NCAA Tournament Bracket Projections: Feb. 19

Selection Sunday is now less than a month away, and the bracket remains as fluid as ever.

Nearly every bubble team lost at least once last week, and at this point you can pretty much draw names out of a hat once you get to the last eight or 10 teams being discussed.

Each one has something positive to offer, whether that is a marquee win or two or solid performances away from home. But they also all have blemishes, whether that is a number of questionable losses or a weak schedule.

Either way, it’s shaping up to be an exciting homestretch.

The projections below take into account all games played through Monday, Feb. 18.

MIDWEST (INDIANAPOLIS) EAST (WASHINGTON, DC)
Dayton – March 22nd/24th Lexington – March 21st/23rd
1) Indiana (23-3) 1) Miami, FL (21-3)
16) Mercer (18-9) 16) Norfolk St. (17-10)/Charleston So. (14-9)
8) VCU (21-5) 8) UCLA (19-7)
9) Creighton (21-6) 9) Saint Louis (19-5)
Kansas City – March 22nd/24th Austin – March 22nd/24th
5) Oklahoma State (19-5) 5) Wisconsin (18-8)
12) Arizona State (19-7)/Boise State (16-8) 12) Villanova (17-10)
4) Marquette (18-6) 4) Kansas State (21-5)
13) Louisiana Tech (23-3) 13) Akron (21-4)
Philadelphia – March 22nd/24th Dayton – March 22nd/24th
6) Ohio State (18-7) 6) Oregon (21-5)
11) Charlotte (18-7)/Iowa State (17-8) 11) Temple (17-8)
3) Syracuse (21-4) 3) Louisville (21-5)
14) Davidson (19-7) 14) Northwestern State (18-6)
Philadelphia – March 22nd/24th Auburn Hills – March 21st/23rd
7) UNLV (19-7) 7) San Diego State (18-7)
10) Colorado (17-8) 10) Missouri (18-7)
2) Duke (22-3) 2) Michigan (22-4)
15) Northeastern (17-10) 15) Stony Brook (19-6)
SOUTH (DALLAS) WEST (LOS ANGELES)
Auburn Hills – March 21st/23rd Lexington – March 21st/23rd
1) Michigan State (22-4) 1) Florida (21-3)
16) Bryant (16-8)/Southern (19-8) 16) Niagara (16-11)
8) North Carolina State (18-7) 8) Oklahoma (16-8)
9) Wichita State (22-5) 9) Memphis (22-3)
San Jose – March 21st/23rd San Jose – March 21st/23rd
5) Colorado State (21-4) 5) Pittsburgh (20-7)
12) Middle Tennessee (23-4) 12) Belmont (20-6)
4) Georgetown (19-4) 4) Butler (21-5)
13) South Dakota State (21-7) 13) Bucknell (22-5)
Salt Lake City – March 21st/23rd Austin – March 22nd/24th
6) Notre Dame (21-6) 6) Minnesota (18-8)
11) Ole Miss (19-6) 11) California (16-9)
3) Arizona (21-4) 3) New Mexico (22-4)
14) Valparaiso (20-7) 14) Harvard (15-7)
Kansas City – March 22nd/24th Salt Lake City – March 21st/23rd
7) Illinois (19-8) 7) Cincinnati (19-7)
10) La Salle (18-6) 10) North Carolina (17-8)
2) Kansas (21-4) 2) Gonzaga (25-2)
15) Long Beach State (16-9) 15) Montana (19-5)

———————–

Last Four In

Charlotte

The 49ers parlayed a huge road win at Butler into one of the final spots in the field this week. Unfortunately, they followed up that critical victory by being blown out at Saint Louis.

A poor nonconference strength of schedule doesn’t do Charlotte any favors, and neither does a loss at George Washington. In all, 10 of Charlotte’s 18 wins have come against teams outside of the the RPI Top 175.

If the 49ers can knock off Temple at home on Sunday, they would have a good chance to win out.

Iowa State

Road woes continued for the Cyclones last week, as they lost in double overtime at Texas. ISU is now just 2-7 in true road games, including a brutal loss at Texas Tech. Much like Charlotte, strength of schedule is one reason for concern, with nine of Iowa State’s 17 wins coming against sub-190 teams.

Victories over Kansas State, Oklahoma, and fellow bubble contender Baylor were enough to keep them in the field for now, but the Cyclones would be well-served to win in Waco this week before a “revenge game” against Texas Tech on Saturday.

Boise State

On one hand, I keep feeling as if I should drop Boise State out of the field; on the other, no team is doing much to take the Broncos’ spot.

Three of their four worst losses came without third-leading scorer Jeff Elorriaga, and the Broncos were a last-second shot away from winning at San Diego State.  A November win at Creighton is looking worse each week, but they have most of their toughest remaining games at home as Air Force, Colorado State, and San Diego State all visit down the stretch.

Arizona State

I’m not in love with the Sun Devils as a tournament team, but of the next few squads, they are the only team with a winning record away from home and a .500 or better record against the RPI Top 50 and Top 100.

Obviously, losses to DePaul and Utah don’t allow them much margin for error, but for now they are clinging to the last spot. ASU needs to take care of business at home against the Washington schools this week before finishing at UCLA, USC, and Arizona.

First Five Out

Baylor

The good thing about Baylor is that the Bears have played a relatively tough schedule. Unfortunately, they have a 2-7 record against the RPI Top 50 to show for it, and one of those was an early December win at Kentucky that doesn’t look nearly as good now as it did at the time. Outside of a home victory over Oklahoma State, the Bears have not defeated anyone else I have in the field.

Baylor’s 3-5 record in true road games is reflective of a tough first part of the Big 12 schedule, which means the Bears will have chance to pick up resume-enhancing wins at home with Iowa State, Kansas State, and Kansas visiting Waco down the stretch.

Maryland

Saturday night’s win over Duke was huge, and I’m still not quite sure how the Terps pulled it off despite committing 26 turnovers. That victory, coupled with a win over N.C. State, certainly helps their case, but Maryland is still just 6-6 in the ACC. The schedule was definitely front-loaded though, and the remaining slate features just two matchups against teams in the top half of the league.

Still, the Terps are just 2-4 in true road games and play three of their next four away from home. Losing any of those games would be a huge blow to Maryland’s chances, which are shaky as it is given a horrific nonconference schedule where their top RPI wins are Stony Brook, Northwestern, George Mason, and Morehead State.

Virginia

It’s hard to look past the six sub-100 wins on Virginia’s profile, and Jerry Palm gave some interesting historical context related to UVA’s tournament hopes last week.

The road win at Wisconsin looks great, but it can’t offset a weak nonconference performance that featured losses to George Mason, Delaware, and Old Dominion or the fact that the Hoos are just 3-6 away from home. Beating Maryland certainly helps for bubble purposes, but the Cavaliers didn’t perform well in the first leg of back-to-back road tests when they lost by double-digits at North Carolina on Saturday.

Up next is a trip to Miami with a visit from Duke looming next Thursday. Virginia probably needs to go 5-1 down the stretch to solidify its case.

Saint Mary’s

The good news for the Gaels is that they have a couple key home games this week against BYU and Creighton that could add at least a little meat to their profile.

The bad news is that they got blown out at home by Gonzaga last week, and they are now 0-2 against the RPI Top 50 this season with just three of their 21 wins coming over RPI Top 100 teams. Just one of those came against a team I have in the field (Harvard), and sub-100 losses to Pacific and Georgia Tech certainly don’t help either.

The reality is that Saint Mary’s has the look of a tournament-caliber team on the court, but their profile does little to back up that assertion.

And a quick thought on Kentucky…

By now it’s obvious that I don’t have the Wildcats in the field or even as one of the first four out.

Even before the injury to Nerlens Noel, UK’s case wasn’t all that strong. Kentucky has zero top-50 wins and essentially has just two victories over teams in the at-large conversation, one at Ole Miss, in which Noel was dominant down the stretch, and the other in the first game of the season against Maryland.

So even before the 30-point beating at Tennessee over the weekend, it was tough to make an argument the Wildcats should be in the field with their best defender and most important player out of commission.

A one-game sample size certainly isn’t much to go on sans Noel, so there is opportunity for the Wildcats to prove themselves without their freshman big man. They do get four of their last six at Rupp, including dates with Missouri and Florida, but road games at Arkansas and Georgia won’t be easy.

At a minimum, UK needs to go 4-2 in those games, but even that may not be enough.

*******

Here is how the bids broke out by conference:

Big East (8): Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Villanova

Big Ten (7): Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin

Atlantic 10 (6): Butler, Charlotte, La Salle, Saint Louis, Temple, VCU

Pac-12 (6): Arizona, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA

Big 12 (5): Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State

Mountain West (5): Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV

ACC (4): Duke, Miami (FL), North Carolina, North Carolina State

SEC (3): Florida, Missouri, Ole Miss

Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State

America East: Stony Brook

Atlantic Sun: Mercer

Big Sky: Montana

Big South: Charleston Southern

Big West: Long Beach State

Colonial: Northeastern

Conference USA: Memphis

Horizon: Valparaiso

Ivy: Harvard

MAAC: Niagara

MAC: Akron

MEAC: Norfolk State

Northeast: Bryant

Ohio Valley: Belmont

Patriot: Bucknell

Southern: Davidson

Southland: Northwestern State

Summit: South Dakota State

Sun Belt: Middle Tennessee

SWAC: Southern

WAC: Louisiana Tech

West Coast: Gonzaga

**********

Follow me on Twitter (@andybottoms) for more thoughts on college hoops.



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

Comments

  1. Jason Muecke says:

    You forgot about Iowa. They will be in before the season is over. Nobody wants to play the Hawkeyes right now.

    • AJ Kaufman says:

      Maybe. Big Ten is awesome. I’d like to see how many games Florida, Duke or Gonzaga would lose in a tough conference rather than their cupcake leagues.

    • Andy Bottoms says:

      As someone who picked Iowa to make the field before the season, I hope you are right. But right now, there’s isn’t a ton on their profile. They have just 2 true road wins (NW, PSU), and losses to Va Tech and Purdue really hurt. Home W’s over Wisconsin and Minnesota are solid though, and win over Iowa State helps for bubble purposes. Non-con was weak though, 9 of 11 wins came against teams ranked 186th or lower in the RPI (5 over sub-300 teams).

      That said, remaining schedule is manageable, probably need to go 4-1.

  2. AJ Kaufman says:

    Good list. Nice to see you didn’t drink kool-aid ala ESPN & give Duke an undeserving 1 seed. I guess the committee won’t care of Duke keeps losing to inferior teams and doesn’t beat anyone since November — they still get a 1 seed? Insanity. At least Gonzaga played & beat ream teams on the road non-conference.

  3. Duke plays so smart, you can’t comprehend it. Kool-aid anyone? Buy one get one free if you’re from the Big Ten..

    • Duke plays so smart? You mean they schedule cleverly with a few tough games in November then beat no one the next 4 months. Maryland lost to awful BC. Terps are not good and not in tourney, yet still beat Duke w/o Maryland’s best player. Duke is a 3 seed at best, but will use bias for a 1 or 2 as usual. NO good wins on road. Period. ACC is the 8th or 9th best conference in America. Duke would be 10-8 in the Big Ten. Period. They prove by getting demolished when they travel to the midwest every so often.

  4. How does Iowa State get in over Iowa? The records are almost identical, Iowa beat them, Iowa plays in a much tougher conference and both have bad road losses. And although Iowa’s NC games were weak, the conference losses (most of them) are to teams rated in the top 25(some of them in the top 5).

    • Andy Bottoms says:

      So a few things play a factor here:
      1. Top 100 wins: Iowa has Minnesota (15), Wisconsin (28), ISU (50), N. Iowa (70). Iowa State has Oklahoma (17), Kansas State (19), Baylor (55), BYU (61), and West Virginia (99). Overall records vs. Top 100: Iowa 4-7, Iowa State 5-6
      2. Bad Losses: Iowa has at Va Tech (168) and at Purdue (126). Iowa State has at Texas Tech (223 – just awful) and at Texas in double OT with Kabongo back (132) So pretty even there I would say.
      3. Strength of Schedule: Iowa’s is 105, Iowa State’s is 76. To delve into that a bit more, 5 of Iowa’s wins are over sub-300 teams, 7 are over sub-250 teams, and 11 are over teams ranked 187th or worse in the RPI. That leaves just 6 wins over the Top 186. For Iowa State, they have 1 sub-300 win and 5 sub-250 wins. Doesn’t seem like a ton, but SOS matters to the committee.
      4. RPI: So while the committee can say RPI doesn’t matter, it is a factor. And right now ISU is 32 spots higher than Iowa.
      5. Road Wins: Neither team has any good ones.

  5. Let’s get beyond “good” wins, “bad” losses, RPI, SOS and the statistical flavor of the month. All a #1, #2, #3 or #4 seed really means is that we expect those teams reach the Sweet 16. And all a #1 or #2 seed really means is that we expect those teams will reach the Elite 8. And all a #1 seed really means is that we expect those teams will reach the Final 4. Right????

    Now….is there anyone that really really expects Gonzo to reach the Final 4? I think that even the most diehard Gonzo fan would be overjoyed if their team reached the Sweet 16.

  6. ducks'n'griz says:

    Nice to see my two teams – Oregon and Montana – getting some props. Montana is obviously off most people’s radars but they’re a pretty good team and could surprise whoever they play in the first round. After that, though, I think they’re gone.

    I think that if Oregon played with a little more discipline and didn’t turn the ball over so damn much, they’d have a couple more W’s and fewer L’s than they do, giving them a higher ranking than #23 in the AP polls. At least a couple of their losses were inexcusable thanks to some really stupid mistakes. When they’re on, they’re tough to beat. When they’re not on, they stink up the joint. Until the Ducks start playing more consistently, I don’t see them going too terribly far in the tournament.

    • Andy Bottoms says:

      Oregon is all over the map in some of the other projections I have seen, but I give them some benefit of the doubt for having to play without Dominic Artis these last few games. Need to get him back on the floor soon.

      As for Montana, I picked them to win in the first round last year and liked their team coming into this season. Early injury to Will Cherry was rough but playing really well right now (minus the recent loss at Weber State).

  7. Anyone else eyeing that Indiana-Marquette Sweet 16 matchup in Indy? Marquette fans don’t exactly love Crean anymore. That’s something the selection committee would TOTALLY do.

  8. Do you ever watch the college game??

    • Andy Bottoms says:

      If you want to talk about a particular team or seed, feel free to post it, and I would be happy to give my rationale. Otherwise, I have no idea what the point of your comment is.

      But to answer your question…no, I obviously don’t watch college basketball at all. I find that I can get these done faster without knowing anything about the teams.

  9. Anthony Estill says:

    what about kentucky

  10. Big Idiot you Be. Disrespect Gonzaga. Nobody likes to talk about them is certainly better then your lameness. Gonzaga will play anyone pre-season.
    Agree with their tournaments as of late but Olynyk and Harris have a few things to prove. There better now because of Defense.

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