worst will land no lower than an 8 seed.
Tier 5 (Last Group 100% In): This is overall seeds 31 to 38, ranging from VCU to Utah State. The better end of this group could rise to the 7-line, and I don’t see any falling lower than the 10-line.
Tier 6 (Almost Surely In): This is overall seeds 39 to 42, which is Minnesota to Arizona State. I’d be surprised if any of these teams were left out given the state of affairs right now, but I wouldn’t say it’s out of the question.
Tier 7 (Absolute Toss-ups): This is today’s overall 43 to 47 and 69 to 71 seeds, ranging from Temple to UNC-Greensboro. Flip a coin right now, pick heads or tails for any of these teams, and you have as a good a chance of being right as if you scrutinize their resumes. All have some attractive qualities but also potentially fatal flaws as far as getting into the NCAA Tournament.
St. John’s, in particular, looked horrendous in their loss to Marquette last night, and the “bad losses” side of the ledger is almost as long as the “good wins”’ one. But at least they have a couple of Quadrant 1 road wins, unlike Alabama and North Carolina State below them, who are 0-7 and 0-5 respectively on the road vs. Q1 teams.
Ugh. Maybe this year the paradigm will shift and we will see more mid-majors instead of teams like this, but I won’t hold my breath on that one. Speaking of, what separates UNC-Greensboro from their mid-major competitors in the tier below them? UNCG has zero losses outside of Quadrant 1.
Tier 8 (The Situation is Dire): This is overall seeds 72 to 76. Georgetown has serious work to do, and the other four need considerable help at this point.
So, that’s how I see it today. Enjoy the games, and look for another projection tomorrow, as well as my thoughts throughout the day on Twitter (@Mike_Broman1). Check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!