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Bracketology: NCAA tournament projection as of March 16, 2019 – Inside the Hall

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Andy Bottoms

Friday proved to be another wild day on the hardwood, which sets the stage for a busy Saturday that will feature 14 Championship games.

Here’s an updated look at potential bid thieves heading into the season’s final two days.

American – Bubble teams will be rooting for Houston and Cincinnati in the Semi-Finals of the AAC, while Memphis and Wichita State will try to play spoiler.

Atlantic-10 – VCU’s loss means there will definitely be a bid thief in the A-10. The only question now is which team.

Mid-American – Buffalo is in the field either way, which means bubble teams will be rooting against Bowling Green in the finals.

Mountain West – With Nevada going down in the semis, it’s up to Utah State to keep San Diego State from stealing a bid.

Pac-12 – Oregon needed overtime to stay alive, but the Ducks knocked off Arizona State to give themselves a shot to steal a bid on Saturday night against Washington.

Before looking at the one seeds, I wanted to give a quick reminder about how the NCAA selection committee classifies wins based on the new NET Rating.

A breakdown of the four tiers:

· Tier 1: Home vs. teams ranked 1-30 / Neutral vs. teams ranked 1-50 / Road vs. teams ranked 1-75
· Tier 2: Home vs. teams ranked 31-75 / Neutral vs. teams ranked 51-100 / Road vs. teams ranked 76-135
· Tier 3: Home vs. teams ranked 76-160 / Neutral vs. teams ranked 101-200 / Road vs. teams ranked 136-240
· Tier 4: Home vs. teams ranked 161-351 / Neutral vs. teams ranked 201-351 / Road vs. teams ranked 241-351

One Seeds

It’s amazing how quickly the picture can change even at this stage of the season, but the return of Zion Williamson has allowed the committee to assess Duke at full strength once again. That, coupled with Friday’s win over North Carolina, has propelled the Blue Devils back onto the one line. Virginia remains there as well despite its loss to Florida State, and Kentucky’s blowout win over Alabama keeps them as a one seed, too.

Even though Michigan State and Tennessee also won, the last one seed came down to North Carolina and Gonzaga. The Heels are 11-1 on the road have 10 Quad 1 wins, including a double-digit home with over the Zags. Gonzaga has just one win against the Top 30 of the NET, although that victory against Duke in Maui is as impressive as any win this season. UNC has eight Top 30 victories, which for me gave them the nod. Either way, Gonzaga will end up out West, but despite my earlier skepticism, I am projecting the ACC for three one seeds.

This is definitely something I intend to evaluate further today, as I go through yet another scrub of the seed list.

The Bracket

The projections below are based on all games played through March 15, 2019. Following the bracket, I included a few thoughts on the last four in as well as the other teams I considered.

EAST (WASHINGTON, DC) SOUTH (LOUISVILLE)
Columbia – March 22/24 Columbia – March 22/24
1) Virginia 1) Duke
16) North Dakota St. / Norfolk St. 16) Prairie View A&M
8) Seton Hall
8) Minnesota
9) Baylor 9) Central Florida
San Jose – March 22/24 Hartford – March 21/23
5) Mississippi St.
5) Virginia Tech
12) New Mexico St. 12) Davidson
4) Kansas St. 4) Kansas
13) UC Irvine 13) Northeastern
Des Moines – March 21/23 Tulsa – March 22/24
6) Villanova 6) Cincinnati
11) Florida 11) Arizona St. / St. John’s
3) Purdue 3) LSU
14) Old Dominion 14) Georgia St.
Jacksonville – March 21/23 Columbus – March 22/24
7) Wofford 7) Buffalo
10) Syracuse 10) VCU
2) Tennessee 2) Michigan St.
15) Gardner-Webb
15) Harvard
WEST (ANAHEIM) MIDWEST (KANSAS CITY)
Jacksonville – March 21/23 Columbus – March 22/24
1) North Carolina 1) Kentucky
16) Iona / F. Dickinson 16) Abilene Christian
8) Ole Miss 8) Iowa
9) Oklahoma 9) Washington
San Jose – March 22/24 Hartford – March 21/23
5) Auburn 5) Marquette
12) Saint Mary’s 12) Murray St.
4) Wisconsin 4) Florida St.
13) Liberty 13) Vermont
Salt Lake City – March 21/23 Tulsa – March 22/24
6) Maryland 6) Iowa St.
11) Temple / NC State
11) Ohio St.
3) Texas Tech 3) Houston
14) Montana 14) Northern Kentucky
Salt Lake City – March 21/23 Des Moines – March 21/23
7) Nevada 7) Louisville
10) TCU 10) Utah St.
2) Gonzaga 2) Michigan
15) Bradley 15) Colgate

Last Four In:

Arizona State – The fact that the Sun Devils find themselves in this spot is a direction result of the bid thieves we’ve seen, as I tend to think they are pretty safe. ASU has Quad 1 wins over Mississippi State, Kansas, and Utah State, and they have eight Quad 2 victories as well. However, the Sun Devils have a pair of Quad 3 losses and two more in Quad 4, all of which have pushed their NET ranking into the 60s.

St. John’s – The Red Storm did very little in the non-conference outside of beating VCU, and they lost two times each to DePaul, Providence, and Xavier. St. John’s did sweep Marquette in the regular season before getting run off the floor against the Golden Eagles on Thursday night, and I ultimately don’t feel they are in true jeopardy.

Temple – The Owls could have essentially locked up a bid by beating Wichita State on Friday night, but they came up short against the Shockers, setting up a long couple days of waiting. Temple has a pair of Quad 1 wins, but those home victories over Houston and Central Florida are their only wins over at-large caliber teams. Eight road wins help Temple’s case though, and six Quad 2 victories bolster their profile as well.

NC State – A huge comeback and late free throws propelled the Wolfpack to a win over Clemson in their ACC Tournament opener, but they were blown out by Virginia on Thursday. The Wolfpack’s non-conference strength of schedule is the worst in the nation, and just one of their nine ACC regular season victories came against a team with a winning league record (Syracuse). Additional home wins over Auburn and Clemson are helpful, but it seems like each year there is a team that winds up getting punished for a poor non-conference schedule, which this year just might be NC State. For now, the fact that all but two of their losses have come against teams in the Top 25 of the NET and decent metrics have them barely inside the cutline.

Other Teams Considered:

Belmont – After losing in the OVC championship game to Murray State, the Bruins find themselves in the at-large pool, and they have the most compelling case of any of the mid-majors who failed to win the auto-bid so far. So far, things have actually broken pretty well for them. They own a sweep of fellow bubbler Lipscomb and won the regular season matchup at Murray State. But despite a gaudy 25-5 mark against Division I teams, Belmont’s status on the bubble is tenuous given a pair of Quad 3 losses and no victories over potential at-large candidates.

Indiana – The Hoosiers won their last four regular season games to play their way back into the bubble picture, but a lackluster performance for most of Thursday’s game with Ohio State may have been the final nail in the coffin. A sweep of Michigan State represents two of IU’s six Quad 1 wins, and the committee chair’s comments about being diligent in researching the impact of injuries could certainly come into play here. Still, the Hoosiers now have 15 losses, and we haven’t seen a team receive an at-large bid at just two games over .500 since Georgia in 2001. So despite no Quad 3 or Quad 4 losses, history is assuredly not on the side of the Hoosiers.

UNC Greensboro – The Spartans gave Wofford a tough test in the SoCon Final and picked up another win over fellow bubbler Furman to get there. All six of UNCG’s losses fall in Quad 1, but two wins over Furman are the only ones of note. The predictive metrics don’t do them any favors either, so it’s likely the Spartans are headed to the NIT despite winning 26 Division I games.

Alabama – The Crimson Tide came from behind to knock off Ole Miss on Thursday evening, but they were blown out by Kentucky on Friday night. That leaves Alabama with 15 losses, with two of them falling in Quad 3 and five of them coming against teams not in the at-large discussion. Home wins over Kentucky, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss are Alabama’s best, but it’s hard to see them making it into the field given the way things have played out over the last couple days.

Creighton – The Bluejays still don’t have a loss to a team outside the Top 75 of the NET, but Thursday’s last-second loss to Xavier gave them their 14th defeat of the season. Creighton does have three Quad 1 wins, but the road win at Marquette is their lone victory over a team comfortably in the field.

Texas – A Big 12 Tournament loss to Kansas dropped the Longhorns to 16-16. While they do boast five Quad 1 wins, I cannot see the committee putting in a .500 team.

Furman – The aforementioned loss to UNC Greensboro likely spelled the end for the Paladins, who finished 13-5 in the SoCon. They boast a huge non-conference road win at Villanova and have just one bad loss. Still, that home loss to Samford may come back to haunt them, and it’s worth noting that three of Furman’s 25 victories came against non-Division I opponents. The Paladins were also just 2-5 in games against the other top teams in the SoCon.

Conference Breakdown:

Big Ten (8): Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin

ACC (8): Duke, Florida State, Louisville, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech

Big 12 (7): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas Tech

SEC (7): Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Tennessee

American (4): Central Florida, Cincinnati, Houston, Temple

Big East (4): Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Villanova

Atlantic 10 (2): Davidson, VCU

Mountain West (2): Nevada, Utah State

Pac-12 (2): Arizona State, Washington

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s*

America East: Vermont

Atlantic Sun: Liberty*

Big Sky: Montana

Big South: Gardner-Webb*

Big West: UC Irvine

Colonial: Northeastern*

Conference USA: Old Dominion

Horizon: Northern Kentucky*

Ivy: Harvard

MAAC: Iona*

MAC: Buffalo

MEAC: Norfolk State

Missouri Valley: Bradley*

Northeast: Fairleigh Dickinson*

Ohio Valley: Murray State*

Patriot: Colgate*

Southern: Wofford*

Southland: Abilene Christian

SWAC: Prairie View A&M

Summit: North Dakota State*

Sun Belt: Georgia State

WAC: New Mexico State

* – Earned automatic bid

Follow Andy on Twitter (@andybottoms) for more thoughts on college hoops and to receive an update whenever new brackets are posted.

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