By Kyle Beery
Believe it or not, we’re already only about a month away from Selection Sunday. March Madness will be upon us in a flash, and I’m bringing you my bracketology to give you an idea of where the field stands.
Although I haven’t gotten around to posting, I have been keeping up with bracketology throughout the season, updating my bracket once or twice a week. I’ve finally found a way to present my brackets in actual bracket form, so it’s a little easier to read and a little more digestible.
These projections are based off of what has happened so far, not based on what I think might happen throughout the rest of the season. The bracket was built closely following the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee’s bracketing principles. As the Selection Committee will this year, I have used data from Ken Pomeroy and Jeff Sagarin’s computer ratings in addition to the traditional RPI to build my bracket.
In this version of the bracket, the winner of the South Regional will face the winner of the West, while the East and Midwest champions will meet in the Final Four, set for March 31 and April 2 in San Antonio. Conference champions are listed in ALL CAPS.
SOUTH REGIONAL — Atlanta — Thursday, March 22 & Saturday, March 24
- Virginia slid up to the No. 1 overall seed after Villanova lost to St. John’s at home on Wednesday. The Cavaliers are No. 1 in the RPI, KenPom and Sagarin ratings. Tony Bennett’s team is the best defensive team in the country again. Surprise, surprise.
- Cincinnati has won 15 straight to rise to the 2-line, while West Virginia recently righted the ship with two straight wins after losing five of six.
- Ohio State got a massive win Wednesday over Purdue, further solidifying its surprising resume. The Buckeyes own four top 40 KenPom wins this season and have just one loss outside the RPI top 50.
- Since getting a big win over rival Michigan State last month, Michigan has been in a bit of a funk. Despite a couple nice performances against Purdue, the Wolverines have a couple troubling losses at Northwestern and Nebraska, teams both currently on the outside of the tournament picture.
- East Tennessee State is one of 10 remaining teams that are yet to lose a conference game. The Buccaneers, who were a trendy upset pick last March will probably just that again this year. They rank inside the top 40 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency and are 67th in the overall rankings.
EAST REGIONAL — Boston — Friday, March 23 & Sunday, March 25
- Despite Villanova’s bad home loss to the Johnnies, the Wildcats are the No. 2 overall seed. That’s thanks in part to St. John’s beating Duke a few days earlier, Purdue’s loss on the same night and a win over Xavier earlier in the season. Jay Wright’s team is missing a few pieces in Phil Booth and Eric Paschall, but the Cats still have the highest adjusted offensive efficiency in the nation.
- Michigan State is a peculiar team. The Spartans are loaded with talent, but can’t seem to get a blowout win against teams they should blow out — at least not recently. Still, State’s only losses of the season have come against Duke, Ohio State and Michigan — not a single bad loss.
- Clemson has been a surprise out of the ACC, ranking inside the KenPom top 20 and RPI top 10. Kentucky, meanwhile, has underachieved this season, per Kentucky standards. The Wildcats still find themselves on a top-four seed-line, thanks to recent losses by Arizona and Oklahoma.
- Six of Butler’s eight losses have been against teams inside the RPI top 30, so it’s hard to knock the Bulldogs for a tough schedule, but they will need to rack up a few more wins, possibly this weekend at Villanova, to get any higher than a 7-seed.
- Texas A&M is slowly climbing back up the ladder after starting 0-5 in the SEC. Wednesday’s win at No. 8 Auburn was a huge boost, and the Aggies look to be solidly in the field, as long as they avoid a late-season meltdown.
MIDWEST REGIONAL — Omaha — Friday, March 23 & Sunday, March 25
- Purdue fell at home to Ohio State this week, snapping a 19-game winning streak and falling into a tie for first place in the Big Ten. But that wasn’t enough to knock them off the 1-line. This weekend’s showdown at Michigan State will either be enough to do so, or affirm the Boilermakers’ spot on the top line.
- Kansas has crept back into 2-seed range after “struggling,” per Jayhawk expectations. Bill Self’s team has lost three times at Phog Allen Fieldhouse — unheard of — but still has one of the more impressive resumes in the coutnry.
- Duke’s loss at North Carolina on Thursday night bumped the Blue Devils down a line, but this is hands down one of the most talented teams in the country and they still have a solid enough resume that they can climb back up. Reaching the top line may take a lot of help down the stretch, though.
- Creighton and Providence are both beneficiaries of a tough Big East schedule. While neither team has an eye-popping win, they’ve won enough games and played a tough enough schedule (both ranking inside the top 35 of KenPom’s SOS) to be where they’re at on the seed lines.
- New Mexico State is another one of those teams with an unblemished conference record. The Aggies own a nice win over Miami and rank in the top 50 in RPI and KenPom. They, too, should be a trendy upset pick come March.
WEST REGIONAL — Los Angeles — Thursday, March 22 & Saturday, March 24
- Xavier edges out Michigan State for the final 1-seed, thanks to four more wins against the RPI top 50. The Musketeers have won two straight close overtime games, most recently on the road at Butler. Kerem Kanter is turning into a go-to threat for the Musketeers, while Trevon Bluiett continues to do Trevon Bluiett things.
- Texas Tech has been the surprise of the season in the Big 12 (aside from Kansas’s struggles). The Red Raiders have put together a very nice resume with 11 RPI top 100 wins and no losses outside the top 100. It will be pretty tough for them to rise to the top line by the end of the season, but they do have several more opportunities for quality wins.
- Auburn is trending downward after getting beat by Texas A&M, but the Tigers are still a formidable team capable of being a 2-seed by season’s end. North Carolina is trending upwards after beating Duke handily on Thursday night.
- Arizona is sputtering right now, especially after a home loss to UCLA on Thursday. Don’t let that — or a three game losing streak in the Bahamas back in November fool you — this team is scary talented and can make a lot of noise in March. Their in-state rivals, Arizona State, had a bit of a fall from grace after starting the season 11-0. The Sun Devils are back to .500 in the Pac-12 and got a nice buzzer-beating win over a bubble team in USC on Thursday.
- Nevada and Boise State are tied for the lead in the Mountain West, but the Wolf Pack holds the edge, thanks to a victory over the Broncos. They meet again next week and that game will go a long ways in determining whether Boise State can get an at-large bid and whether Nevada can get any higher than the 8-9 game.
Last four byes
- UCLA — The Bruins got a huge win at Arizona Thursday to move them past Dayton.
- Houston — The Cougars are 7-3 vs. the RPI top 100. Big upcoming game vs. Cincy.
- TCU — The Frogs have slid way down the ranks during Big 12 play. Clinging to life.
- NC State — A shot to prove their win at UNC wasn’t a fluke this weekend with the Tar Heels visiting Raleigh.
Last four in (First Four @ Dayton March 13-14)
- Kansas State — No losses outside of RPI Top 100, but Wildcats need to stack wins.
- Virginia Tech — Hokies got a nice win over NC State, but need to keep winning.
- Boise State — Last chance at quality win is vs. Nevada next week. Would be huge.
- Marquette — Golden Eagles got a big upset at Seton Hall to move back into the field.
First four out
- USC — Trojans let an opportunity for a quality road win at ASU slip away Thursday.
- Washington — A blowout loss at Oregon did not help the Huskies’ resume one bit.
- Syracuse — The Orange just don’t have a signature win. Buffalo and Louisville are not going to get it done.
- Nebraska — The Cornhuskers don’t have a terrible loss, but they don’t have a signature win yet, other than Michigan at home, which isn’t enough to put them in the field.
Next four out
- SMU — Some nice non-conference wins, but .500 in the American isn’t boding well.
- Penn State — The Nittany Lions need to build on buzzer beater win over OSU.
- Western Kentucky — Time is running out for the Hilltoppers. May need to win C-USA Tournament to have a chance.
- Utah — The Utes have six very winnable games remaining. They might want to win all of them if they want a chance at the dance.