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 weekly updates over the next few weeks.
With less than three weeks until Selection Sunday, we have a change on the top line for the first time in weeks.
Following Baylor’s home loss to Kansas and North Carolina’s demolition of Virginia on Saturday, the Heels have made it onto the one line. The resumes of the two teams are actually fairly similar with both teams owning eight Top 50 wins and the Bears with a 14-5 record against the Top 100 compared to a 13-5 mark for the Heels. And while the timing of Baylor’s wins doesn’t matter in the eyes of the committee, it’s worth noting that their top four RPI wins came in November and early December thanks to a 0-3 mark against Kansas and West Virginia.
It’s certainly possible for Baylor to make its way back to the top line with remaining games at Iowa State and at home against West Virginia. To a certain extent it helps that North Carolina’s schedule is pretty tough with home dates with Louisville and Duke to go with road trips to Pitt and Virginia.
Louisville is also in the mix and has a more manageable schedule outside of that game in Chapel Hill, as the Cardinals host Syracuse and Notre Dame with a trip to Wake Forest sandwiched in between.
On this week’s episode of the Bracketology.FM podcast, the Washington Post’s Patrick Stevens and I dug into the teams vying for a spot on the top line before digging in to the locks and bubble teams from each of the six major conferences.
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Here are my projections through the games from February 20.
I’ve also listed my last four in and first five out along with my reasoning for those selections.
|EAST (NEW YORK)||MIDWEST (KANSAS CITY)|
|Buffalo – March 16/18||Tulsa – March 17/19|
|1) Villanova||1) Kansas|
|16) Mount St. Mary’s / North Dakota||16) New Orleans / UC-Irvine|
|8) Oklahoma St.
||8) Miami (FL)|
|9) VCU||9) USC|
|Buffalo – March 16/18||Sacramento – March 17/19|
||5) Notre Dame|
|12) UNC-Wilmington||12) UT-Arlington
|4) West Virginia||4) UCLA|
|13) Vermont||13) Akron|
|Greenville – March 17/19||Indianapolis – March 17/19|
|6) Saint Mary’s||6) Creighton|
|11) Middle Tennessee||11) California / Georgia Tech|
|3) Duke||3) Kentucky|
|14) Princeton||14) Belmont|
|Salt Lake City – March 16/18||Indianapolis – March 17/19|
|7) Northwestern||7) Minnesota|
|10) Kansas St.||10) Wichita St.|
|2) Arizona||2) Louisville|
||15) North Dakota St.|
|SOUTH (MEMPHIS)||WEST (SAN JOSE)|
|Greenville – March 17/19||Salt Lake City – March 16/18|
|1) North Carolina||1) Gonzaga|
|16) Texas Southern||16) NC Central|
|8) Xavier||8) Dayton|
|9) Arkansas||9) Virginia Tech|
|Milwaukee – March 16/18||Milwaukee – March 16/18|
|5) Cincinnati||5) Virginia|
|12) Syracuse / TCU||12) Nevada|
|4) Butler||4) Purdue|
|13) Monmouth||13) Valparaiso|
|Orlando – March 16/18||Orlando – March 16/18|
|6) Maryland||6) SMU|
||11) Seton Hall|
|3) Florida||3) Florida St.|
|14) UNC-Asheville||14) Florida Gulf Coast|
|Tulsa – March 17/19||Sacramento – March 17/19|
|7) South Carolina||7) Iowa St.|
|10) Michigan St.||10) Michigan|
|2) Baylor||2) Oregon|
|15) Furman||15) Cal St. Bakersfield|
Last Four In
The Bears are back in First Four territory after dropping a game at Stanford on Friday night. While they don’t have a sub-100 loss, they also have just one win over a team in contention for an at-large bid, a one-point win at USC in early January.
Cuonzo Martin’s club has a huge opportunity when Cal hosts Oregon on Thursday. A win there dramatically improves their case, while a loss will put a lot of pressure on the Bears to sweep a season-ending trip to Utah and Colorado.
A split last week leaves the Jackets right where they were a week ago, as the home win over fellow bubbler Syracuse helped offset a road loss at Miami. Georgia Tech has four wins against teams in the RPI Top 30, but they are ultimately just 6-10 against the Top 100 and 8-11 versus the Top 200.
The two main issues are a non-conference strength of schedule outside of the Top 200 and a 2-8 road record. This week features a chance to improve the latter with a road trip to Notre Dame following Tuesday’s can’t-lose affair against NC State.
A five-game winning streak for the Orange has given way to a three-game losing streak with the latest of those coming at Georgia Tech on Sunday. Five wins against the RPI Top 50 definitely helps Cuse’s case, but three sub-100 losses certainly do not.
It’s a huge week for the Orange with Duke visiting the Carrier Dome on Wednesday followed by a trip to Louisville this weekend.
Three straight losses have TCU clinging to the last spot in the field. They are now just 2-8 against the Top 50 with their best wins coming at home against Illinois State and Iowa State. It helps that the Horned Frogs have no sub-100 losses, but I’m not sure that will be enough if they can’t find a way to beat either Kansas or West Virginia this week.
First Five Out
While I realize the committee doesn’t look specifically at conference records, the Tigers are just 4-10 in the ACC, and I find it hard to believe a team that far under .500 in the league would get an at-large. They do have four Top 50 wins to go with an 9-11 mark against the Top 100, but just one of those wins came against an at-large lock — and even that came against South Carolina with Sindarius Thornwell out.
The Tigers do have three of their last four at home, with this week’s games at Virginia Tech and home against Florida State providing their best chances to improve their profile.
The Vols split games with Kentucky and Missouri last week, which leaves them just 14-12 against Division I opponents. They do have home wins over Kentucky and Kansas State, but their only other win against an at-large contender came against Georgia Tech in December. This week features a home date with Vanderbilt followed by a trip to South Carolina.
A Top 40 RPI is great, but the reality is that Wake is 1-9 against the Top 50 with their best RPI victories coming at home against Miami and Georgia Tech and on the road against Charleston. The Demon Deacons have just one game this week, which is a must-win contest at home against Pitt.
The Friars won their only game last week, beating Xavier by a dozen. That gives them a pair of Top 25 victories and a solid 8-8 mark against the Top 100. However, sub-200 losses at Boston College and DePaul are the kinds of black marks most bubble teams don’t have. Providence’s toughest remaining games come this week with a road trip to Creighton followed by a home date with Marquette. At minimum, they need to split those games.
Assuming the Redbirds don’t win the conference tournament, I don’t really love their at-large chances. Their lone Top 50 win came against Wichita State, and they are just 2-3 against the Top 100. That certainly isn’t terrible, but the lack of top-end wins coupled with losses at Tulsa and particularly at Murray State is a recipe to be left out of the Big Dance. They need to take care of business in their two remaining MVC games and then get to the final to truly have a chance.
Here is how the bids broke down by conference:
ACC (10): Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami (FL), North Carolina, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Big Ten (7): Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin
Big 12 (7): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, TCU, West Virginia
Big East (6): Butler, Creighton, Marquette, Seton Hall, Villanova, Xavier
Pac-12 (5): Arizona, California, Oregon, UCLA, USC
SEC (4): Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina
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: UNC-Asheville
Big West: UC-Irvine
Conference USA: Middle Tennessee
MEAC: NC Central
Missouri Valley: Wichita State
Mountain West: Nevada
Northeast: Mount St. Mary’s
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Southland: New Orleans
Summit: North Dakota State
Sun Belt: UT-Arlington
SWAC: Texas Southern
WAC: Cal State Bakersfield
Follow Andy on Twitter (@andybottoms) for more thoughts on college hoops and to receive an update whenever new brackets are posted.