Bracketology: Belmont Officially Bows Out

Last year, eleven teams who won their conferences in the regular season failed to win their conference tournament and were left out of the Big Dance (thanks to this article for that fact – I remembered it was a high number, but couldn’t remember the number exactly).  Last night, Belmont became 2017’s first victim of the Madness, losing by six to Jacksonville State in the Ohio Valley Conference’s semifinal matchup.  As a result, Belmont now automatically qualifies for the NIT, and a clearly weaker team will go to the NCAA tournament.

Fair, or no?  There is a great debate about that.  I love the conference tournaments because they add to the chaos of college basketball in March, but I think a Belmont squad that went 15-1 in the Ohio Valley’s regular season deserves a bid to the NCAA tournament.  So, I’m not sure what the solution is, but I am sure we will have several more of these situations over the next few days.

With that, I’m going to continue the bubble analysis I started yesterday.  Today, we start with…

 Wichita State (28-4, 17-1, current 8 seed): Is Wichita State really on the bubble?  Of course, if they win the Missouri Valley conference tournament, they get an auto bid.  But what if they don’t?

Wichita State could be the hardest team to seed in the entire field right now.  Why?  Their metrics are all over the place.  Strength of schedule is poor for a tournament team – 150th overall, 169th non-conference.  Their RPI is a middling 41.  They really only have one quality win, against Illinois State (by 41 points).

But, Wichita State ranks 10th in KenPom.  And the eye test?  The Shockers ace that, as they have been absolutely obliterating teams.  Take their margin of victory in their last five games: 26, 19, 26, 29, and 19 points.  None of those were against good teams, but go back a couple games before that stretch, and you have a 41-point destruction of Illinois State.  Proving my point about how tough it is to seed Wichita State, bracketologists on the Bracket Matrix who updated their projections yesterday have the Shockers anywhere from a 5 seed to a 12 seed.

We all remember last year, when a Wichita State team with a better resume than this year’s squad (SOS 105th overall, 12th non-conference, RPI 46, and a win against a very good Utah team) was comically underseeded as an 11.  Will history repeat itself this year?  I really think that as it stands today, the Shockers are better than a double-digit seed.

Here are nine other teams I want to analyze today.  First, a table showing various metrics for these teams.

Team Record (Overall/Conf) RPI SOS KenPom Best Win Worst Loss
A 26-4, 16-1 30 147 53 Vs. Vanderbilt At UTEP
B 26-5, 16-2 32 140 45 Vs. Wichita St. At Murray St.
C 24-6, 14-3 34 144 71 At St. Mary’s At Troy
D 26-5, 15-3 37 135 58 At Charleston At Elon
E 27-5, 18-2 43 165 78 Vs. Princeton Vs. Rider
F 24-6, 13-4 42 133 60 At Boise St. At Utah St.
G 20-6, 13-0 54 151 67 At Bucknell Vs. St. Joe’s
H 27-5, 16-0 50 187 68 At Stony Brook Vs. Northeastern
I 25-6, 15-3 74 231 116 At Illinois Vs. Radford

What do you think?  I think teams A, B, and C deserve an at-large bid.  Team D has a case as well.  Note that these teams all have RPIs in the 30s (whether people like it or not, the Committee uses it a lot).  Team C’s best win is over a team who is certain to get an at-large bid, Team B’s best win is over a team that would likely get one, and Team A’s best win is over a team that has a good shot at one.

Teams E and F could make an argument too.  Their best win is over a decent opponent.  However, at this point, I would not give these teams an at-large bid.  The argument isn’t as strong for teams G, H, or I.  We see the KenPom and the RPI numbers get lower for these teams.  Team G is undefeated in its conference, impressive no doubt, but has a very bad loss to St. Joe’s and their best win is over a team that has no shot at an at-large bid.  The same can be said of Team H (except Northeastern isn’t quite as bad at St. Joe’s).  Team I has a very strong win at Illinois, but a very bad loss to Radford and by far the weakest RPI, strength of schedule, and KenPom numbers of the bunch.

Have you figured out who these teams are?  A is Middle Tennessee, B is Illinois State, C is Texas-Arlington, D is UNC-Wilmington, E is Monmouth, F is Nevada, G is Princeton, H is Vermont, and I is Winthrop (a special shout out to Winthrop for having TWO players with the last name Broman).  With the exception of Illinois State, all of them have won their regular season conference championship.  All, including Illinois State, are mid-majors.

Many people expect this to be the year where we see fewer at-large bids than ever from the mid-major conferences.  So, what will happen to any of these squads who don’t win their conference tourneys?  Will they have the same fate as Belmont?  Let’s say all of these teams lose in their conference tourneys.  I think it would be an absolute snub if at least a couple of them don’t receive at-large bids.  These are all quality squads.

With that said, let’s see where these teams and others fall in today’s projection.  As always, moves up or down are in parentheses after the team’s name, and projected automatic qualifiers are in bold.

In since yesterday’s update: Tennessee-Martin

Out since yesterday’s update: Belmont

1s: Kansas, Villanova, North Carolina, Gonzaga

2s: Baylor, Oregon, UCLA, Louisville

3s: Arizona, Butler, Kentucky, Duke

4s: Florida, Florida State, Purdue, West Virginia (+1)

5s: Virginia (-1), Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Minnesota

6s: SMU, Saint Mary’s, Creighton, Iowa State

7s: South Carolina, Oklahoma State, Miami, Maryland

8s: Dayton, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Wichita State

9s: Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State, Providence

10s: Seton Hall, VCU, Arkansas, Xavier

11s: Southern California, Marquette, Wake Forest, Middle Tennessee, Illinois State

12s: Texas-Arlington, Rhode Island, Vanderbilt, UNC-Wilmington, Monmouth

13s: Nevada, Princeton, Vermont, Winthrop

14s: Bucknell, Oakland, Florida Gulf Coast (+1), Akron

15s: UNC-Greensboro, Cal-Bakersfield, Eastern Washington, South Dakota (+1)

16s: Texas Southern, Tennessee-Martin (new), UC-Davis, Mount Saint Mary’s, New Orleans, North Carolina Central

 Last Four In: Wake Forest, Illinois State, Rhode Island, Vanderbilt

NIT Projection

 Having won the Ohio Valley regular season conference championship, Belmont is an auto qualifier for the NIT.  This pushes Colorado out in today’s projection.

 1s (First Four Out of NCAA tournament field): Kansas State, California, Syracuse, Illinois

2s (Next Four Out): Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Georgia, Utah

3s (Third Four Out): Iowa, TCU, Houston, Indiana

4s: Texas Tech, Alabama, BYU, Charleston

5s: Clemson, Colorado State, Valparaiso, Richmond

6s: Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Boise State, Ole Miss

7s: Arkansas State, Auburn, San Francisco, Central Florida

8s: Belmont (new), East Tennessee State, Memphis, Texas A & M

Thanks for reading, and look for my next projection and analysis tomorrow.  In the meantime, check out the Bracket Matrix for over 100 other projections!

 

 

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Bracketology: Who’s on the Bubble?

March is here.  Can you feel it?  We are just 13 days away from what I believe should be a national holiday (since no one who follows college hoops does any work on it anyway), the first day of the NCAA tournament.  And before that, we have the thrill of the conference tournaments, which are sure to yield some auto bids to teams who haven’t even been on the radar all year.

Along with the smaller conference tournaments and the surprises in them, the bubble is the most exciting part of college basketball to me right now.  Teams on the top few seed lines are locked in.  But as we down to the 10 line or so, there is no certainty at all.  So, I am going to bring you some analysis of various bubble teams today.  Keep in mind, no team has received an at-large bid with 14 losses since 2011, and no team has ever received an at-large bid with 15 losses.

Wisconsin (22-8 overall, 10-7 Big Ten, current 8 seed): The Badgers aren’t truly on the bubble, but they deserve a mention here for this reason: their fanbase’s collective head absolutely exploded on Twitter and elsewhere when they weren’t on the top 4 seed lines in the Bracket Preview on February 11.  And how has their team responded since then?  By losing 5 out of 6, most recently at home against a marginal Iowa team.  I felt Wisconsin was overrated all year, and the recent stretch supports that belief.

Northwestern (21-9, 10-7, current 9 seed): The Wildcats will receive their first-ever NCAA bid.  Even as a Michigan fan, I couldn’t help but be excited for them when they beat my Wolverines on Wednesday night.

Xavier (18-12, 8-9, current 10 seed): At this point, I am wondering if the Musketeers can even stay in the field.  Just three weeks ago, I had them on the 6 line.  Now, it’s like someone tied a 500-pound weight around their season and threw it into the ocean.  They are on a 6-game losing streak, with 4 of those losses coming by double digits.  Xavier has a strength of schedule of 7 working in their favor, but that won’t help much if they don’t start winning, fast. A loss to Depaul this weekend would certainly drop them out of the field, with work to do in the Big East tournament.

Wake Forest (18-11, 8-9, current Last Four In): All season, the Demon Deacons have had an impressive strength of schedule number (currently 12th) but lacked the quality wins to go with it.  Until this week, when they knocked off Louisville at home.  Plus, that win over Miami earlier in the season looks nicer and nicer, as the Hurricanes have been surging.

Vanderbilt (16-14, 9-8, current Last Four In): Remember how no team with 15 losses has ever received an at-large bid?  That by itself makes Vandy so interesting right now.  They have an array of quality wins, including at Florida and Arkansas, and home versus South Carolina and Iowa State.  They currently have the country’s 5th-best strength of schedule and a respectable KenPom number of 40.  So, what will happen if the Vols fail to win out – a likely scenario given the upcoming SEC tournament?

Syracuse (17-13, 9-8, current First Four Out): Dick Vitale emphatically assured us that the Orange were “a lock” for March Madness when they knocked off Duke a couple of weeks ago.  But the Orange followed up that great win with a blowout loss at Louisville.  There’s no shame in losing to Louisville, who is a great team, but this isn’t the time of year for blowouts when you’re on the bubble.  In addition to the Duke win, the Orange have also beaten Florida State, Virginia, Wake Forest, Miami, and Monmouth, all at home.  The problem is that they’ve lost to (in order from bad to worse) Georgetown (at home), Connecticut, St. John’s (at home, by a lot) and a pitiful Boston College.

Tomorrow, the Orange play Georgia Tech in a critical matchup for both.  Lose that and lose again in the ACC tournament, and they reach the dreaded 15 losses.  Three weeks ago, a poster on this Syracuse fan board joked that my mind is influenced by crack because I didn’t have his team in the field.  Unfortunately, the joke is on him right now.

Georgia Tech (17-13, 8-9, current Next Four Out): A lot of people hate the RPI.  Unfortunately for those people, the Selection Committee leans on it heavily.  The lowest RPI ranking that ever received an at-large bid was 70, owned by last year’s Syracuse team.  Georgia Tech’s current RPI is 94.  End of discussion.  The Yellow Jackets better beat Syracuse tomorrow and come up with some big wins in the ACC tournament in order to get an at-large.

As we get closer to Selection Sunday, I’ll bring you more analysis of teams in various parts of the bracket.  For now, let’s get into the projection.  As always, moves up or down since the previous projection are in parentheses after the team’s name, and projected automatic qualifiers are in bold.

In since Tuesday’s update: Eastern Washington, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt

 Out since Tuesday’s update: North Dakota, Syracuse, California

1s: Kansas, Villanova, North Carolina, Gonzaga

2s: Baylor, Oregon, UCLA (+1), Louisville

3s: Arizona (-1), Butler, Kentucky, Duke (+1)

4s: Florida, Florida State (-1), Purdue (+1), Virginia

5s: West Virginia (-1), Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Minnesota (+1)

6s: SMU, Saint Mary’s (-1), Iowa State, Creighton

7s: South Carolina, Oklahoma State, Miami, Maryland (+1)

8s: Dayton, Wisconsin (-1), Virginia Tech, Wichita State (+1)

9s: Northwestern (+1), Michigan (-1), Michigan State, Providence (+1)

10s: Seton Hall, VCU (-1), Arkansas, Xavier (-1)

11s: Southern California, Marquette, Wake Forest (new), Middle Tennessee, Illinois State

12s: Texas-Arlington, Rhode Island, Vanderbilt (new), UNC-Wilmington, Monmouth

13s: Nevada, Vermont, Princeton, Winthrop (+1)

14s: Belmont, Bucknell (+1), Oakland, Akron (-1)

15s: Florida Gulf Coast, UNC-Greensboro (-1), Cal-Bakersfield, Eastern Washington

16s: Texas Southern, South Dakota, UC-Davis, Mount Saint Mary’s, New Orleans, North Carolina Central

 Last Four In: Wake Forest, Illinois State, Rhode Island, Vanderbilt

NIT Projection

 1s (First Four Out of NCAA Tournament field): Kansas State, California, Syracuse, Illinois (+1)

2s (Next Four Out): Georgia Tech (-1), Ohio State (+1), Georgia (+1), Utah (+1)

3s (Third Four Out): Iowa (+2), TCU (-1), Houston (-1), Indiana (-1)

4s: Texas Tech, Alabama, BYU, Charleston

5s: Clemson, Colorado State (+1), Valparaiso (+1), Richmond (+2)

6s: Tennessee (-3), Pittsburgh (-1), Boise State (-1), Ole Miss

7s: Arkansas State (-1), Auburn, San Francisco, Central Florida (+1)

8s: East Tennessee State, Memphis (new), Colorado (new), Texas A & M (new)

Out since Tuesday’s update: UNC-Asheville, Georgetown, Stanford

Look for many more updates in the next few days, starting Saturday morning.  In the meantime, check out the Bracket Matrix for the full perspective on where teams are in the field!

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Bracketology: Where is the Big Ten?

Where will the Big Ten end up?  The Bracket Preview on February 11 featured zero Big Ten teams on the top 4 seed lines.  Today, my highest-seeded Big Ten team is Purdue, who fell from a 4 to a 5 seed.  This was tough, because I think Purdue really is a 4 seed, but Virginia had to move up after beating North Carolina last night.  There is no doubt, though, that the conference tournaments will clear up the picture.  Some of the top teams are bound to be upset in the early rounds, depriving them of the chance to pick up quality wins going into Selection Sunday, and others are going to get those wins.

With that said, let’s get right into today’s projection.  As always, moves up or down since the previous update are in parentheses after the team’s name, and projected automatic qualifiers are in bold.

 In since Sunday’s update: UNC-Greensboro

Out since Sunday’s update: East Tennessee State

Trending up: Oregon, Butler, UCLA, Virginia, Notre Dame, Minnesota, Iowa State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wichita State, Arkansas, Providence, Texas-Arlington, Monmouth, Oakland, Vanderbilt, Illinois

Trending down: Duke, Wisconsin, Maryland, Xavier, Northwestern, Southern California, Syracuse, Georgia Tech, Kansas State, TCU, Tennessee

1s: Kansas, Villanova, North Carolina, Gonzaga

2s: Baylor, Louisville, Oregon, Arizona

3s: Florida State, Butler, UCLA, Kentucky

4s: Florida, Duke, Virginia (+1), West Virginia

5s: Purdue (-1), Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, Cincinnati

6s: Minnesota, SMU, Iowa State, Creighton (+1)

7s: Wisconsin (-1), Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Miami

8s: Maryland, Dayton, Virginia Tech (+1), Michigan

9s: Xavier (-1), Michigan State (+1), Wichita State, VCU

10s: Arkansas, Northwestern (-1), Seton Hall, Providence (+1)

11s: Southern California (-1), Illinois State, California, Marquette (+1), Middle Tennessee

12s: Syracuse (-1), Rhode Island, Texas-Arlington, UNC-Wilmington, Monmouth (+1)

13s: Nevada (-1), Vermont, Princeton, Akron

14s: UNC-Greensboro (new), Winthrop, Oakland (+1), Belmont

15s: Florida Gulf Coast, Bucknell (-1), Cal-Bakersfield, North Dakota

16s: Texas Southern, South Dakota, UC-Davis, Mount Saint Mary’s, New Orleans, North Carolina Central

 Last four in: California, Marquette, Syracuse, Rhode Island

NIT Projection

 1s (First Four Out of NCAA tournament field): Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Kansas State

2s (Next Four Out of NCAA tournament field): TCU, Houston, Illinois (+1), Indiana

3s (Third Four Out of NCAA tournament field): Tennessee (-1), Georgia, Ohio State (+1), Utah

4s: Texas Tech (-1), Alabama, BYU, Charleston

5s: Clemson, Iowa, Boise State, Pittsburgh (+1)

6s: Valparaiso (-1), Colorado State, Ole Miss, Arkansas State (+1)

7s: Georgetown (-1), Richmond, Auburn, San Francisco

8s: UNC-Asheville, Stanford, Central Florida (+1), East Tennessee State

Thanks for reading, and look for my next update soon.  Check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!

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Bracketology: Is Gonzaga a 1 Seed?

How does BYU do it?  Over the last four seasons, the Cougars have beaten Gonzaga as many times as the entire rest of the West Coast Conference has beaten Gonzaga.  BYU is 4-4 against the Zags in this time frame, while the rest of the conference is 4-66.

Even more importantly, this throws into question something I strongly believed just two short days ago: will the Zags still earn a 1 seed?  They are certainly worthy.  But, the winner of the Pac-12 will be worthy, as well.  Think about it: the top three teams in the Pac-12 are Oregon, Arizona, and UCLA.  All are in the top 6 of the AP poll.  Assuming one of them wins the Pac-12 tournament, they will have to beat at least one of the other top three teams in the conference to do it.  On the other hand, the best win Gonzaga can get at this point is against St. Mary’s.  That is definitely a good win, but not as good a win as one over Oregon, Arizona, or UCLA.

So, just like last year’s debate over whether Michigan State or Oregon deserved the final 1 seed, this one is likely to come right down to the wire on Selection Sunday as well.  Stay tuned, because we have an exciting couple of weeks ahead as regular season play finishes and the madness begins in the conference tournaments.

Here’s today’s projection.  As always, moves up or down since my last update are in parentheses after the team’s name, and projected automatic qualifiers are in bold.  I’m also including a list of teams that I feel are trending in either the right or the wrong direction.  Not all of these teams changed seed lines in this update, but they are likely to do so quickly if they continue their current trend.

 In since Friday’s update: Rhode Island, South Dakota

Out since Friday’s update: Kansas State, North Dakota State

Trending up: Oregon, UCLA, Butler, Saint Mary’s, SMU, Minnesota, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Miami, Michigan, Arkansas, Providence, Illinois State, Texas-Arlington, UNC-Wilmington, Vermont, Monmouth, Oakland, Vanderbilt

Trending down: Baylor, Duke, Wisconsin, Creighton, Maryland, Xavier, Northwestern, Southern California, Marquette, Kansas State, TCU, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Alabama

1s: Kansas, Villanova, North Carolina, Gonzaga

2s: Oregon, Baylor, Louisville, Arizona

3s: Florida State, UCLA (+1), Butler, Kentucky (+1)

4s: Florida (-1), Duke (-1), West Virginia, Purdue

5s: Virginia, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s

6s: SMU, Minnesota, Iowa State (+1), Wisconsin

7s: Creighton (-1), Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Miami (+1)

8s: Dayton, Maryland (-1), Xavier, Michigan (+1)

9s: Virginia Tech, Wichita State, VCU (-1), Northwestern

10s: Arkansas, Michigan State, Southern California, Seton Hall

11s: Providence, Illinois State (+1), California (+1), Syracuse, Middle Tennessee

12s: Marquette (-1), Rhode Island (new), Texas-Arlington, UNC-Wilmington, Nevada

13s: Vermont, Monmouth, Princeton, Akron

14s: East Tennessee State, Winthrop, Bucknell (+1), Belmont

15s: Oakland, Florida Gulf Coast (-1), Cal-Bakersfield, North Dakota (+1)

16s: South Dakota (new), Texas Southern, UC-Davis, Mount Saint Mary’s, North Carolina Central, New Orleans

 Last Four In: California, Syracuse, Marquette, Rhode Island

NIT Projection

 1s (First Four Out of NCAA Tournament field): Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt (+1), Kansas State

2s (Next Four Out of NCAA Tournament field): TCU (-1), Houston, Indiana (+1), Tennessee

3s (Third Four Out of NCAA Tournament field): Georgia, Illinois, Utah (+1), Texas Tech (-1)

4s: Alabama, Ohio State, BYU (+2), Charleston (+1)

5s: Clemson (-1), Boise State, Valparaiso, Iowa (+2)

6s: Georgetown (-2), Pittsburgh (-1), Ole Miss, Colorado State (+1)

7s: Arkansas State (-1), Auburn (-1), San Francisco (+1), Richmond (+1)

8s: Chattanooga (-1), New Mexico (-1), Stanford, UNC-Asheville (new)

Thanks for reading, and look for my next update early in the week.  Check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!

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Bracketology: Is Gonzaga a Lock for a 1 Seed?

Could the Gonzaga Bulldogs have a 1 seed locked up?  A couple weeks ago, the discussion was about what would happen if they lost a game.  Many seemed to think that this would keep the Zags from the 1 line.  Now, I think the Zags are safely on the 1 line, even if they do lose before Selection Sunday.  Not only have they beaten Florida and Arizona, plus Saint Mary’s twice, but they are also crushing teams by unheard-of margins.  Last night’s win by 58 points at San Diego stands out.  In their last nine games, the Zags have won by 30 or more points six times!  That is absolute domination.

Further down the field, some teams are making a strong push to wrap up an at-large bid.  Syracuse jumped back into the field after their buzzer-beating win against Duke on Wednesday night.  The Orange still have work to do, but that was their third win over a top ACC opponent (the others being Florida State and Virginia).  Impressive for a team that looked totally out of it after losing to a bad UConn team and a far worse St. John’s team (in a blowout) before conference play.

Elsewhere, Providence pulled off a nice last-second win at Creighton on Wednesday to strengthen their case.  Michigan State, who many have had close to the cut line for a while, solidified their case with a 16-point home win over Nebraska last night.  Nebraska has fallen apart since the early part of Big Ten play, when they won at Maryland and at Indiana, but this gives MSU five wins in their last seven games.  They also own a season sweep over Minnesota, who is now up to the 6 line.  This will only add to the quality of their resume.

With that analysis, let’s get into the projection.  As always, moves up or down since the last update are in parentheses after the team’s name, and projected automatic qualifiers are in bold.

 In since Wednesday’s update: Winthrop, UC-Davis, East Tennessee State, Syracuse

 Out since Wednesday’s update: UNC-Asheville, UC-Irvine, Furman, TCU

1s: Kansas, Gonzaga, Villanova, North Carolina

2s: Baylor, Oregon, Louisville, Arizona (+1)

3s: Florida State, Florida, Butler (+1), Duke (-1)

4s: UCLA (-1), Kentucky, Purdue, West Virginia

5s: Cincinnati, Virginia, Notre Dame (+1), Saint Mary’s (+1)

6s: SMU, Creighton (-1), Minnesota (+1), Wisconsin (-1)

7s: Iowa State, Maryland (-1), Oklahoma State, South Carolina

8s: VCU, Dayton, Xavier, Miami

9s: Northwestern, Virginia Tech, Wichita State, Michigan

10s: Michigan State, Arkansas (+1), Southern California, Seton Hall (+1)

11s: Marquette (-1), Providence, Syracuse (new), Kansas State (-1), Middle Tennessee

12s: Illinois State, California (-1), Texas-Arlington, Nevada, UNC-Wilmington

13s: Vermont, Monmouth, Princeton, Akron

14s: Winthrop (new), East Tennessee State (new), Florida Gulf Coast, Belmont

15s: Oakland (-1), Bucknell, Cal-Bakersfield, North Dakota State

16s: North Dakota, Texas Southern, New Orleans, UC-Davis (new), Mount Saint Mary’s, North Carolina Central

 Last Four In: Syracuse, Kansas State, Illinois State, California

NIT Projection

 1s (First Four Out of NCAA tournament field): Wake Forest, Rhode Island, TCU, Georgia Tech (+1)

2s (Next Four Out): Tennessee (-1), Houston (+1), Vanderbilt (+1), Texas Tech

3s (Third Four Out): Alabama (-1), Georgia (+1), Indiana, Illinois

4s: Utah, Ohio State (+1), Clemson, Georgetown (-2)

5s: Boise State (-1), Pittsburgh, Charleston, Valparaiso

6s: Ole Miss, Auburn, Arkansas State, BYU (+1)

7s: Chattanooga (-1), New Mexico, Colorado State, Iowa (+1)

8s: Memphis (-1), Richmond, San Francisco, Stanford (+1)

Look for more updates over the weekend, and check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!

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Bracketology: The Field is Narrowing

With March almost here, the field is narrowing.  Once we get past the Next Four Out, teams are hanging on by a thread.  Take Indiana, for example.  With last night’s loss at Iowa, the Hoosiers fall to 15-13 overall, 5-10 in the Big Ten.  Since 2011, no team has gotten an at-large bid with more than 13 losses.  By that logic, the Hoosiers need to win out, including through the Big Ten tournament.

I still think that because of their early season wins against Kansas and North Carolina, the Hoosiers could sneak into the NCAA field by winning their three remaining regular season games – Northwestern, Purdue, and Ohio State, which would add two more quality wins – and getting to the finals of the Big Ten tourney.  But, that’s a tall order for a team that has lost 5 in a row and doesn’t ever seem interested in playing defense.

Of course, every team still has chances for good wins and bad losses, with the last few regular season games and the conference tournaments approaching.  The field could look much different by Selection Sunday.  With that said, let’s get to today’s projection.

As always, moves up or down since the previous update are in parentheses after the team’s name, and projected automatic qualifiers are in bold.

 In since Sunday’s update: Providence

Out since Sunday’s update: Syracuse

1s: Villanova, Kansas, Gonzaga, North Carolina

2s: Louisville, Baylor, Oregon, Duke

3s: Florida State, Florida, Arizona, UCLA (+1)

4s: Kentucky (-1), West Virginia, Purdue, Butler

5s: Creighton, Wisconsin (+1), Cincinnati, Virginia

6s: Notre Dame (-1), SMU, Saint Mary’s, Maryland

7s: Iowa State, Minnesota, South Carolina, Oklahoma State

8s: Xavier, Dayton, VCU, Miami (+1)

9s: Northwestern (-1), Virginia Tech, Wichita State (+1), Michigan

10s: Michigan State, Kansas State (-1), Marquette, Southern California

11s: Arkansas, Seton Hall, California, Providence (new), Middle Tennessee

12s: Illinois State, TCU, Texas-Arlington, UNC-Wilmington, Nevada

13s: Vermont, Monmouth, Princeton, Akron

14s: UNC-Asheville, Belmont, Oakland, Florida Gulf Coast

15s: Bucknell, Cal-Bakersfield, Furman, North Dakota State

16s: North Dakota, Texas Southern, Cal-Irvine, Mount Saint Mary’s, New Orleans, North Carolina Central

Last Four In: California, Providence, Illinois State, TCU

NIT Projection

 1s (First Four Out of NCAA Tournament field): Syracuse, Rhode Island, Tennessee (+1), Wake Forest

2s (Next Four Out): Georgia Tech, Texas Tech (-1), Alabama (+1), Georgetown

3s (Third Four Out): Houston, Vanderbilt, Indiana (-1), Illinois (+2)

4s: Boise State, Georgia, Clemson (-1), Utah

5s: Ohio State, Charleston, Pittsburgh, Valparaiso (+1)

6s: Ole Miss (-1), Arkansas State, Auburn (+1), Chattanooga (+1)

7s: New Mexico (-1), Memphis (-1), BYU, Colorado State (+1)

8s: Iowa (+1), Winthrop (-1), San Francisco, Richmond (+1)

Look for my next update before the weekend, and check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!

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Bracketology: North Carolina is a 1 Seed

We all knew this would happen.  An ACC team has reached the top line.  With the strength and depth of the conference, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the ACC doesn’t get a 1 seed.  A classic between Kansas and Baylor, won by the former after Baylor failed to score in the final three minutes, moved Baylor down to the 2 line and opened up the last 1 seed.

The winner, for the moment, is North Carolina.  An embarrassment – to the tune of 65-41 – of a very good Virginia team was the selling point.  That adds to very high-quality wins over Florida State (home), Wisconsin (neutral), and Notre Dame (home).  Beyond that, the Tar Heels have four more wins over teams currently in the field.

Louisville also has a strong case for the 1 seed right now.  They actually have a better strength of schedule than North Carolina at the moment, and a KenPom rating of 4, to North Carolina’s 6.  It is really a thin margin between the two teams.  They even have similar quality wins, or it could be argued that Louisville’s are better, having beaten a current 2, 3, and 4 seed: Duke, Kentucky, and Purdue.  It really came down to the style points: Louisville beat a good Virginia Tech team at home by 4 yesterday, while North Carolina crushed an excellent Virginia team.  I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this seed goes back and forth in the next couple of weeks.  For now, Louisville is the top 2 seed.

With all that said, it’s time for me to watch Michigan take on Minnesota in a key matchup for both teams, so here’s the projection.  As always, moves up or down are in parentheses after the team’s name, and projected automatic qualifiers are in bold.

 In since yesterday’s update: North Dakota

 Out since yesterday’s update: Weber State

1s: Villanova, Kansas, Gonzaga, North Carolina (+1)

2s: Louisville, Baylor (-1), Oregon, Duke (+1)

3s: Arizona, Florida State (-1), Florida, Kentucky

4s: UCLA, West Virginia, Purdue (+1), Butler

5s: Virginia (-1), Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Creighton

6s: SMU, Maryland, Wisconsin, Saint Mary’s (+1)

7s: Iowa State, South Carolina (-1), Minnesota, Oklahoma State (+1)

8s: Xavier (-1), Northwestern (+1), Dayton (+1), VCU

9s: Virginia Tech, Michigan, Miami (+1), Kansas State (+1)

10s: Wichita State, Marquette (+1), Michigan State (-2), Southern California (-2)

11s: Arkansas, Seton Hall (-1), Syracuse, California, Middle Tennessee (+1)

12s: Illinois State (-1), TCU (-1), Texas-Arlington, UNC-Wilmington, Nevada (+1)

13s: Vermont (-1), Princeton, Monmouth, Akron

14s: UNC-Asheville, Belmont, Florida Gulf Coast (+1), Oakland

15s: Cal-Bakersfield, Bucknell, Furman (-1), North Dakota State

16s: North Dakota (new), Texas Southern, UC-Irvine, Mount Saint Mary’s, New Orleans, North Carolina Central

 Last Four In: Syracuse, California, Illinois State, TCU

NIT Projection

 In since yesterday’s update: La Salle, Eastern Tennessee State, San Francisco

Out since yesterday’s update: Penn State, Iowa, Colorado

 1s (First Four Out of NCAA tournament field): Providence, Texas Tech, Rhode Island, Wake Forest (+1)

2s (Next Four Out): Tennessee, Georgetown, Indiana (-1), Georgia Tech

3s (Third Four Out): Alabama, Vanderbilt (+1), Clemson, Houston

4s (Fourth Four Out): Utah, Boise State, Georgia, Ohio State (-1)

5s: Illinois, Charleston, Ole Miss, Pittsburgh (+2)

6s: Valparaiso (-1), New Mexico, Arkansas State (+1), Memphis (+2)

7s: Auburn (-1), Chattanooga (-1), BYU (-1), Winthrop (+1)

8s: Colorado State, La Salle (+1), Eastern Tennessee State (+1), San Francisco (+1)

Look for my next projection early in the week, and check out the Bracket Matrix for more bracketology in the meantime!

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Bracketology: Another Michigan Team in the Mix

As we head into a huge Saturday of college hoops, complete with a rematch of Kansas vs. Baylor, there is one major change in the field from last night.  This is in the Horizon League, where Oakland is now projected as the conference winner.  They are one game behind Valparaiso, but they completed the season sweep of Valpo last night with a double-digit win.  In fact, both of Oakland’s wins over Valpo are by double digits, leading me to believe they are the better team.  So welcome to the field, Grizzlies!

Let’s get right to it.  As always, moves up or down since yesterday’s update are in parentheses after the team’s name, and projected automatic qualifiers are in bold.

 In since yesterday’s update: Oakland

 Out since yesterday’s update: Valparaiso

1s: Villanova, Kansas, Gonzaga, Baylor

2s: Louisville, North Carolina, Oregon, Florida State

3s: Arizona, Duke, Florida, Kentucky

4s: Virginia, UCLA, Butler, West Virginia

5s: Purdue, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Creighton

6s: Maryland, SMU, Wisconsin, South Carolina

7s: Saint Mary’s, Iowa State, Minnesota, Xavier

8s: Oklahoma State, Michigan State, USC, VCU (+1)

9s: Virginia Tech, Northwestern, Dayton (-1), Michigan

10s: Miami, Wichita State, Seton Hall, Kansas State

11s: Arkansas, Marquette, TCU, Syracuse, California, Illinois State

12s: Middle Tennessee, Texas-Arlington (+1), UNC-Wilmington, Vermont

13s: Nevada, Princeton (+1), Monmouth, Akron

14s: UNC-Asheville, Furman, Belmont, Oakland (new)

15s: Florida Gulf Coast, Cal-Bakersfield, Bucknell, North Dakota State

16s: Texas Southern, Weber State, Cal-Irvine, Mount Saint Mary’s, New Orleans, North Carolina Central

Last Four In: TCU, Syracuse, California, Illinois State

And today I’m starting something new… since I’m tracking teams far down anyway, I’m doing an NIT projection.  Keep in mind that any regular season conference winner who doesn’t make the NCAA tournament goes to the NIT, and there are always a few of those.  That makes this super hard to project, but why not do it for fun?

NIT PROJECTION

 1s (First Four Out of NCAA field): Texas Tech, Providence, Indiana, Rhode Island

2s (Next Four Out of NCAA field): Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Wake Forest, Georgetown

3s (Third Four Out of NCAA field): Clemson, Houston, Alabama, Ohio State

4s: Boise State, Utah, Georgia, Vanderbilt

5s: Illinois, Charleston, Ole Miss, Valparaiso

6s: New Mexico, Auburn, Chattanooga, BYU

7s: Pittsburgh, Iowa, Colorado, Arkansas State

8s: Penn State, Colorado State, Memphis, Winthrop

Thanks for reading, and look for the next update tomorrow morning after today’s huge slate of games.  As always, check out the Bracket Matrix!

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Bracketology: Michigan is Surging

After the home loss to Ohio State two weeks ago, it looked like you could write off the Michigan Wolverines for the year.  The team was 4-6 in a weak (relative to recent years) Big Ten, without enough quality wins to make up for it.

Fast forward two weeks, and my hometown team has three wins a row now, starting with an annihilation of Michigan State (86-57) last Tuesday.  Next was a win at Assembly Hall, something I hardly ever remember seeing.  And then last night, a huge home win over Wisconsin.  John Beilein has his team surging at the best possible time, holding the past three opponents to an average of 59 points.  That kind of defense, combined with hot 3-point shooting, could make the Wolverines a dangerous team in March.

With that said, let’s get right into the update as we head into the weekend.  As always, moves up or down are in parentheses after the team’s name.  Projected automatic qualifiers are in bold.

 In since last update: Nevada, Arkansas, Syracuse

 Out since last update: Boise State, Rhode Island, Indiana

1s: Villanova, Kansas, Gonzaga, Baylor

2s: Louisville, North Carolina, Oregon, Florida State (+1)

3s: Arizona (-1), Duke (+1), Florida, Kentucky

4s: Virginia (-1), UCLA, Butler, West Virginia

5s: Purdue, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Creighton

6s: Maryland, SMU, Wisconsin, South Carolina

7s: Saint Mary’s, Iowa State, Minnesota, Xavier

8s: Oklahoma State, Michigan State (+1), Southern California, Dayton

9s: Virginia Tech, Northwestern (-1), VCU, Michigan (+1)

10s: Miami, Wichita State (-1), Seton Hall (+1), Kansas State

11s: Arkansas (new), Marquette (-1), TCU, California, Illinois State, Syracuse (new)

12s: Middle Tennessee, UNC-Wilmington, Vermont, Valparaiso

13s: Texas Arlington, Nevada (new), Akron, Monmouth

14s: UNC-Asheville, Princeton, Furman, Belmont

15s: Florida Gulf Coast, Cal-Bakersfield, Bucknell, North Dakota State

16s: Texas Southern, Weber State, Cal-Irvine, Mount Saint Mary’s, New Orleans, North Carolina Central

Last Four In: TCU, California, Illinois State, Syracuse

First Four Out: Texas Tech, Providence (+1), Indiana, Rhode Island

Next Four Out: Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Wake Forest (-1), Georgetown

Third Four Out: Clemson, Houston, Alabama (+1), Ohio State

Fourth Four Out: Boise State, Utah (-1), Georgia, Vanderbilt (+2)

Thanks for reading, and look for a couple more updates over the weekend.  Check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!

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Bracketology: Almost, ACC

Monday had a light schedule, but it had major implications for the tournament.  First off, can you believe West Virginia’s meltdown at Kansas?  With 3 minutes to go, the Mountaineers were up 64-50 and in complete control of the game.  And somehow, Kansas won the game in overtime, basically guaranteeing themselves their 13th straight Big 12 regular season title.  With the win, West Virginia would have been a game behind Kansas in the Big 12 standings with the sweep of the regular season series.  It was one of the craziest endings to a game I’ve seen in a long time, and a good reminder that March is almost here.

Elsewhere in the Big 12, Baylor lost at Texas Tech, for their third loss in February.  I was ready to move them down to the 2 line and to move Louisville up to the 1 line.  It is almost certain that an ACC team will get a 1 seed and that either Baylor or Kansas will wind up as a 2.  But looking at the resumes, I couldn’t quite do it yet.  Baylor has 12 wins against teams currently projected in the field, versus 7 for Louisville.  And, one of those wins for Baylor is on a neutral court against Louisville.  So expect an ACC team to reach the 1 line, but not quite yet.

Finally, I have to mention the Connecticut women’s basketball team, who has now won an unreal 100 games in a row!  Just as amazing, they have gone 837 games without consecutive losses.  That’s a span of probably a quarter century.  That is ridiculous.

With all that said, here’s tonight’s projection.  Moves up or down since my last projection are in parentheses after the team’s name, and projected automatic qualifiers are in bold.

In since last update: Boise State, Seton Hall

Out since last update: Nevada, Wake Forest

1s: Villanova, Kansas, Gonzaga, Baylor

2s: Louisville, North Carolina, Oregon, Arizona

3s: Florida State, Virginia, Florida, Kentucky

4s: UCLA, Duke, West Virginia, Butler

5s: Creighton, Purdue, Notre Dame, Cincinnati

6s: Wisconsin, South Carolina, SMU (+1), Maryland

7s: Xavier (-1), Saint Mary’s, Iowa State, Minnesota (+1)

8s: Northwestern, Southern Cal (-1), Oklahoma State, Dayton

9s: Virginia Tech (+1), VCU (-1), Michigan State, Wichita State

10s: Kansas State (-1), Miami, Michigan (+1), Marquette

11s: TCU, California, Indiana (-1), Rhode Island, Illinois State (+1), Seton Hall (new)

12s: Middle Tennessee (-1), Valparaiso, Vermont, UNC-Wilmington (+1)

13s: Boise State (new), Texas Arlington, Akron (-1), Monmouth

14s: Princeton, UNC-Asheville, Furman, Belmont

15s: Bucknell, Florida Gulf Coast, North Dakota State, Cal-Bakersfield

16s: UC-Irvine, Mount Saint Mary’s, Texas Southern, Weber State, New Orleans, North Carolina Central

 Last Four In: Indiana, Rhode Island, Illinois State, Seton Hall

First Four Out: Arkansas, Syracuse, Texas Tech (+1), Wake Forest

Next Four Out: Tennessee (-1), Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Providence

Third Four Out: Utah, Ohio State, Clemson, Houston

Fourth Four Out: Alabama (+1), Georgia, Temple, Pittsburgh (+1)

Look for my next update later in the week, and check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!

 

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