By Kyle Beery
It was quite the wild weekend in the world of college basketball. After the No. 1 team in the country lost earlier in the week, nine more ranked teams went down on Saturday. In total, 18 teams ranked inside the Top 25 lost in a span of six days, muddling up what was already a rather foggy NCAA Tournament picture.
To complicate things even more, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee gave a preview of the “current bracket” as it revealed its top 16 teams on Sunday, placing each of them into four separate regions and emulating the actual Selection Sunday process. The committee’s selections — especially after Saturday’s chaos — left all of us confused.
The consensus of glaring concerns from their bracket preview include Michigan State lowballed as a No. 3-seed; Kansas still on the 2-line after an ugly loss at Baylor; Oklahoma as a No. 4; and Purdue still on the top line after back-to-back losses.
While there is still a month to go until Selection Sunday, and this preview will have no bearing on the actual bracket in March, this left a lot of college basketball fans upset.
On Friday I gave you my first updated bracket in a while. I’ve updated it again following the madness of this weekend, now that we have a bit of an idea how the Selection Committee is viewing some of these teams, as well as how it seems to be implementing the use of analytics.
My projections used the Selection Committee’s bracket preview as a baseline, and went from there. My top 16 seeds don’t exactly match that of the committee’s, but it was a good starting point in terms of seeing how certain teams are valued. Without further ado, here is my breakdown of my bracket, region by region.
Note: These projections are based off what has happened so far this season, not based on what could happen. Conference champions/Auto-Bid winners are listed in ALL CAPS.
SOUTH REGIONAL — Atlanta — Thursday, March 22 & Saturday, March 24
- Despite losing at home to Virginia Tech Saturday — and probably to quite the disdain of many a college basketball fan — the Virginia Cavaliers remain as the No. 1 overall seed in my bracket update. I couldn’t argue the committee’s decisions too much — I’ll explain more later.
- Cincinnati caught a lot of flak for being on the 2-line in the committee’s bracket preview, but I can’t figure out why. Their two lone losses of the season came on the road against a great Xavier team and on a neutral floor against a solid Florida squad. In addition, the Bearcats are 5-1 against teams in “Quadrant 1.” After doing much research on the seemingly new “quadrants,” that’s pretty impressive.
- Texas Tech got bumped down a line from the comittee’s projections, and you’ll see why in a minute.
- East Tennessee State and Louisiana both figure to be pretty trendy upset picks when it comes time to fill out brackets in March. The Buccaneers rank 67th in KenPom’s ratings and haven’t lost since a two-point nail-biter at Xavier on Dec. 16. Louisiana, meanwhile just suffered its first setback since losing at Clemson in late December.
EAST REGIONAL — Boston — Friday, March 23 & Sunday, March 25
- Villanova lost to St. John’s earlier in the week, but the Wildcats remain among the top seeds. They are 8-0 against Quadrant 1 and are No. 2 in the KenPom ratings. They deserve to be right where they are.
- Michigan State: Sunday’s hot topic. The committee inexplicably had the Spartans as the No. 11 overall team, slotted as a three-seed. Let me be clear. By RPI and quadrant metrics, the Spartans probably belong in that neighborhood. But let me be clearer. The RPI is pretty outdated, so while “Quadrant wins” and RPI ratings are all fine and dandy for the committee, they’re not for me (but I do have to consider them to a certain extent). That’s why I have them higher than a 3-seed. The reason I don’t have them on the 1-line, though — even after beating Purdue — is that the Spartans don’t have quite enough quality wins by the current metrics to bump them up. But they’re right there on the verge, and it wouldn’t be out of the question to see them as a 1-seed — maybe the overall 1-seed — by season’s end.
MIDWEST REGIONAL — Omaha — Friday, March 23 & Sunday, March 25
- Xavier stays on the top line. The Musketeers have been rolling lately. We’ll find out more about this team when we see how they handle Villanova a second time around after a 24-point shellacking in Philadelphia earlier this season.
- Another spot where I deviated from the committee’s bracket baseline is with Oklahoma. They still had the Sooners among the top four seed-lines, but I have them as the lowest 5-seed. The Sooners have lost three straight and four of five, including a loss over the weekend at Iowa State, a team that doesn’t figure to be in the mix for an at-large bid.
- Ohio State is teetering between the 3-4 line. Had the Buckeyes not lost at the buzzer to Penn State two weeks ago, they’d probably be closer to the 2-3 line. But Chris Holtmann and his surprise-of-the-year squad march on after being picked 13th in the Big Ten preseason polls.
- Boise State, Kansas State, Syracuse and UCLA all find themselves squarely on the bubble. Boise’s chances of an at-large bid will take a huge hit if they suffer any more conference losses, except maybe Nevada. But the Broncos don’t have any other shots at quality wins outside of the Wolf Pack, so it’s essentially do-or-die for them. The other three still have chances at quality wins, but time is running out.
WEST REGIONAL — Los Angeles — Thursday, March 22 & Saturday, March 24
- Purdue gets the final 1-seed, even after losing to Michigan State. Part of my rationale: losing by three on the road to a top-five team is not a bad loss. And with how far apart the Boilermakers and Spartans were in the committee’s rankings, it’s hard to justify moving MSU all the way over the Boilermakers. But it certainly could happen in the near future, as State is only one spot behind now.
- Kansas drops down a line from the committee’s projections, mainly because of its blowout loss at Baylor over the weekend. Kansas still has one of the most impressive resumes in terms of stacking quality wins, but bad losses keep stacking up too, and this team just hasn’t been playing great ball lately.
- Arizona remains among the top four seeds, but by a slim margin. The Wildcats don’t have a lot of wiggle room. A win at Arizona State this week would certainly bolster their resume, though.
- New Mexico State is trending up the polls, but I’m keeping them as a 12-seed. The Aggies own a very nice win over Miami, but aside from that, there’s not much to write home about. Running train in the WAC can only be so impressive. Their ceiling is probably an 11-seed, possibly a 10 with the perfect storm ahead of them, but I wouldn’t anticipate it.
Last four byes: NC State, Providence, Texas, Houston
Last four in (Dayton): Syracuse, UCLA, Kansas State, Boise State
First four out: Marquette, USC, SMU, Nebraska
Next four out: WKU, Oklahoma State, Washington, Penn State