And here we go, with the Selection Show just hours away. I’m excited, and I know you are too.
I’ve written at length this week about how the 1 line might shape up. This, along with the bubble watch, seems to be everyone’s favorite topic as we approach Selection Sunday. At this point, I am projecting the following 1 line: Duke, Virginia, Gonzaga, and North Carolina.
There is no argument about Duke and Virginia. I think it comes down to which two of the three of Gonzaga, North Carolina, and Kentucky should get the final two top seeds. I’ve gone back and forth about this 1,000 times this week (500 of which have probably been today), so I’m going to throw out most of the analysis and go back in time a week.
When I gave a breakdown of the potential 1-seeds on Saturday, March 9, I had it as Virginia, Duke, Gonzaga, and Kentucky, with North Carolina as the first 2 seed. Since then, Duke clearly helped solidify their cause. Virginia didn’t hurt theirs. Neither did Gonzaga, as St. Mary’s is a decent squad and it is very hard to beat anyone three times in a season.
So why UNC over Kentucky? It’s simple: UNC picked up two Quad 1A wins since that post, while Kentucky beat middling Florida and Alabama teams. Had they won against Tennessee yesterday, I probably would have kept them on the 1 line. But they didn’t, so here we are.
The other major change is that North Carolina State has fallen out of the field as a result of Oregon “stealing” a bid by beating Washington in the Pac 12 championship game. Yesterday, I offered a comparison of NC State, Temple, and Alabama, and dropped Alabama out of the field because of the A-10 stealing a bid.
To reiterate, there were four teams left in the field yesterday who had zero Quad 1 road wins. Those teams were Nevada, Utah State, Temple, and North Carolina State. There has never been any debate that Nevada is in, and what little debate might have existed about Utah State prior to yesterday was silenced when the Aggies won the Mountain West conference championship game. So what separates Temple and North Carolina State?
North Carolina State has a better NET ranking at 33, compared to Temple’s 56. But, NC State also has two Quad 3 losses to Temple’s one, and has a non-conference strength of schedule of 352, second-worst in the nation. Perhaps most importantly, based on what we can gather so far, is that Temple has a 1A win, at home against Houston. Really, you could make the case either way and I wouldn’t argue the point, but I think the Selection Committee will see Temple’s resume as slightly better than that of NC State.
Also, Auburn moves up to a 5 and Mississippi State drops to a 6. This one is close, so here’s how I see it. Mississippi State had 8 Quad 1 wins to Auburn’s 4 coming into today, but that’s somewhat misleading. Both had 5 wins over at-large quality teams. Auburn’s best was at home against Tennessee, while Mississippi State’s best was at home against Wofford. Some have both on the 5 line with Marquette down to a 6 but I’m not buying it, as Marquette piled up 5 Quad 1A wins over the course of the season.
Lastly, Florida State rises to a 3 with Texas Tech falling to a 4. It was the other way around prior to the conference tournaments, but FSU earned wins over Virginia Tech and Virginia, which was enough to push them ahead of Texas Tech, who lost to a bad West Virginia team in their opening Big 12 tournament game.
So, with Selection Sunday upon us, let’s get to the projection. I’ve bolded auto-qualifiers and noted moves up or down since yesterday in parentheses. The only contingency is that I’m assuming Georgia State holds on to beat UT-Arlington in the Sun Belt final. If so, this will stand as my final projection. If not, I’ll do a slight revision to reflect UT-Arlington making the field.
Clinched bids since yesterday: Vermont, North Carolina Central, Prairie View A & M, Utah State, Iowa State, Villanova, Buffalo, Montana, Old Dominion, Duke, Abilene Christian, New Mexico State, Oregon, UC-Irvine, Yale, Auburn, St. Louis
In since yesterday: North Carolina Central, Prairie View A & M, St. Louis
Out since yesterday: Norfolk State, Texas Southern, Davidson
1s: Virginia, Duke, Gonzaga, North Carolina (+1)
2s: Kentucky (-1), Michigan State, Tennessee, Michigan
3s: Houston, LSU, Kansas, Florida State (+1)
4s: Texas Tech (-1), Purdue, Wisconsin, Kansas State
5s: Marquette, Villanova, Virginia Tech, Auburn (+1)
6s: Mississippi State (-1) Iowa State, Maryland, Buffalo
7s: Wofford, Cincinnati, Nevada, Louisville
8s: Seton Hall, Ole Miss, UCF, Iowa
9s: Minnesota, Oklahoma, Baylor, Syracuse
10s: Utah State, Washington, VCU, Florida
11s: Ohio State, TCU, Arizona State, St. John’s, Temple, St. Mary’s (+1)
12s: Oregon (new), Murray State, Liberty, New Mexico State
13s: UC-Irvine, Vermont, Northeastern, Old Dominion (+1)
14s: Yale, St. Louis (new), Georgia State, Northern Kentucky
15s: Montana, Colgate, Bradley, Abilene Christian (+1)
16s: Gardner-Webb (-1), Prairie View A & M (new), Iona, Fairleigh-Dickinson, North Dakota State, North Carolina Central (new)
Last Four Byes: Washington, VCU, Florida, Ohio State
Last Four In: TCU, Arizona State, St. John’s, Temple
First Four Out: North Carolina State, Belmont, Alabama, Indiana
Others Considered: UNC-Greensboro, Creighton, Furman, Clemson, Lipscomb, Xavier, Memphis
Enjoy today’s championship games and the Selection Show. Check out the Bracket Matrix to see how all of the bracketologists fared!
Coming next year, I’ll try my hand at actually bracketing the teams as we get later into the season. For now, let’s all hope for an exciting NCAA Tournament. After that, I’ll take a break for a little while and then get into some baseball writing as we approach May.
Thanks to all for reading this season!