Editor’s note: For years, our very own Andy Bottoms has been projecting the NCAA Tournament bracket.
Below is Andy’s latest set of projections for 2017. Expect daily updates between now and Selection Sunday.
No automatic bids were handed out on Thursday, but there was still plenty of action that impacted the bubble with Illinois and Iowa getting blown out, Kansas State and Xavier winning, and the debate on Syracuse raging on.
With that in mind, I looked at a few elements of Syracuse’s profile.
The highest RPI to receive an at-large was actually Syracuse last year, who was sitting at 72nd on Selection Sunday. That team had some additional considerations due to Jim Boeheim’s suspension, but even so, this year’s team currently sits close to 15 spots worse in the RPI.
The Orange are currently just 2-11 in road and neutral games. According to a tweet from Jerry Palm, no team in at least the last 23 years has received an at-large with so few victories away from home.
Since 2009, six teams have received an at-large with two true road wins, but all of them had at least one neutral court victory as well. In addition, five of the six had two or fewer sub-100 losses (more on that in a minute), five of six had RPIs of 55 or better, and five of six had better non-conference strength of schedule numbers than Syracuse, who ranks right around the 200 mark this year.
Syracuse has five losses to teams outside of the RPI Top 100. Since 2009, just three at-large teams had at least five such defeats. One of them was USC in 2011, who took the majority of their bad losses before Jio Fontan became eligible 10 games into the year. Another was Wisconsin last year, who came on strong late following a mid-season coaching change. In both of those cases, there was a relatively dramatic personnel change during the season, which could explain why those kinds of losses might carry less weight.
The third team was LSU in 2015, who had a similar non-con SOS but won eight true road games.
Since 2009, just five teams have earned at-large bids with 14 losses, and all five of those came in 2011. One of those was the USC team mentioned above. Three of the other four had non-con SOS numbers in the Top 75, three of those four had RPIs in the Top 50, three of the four had just one sub-100 loss, and all had more true road wins than Syracuse does this year.
Top 50 Wins
The Orange do boast six Top 50 wins, and ultimately Top 50 wins were a large factor in their inclusion last season. Since 2009, just one team with that many Top 50 wins has been left out, Colorado in 2011. The Buffs had a mid-60s RPI and just three sub-100 losses, but their non-con SOS was 331st, which gave the committee an easy reason to leave them out. Syracuse’s non-con SOS isn’t that bad, but other than a win over Monmouth, their best non-conference wins came against Eastern Michigan and Boston University.
At this point most of these factors would suggest Syracuse is out … but the thing that gives me pause is how far inside the cut line they were last season. Again, we don’t know how much Boeheim’s absence played into their case, so that doesn’t help. The Orange had much better non-conference wins over UConn and Texas A&M to go with a road win at Duke. Like this season, they struggled down the stretch and failed to win a game in the ACC Tournament.
So what does all that mean? I’m honestly not sure.
In a situation where none of the other profiles on the bubble are particularly impressive, I’m inclined to leave them in for now. But with teams like Cal and Rhode Island still playing, I’d also say there’s a reasonably good chance that someone bumps the Orange from the field.
On this week’s Bracketology.FM podcast, I previewed all of the remaining conference tournaments with my guests Jordan Majewski and Raphielle Johnson. Both offered great insight, and it’s worth a listen as one of the best weeks of the college basketball season rolls along.
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Here are my projections through the games from March 9.
I’ve also listed my last four in and first four out as usual, but my thoughts on those teams can all be found within the latest edition of Bracket Watch.
|EAST (NEW YORK)||MIDWEST (KANSAS CITY)|
|Buffalo – March 16/18||Tulsa – March 17/19|
|1) Villanova||1) Kansas|
|16) New Orleans / NC Central||16) Jacksonville St. / Mount St. Mary’s|
||8) South Carolina|
|9) Wichita St.||9) Northwestern|
|Orlando – March 16/18||Milwaukee – March 16/18|
|12) UNC-Wilmington||12) USC / Syracuse
|4) Florida||4) Purdue|
|13) Vermont||13) East Tennessee St.|
|Salt Lake City – March 16/18||Orlando – March 16/18|
|6) Wisconsin||6) Iowa St.|
|11) Wake Forest||11) Xavier|
|3) Arizona||3) Florida St.|
|14) Akron||14) Florida Gulf Coast|
|Indianapolis – March 17/19||Sacramento – March 17/19|
|7) Creighton||7) Saint Mary’s|
|10) Michigan St.||10) Marquette|
|2) Louisville||2) UCLA|
||15) Texas Southern|
|SOUTH (MEMPHIS)||WEST (SAN JOSE)|
|Greenville – March 17/19||Salt Lake City – March 16/18|
|1) North Carolina||1) Gonzaga|
|16) North Dakota||16) South Dakota St.|
|8) Dayton||8) Arkansas|
|9) Oklahoma St.||9) Seton Hall|
|Milwaukee – March 16/18||Buffalo – March 16/18|
|5) Notre Dame||5) Minnesota|
|12) UT-Arlington||12) Nevada|
|4) Butler||4) West Virginia|
|13) Princeton||13) Winthrop|
|Tulsa – March 17/19||Greenville – March 17/19|
|6) Maryland||6) SMU|
|11) Middle Tennessee
||11) Vanderbilt / Kansas St.|
|3) Baylor||3) Duke|
|14) Bucknell||14) Cal St. Bakersfield|
|Indianapolis – March 17/19||Sacramento – March 17/19|
|7) Virginia Tech||7) Miami (FL)|
|10) VCU||10) Providence|
|2) Kentucky||2) Oregon|
|15) Northern Kentucky||15) UC-Irvine|
Note: I broke down the bubble teams in more detail in the latest Bracket Watch.
Last Four In
First Four Out
Here is how the bids broke down by conference:
ACC (10): Duke, Florida State, Louisville, Miami (FL), North Carolina, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Big Ten (7): Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin
Big East (7): Butler, Creighton, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova, Xavier
Big 12 (6): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, West Virginia
SEC (5): Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vanderbilt
Pac-12 (4): Arizona, Oregon, UCLA, USC
American (2): Cincinnati, SMU
Atlantic 10 (2): Dayton, VCU
West Coast (2): Gonzaga*, Saint Mary’s
America East: Vermont
Atlantic Sun: Florida Gulf Coast*
Big Sky: North Dakota
Big South: Winthrop*
Big West: UC-Irvine
Conference USA: Middle Tennessee
Horizon: Northern Kentucky*
MEAC: NC Central
Missouri Valley: Wichita State*
Mountain West: Nevada
Northeast: Mount St. Mary’s*
Ohio Valley: Jacksonville St.*
Southern: East Tennessee St.*
Southland: New Orleans
Summit: South Dakota St.*
Sun Belt: UT-Arlington
SWAC: Texas Southern
WAC: Cal State Bakersfield
* – Denotes team has earned automatic bid
Follow Andy on Twitter (@andybottoms) for more thoughts on college hoops and to receive an update whenever new brackets are posted.