Andy Bottoms’ NCAA Tournament Bracket Projections: February 9, 2016

Andy Bottoms Bracketology (3)

Editor’s note: For years, our very own Andy Bottoms has been projecting the NCAA Tournament bracket.

Why should you pay attention to Andy? Because according to Bracket Matrix, Andy is still the #1 ranked bracketologist in the world. (For frame of reference, Joe Lunardi is 36th.)

Below is Andy’s latest set of bracket projections. Expect weekly updates through Selection Sunday.

*****

As if knowing that Selection Sunday is now less than five weeks away wasn’t enough, this week provides extra excitement for me.

On Thursday I’ll be heading to Indianapolis for the NCAA Mock Selection Exercise, which will give me and the other media members in attendance the opportunity to see what it’s really like to select and seed the field.

In addition to taking my nerdiness to a new level, it will also give me the chance to gain a better understanding of what truly matters to the committee while learning the ins and outs of the process.

I’m particularly intrigued by how the cases of teams like Wichita State, Monmouth, LSU, and Clemson will be handled. And how does Jim Boeheim’s suspension impact Syracuse? What about those unbalanced schedules in some major conferences?

I’ve got a lengthy list of questions already, but feel free to tweet me (@AndyBottoms) questions you have about the process, and I’ll do my best to answer them as we go along.

The #1 seeds

With top teams suffering losses at a record pace, it’s worth taking a deeper look at the top line. This week I evaluated five teams – Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Villanova, and Xavier – for the four number one seeds.

The Hawkeyes have six Top 40 RPI wins, including sweeps of Michigan State and Purdue, and they have yet to lose a game to anyone outside of the Top 25. They also haven’t lost by more than six points and have suffered just one defeat since December 10th, when they allowed a late comeback at Iowa State.

Kansas boasts seven Top 50 wins, and three of their four losses have come against teams currently in the RPI Top 20. The knocks on the Jayhawks include a 19-point loss at Oklahoma State and the fact that the team’s six best RPI wins have all come at home. Overall, they are just 5-4 away from The Phog.

Buddy Hield’s heroics on Monday night against Texas helped Oklahoma avoid a second straight loss. The Sooners now have four Top 20 victories and 10 wins against the Top 100. Losses in triple-OT at Kansas and by five points at Iowa State don’t hurt OU’s case, and even their other loss was on the road against a Top 50 team in Kansas State.

This Saturday’s rematch with the Jayhawks is appointment television.

Villanova is playing as well as anyone in the country right now, and their computer numbers back that up. The Wildcats are ranked first in RPI and second in the Pomeroy rankings after going 12-1 in their last 13 contests with the lone loss coming in OT against Providence.

Jay Wright’s club is 7-1 in true road games and 9-2 away from home, but they have just one win against the RPI Top 30 (although they do have six against the Top 50). ‘Nova doesn’t have any bad losses, but it’s also worth noting that they lost to Virginia by 11 and Oklahoma by 23 back in December.

Then you have Xavier, who is one of only three two-loss teams remaining. One of those losses was a blowout at the hands of Villanova in a game where starting point guard Edmond Sumner went down in the opening minutes. The other loss came at home against Georgetown.

But the Musketeers offset those losses with a 9-1 road/neutral record and four wins against the RPI Top 35. That includes neutral court victories over Dayton and USC, which continue to look better as the season goes on. From an eye test perspective, it’s worth noting that the Musketeers didn’t look great last week in home wins over St. John’s and Marquette.

In the end, it came down to Kansas and Xavier for the final top seed for me. The Jayhawks have slightly better computer and strength of schedule numbers, and they have better (and more) top end wins.

Ultimately any of these teams has a strong case, and hopefully the picture will clear up down the stretch.

The bubble and single-bid leagues

Louisville’s recent post-season ban opens up a spot for one more bubble team, and while the number of teams in the mix seems to be dwindling, it’s still a bit of a mess.

LSU and Clemson are two of the more intriguing cases, so I tried to see what kind of precedent I could find in recent years. More on those in the last four in and first four out section below the bracket.

As for the single-bid leagues, we’re at a point where it seems prudent to start using the current standings. In the case of a tie, I looked for head-to-head matchups, so in the Ohio Valley as an example, Tennessee Tech gets the nod due to a win over Belmont in their only meeting so far this season.

The bracket

Here are my projections through the games from February 8.

I’ve also listed my last four in and first four out along with my reasoning for those selections.

SOUTH (LOUISVILLE) MIDWEST (CHICAGO)
Oklahoma City – March 18/20 Des Moines – March 17/19
1) Oklahoma 1) Iowa
16) F. Dickinson / S. Carolina St. 16) North Florida
8) Indiana
8) Wichita St.
9) California 9) Florida St.
Providence – March 17/19 Spokane – March 18/20
5) Kentucky
5) Utah
12) Cincinnati / Gonzaga 12) Chattanooga
4) Miami (FL) 4) Texas A&M
13) Stony Brook 13) Akron
Brooklyn – March 18/20 Providence – March 17/19
6) Duke 6) Arizona
11) Monmouth 11) George Washington
3) Maryland 3) West Virginia
14) UAB 14) Yale
St. Louis – March 18/20 Raleigh – March 17/19
7) Baylor 7) South Carolina
10) Washington 10) Oregon St.
2) Xavier 2) North Carolina
15) Stephen F. Austin
15) Tennessee Tech
WEST (ANAHEIM) EAST (PHILADELPHIA)
Des Moines – March 17/19 Brooklyn – March 18/20
1) Kansas 1) Villanova
16) Weber St. 16) Bucknell / Texas So.
8) Connecticut 8) Florida
9) Seton Hall 9) Syracuse
Denver – March 17/19 Denver – March 17/19
5) USC 5) Purdue
12) Butler / LSU 12) San Diego St.
4) Texas 4) Dayton
13) South Dakota St. 13) AR-Little Rock
St. Louis – March 18/20 Oklahoma City – March 18/20
6) Notre Dame 6) Providence
11) Saint Mary’s
11) Valparaiso
3) Michigan St. 3) Iowa St.
14) UC Irvine 14) UNC-Wilmington
Spokane – March 18/20 Raleigh – March 17/19
7) Pittsburgh 7) Colorado
10) VCU 10) Michigan
2) Oregon 2) Virginia
15) New Mexico St. 15) UNC-Asheville

—————————————————————————————————————

Last Four In

Gonzaga

The Zags have now won five straight, but with two WCC losses and no Top 45 wins, it feels like Saturday’s trip to SMU is a must-win. If they can pick up a victory there and avenge losses against BYU and Saint Mary’s down the stretch, Gonzaga will be in much better shape for an at-large bid.

Cincinnati

Just when I thought the Bearcats were starting to turn the corner, they dropped another close game at Memphis over the weekend. That’s now five losses by four points or less for UC.

Non-conference wins against George Washington and VCU as well as a road win at UConn are keeping the Bearcats afloat for now, but they can ill afford to drop either of their next two games against Central Florida and East Carolina. After that the Bearcats will go for season sweeps over Tulsa and UConn.

LSU

I set out to try and find a recent comp for the Tigers this week, and the 2010-11 USC Trojans seem like a reasonable one.

USC dropped non-conference games to the likes of Rider, Bradley, Nebraska and TCU on their way to a 6-4 start. At that point transfer Jio Fontan became eligible, and in his first game they nearly knocked off Kansas. The Trojans finished 10-8 in the Pac-12 and eventually earned a spot in the First Four.

LSU is 11-4 since both Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor have been available, including wins over Kentucky and Vanderbilt. The Tigers also took Oklahoma down to the wire, and the only bad loss during that stretch came against Wake Forest.

This week is a huge one for LSU with a road trip to South Carolina followed by a home date with Texas A&M.

Butler

The Bulldogs responded with wins over Georgetown and St. John’s last week, but there still isn’t much meat on their profile. A neutral court win over Purdue looks great, and a win at Cincinnati helps for bubble purposes. Even so, Butler has just four Top 100 victories but also has sub-100 losses at Creighton and Marquette.

Much like LSU, this is a huge week for Butler with a road trip to Seton Hall on Wednesday before hosting Xavier over the weekend.

First Four Out

Saint Joseph’s

Last week’s 10-point home loss to St. Bonaventure was just the fourth of the season for Saint Joe’s, but the issue is the complete lack of quality wins.  The Hawks have no wins over the Top 60, and their three Top 100 victories came against Princeton, Temple, and Buffalo.

Perhaps a larger issue is that there are really just two more chances for Saint Joe’s to pick up quality wins (at George Washington and home vs. Dayton), both of which come over the next three games.

Wisconsin

The Badgers have managed to play their way onto the bubble with five straight victories, including home wins against Michigan State and Indiana.  Non-conference victories over VCU and Syracuse are looking better as well, as Wisconsin now has a 7-5 record against the Top 100.

That said, they still have four pretty ugly losses, but most importantly, the remaining schedule is brutal with road trips to Maryland, Michigan State, Iowa, and Purdue to go along with a home date against Michigan. If Wisconsin goes dancing, they most certainly will have earned it.

Clemson

This is one of the more interesting cases out there. The Tigers were nothing short of terrible in the non-conference, but they’ve also ripped off six Top 50 wins in ACC play. Still, their RPI sits in the 80s, and since 2009, just seven teams have earned an at-large bid with a rank of 60th or worse. The highest of those was the aforementioned USC team from 2010-11, who was 67th on Selection Sunday.

The Tigers missed a chance at another marquee win against Notre Dame on Monday night. Five of their remaining six games are ones they can’t afford to lose, and the other is a date with Virginia at home. At this point, Clemson probably needs to win out.

Kansas State / UCLA / Vanderbilt

I’ll lump these together since none of them really stand out.

K-State picked up a huge win over Oklahoma last weekend, and all nine of their losses have come against the Top 30. Still, they have just one Top 50 win and only four victories against the Top 100. Lots of work left to do for the Wildcats.

UCLA doesn’t lack for quality wins with victories against Kentucky and Arizona at home and Oregon State and Gonzaga on the road. Most of their losses have come against the Top 50, but they’ve also been swept by Washington and lost at Washington State. The Bruins head to Arizona this weekend for a pair of critical games.

Vandy has picked up wins over Florida and Texas A&M within the last couple weeks, but they’ve also lost at Ole Miss in addition to losses against Kentucky and Texas by a combined 33 points.  With seven of their defeats coming at the hands of Top 30 teams, the Commodores are looking like K-State Lite, which means they can ill afford to lose any of the next three winnable games.

*******

Here is how the bids broke down by conference:

ACC (8): Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, Miami (FL), Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia

Pac-12 (8): Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, USC, Utah, Washington

Big 12 (6): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia

Big Ten (6): Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue

Big East (5): Butler, Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova, Xavier

SEC (5): Florida, Kentucky, LSU, South Carolina, Texas A&M

Atlantic 10 (3): Dayton, George Washington, VCU

American(2): Cincinnati, Connecticut

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s

America East: Stony Brook

Atlantic Sun: North Florida

Big Sky: Weber State

Big South: UNC-Asheville

Big West: UC Irvine

Colonial: UNC-Wilmington

Conference USA: UAB

Horizon: Valparaiso

Ivy: Yale

MAAC: Monmouth

MAC: Akron

MEAC: South Carolina State

Missouri Valley: Wichita State

Mountain West: San Diego State

Northeast: Fairleigh Dickinson

Ohio Valley: Tennessee Tech

Patriot: Bucknell

Southern: Chattanooga

Southland: Stephen F. Austin

Summit: South Dakota State

Sun Belt: AR-Little Rock

SWAC: Texas Southern

WAC: New Mexico State

**********

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

Final Call: Hoosiers Feed Bryant, Get Win as Result

Final Call Image (4)

LINCOLN, Neb. — After an unimpressive Big Ten debut for Thomas Bryant, in which he was in foul trouble throughout the game, the big man was involved early and often against Nebraska.

He was active on both ends of the floor, as the freshman had 10 points and two blocks in 13 minutes of playing time in the first half. Bryant started the game a perfect 4 of 4 from the field as a result of being fed down low from the get-go.

It was a splendid bounce-back game for Bryant.

Bryant finished with 19 points and four rebounds and helped lift Indiana over Nebraska 79-69 Saturday afternoon at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

He said that he trusted his coaches and put the Rutgers game behind him.

“I just trusted the coaching staff and my teammates,” Bryant said. “It was a hard-fought game against Rutgers, but I knew if I stayed with it, I’d bounce back.”

Yogi Ferrell had some encouraging words about the freshman center.

“When you got somebody like [Bryant] down low that you can throw to when you need a bucket for a win,” Ferrell said. “We are going to do that.”

Throughout the first period, the Hoosiers had eight turnovers that led to 16 points for the Cornhuskers. The turnovers are what led to Indiana heading into the second half down 39-36. Indiana found a way to settle down in the second period as the team only turned the ball over six times.

Head coach Tom Crean said he was proud of how the team was able to weather the storm that was the first half.

According to Ferrell, the difference between this game, in which the Hoosiers turned the ball over 14 times, compared to the Rutgers game, in which they turned it over a season-high 23 times, was simple:

“The difference was taking pride in the basketball,” Ferrell said.

Ferrell had a strong second half. The senior point guard scored 15 of his team-high 24 points in the final 20 minutes of the game. Ferrell did a good job at creating space on what should have been difficult shots to give himself open looks to the basket.

Ferrell said that the biggest difference between the two halves was the play of the defense and that the improved defensive play helped the Hoosiers step it up on offense.

“In the second half we made their 3-point field goal percentage drop,” Ferrell said. “That transitioned over to our offense, as we wanted to run on them and make stops.”

Although Bryant takes the spotlight, the other Indiana freshmen have been coming into their own as of late. OG Anunoby finished with 11 points on making all four of his shots from the field. He also had a steal for a breakaway in the second half as he continues to prove to be one of the Hoosiers better defenders.

Juwan Morgan only scored two points, but the freshman played better than the stats would indicate. He also had an impressive assist to Nick Zeisloft on a nice pass from the inside to the perimeter.

Crean said that the play of the freshmen has been important, and especially important as they attempt to replace the injured James Blackmon Jr.

“Our guys answered the bell from start to finish,” Crean said. “They did a much better job in the second half. The second half was able to happen because we weathered those storms in the first half. A few weeks ago, or a month ago we might not have come back.”

Up next: After recording back-to-back Big Ten road wins for the first time since the 2012-13 season, the Hoosiers return to Assembly Hall to take on the Wisconsin Badgers Tuesday, Jan. 5 in a game in which the 1976 National Championship team will be honored.

IU-Alcorn State Link Roundup: “I just can’t wait for it.”

Link Roundup Image

Immediately after the game, news broke that after the UNLV loss Yogi, Max, and Nick organized a players-only film session.

Let’s hope that this is the start of some much-needed internal leadership.

We should also hope that Indiana can put Maui behind them. Troy believes that’s the case. Although he doesn’t want to look at Wednesday night’s game as a chance for the Hoosiers to redeem themselves, Troy is looking forward to the big test.

That’s what we came to Indiana for. We came for these big-stage games. I just can’t wait for it.

The Standards

Featured Article

Tonight’s featured article comes from Alex McCarthy of 247Sports.

Indiana hopes its improved play in the second half carries over to its biggest test of the season at 9:15 p.m. Wednesday, when it travels to Durham, N.C. to take on Duke. Williams doesn’t want to look at the matchup against Duke as a chance for the Hoosiers to redeem themselves for their poor performance in Maui.

Read the full article for insight! :-)

For those who missed the game, here’s a quick recap.

In “At the Buzzer,” Alex Bozich gives some quick thoughts on the victory including James Blackmon Jr. as his standout performer. (You probably could have guessed that.) 😉

Ryan Corazza breaks down the game in “The Minute After.” He points out that although the defense is still a concern, Indiana took much better care of the ball.

Justin Albers pretty much nailed what this game means: “Indiana blew out one of the worst teams in Division 1 basketball on Monday night at Assembly Hall, which pretty much taught us nothing.”

Pete DiPrimo tells us what he believes we learned in this blowout victory. He also brings up an intriguing question, “Is Thomas Bryant ready for Duke?”

Zach Osterman puts it bluntly by stating Alcorn State was no match for IU.

Go inside Assembly Hall with this photo gallery from Jamie Owens. For another perspective try this gallery from Chris Howell.

I will add more links as they come out! 😉

Andy Bottoms Bracket Projections for February 24: Bid Thief Edition

John Croce's Illini are among the bottoms five in Andy's current bracket projections ... but are they first-four-in or first-four-out? Read on to find out.
John Croce’s Illini are among the “bottoms five” in Andy’s current bracket projections … but are they last-four-in or first-one-out? Read on to find out …

With Selection Sunday less than three weeks away, Championship Week is nearly here. As is the case every year, it certainly won’t be short on drama.

But the one thing it likely will be short on this season is bid thieves.

Outside of the West Coast Conference and the Missouri Valley (which I don’t consider mid-majors), there really aren’t any “smaller” leagues where the regular season champ could make it without winning the conference tournament.

Here’s a quick look at six of the top mid-major teams and why I don’t like their chances of getting an at-large:

Wofford
The Terriers have three Top-100 victories, including wins at NC State and at home against Iona.  Just two of their six losses have come against sub-100 squads, but a January road loss to The Citadel, who are ranked 319th in the RPI as of Monday, will likely seal their fate.

Iona
After winning 15 of their last 16 games, the Gaels have worked their way into the RPI Top 50.  Unfortunately, Iona has no Top-100 wins to go with sub-150 losses at Canisius, Monmouth, and George Mason, all by five points or less.

Harvard
Because the Ivy League doesn’t have a conference tournament, no one on this list controls their own destiny more than the Crimson, who currently have a one-game lead over Yale, a team they beat on the road already this year. Harvard’s best RPI win came at home against UMass, but that won’t be enough to overcome sub-200 losses to Holy Cross and Dartmouth if they falter down the stretch.

Valparaiso
Only three teams have more wins that the Crusaders, who currently sit at 25-4.  They don’t have any Top-50 wins but do own victories over Murray State and Green Bay.  Three of their four losses came against sub-100 teams, all of which they lost by double digits.

Murray State
The Racers have ripped off 22 straight wins since losing to Valpo, and they are one of just four teams that are undefeated in conference play (Gonzaga, Kentucky, and NC Central are the others). Murray State’s lone Top-100 win came against Illinois State, but a pair of three-point losses to Portland and Houston will likely be the Racers’ undoing.

Stephen F. Austin
If not for a Valentine’s Day loss at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the Lumberjacks may have had the best case for an at-large. Their other three losses came on the road against Baylor and Xavier and at home against Northern Iowa in overtime. For now, Stephen F. Austin needs to take care of business in the Southland, where they are tied in the loss column with Sam Houston State.

I suppose it’s possible that if these teams win out and lose in their conference title game, they could work their way into the at-large conversation. But at this stage,, unfortunately, that seems unlikely.

In reality, though, I’d much rather see a team or two like this get a chance than some of the teams currently hanging around the bubble.

Below are my projections through the games from February 23. I’ve also listed my last four in and first four out, along with my reasoning for those selections. [Read more…]

IU-Rutgers Link Roundup: Hoosiers Hear Yogi, Toughen Up, and Win

indiana-link-roundup

The standards:

Yogi Ferrell pleaded for his teem to toughen up after the loss to Purdue on Wednesday. The team apparently heard their point guard and answered.

After two straight losses, Indiana finally got out of its funk and the Hoosiers are now back on track with a hard-fought victory against Rutgers, who made their first visit to Assembly Hall Saturday afternoon.

This game was closer than most anticipated, as the Hoosiers struggled throughout most of the game. Luckily, Indiana was able to come together late in the second half, persevering despite the strong performance from Myles Mack and the Scarlet Knights.

Tom Crean praised this team’s work ethic and sacrifice:

This is one of the hardest working teams I’ve ever had the privilege of coaching.

Let’s get to the links.

Tonight’s featured link is again from Crimson Quarry’s Kyle Swick. He tells us what we learned from the loss:

The league is beginning to adjust to Indiana and it is imperative that the Hoosiers adjust back.

Dylan Sinn gives a quick recap of the game for those who missed it.

Indy Star’s Zach Osterman explains how IU got past Rutgers and ended their “brief” losing streak.

In his minute after, Ryan Corazza gives his take on the game for Inside the Hall.

Here’s something new: Check out this Photo Gallery of the game by Inside the Hall’s Jamie Owens.

For The Hoosier Scoop, Mike Miller explains how Indiana held on for the victory.

Terry Hutchens says this game was “anything but easy.” He points out good free throw shooting and solid defense down the stretch as the keys to victory.

Here is a link to a more detailed analysis from Hutches.

Here’s a take from a national point of view from Michael Marot.

Pete DiPrimo explains how Troy Williams rose to the challenge with his third double double of the season.

For the IDS, Alden Woods highlights Nick Zeisloft and his excellent second half performance.

Sam Beishuizen goes into detail on how the Hoosiers held off the Scarlet Knights.

Here is this game’s Scoop Talk: “Rutgers gave IU little to gain, much to lose.”

Even though Indiana avoided losing three straight, keep in mind that level of difficulty will rise exponentially on Tuesday night as the Hoosiers travel to the Kohl Center to face the Wisconsin Badgers.

As always, more links to come…