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Bracketology Notes

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2014 NCAA Tournament – Projected Field thru action on 03/10/14

As we head into Championship Week here is the way we see things shaping up.  We will use a slightly different breakdown moving forward – teams underlined and bolded are LOCKS to be dancing; leagues starting with “ * ” are one bid leagues, and either have been decided (those that are capitalized, bolded and underlined) or are still being projected.  For leagues that will have just one bid and that automatic bid has been decided I discuss their resume briefly and discuss their likely seeding.

As a final reminder on bubble teams ratings are quoted as RPI/BPI/SBPI (my Power Ratings for college basketball based on statistical performance), and records listed are vs. Top 25/Top 50/Top 100 (aggregated). 

*America East: Stony Brook

American Athletic: Louisville, Cincinnati, UConn, Memphis

1. SMU (23-8/12-6) – the Mustangs will likely be dancing but they did what I expected last week dropping a pair of games versus Louisville & Memphis.  SMU still has solid ratings (outside my SBPI) of #44/#31/#74, 4 quality wins, 7-7 road mark and have gone 8-4 over their L12.  On the weak side is a #301 OOC SOS & a top OOC win over Sam Houston State at home, along with facing 18 sub 150 RPI teams, easily the most of any likely NCAA at-large team.  SMU faces Houston in Rd 1 of the AAC Tournament and will seal their bid with a win there; keep in mind these teams played twice already this year & although the Mustangs won both they were by a combined 11 points.  Even with a loss there SMU is likely to earn their first NCAA Tournament bid in over 20 years, but a win would seal it up for certain.

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Atlantic 10:
UMass, VCU, St. Louis, George Washington

1. St. Joseph’s, PA (21-9/11-5) – big loss for the Hawks on Sunday afternoon versus rival LaSalle leaves the Hawks with some work to be done as their ratings slipped a lot to #48/#57/#60 – leaving them on the bubble.  Record splits of 2-4/4-5/7-8 are solid for the most part despite all the quality wins coming in conference play.  A non-conference SOS of #149 is on the light side for sure, and their best OOC win came over current RPI #84 Boston University – not solid.  Despite closing 8-4 which is strong they lost their final 2 games of the regular season leaving them squarely on the bubble, and as the #4 seed in the A10 Tournament.  With Dayton being the 5 seed that could set up an essential knock-out game in the QF round between those two teams – because of that there is little to no chance both teams earn an at-large.  If those two teams met in the A10 Tournament it would be their third meeting of the season, and St. Joe’s won both (by 3 at Dayton & by 26 at home) – a big reason why they sit above the Flyers in this edition although Dayton has most of the metrics in their favor.

2. Dayton (22-9/10-6) – the Flyers really closed strong going 9-1 over their L10 to put themselves right in the middle of bubble talk.  Ratings of #40/#51/#40 are solid as are record splits of 2-2/4-5/10-6; OOC wins over likely WCC champ Gonzaga, likely MAAC champ Iona, and fellow bubble team California will help.  They have also proved to be winners on the road going 8-4 while facing a respectable but not great OOC SOS of #82.  Dayton will face the winner of #12 George Mason vs. #13 Fordham in their opening A10 Tournament game, a clear must win; next up would then be a meeting with St. Joseph’s (PA) – a huge game for both teams should it occur as the winner would remain alive, and the loser relegated to the NIT.

ACC: Duke, Syracuse, Virginia, North Carolina, Pittsburgh

1. Florida State (18-12/9-9) – current rankings are #58/#47/#70 have dropped some of late, and certainly are not helping their cause.  Record splits of 2-7/3-8/5-11 also worsened from last edition – borderline bubble territory at best.  A 5-7 mark down the stretch really leaves the Noles behind the 8 ball although they have two nice OOC wins over UMass & VCU – both likely tourney teams.  A 7-6 road mark is solid, and a #104 non-conference SOS isn’t awful but also isn’t great.  FSU would face Virginia in their 2nd ACC Tournament game if they win their first over an underappreciated Maryland squad – that second game would be a MUST WIN to remain in contention.  Minimum 2 ACC Tournament wins for the Noles to remain in the discussion.  If they did beat Maryland & Virginia, and seeding held, they would avoid Duke & Syracuse in the SF round and likely face #4 UNC – manageable.  Three wins they are a lock for an at-large; two they will be watching on Sunday with great interest.

*Atlantic Sun: MERCER: ranked #17 in non-SOS adjusted SBPI, #162 in adjusted SBPI (#1 in their conference).  Solid offensive club.  The Bears could be a dangerous ball club as we saw what Florida Gulf Coast did last season from the same conference.  They lost at Texas by 3, at Oklahoma by 14 but beat Ole Miss on road by 3.  Expect to see the Bears on the 13/14 line most likely, a notch higher than 15 seed FGCU last season.

Big 12: Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas State

Big East: Villanova, Creighton

1. Xavier (19-11/10-8) – X is very close to solidifying their spot in the field, but closing 0-2 including a bad loss at Seton Hall (their 3rd sub RPI 150 loss of the season, very high number) leaves them likely on the right side of the bubble today, but open to fall to the wrong side by the end of this week.  Xavier does have nice wins over two strong clubs in Cincinnati & Creighton, along with fellow bubble team Tennessee.  Ratings of #47/#50/#45 have them right in the mix, as do record splits of 2-3/3-5/8-8.  One more win seals their deal – an opening round loss to Marquette and things could get interesting depending on what else occurs around the country.  If they somehow miss out on a bid they can look right at their 6-3 mark vs. Sub 150 RPI teams as the blame, including losing twice to Seton Hall like Georgetown did.

2. Georgetown (17-13/8-10) – the Hoyas have done so many good things this season, but also they have shot themselves in the foot on numerous occasions which will likely keep them out of the NCAA Tournament.  The good for Georgetown?  An SOS of #9, a non-conference SOS of #27, record splits of 3-4/5-6/7-10 including wins over Kansas State, VCU, Michigan State & Creighton.  The bad?  A 6-6 close to their season, a sub .500 conference mark, 3-9 on the road and 3 sub 150 RPI losses to Seton Hall twice and Northeastern.  If those two Seton Hall games (a team they had dominated of late heading into this season) were wins they would probably be a projected tournament team; but that is not the case.  The Hoyas will open with DePaul in the BET, then with a win meet Creighton in the QF round – a run to the BET Finals is the absolute minimum needed for the Hoyas to earn an at-large.

3. St. John’s (20-11/10-8) – the Red Storm have split with PC but lost both meetings vs. Xavier dropping them down this far.  In addition to those head to head results SJU’s record splits of 1-5/1-7/6-9 leave a lot to be desired (like the two schools above them they also beat Creighton for their signature win), and ratings of #57/#46/#48 are on the fringe of the bubble.  A 9-3 close to their season was extremely strong considering two of those three losses came at Creighton and at Villanova, but may have been too little too late.  A minimum of 2 BET wins is necessary for St. John’s to get themselves back into the conversation.

4. Providence (20-11/10-8) – PC split their meetings with Xavier this season, and also has a win over Creighton; however their OOC has zero impressive wins leading to an OOC SOS of #215 – not good leaving them a level below Xavier.  Ratings of #54/#55/#21 are just outside bubble range (excluding SBPI where they rate well), and record splits of 1-5/2-6/6-10 are nothing to write home about, as is a non-conference SOS of #214.  Clearly the Friars are on the wrong side of the bubble right now; they will face St John’s in their opening 4/5 matchup Thursday afternoon which is a clear knock-out game.  The winner of that game will likely face Villanova in the SF round, which would be another must win to even remain in the mix.

*Big Sky: Weber State

*Big South: COASTAL CAROLINA: ranked #111 in non-adjusted SBPI, #294 in SOS adjusted SBPI (7TH best in the Big South).  The Chanticleers do not have a Top 150 RPI win all season, and are a prime candidate to take part in the “play-in” action in Dayton.

Big Ten: Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa

1. Nebraska (19-11/11-7) – no team has come on harder over the last 6 or so weeks as Nebraska, putting themselves right in the mix to earn a tournament berth.  Ratings of #35/#58/#52 aren’t bad but aren’t consistent; record splits of 2-6/3-8/6-10 are identical to Minnesota, and similar to many other bubble teams from major conferences.  The Huskers beat the Gophers in their only meeting of the season, further helping their case in a head to head with Minny.  A road mark of 4-10 isn’t good, but a 10-2 close to their season will really strengthen their case.  Because of their win Sunday over Wisconsin they drew a bye in the B10 Tournament, and a likely matchup with Ohio State looms large on Friday afternoon.  Those teams split their regular season meetings, and the rubber match could be huge.  With a win over OSU they will have punched their ticket; with a loss they will be sweating come Sunday.

2. Minnesota (18-12/8-10) – the Gophers are an interesting case of bubble teams.  Their ratings of #49/#52/#38 are not great, but also not awful; record splits of 2-6/3-8/6-10 are more of the same, nothing wonderful but 16 games vs. Top 100 teams is pretty solid.  Closing their season 5-7 doesn’t help a ton, neither does the lack of back to back wins since early January!  A road record of 3-8 also isn’t solid.  What is good?  Residing in the top conference in America this season, and a non-conference SOS & RPI of #5 & #31 respectively.  The Gophers will be the #7 seed in the B10 Tournament facing #10 Penn State in the opening round (MIN won only meeting this year 68-65 at State College).  Minny must beat PSU, and a game vs. Wisconsin next shouldn’t be an issue even with a loss.  But make no mistake, one more win is needed for Minnesota to feel comfortable come Selection Sunday.

*Big West: UC-Santa Barbara

*Colonial: DELAWARE: the Blue Hens are rated #146 in non-SOS adjusted SBPI and slip to just #149 in adjusted SBPI (#2 in the CAA behind Drexel who was narrowly rated as a better team, but they were so close they had same power rating).  Delaware has a solid RPI of #78, and although they have zero Top 100 wins they showed well a few times losing by just 4 points at Villanova (w/o top scorer Devon Saddler), by 12 at Ohio State, by 2 at Richmond and by 7 at St. Bonaventure.  UD is a dangerous team in the tournament and should fall into the 13 seed neighborhood, similar to MAAC champion Manhattan.

*Conference USA: Southern Mississippi

*Horizon: Wright State

*Ivy: HARVARD: rank 9th in non-SOS adjusted SBPI, #69 in SOS adjusted SBPI.  They are a strong defensive ball club that is also adequate offensively.  Likely to be either a 12 or 13 seed.  The Crimson lost by 8 at Colorado and by 5 at UConn early in the season with their best RPI win coming over Green Bay, who lost in the Horizon League SF round despite being the #1 seed.  Harvard may be a dangerous team, especially considering their tournament experience and coaching.

*MAAC MANHATTAN: the Jaspers SBPI ranks tops in the MAAC checking in #40 non-adjusted & #104 on an adjusted basis.  Manhattan faced one likely NCAA Tournament team all season losing at home to George Washington by 6 very early in the season.  Their top OOC wins are at LaSalle and on a neutral floor vs. Buffalo, neither extremely impressive.  Manhattan should find itself on the 13 line and could be a dangerous team to face.

*MAC: Toledo

*MEAC: North Carolina Central

*Missouri Valley: WICHITA STATE: the Shockers have been the story of college basketball this year, but how good are they really coming out of the MVC?  In non-adjusted SBPI they rate #6, but after adjusting for SOS they slip down to #29 – with that in mind it seems they will be over-rated seed wise as a likely #1.  In OOC play they beat Tennessee by 9 at home, BYU by 13 on a neutral court, and won by 5 at St. Louis – none of those is terribly impressive considering STL’s recent fall.  Coming off a Final Four run last year they will be an exciting team to follow come next week.
Mountain West: San Diego State, New Mexico

*Northeast: Robert Morris

*Ohio Valley: EASTERN KENTUCKY: EKY ranks #44 in non-adjusted SBPI, but slips to #192 when adjusting for SOS (#3 in the OVC behind Morehead State & Belmont).  The Colonels played two NCAA Tournament teams early in the year losing at VCU by just 3, and getting blown out at Wisconsin by 25.  Their top OOC win came over a weak IPFW squad.  Eastern will likely end up on the 14/15 line.

Pac 12: Arizona, UCLA, Oregon

Need Wins:

1. Colorado (21-10/10-8) – ratings currently sit at #30/#45/#34 which have improved some since last edition and are amongst the best of current bubble teams; their record splits are 1-4/4-7/10-10 are also better than the typical bubble team, especially considering 4 quality wins including a signature win over Kansas (which came with Dinwiddie in the lineup), along with 20 games vs. Top 100 schools.  Their top wins without Dinwiddie are against Arizona State & Stanford, fellow P12 bubble teams so they will not carry much weight.  All their metrics are solid and they have no bad losses.  Despite not playing their best ball of the season since losing Dinwiddie the Buffaloes are very close to lock status, and if they handle USC in the P12 Opening round they can punch their ticket.

2. Stanford (19-11/10-8) – ratings currently stand at #43/#37/#36, which are solid.  Record splits of 1-4/4-8/7-11 are also solid considering 18 games vs. Top 100 squads and 4 quality wins.  While the Cardinal do not have a win over Arizona they do have the best OOC resume of Pac 12 teams beating UConn and narrowly losing to Michigan leading to an OOC SOS of #60, and an overall SOS of #15.  A road record of 7-6 is solid for certain.  With all that said I do not believe Stanford can afford a loss vs. Washington State in the opening round of the P12 Tournament.  If they did pick that win up the loser of a Stanford vs. Arizona State P12 QF matchup will be sweating come Selection Sunday.

3. Arizona State (21-10/10-8) – ASU struggled down the stretch losing 4 of 6 following their home win over rival Arizona.  Ratings of #45/#35/#44 are strong, and record splits of 1-3/4-6/9-9 are suitable with 4 quality wins including the aforementioned victory over Arizona. Some cause for concern comes in their OOC action as that SOS was just #249 (by far the weakest of P12 bubble teams, and amongst the worst compared to fellow bubble teams across the country), their top win was over Marquette (a non-tourney team), and they went just 4-7 on the road.  The Devils are likely a lock to be dancing but it wouldn’t hurt beating either #6 Stanford or #11 Washington State in the Pac 12 QF round Thursday.  Depending on what else occurs around the country the loser of a potential Stanford/Arizona State QF could be in trouble.

4. California (19-12/10-8) – ratings currently stand at #52/#63/#67, which means they have continued to slide the last few editions – leaving them clearly as the last potential P12 team to earn an at-large bid.  Record splits are 1-5/4-9/8-11 are not bad especially posting 4 quality wins including a signature over Arizona; a 5-8 road mark is not great but isn’t terrible either.  What really slides Cal down to this level is a non-conference SOS of #95 & a 2-4 mark down the stretch.  Their P12 Tournament will start in the QF round likely versus Colorado – which would be a must win game for them IMO (these teams met just once during regular season, the last game of the year on 3/8 and Cal prevailed by 1pt at home).  The Golden Bears need a P12 SF appearance at a minimum to feel comfortable about their at-large chances as I do not believe we will see 6 Pac 12 teams earn bids to the Big Dance.

*Patriot: Boston University

SEC: Florida, Kentucky

1. Tennessee (19-11/11-7) – ratings of #46/#33/#5 continue to improve, leaving them firmly in bubble range besides the SBPI which shows them as a very solid club (which is based on their statistical performance).  UT has a pair of excellent OOC wins over Xavier & Virginia (a pair of likely NCAA Tournament teams), but they have lost all 3 meetings vs. Florida & Kentucky.  Record splits of 1-4/2-5/7-8 are OK but seem to be just below many other bubble teams from various conferences in both quality wins & Top 100 games.  A 5-7 road mark improved down the stretch and isn’t a negative, and a record of 8-4 down the stretch is solid (as is winning their last 4 and 5 of their last 6).  A non-conference SOS of #43 is solid (and miles better than fellow SEC bubble teams), along with an overall SOS of #16.  UT is clearly the 3rd team in the SEC pecking order, and following a double bye to the QF round of the SEC Tournament they will face either #12 Auburn, #13 South Carolina or #5 Arkansas.  I believe they need to win that QF game to lock up a bid; a loss there will leave them sweating on Sunday. 

2. Arkansas (21-10/10-8) – the Razorbacks closed their regular season strong going 6-1 & 8-4 down the stretch to get back into the at-large mix.  But they also have some negatives which leave them behind Tennessee & Missouri including head to head, a poor non-conference SOS of #201, a 4-8 road record & 1 bad loss to Texas A&M.  On the good side for Arkansas is beating Kentucky twice, beating likely tourney team SMU and bubble team Minnesota and a 2pt home loss to Florida.  The Razorbacks are the #5 seed and as explained above are in Tennessee’s pod; in order to reach a matchup with Tennessee (they lost to the Vols on road in their only matchup this season) they must beat either Auburn (who I feel is very dangerous in this tournament) or South Carolina.  With ratings of #53/#39/#51 and record splits of 2-1/4-3/8-8 they are in position – that potential matchup with Tennessee looms large on Thursday should it occur.

3. Missouri (21-10/9-9) – ratings have dropped dramatically of late currently sitting at #56/#49/#89 as the Tigers closed their season going just 6-6 down the stretch.  Record splits of 1-2/2-3/7-8 aren’t terrible but also do not grab your attention especially when compared to other bubble teams across the country, while a road mark of 3-7 is a definite negative compared to others.  A non-conference win over UCLA will be something they can hang their hat on, but an overall non-conference SOS of #152 isn’t a strong point to their resume.  Mizzou did beat Arkansas twice during the regular season which means something especially when both teams are on the bubble; and they also split with Tennessee.  With just one Top 25 win which came at home on December 7th it looks like the Tigers need to beat Texas A&M in their opening round SEC Tournament game, then follow that up by beating the mighty #1 seed Florida Gators in the QF round.  Seems unlikely but if they did win both games (they only faced Florida once all season losing in Gainesville by 10 on 2/4) they would be back in the mix for certain.

*Southern: WOFFORD: the Terriers won the SoCon for the first time since 2011, and will make their third NCAA Tournament appearance in the L5 years.  Wofford ranks a solid 53rd in SBPI non-SOS adjusted, but that falls way down to #203 after adjusting, which will likely be one of the worst teams in the country reaching the Big Dance.  Wofford does not have a Top 150 RPI win all season long, leaving them in the 16 seed range.  It’s highly unlikely Wofford puts up much of a fight in the tourney, perhaps facing Florida or a play-in game in Dayton.

*Southland: Stephen F. Austin

*SWAC: Southern

*Summit: North Dakota State

*Sun Belt: Georgia State

West Coast: Gonzaga, BYU

*WAC: New Mexico State

FIELD: 68

AUTOMATIC BIDS & LOCKS: 58

Currently I project 58 of the 68 bids are earned. 

We currently have 17 teams that are in the mix for 10 open bids.

Keep in mind however that DOES NOT include the upsets we will see during Conference Tournament week where teams that are LOCKS from smaller conferences lose a game in their conference tournament and hence use an at-large bid on themselves.

Next we will show a matrix that contains all 17 bubble teams & their key metrics:
 
Here are the last 10 teams we project to earn a bid as of today (listed in conference alphabetical order):

SMU
Xavier
Nebraska
Minnesota
Colorado
Stanford
Arizona State
California
Tennessee
Arkansas

**KEEP IN MIND IT’S UNLIKELY ALL OF THESE TEAMS MAKE THE NCAA TOURNAMENT BECAUSE OF UPSETS AND BID-STEALING SPOTS THAT WILL INEVITABLY OCCUR IN CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS.

First 7 out (again listed in conference alphabetical order):

St. Josephs
Dayton
Florida State
Georgetown
St. Johns
Providence
Missouri

Multiple bid conferences (total of 46 bids in 10 conferences; 22 single bid conferences = 68 bids):

B12 (7)
P12 (7)
B10 (7)
AAC (5)
ACC (5)
A10 (4): despite 4 currently projected we believe the winner of a potential Dayton vs. St Joe’s QF meeting will earn a bid over a Pac 12 team (most likely Cal right now)
SEC (4)
BE (3)
WCC (2)
MWC (2)

  
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