NCAA Tournament Bracket Projections: February 5

With less than six weeks remaining until Selection Sunday, there were some interesting decisions to be made when putting together this week’s bracket.

Tyler EnnisOn the top line, Syracuse and Arizona are entrenched as two of the one seeds, and I don’t look for that to change unless Arizona really struggles after losing Brandon Ashley for the season due to a foot injury.

At this point, the other two will almost certainly come from the quartet of Florida, Kansas, Michigan State, and Wichita State.

With Chris Walker now in the mix for Florida, the Gators are finally at full strength following a rash of injuries (and a suspension or two) early in the season. Their only losses came at Wisconsin when they were short-handed and at UConn on a last-second miracle from Shabazz Napier. Unfortunately, the SEC doesn’t offer many chances for marquee victories, so the Gators just need to keep piling up wins.

Michigan State is currently battling injuries of its own, but when the Spartans are at full strength, they may well be the nation’s best team. Since it’s unclear when (or if) they will be back at full strength, I slotted them on the two line for now.

That leaves Kansas and Wichita State. The Shockers are currently 23-0, and if they can navigate road trips to Indiana State and Northern Iowa this week, they have a great chance to end the regular season unbeaten. But while Wichita State attempted to go out and play a tough schedule, it’s tough to compare the Shockers’ profile to that of the Jayhawks, who have played the nation’s toughest schedule by a wide margin.

The Shockers have one Top 40 win. Kansas has seven. Wichita State has five top 100 victories. The Jayhawks have 14. KU does have five losses, but all to teams in the RPI Top 25. For now, I am leaving Kansas as the final one seed, but I wouldn’t be the least bit shocked (no pun intended) if Wichita State wound up with a top seed a la Saint Joe’s in 2004.

The picture at the back end of the bubble is just as muddy, but it’s a lot less fun to look at. To some extent, you could draw teams out of a hat and not really be wrong. I’ll give my reasoning for my last four in and last four out below the bracket.

Here are my projections through the games from February 4.

 

WEST (ANAHEIM) EAST (NEW YORK)
San Diego Buffalo
1) Arizona 1) Syracuse
16) Weber State 16) Coastal Carolina / Southern
8) North Carolina
8) California
9) New Mexico 9) Kansas State
Spokane San Diego
5) Iowa
5) Ohio State
12) Harvard
12) Green Bay
4) Virginia 4) Texas
13) Mercer 13) Toledo
San Antonio Milwaukee
6) UCLA 6) Massachusetts
11) Florida State 11) Southern Miss
3) Iowa State 3) Cincinnati
14) Canisius 14) UC Santa Barbara
Spokane Buffalo
7) Louisville 7) Pittsburgh
10) Stanford 10) Tennessee
2) San Diego State 2) Villanova
15) IPFW
15) Georgia State
MIDWEST (INDIANAPOLIS) SOUTH (MEMPHIS)
St. Louis Orlando
1) Kansas 1) Florida
16) Davidson / Robert Morris 16) Stony Brook
8) Gonzaga 8) George Washington
9) VCU 9) Minnesota
Orlando Raleigh
5) Wisconsin 5) Oklahoma State
12) Baylor / SMU 12) Arizona State / Missouri
4) Kentucky 4) Duke
13) Delaware 13) Belmont
Raleigh San Antonio
6) Oklahoma 6) Connecticut
11) Providence
11) LSU
3) Michigan 3) Creighton
14) New Mexico State 14) Stephen F. Austin
St. Louis Milwaukee
7) Memphis 7) Saint Louis
10) Xavier 10) Colorado
2) Wichita State 2) Michigan State
15) NC Central 15) American

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Last Four In

Arizona State

The Sun Devils have picked up both of their top 50 wins over the last two weeks, including a solid road win at Cal. ASU is 11-1 at home, where they will be for their next three games, which include a matchup with rival Arizona and fellow bubble dweller Oregon.

Baylor

On the one hand, the Bears are an ugly 2-7 in the Big 12, which is arguably the nation’s top conference. On the other, they have two top 25 wins and road/neutral wins over Colorado, Kentucky, Dayton, and Oklahoma State. Ultimately Baylor has to find a way to get close to .500 in the league for those to matter in the long run.

SMU

The Mustangs don’t have a top 25 win, but they do have a pair of solid home victories against UConn and Memphis to go with a 6-5 road/neutral record. With a bland non-conference profile, SMU can’t afford to slip up and take bad losses.

Missouri

It was down to Missouri and Oregon for the last spot, and I ultimately gave the Tigers the nod based on their win over UCLA. Sadly, showing the ability to beat one tournament-caliber team is enough to get in at this point.

First Four Out

Oregon

The Ducks are off to a 3-6 start in Pac-12 play and have no top 40 wins. This team isn’t short on talent, and with five of their final seven games at home, a late run isn’t outside of the question.

BYU

There was a pretty steep drop off from the first and second teams out. The Cougars challenged themselves in non-conference play and have a pair of top 50 wins to show for it. Unfortunately, four sub-100 losses work to offset the positives on BYU’s profile.

Georgetown

Saturday’s neutral court win over Michigan State has the Hoyas back in the conversation for now. They also boast wins over Kansas State and VCU, but some questionable losses (especially the one to Northeastern) have left very little margin for error.

Clemson

Outside of a home win over Duke and a road victory against Florida State, there isn’t much to get excited about for the Tigers. They have just one other top 100 win, and seven of their 15 wins have come against sub-200 squads.

*******

Here is how the bids broke down by conference:

Big 12 (7): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas

ACC (6): Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia

Big Ten (6): Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin

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

American (5): Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Memphis, SMU

SEC (5): Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Missouri, Tennessee

Atlantic 10 (4): George Washington, Massachusetts, Saint Louis, VCU

Big East (4): Creighton, Providence, Villanova, Xavier

Mountain West (2): New Mexico, San Diego State

America East: Stony Brook

Atlantic Sun: Mercer

Big Sky: Weber State

Big South: Coastal Carolina

Big West: UC Santa Barbara

Colonial: Delaware

Conference USA: Southern Miss

Horizon: Green Bay

Ivy: Harvard

MAAC: Canisius

MAC: Toledo

MEAC: North Carolina Central

Missouri Valley: Wichita State

Northeast: Robert Morris

Ohio Valley: Belmont

Patriot: American

Southern: Davidson

Southland: Stephen F. Austin

Summit: IPFW

Sun Belt: Georgia State

SWAC: Southern

WAC: New Mexico State

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. tom Normandie says:

    I’ll simply say SDSU if they run out… Beat Kansas in their house, plus Creighton lost only to Arizona…they go ahead of the Shockers…. you need to get real

    • Andy Bottoms says:

      While I work on “getting real,” here are a couple things to consider. First, I do the projections as if the season ended that day (in this case after Tuesday’s games). So whether any of these teams run the table is irrelevant. Second, SDSU has two great wins (as you mentioned), but those are their only Top 60 wins. They are currently 6-1 against the Top 100 and have just two games left against Top 100 teams. If they do run the table, I could see them being in the running, but the MWC isn’t nearly what it was last year. Wichita State has five Top 60 wins, although their best win (Saint Louis) isn’t as good as either of SDSU’s best wins. Similarly, they have just one game left against the Top 100 left. And if Wichita State runs the table, I find it extremely hard to believe they won’t get a one seed. From a schedule strength standpoint, SDSU is currently 93rd (could change slightly based on today’s games), and Wichita State is 81st, so there isn’t a ton of difference there.

      All that said, SDSU has had an outstanding year and deserve consideration. If things break their way down the stretch, they could get a one seed. I just don’t think they are on that level as of now when comparing profiles of potential top seeds.

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