-The bracket projections are not a prediction of the future, but rather a checkpoint for where teams currently stand. In other words, they are done as if today were Selection Sunday.
-The criteria I use to select and seed the teams is the exact same criteria that the selection committee uses.
-Bracket reflects games played through February 18th.
-The article explaining the bracket is located just below it.NOTES ON THE BRACKET
-AUTOMATIC BIDS are given to all 31 conference champions no matter how good or bad the league is. My projected champions are all the teams that are either currently in first place, or tied for it via the loss column. Those teams are UCLA, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Florida, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M, Memphis, Southern Illinois, Butler, Nevada, BYU, Xavier, Winthrop, VCU, Santa Clara, Davidson, Akron, Holy Cross, Long Beach, Oral Roberts, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Vermont, Penn, South Alabama, Marist, Austin Peay, East Tennessee State, Delaware State, Weber State, Central Connecticut and Jackson State
-The committee can move teams up or down within one spot of their original seed in order to meet the rules of the bracket. I usually have to do this with a couple of teams, but in this one I had to do it with several. The teams seeded 7-10 are all jumbled up as far as how they were placed in the bracket, but there was no other way of avoiding conference match-ups prior to the Elite Eight. Here is how I originally had them seeded, even though the bracket doesnt reflect it:
-36. Texas Tech
-37. West Virginia
-38. Georgia Tech
-40. Notre Dame
If a team is seeded #4 or better, the committee is much less apt to move them in order to make the rules of the bracket fit. If Pittsburgh is a #2 seed, and a #7 or #10 seeded team is also from the Big East, its the #7 seeded team that is going to be moved.
BYU is particularly tricky because they need to be placed in a region where they will not have to play on Sunday. The Bubble Watch
-OTHERS CONSIDERED: Purdue, Illinois, Michigan State, Florida State, Arkansas, Bradley, Drexel, Gonzaga, Syracuse, De Paul, Georgia, Appalachian State
-LAST FOUR IN: Old Dominion, Kansas State, Alabama, Missouri State
An argument could be made about all of these teams as to why they should be included. Arguments can also be made as to why they should be left out.
-OLD DOMINION (barely in). They have one of the best wins out of anyone on the bubble with their win at Georgetown. They also have a decent RPI of 44, are 7-5 on the road, and have won their last nine games. The bad news is that they arent in first place in the Colonial Athletic, and they also have the worst loss out of the group, and that came against James Madison, whose RPI is 298. They also have another bad loss to Marist, although that isnt nearly as bad as the loss to James Madison.
-KANSAS STATE (barely in). Theyre 9-2 in their last 11 games, and are 8-4 in Big Twelve play and just a game behind Texas for third place in the conference standings. They have also have good wins against USC and Texas, and have a respectable 5-7 road record. The bad news is that they also have two poor losses to New Mexico and Colorado State, although the loss to New Mexico came when the Lobos were at full strength. Their RPI (50) and SOS (93) are nothing special either.
-ALABAMA (barely in). The Tide finally came up with a good win in their last game as they took down Kentucky at home. Their only other RPI top 50 win was against Xavier, who is pretty close to the bubble themselves. Their worst loss was a home game to Auburn, but other than that they dont have any really bad losses. They also have a solid RPI of 23. The thing that is really hurting them is that they are just 2-6 in true road games, but they do have four neutral site wins, three of which were in the Paradise Jam back in November. Still, the Tide should be okay if they can finish the season strong. Playing in the SEC means that there will be no shortage of chances to get some statement wins.
-MISSOURI STATE (in). They have what is by far the best win, and that was a neutral floor win against Wisconsin. That alone isnt the only reason theyre in, but it certainly is a big reason. The problem is that other than two wins against Bradley, they have no other RPI top 50 wins, and are just 5-5 in their last ten games. They do have a decent 7-4 road record, and a modest RPI of 43, so Id say that they are the safest of all the bubble teams for now, but they cant afford to go into the tank between now and the end.
-PURDUE (barely out). This was the first team I left out of the tournament, but a case could be made to take them. They have recently won some big games against Illinois, Michigan State and Indiana, but all those wins came at home. In fact, they have just one true road win this season, and that came against Penn State. That is what ultimately made me decide to leave them out. Their RPI (37) and SOS (15) are good, but not good enough to overlook a road record as poor as theirs.
-ILLINOIS (barely out). The Illini have won four of their last five, and dont have any bad losses on their resume. They also dont have all that many good wins. Theyve beaten Indiana and Michigan State at home, and Bradley at a neutral site. Theyre a modest 3-5 in true road games, which isnt good, but it isnt too bad. I still think theyre in good shape because theyre definitely in the picture, but they just have a little more work to do. Their RPI is 38, so there isnt anything all that bad on their resume. Its just that there isnt anything all that outstanding either, like a big road win for instance.
-MICHIGAN STATE (barely out). This team has four RPI top 50 wins, but the only solid NCAA Tourament teams theyve beaten were Texas and BYU, neither of which are exactly contending for the pod system. The others were against Illinois and Bradley. They have a good RPI of 31, and their resume has no bad losses on it, but they are just 1-6 in true road games with the only win coming against Penn State. They have two other neutral site wins against Texas and BYU, but the win against BYU was in Detroit in front of a Michigan State friendly crowd. Again, nothing really bad, and they do have a hell of a case, but considering that theyve lost four of their last six and have just one true road win, I still think they have some work to do.
-FLORIDA STATE (out). Florida State has four wins against the RPI top 25, two of which are very impressive (Florida, @ Duke). Their RPI is 40, which is pretty good, and they have no bad losses. They do, however, have too many losses. Theyre 17-11, but the worst part about that is theyve lost their last five. None were to bad teams, but they need to win at least one or two of those. Ending the season with five straight losses is never a good thing. They do have some winnable games coming up against NC State and Miami, FL. If they can win those and avoid an early exit from the ACC Tournament, I think theyll be back in the mix.
-ARKANSAS (out). Theyve lost seven of their last 11 games, so they arent exactly hot right now. They have some good wins against Alabama, West Virginia and Southern Illinois, a decent RPI (42) and a good SOS (11), but whats really killing them is their 1-7 road record, along with their performance in their last ten games.
-BRADLEY (out). Bradley just won a big game against VCU, and they have another good win against Southern Illinois. They also have a very good RPI of 29, but when it comes to how theyve done against several other bubble teams, theyve come up short every time. Its hard to make a case that theyre better, when theyve lost to Illinois, Michigan State and Missouri State, all of whom are fighting for NCAA Tournament spots themselves. All of their remaining games are winnable, so if they can win out and get another good win in the conference tournament theyll get a hell of a look, but I just think theyre still missing something.
-DREXEL (out). Drexel has won at Syracuse, at Villanova, and at Creighton, so those wins will get them in the discussion. Theyre just 11-5 in conference though, and just havent seem to have done enough in terms of taking care of business against non-tournament caliber teams.
-Louisville had a big week last week winning on the road against both Pittsburgh and Marquette. They went from being out of the tournament, but within reach, to being in the mix after beating Pittsburgh, to being solidly in the tournament after beating Marquette. So long as they dont have a meltdown between now and the end, they should be fine for the dance. The Cardinals are now playing to not just make the field, but to improve their seed.
-Nevada continues to be a topic of controversy. I originally had them as a #7 this week, but had to move them down to a #8 in order to make the bracket fit. I know Nevada is good, but Im trying to guess the committee, not rank the teams the way I personally would bracket them. Nevada is much better than their resume indicates and I believe that if they had gotten to play some better teams, they would have beaten them. But if they were to be seeded only by the value of their resume, they would probably be seeded even lower than where I have them now. They have no RPI top 50 wins. The only team theyve played that is a solid NCAA Tournament team is UNLV, and they lost that game on their home court. A 23-2 record is impressive, but when a schedule consists of teams that arent tournament caliber, they should be able to win that many if they themselves are a tournament caliber team.
The committee does not seed teams based only on their resumes, but the resumes are very important. The fact that Nevada will end the season with no RPI top 50 wins can, and probably will, hurt their seed. I have them as a #7 now, but I dont see it ending up any better than a #6, or at the very best a #5 if they need to be moved up to meet the rules of the bracket. I certainly dont think theyll get a #3 or a #4, as some have been suggesting. All the teams that I have projected in the pod system have at least one win against the RPI top 25, and the large majority of them have more than that. Its hard for me to believe that the committee will give a seed that good to a team that doesnt have a single win against the RPI top 50.
-Southern Illinois won a big game against Butler, which is one step closer toward earning a #4 seed or better and receiving a good placement for first/second round games.
ONE BID LEAGUES
-Vermont can clinch the outright America East championship with just one more win, which would allow them to host the championship game if they advance that far.
-East Tennessee State can win the Atlantic Sun outright with one more win, but they get the conference tournament on their home floor no matter what because it was a predetermined site.
-Weber State has already clinched a share of the Big Sky title, and can win it outright if they can defeat Sacramento State in their final game, which would allow them to host the conference tournament.
-Winthrop has already clinched a share of first place in the Big South, and can win it outright with one more victory, which would allow them to play all their conference tournament games at home.
-Two more wins for Long Beach will clinch a share of first place in the Big West, and three more wins or a loss by Cal State Fullteron or UC Santa Barbara means they win it outright. That would give them a bye into the semifinals of the conference tournament.
-VCU can clinch a tie for first with one more win, and win it outright with two more. They will be hosting the conference tournament no matter what.
-Wright State and Butler are tied for first in the Horizon League Standings, and the winner gets the tournament on their home floor. Since they split the regular season series, the next tiebreaker would be how they did agaisnt the rest of the league. Butler lost to Illinois Chicago, and Wright State lost to Wisconsin Milwaukee. Whichever of those two finishes higher in the standings will determine who wins home court and byes into the semifinals.
-Penn has a one game lead in the Ivy League standings, but has five conference games remaining. The regular season champion gets the automatic bid because there is no tournament.
-Marist can clinch a share of first place with one more win, and win it outright with two more wins. There is a three way tie for second place, so this confernece is pretty tight. The winner gets a bye into the semifinals.
-Akron leads the MAC East and Toledo leads the MAC West. Both are 10-2.
-Oral Roberts has already clinched first place in the Mid Continent. They will host the conference tournament.
-Delaware State can clinch a tie for first in the MEAC with one more win, and win it outright with two more.
-Central Connecticut has clinched first place in the Northeast Conference, and will have home court advantage throughout the conference tournament.
-Austin Peay has clinched first place in the Ohio Valley, and will host a home game in the quarterfinals. The semifinals and finals will be played in Nashville.
-Holy Cross and Bucknell are deadlocked in the Patriot League standings. Both are 11-1 with two games remaining, and their only losses came against each other. The winner will get home court advantage throughout the conference tournament. Holy Cross would win the tiebreaker because they have the better RPI.
-Appalachian State has can clinch a tie for first in the North Division of the SoCon, and win the division outright with two more wins. Davidson has already clinched first place in the South Division and can win it outright with one more win. The tournament is in Charleston, SC, which was a predetermined site.
-Texas A&M Corpus Christi has a one game lead in the Southland, but they have five games remaining. The tournament is at a predetermined site, though.
-South Alabama has clinched first place in the Sun Belt, but the tournament is at a predetermined site.
-Jackson State and Texas Southern are tied for first place in the SWAC with five games remaining.
HIGHLIGHTED GAMES FOR MONDAY, FEBRUARY 19TH
-PORTLAND AT GONZAGA (West Coast). Gonzaga needs to win out just to keep themselves in the NCAA Tournament discussion. As it stands now theyd probably need to win the conference tournament to get in. Theyre coming off of a heartbreaking loss to Memphis, which really could have helped them, but they need to rebound from that and take care of business tonight.
-KANSAS AT KANSAS STATE (Big Twelve). Kansas State is right on the bubble, and one of the things they are lacking is a real big time win. The last time they faced Kansas they were blown out, but it could be a different story with them being the home team. A win here would really help their case for an NCAA Tournament bid. Kansas, on the other hand, is a solid #2 seed right now and is tied for first place in the Big Twelve Standings. This is also a big rivalry game, so a win gives them bragging rights off paper as well. This should be a fun one. Its been a long time since Kansas State has played in a game this big.
-VILLANOVA AT MARQUETTE (Big East). Villanova is a solid tournament team, but they are playing to improve their seed. A win at Marquette would really boost the quality of their resume. Marquette has lost three straight games, the most recent being on a last second shot to Louisville. They need some wins to get themselves back in a position to make the pod system and be placed in Chicago.
-PITTSBURGH AT SETON HALL (Big East). Pitt is tied with Georgetown for first place in the conference, and is coming off a close win against Washington. They shouldnt have too much trouble on the road against a sub-par Seton Hall team.
-BUTLER AT WISCONSIN GREEN BAY (Horizon League). Butler is coming off a dissapointing loss to Southern Illinois in the Bracket Buster. This is a big game for them as well because theyre still playing for the right to host the conference tournament. They need to rebound from the dissapointment and take care of business in what could be a tough road game.