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 two months.
Last week the NCAA announced a show on February 11th that will allow the Selection Committee to reveal the top four seed lines in each region as of that point.
While this was met with plenty of pushback, I don’t see the harm. It brings some attention to the sport at a time where many people still aren’t following it closely, and it could also provide an early look at what is important to this year’s committee.
And after putting together this week’s bracket, I’ll take any help I can get … although I’d rather get a feel for which of the lackluster profiles on and around the bubble that the committee likes the most.
If you are interested in hearing more about the motivation behind that February 11th reveal or the recent analytics summit held by the NCAA to potentially revise the RPI, I’d encourage you to check out the latest episode of the Bracketology.FM podcast. This week I spoke with David Worlock of the NCAA to get his informed perspective on these recent announcements as well as his thoughts on an upset-filled week of college hoops.
The #1 seeds
Last week saw nine of the top 12 teams in the AP Poll lose at least once, but the one line remained unchanged this week. Baylor and Gonzaga were two of the teams to emerge unscathed from last week’s carnage, so they stayed put.
Villanova and Kansas both dropped conference road games early in the week but bounced back to win some terrific non-conference matchups, with the Wildcats beating Virginia at the buzzer and the Jayhawks beating Kentucky at Rupp Arena.
Arizona just keeps on winning and is waiting in the wings should one of these four slip up, and they’re joined on the two line by a trio of ACC teams with Kentucky lurking close behind.
The bubble and single-bid leagues
Putting together this week’s bracket had me wishing the tournament was scaled back to 64 teams, as it seems far easier to make arguments against the teams around the cut line as opposed to arguments for them.
In terms of mid-majors, Middle Tennessee and Illinois State both remain unbeaten in league play, while UNC-Wilmington was tripped up over the weekend. There seems to be a little buzz around Wichita State as a potential at-large, but right now they are 0-4 against the RPI Top 50 with no Top 100 wins either. That could change this weekend when they host Illinois State, but for now, I’m not seeing it.
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Here are my projections through the games from January 30.
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 / NC Central||16) Texas Southern|
|9) Michigan St.||9) Georgia Tech|
|Orlando – March 16/18||Sacramento – March 17/19|
|12) UNC-Wilmington||12) Nevada
|4) Maryland||4) Oregon|
|13) Vermont||13) Akron|
|Buffalo – March 16/18||Milwaukee – March 16/18|
|6) Notre Dame||6) South Carolina|
|11) Arkansas||11) Kansas St.|
|3) West Virginia||3) Butler|
|14) Florida Gulf Coast||14) Belmont|
|Greenville – March 17/19||Indianapolis – March 17/19|
|7) USC||7) SMU|
|10) Illinois St.||10) Clemson|
|2) North Carolina||2) Louisville|
|SOUTH (MEMPHIS)||WEST (SAN JOSE)|
|Tulsa – March 17/19||Salt Lake City – March 16/18|
|1) Baylor||1) Gonzaga|
|16) Sam Houston St. / UC Irvine||16) Weber St.|
|8) Middle Tennessee||8) Marquette|
|9) Minnesota||9) VCU|
|Sacramento – March 17/19||Milwaukee – March 16/18|
|5) Creighton||5) Purdue|
|12) Valparaiso||12) Oklahoma St. / Seton Hall|
|4) UCLA||4) Duke|
|13) New Mexico St.||13) Monmouth|
|Indianapolis – March 17/19||Greenville – March 17/19|
|6) Saint Mary’s||6) Florida|
|11) Miami (FL) / Texas Tech
|3) Kentucky||3) Virginia|
|14) East Tennessee St.||14) UT-Arlington|
|Orlando – March 16/18||Salt Lake City – March 16/18|
|7) Northwestern||7) Virginia Tech|
|10) Iowa St.||10) Indiana|
|2) Florida St.||2) Arizona|
|15) Bucknell||15) North Dakota St.|
Last Four In
If the committee places as much emphasis on Top 50 wins as they did a year ago, it’s possible that the Red Raiders are safer than I think given their three Top 50 victories. However, a sub-300 non-conference strength of schedule leaves little margin for error. That means Tech can’t afford to slip up with games against Texas and Oklahoma this week.
Saturday’s double-digit win over North Carolina catapulted the Hurricanes into the field for now. They are just 1-5 against the Top 50 with their only other loss at Syracuse, but blowout wins at Pitt and home against NC State are really the only other victories of note. This week provides the chance for two more Top 75 wins when Miami hosts Florida State before heading to NC State for a rematch.
The Pirates don’t have a bad loss, but a trio of three-point wins over South Carolina, Cal, and Marquette are just about the only victories that stand out. They also won at Iowa, although at this point that is their only true road win. That may not bode well with trips to Xavier and Georgetown on the schedule this week.
Phil Forte’s last-second three-pointer gave the Cowboys their fourth straight win and kept them in the field, though their grip is tenuous at best. They are 2-7 against the Top 50 with wins over Arkansas and TCU, and they also have road wins against Wichita State and Texas Tech, both of which help for bubble purposes. Oklahoma State has strong computer numbers, but their next two games will be a true test with a trip to West Virginia on Saturday followed by a home date with Baylor next week.
First Five Out
Outside of home wins over Illinois State and Iowa State, there just isn’t much meat on TCU’s profile. The Horned Frogs have lost four straight games and are just 2-4 in true road games with a road trip to Kansas State on the docket this week. The good news is they don’t have a sub-100 loss, but they need to start stacking wins if they want to go dancing in Jamie Dixon’s first year at the helm.
The Wolfpack followed up Monday’s huge win at Duke by getting boat-raced at Louisville. Outside of the Duke win, they have home victories over Virginia Tech and Pitt, but a road loss to Boston College doesn’t help matters at all. NC State really needs to take care of business this week with Syracuse and Miami coming to Raleigh.
Sunday’s win over Stanford was Cal’s third against the RPI Top 100, but the only team they’ve beaten who is even in the at-large discussion is USC, who they beat by one point on the road. The Bears are now 6-3 in a top-heavy Pac-12, and they would be wise to sweep Utah and Colorado at home this week since five of their final seven games are on the road.
After losing to Duke on Saturday, Wake is now 0-8 against the Top 50 and 4-9 against the Top 100 with its best wins over Miami at home and NC State on the road. They don’t have a bad loss, but at some point they have to start beating good teams. This week features a can’t-lose road trip to Boston College and a home date with surging Georgia Tech.
The Vols picked up their two best wins of the season last week by knocking off Kentucky and Kansas State at home. They are now 6-9 against the Top 50 with no sub-100 losses and a non-conference strength of schedule ranked among the best in the country. There’s an argument to be made that the SEC features more chances for bad losses than it does for good wins, so the margin for error is slim at 12-9 overall. Tennessee has a pair of road games this week against Auburn and Mississippi State.
Here is how the bids broke down by conference:
ACC (10): Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami (FL), North Carolina, Notre Dame, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Big Ten (8): Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin
Big 12 (7): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, West Virginia
Big East (6): Butler, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova, Xavier
Pac-12 (4): Arizona, 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: Weber State
Big South: Winthrop
Big West: UC Irvine
Conference USA: Middle Tennessee
MEAC: NC Central
Missouri Valley: Illinois State
Mountain West: Nevada
Northeast: Mount St. Mary’s
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Southern: East Tennessee State
Southland: Sam Houston State
Summit: North Dakota State
Sun Belt: UT-Arlington
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.