By Kyle Beery
Last weekend’s Selection Committee Bracket Preview generated a lot of discussion surrounding the rapidly approaching NCAA Tournament, a lot of it criticism. The committee’s bracket overvalued and undervalued several teams in its top 16 after what was a wild weekend, which I talked about in my last bracket projection.
Well, we just had a relatively wild week as an encore to last weekend. Nine more ranked teams fell in the last four days, including four inside the top 10. Most notably, No. 3 Villanova, No. 4 Purdue and No. 5 Cincinnati all took hits in their bids for a No. 1 seed.
Here’s a look at my updated bracket projections following this week’s action. As a reminder, these projections are based off what has happened so far this season, not based on what could happen. Conference champions are listed in ALL CAPS. In this version of the bracket, the winner of the South Regional and the winner of the West Regional would meet in the Final Four, while the East and Midwest Regional champions would square off in San Antonio.
As always, the Selection Committee’s bracket principles were closely followed in making this bracket.
SOUTH REGIONAL — Atlanta — Thursday, March 22 & Saturday, March 24
- Virginia remains the No. 1 overall seed after a solid 59-50 win at Miami this week. The Cavaliers still own the nation’s top adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom, allowing just 82.1 points per 100 possessions.
- Auburn got a nice win over Kentucky to inch closer to its first SEC regular season title since 1999. The Tigers are one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country and they have 11 wins against teams in quadrants 1 + 2
- Nevada capitalized on its last regular-season opportunity to get a true quality win by beating Boise State. The Wolf Pack have a strong case at an at-large bid should they wind up being upset in the Mountain West Tournament.
- Butler is in trouble. The Bulldogs suffered their first real bad loss of the season — at home against Georgetown on Tuesday. The Dawgs’ wins over Villanova and Ohio State are carrying them, but losses are starting to stack up, even if most of them aren’t bad ones. Butler stayed on the 9-line thanks to a handful of losses by teams in the same seed neighborhood, but ice is getting thin in Indianapolis.
EAST REGIONAL — Boston — Friday, March 23 & Sunday, March 25
- Xavier is now the No. 2 overall seed following Villanova’s loss at Providence. The Musketeers just keep winning. They have 16 wins against quadrants 1+2. All three of their losses are against quadrant 1, and barring a bad loss down the stretch, the Musketeers are in great position to be a 1-seed come selection Sunday. Xavier and Villanova meet in Cincinnati on Saturday in one of the biggest games of the entire season.
- Purdue fell off the top line after an ugly loss at Wisconsin, a team with no shot at an at-large bid. The Boilermakers have lost three in a row after racking up 19 straight wins.
- Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma all suffered losses this week and are trending downward. West Virginia slides into a top-4 seed after an impressive blowout of TCU, but the Mountaineers are no lock to stay there by the end of the year.
- East Tennessee State and New Mexico State, two teams with Cinderella potential, both suffered their first conference losses of the season, leaving Vermont and Rhode Island as the only two teams still unbeaten in their respective conferences.
MIDWEST REGIONAL — Omaha — Friday, March 23 & Sunday, March 25
- Michigan State jumps up to the 1-line, thanks to a 30-point blowout at Minnesota. The Spartans have won nine in a row since a home loss to rival Michigan and are finally playing like the dominant team we all thought they would be. MSU is the only team in the country that ranks inside KenPom’s top 10 in offensive (No. 8) and defensive efficiency (No. 5).
- Duke is quietly hanging around as a potential 1-seed. If the Blue Devils win out and take the ACC Tournament, they have a strong case, but another loss along the way would comp0und bad losses at Boston College and NC State and likely prevent them from earning their 14th 1-seed in program history.
- Missouri is also quietly climbing up the ranks. The Tigers beat Texas A&M this week for their fifth straight victory. Michael Porter, Jr. may return after all, and he would further bolster the potential of a Mizzou team that has 10 wins against quadrants 1+2.
- Providence moved ahead of Texas after the Friars beat Villanova and the Longhorns lost to Baylor at home in 2 OT.
WEST REGIONAL — Los Angeles — Thursday, March 22 & Saturday, March 24
- Villanova is clinging to slim 1-seed hopes. If the Wildcats can bounce back from losing two of their last three and make a good run in the Big East Tournament, they have the wins worthy of a 1-seed. They just need to avoid any more bad losses. The reigning No. 1 overall seed from a year ago stays on the top line thanks to losses by Purdue and Cincinnati. But what we thought was a sure thing a few short weeks ago, Jay Wright’s team is in trouble of falling down a line.
- Kansas is the lowest 2-seed and North Carolina is just a few spots behind them. The Jayhawks are fighting to earn a share of their 14th straight Big 12 regular season title, right on the heels of Texas Tech with a meeting in Lubbock looming next week. The Tar Heels, meanwhile have put a three-game losing streak way back in the rearview mirror by winning four in a row with four very winnable games remaining.
- Houston was the culprit in one of the week’s biggest upsets. The Cougars knocked off Cincinnati for their biggest win of the season, moving them a little closer to comfort. Kelvin Sampson’s team is anything but a lock for an at-large bid, but as long as they can avoid a bad loss down the stretch, the Cougars are dancing.
Last four byes
- Virginia Tech – The Hokies took a lump with an ugly 22-point loss at Duke.
- Kansas State – A win at Oklahoma State improved their resume and likely took one more team out of the equation.
- NC State – Like K-State, the Pack helped themselves with a win and hurt another bubble team’s chances in Syracuse to boot.
- TCU – The Horned Frogs lost at West Virginia but are hanging on for now. A 12-0 start to the season seems like ages ago for a team that hasn’t won back-to-back games since before Christmas.
Last four in (First Four @ Dayton March 13-14)
- Texas – The Longhorns have lost three straight against bubble or non-tournament teams and four of five overall. They need to finish strong to have a shot at a bid.
- UCLA – The Bruins have climbed into 2nd place in the Pac-12, but that means nothing if they can’t finish strong against a relatively friendly schedule.
- Nebraska – Under the radar all year, the Cornhuskers have hit the 20-win mark. A couple early-season bad losses may come back to haunt them, but an easy remaining schedule should leave Nebraska with a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament.
- USC – The Trojans have been on the wrong end of late-game drama all year, but got a buzzer-beater over Oregon Thursday night to climb into the current field.
First four out
- Boise State – The Broncos lost a close one at home to Nevada and might not have enough firepower left on the schedule, outside of Nevada in the MWC Tournament to recover for an at-large bid.
- Marquette – The Golden Eagles have been in free-fall, losing six of their last seven. A run in the conference tournament may be imperative to earning a bid.
- Penn State – The Nittany Lions, much like the Cornhuskers, have come on strong lately to potentially deepen the Big Ten’s tournament chances. A 23-point dismantling of Ohio State completed a season sweep of the conference-leading Buckeyes.
- Syracuse – The Orange suffered a tough home loss to NC State and the losses are really piling up now. A deep run in the ACC Tournament will be needed to sneak into the field of 68.
Next four out
- SMU – Losing to Memphis at home all but dashed the Mustangs’ at-large hopes.
- Western Kentucky – The Hilltoppers just don’t have the amount of quality wins needed for a bid.
- Oklahoma State – Any aspirations of a nine-bid Big 12 died when the Pokes lost at home to Kansas State this week.
- Georgia – The Bulldogs kept their slim at-large hopes alive by winning at Florida. They probably still need to win out and make some noise in the SEC Tournament to have a chance.