Bottoms Line Bracketology: NCAA Tournament Bracket Predictions on January 16th

Another week’s worth of Top 25 losses and major conference road woes have made this a challenging process once again.  The good news is that a few more teams actually picked up quality wins, which these days is no small accomplishment.  In total, five new at-large teams are in this week’s projections.

As I mentioned last week, these projections are very fluid at this point of the season, but below the bracket I will give my last four in and last four out, as well as the rationale I used to make those decisions.

 

EAST (BOSTON)   SOUTH (ATLANTA)
PITTSBURGH – March 15 & 17   LOUISVILLE – March 15 & 17
1 Syracuse (19-0)   1 Kentucky (17-1)
16 Miss. Valley St. (5-11)/Stony Brook (9-7)   16 Bucknell (13-6)/UNC-Asheville (12-6)
8 Alabama (13-4)   8 Wisconsin (14-5)
9 California (15-4)   9 New Mexico (15-2)
     
PORTLAND – March 15 & 17   PORTLAND – March 15 & 17
5 Illinois (15-3)   5 Vanderbilt (13-4)
12 BYU (15-4)   12 Long Beach St. (12-6)
4 San Diego St. (15-2)   4 Michigan (14-4)
13 Oral Roberts (16-4)   13 Cincinnati (14-4)/Oregon (13-5)
     
OMAHA – March 16 & 18   NASHVILLE – March 16 & 18
6 Florida (14-4)   6 Murray St. (18-0)
11 Southern Mississippi (16-3)   11 Northwestern (12-5)
3 Missouri (16-1)   3 Georgetown (14-3)
14 Nevada (14-3)   14 Belmont (12-6)
     
COLUMBUS – March 16 & 18   OMAHA – March 16 & 18
7 West Virginia (13-5)   7 Gonzaga (14-3)
10 Harvard (15-2)   10 Temple (11-5)
2 Michigan St. (15-3)   2 Kansas (14-3)
15 Cleveland St. (15-4)   15 VCU (13-5)
     
MIDWEST (ST. LOUIS)   WEST (PHOENIX)
ALBUQUERQUE – March 15 & 17   PITTSBURGH – March 15 & 17
1 Baylor (17-0)   1 Ohio St. (16-3)
16 Texas-Arlington (11-5)   16 Norfolk St. (13-5)
8 Purdue (13-5)   8 Wichita St. (15-3)
9 Louisville (14-4)   9 Dayton (13-5)
     
NASHVILLE – March 16 & 18   COLUMBUS – March 16 & 18
5 Virginia (14-2)   5 Saint Mary’s (17-2)
12 Iona (14-4)   12 Marshall (13-4)
4 Creighton (16-2)   4 Connecticut (14-3)
13 Cincinnati (14-4)/Saint Louis (14-4)   13 Minnesota (14-5)/Oregon (13-5)
     
LOUISVILLE – March 15 & 17   ALBUQUERQUE – March 15 & 17
6 Mississippi St. (15-3)   6 Seton Hall (15-3)
11 Stanford (15-3)   11 Florida St. (11-6)
3 Indiana (15-3)   3 UNLV (16-3)
14 Akron (11-6)   14 Davidson (12-4)
     
GREENSBORO – March 16 & 18   GREENSBORO – March 16 & 18
Marquette (14-4)   Kansas St. (12-4)
10 Memphis (12-5)   10 Xavier (12-5)
2 North Carolina (15-3)   2 Duke (15-2)
15 Weber St. (14-3)   15 Wagner (14-3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Four In:

Minnesota

The Gophers needed to prove they could beat tournament-caliber teams without Trevor Mbakwe, and they did just that at Indiana on Thursday.  It was their first Top 50 win, and they are now 5-4 against the RPI Top 100.  I don’t think the Big Ten will really end up with nine teams in the field, but at this stage they deserve it.

Saint Louis

Rick Majerus’ club currently has no Top 50 wins and is 3-3 against the Top 100.  So while the Billikens have a nice victory over Washington and won the 76 Classic, they are just 2-2 in A-10 play and have lost to both of the other tournament teams they have played.  Their earlier loss to Loyola Marymount isn’t helping either.

Cincinnati

The Bearcats did themselves no favors by taking on such a weak non-conference schedule, and the loss to Presbyterian is a potential killer.  However, they picked up a huge road win at Georgetown last week and are currently 4-1 in the Big East and 3-2 against the RPI Top 100.  Their schedule gives them little margin for error, but at least they have a quality win.

Oregon

It killed me to put a third Pac-12 team in the bracket, but it was pretty much a coinflip for the last spot.  The Ducks have wins over Stanford and at Oregon, and four of their five losses have come against teams I have in the field with the other a road loss at Washington.  Like it or not, I wouldn’t be shocked to see three Pac-12 teams get in, but it wouldn’t take much for Oregon to drop out of the field.

First Four Out:

Iowa State

The Cyclones had chances to pick up a profile-building win against Missouri or Kansas last week, and while they played well in stretches of each game, they wound up losing both.  At this point, they have just one Top 100 win (Texas), so there just isn’t enough quality on their resume to earn a spot in the field.  Luckily for them, the Big 12 plays a full round robin schedule so they have two cracks at everyone.

Colorado State

CSU’s win over Denver last week may well be their best of the season.  I have them here largely because they are 30th in the RPI and don’t have an egregious loss.  Still, I can’t see four Mountain West teams getting in, and the Rams haven’t done enough for me to warrant a spot in the field.

Northern Iowa

A strong RPI and strength of schedule are keeping the Panthers in the discussion, and after their win over Missouri State last week, I had them in.  However, they blew a lead and lost to Bradley, which was their third questionable loss in MVC play.  The numbers might look ok, but they still don’t have a win against a team I have in the field as an at-large.

North Carolina State

The Wolfpack played poorly in a home loss to Georgia Tech, which dropped them out of the field.  Admittedly, it’s their only bad loss, but they also haven’t really beaten anyone outside of a neutral court win over Texas.  After facing BC at home this week, they play at Miami and North Carolina before facing Virginia at home.  That’s a critical stretch for their tournament hopes.

Here is how the bids broke out by conference:

Big Ten (9): Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin

Big East (8): Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Seton Hall, Syracuse, West Virginia

SEC (5): Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt

ACC (4): Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia

Atlantic 10 (4): Dayton, Saint Louis, Temple, Xavier

Big 12 (4): Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri

Conference USA (3): Marshall, Memphis, Southern Mississippi

Mountain West (3): New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV

Pac-12 (3): California, Oregon, Stanford

West Coast (3): BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s

Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State

America East: Stony Brook

Atlantic Sun: Belmont

Big Sky: Weber State

Big South: UNC-Asheville

Big West: Long Beach State

Colonial: VCU

Horizon: Cleveland State

Ivy: Harvard

MAAC: Iona

MAC: Akron

MEAC: Norfolk State

Northeast: Wagner

Ohio Valley: Murray State

Patriot: Bucknell

Southern: Davidson

Southland: Texas-Arlington

Summit: Oral Roberts

Sun Belt: Middle Tennessee State

SWAC: Mississippi Valley State

WAC: Nevada

**********

Follow me on Twitter (@andybottoms) for more thoughts on college hoops, and check out the latest edition of the Bottoms Line podcast.



About Andy Bottoms

While Andy was born and raised in Indiana, he would like to point out that he grew up shooting hoops in his driveway and not against the side of a barn like you see in all the March Madness promos or in the middle of a field like Jimmy Chitwood. Andy ranks among the top bracketologists according to the Bracket Matrix and has provided his projections to Fox Sports for the past three seasons. When not compiling excuses for missing work during the NCAA Tournament, Andy enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters. He is a proud IU graduate and co-hosts The Assembly Call postgame show following every IU game. Twitter: @AndyBottoms

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