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Friday, February 16, 2024

Bracketology: Top-16 Contingency Plans


Thursday on Twitter, NCAA Director of Media Coordination David Worlock reported that the March Madness Selection Committee wrapped up their meetings on Thursday and had contingency brackets built based on the potential results to come Thursday and Friday night (likely referring to Purdue/Minnesota, which Purdue came from behind to win). This is vastly different than last year, and with that in mind, we decided to dig back in on the Top-16 and try to get a better forecast for Saturday, because there have definitely been changes since we posted our expected list on Monday. We won't do a full S-Curve and bracket breakdown, but are instead going to focus just on what we think will be revealed on Saturday.

Photo from The Athletic

1-Seeds: 1-Purdue (Midwest) / 2-UConn (East) / 3-Houston (South) / 4-Arizona (West)

Purdue remains a lock for the #1 overall seed. UConn remains our expected #2 due to more overall Q1 wins than Houston and a better top of the resume win (North Carolina on a neutral vs a BYU road win). Arizona edges out the teams on the 2-line because of 7 Q1 wins and an excellent pair of top line wins, having beaten both Alabama and Duke away from home.

Where we're prepared to be wrong: The UConn/Houston order could be flipped, but both will be 1-seeds. It's possible Arizona could miss the top line. If they do, expect to see Marquette there on the strength of a better Q1 record than Tennessee and better resume/predictive averages than North Carolina.

Photo by Associated Press

2-Seeds: 5-Marquette (South) / 6-North Carolina (East) / 7-Tennessee (Midwest) / 8-Iowa State (West)

Marquette beating Butler coupled with North Carolina's loss at Syracuse moves the Golden Eagles to the top 2-seed. Both UNC and Tennessee are solidly on this line. Iowa State jumps up to the 2-line thanks to their third Q1A win on the road over Cincinnati. It's tough rewarding the Cyclones' #324 non-conference strength of schedule, but their Big 12 play has reinforced their quality metrics.

Where we're prepared to be wrong: Iowa State was moved up here late due to a metric edge and better road performance than Kansas. But the Jayhawks have some of the best wins in the country and a tougher SOS than the Cyclones, so it's possible they could remain a 2-seed.

Photo by Kayla Wolf | USA Today

3-Seeds: 9-Kansas (Midwest) / 10-Baylor (East) / 11-Duke (West) / 12-Wisconsin (South)

Kansas has the best top-line wins of anyone in the field, Baylor has solid metrics and more Q1A wins than anyone else in consideration here, and Duke's 5-2 Q1 record overshadows their Q2+3 losses. The hardest decision was the last 3-seed. Despite their recent fade, we're going with Wisconsin. There are teams with better metrics, but none of them have a winning Q1 record and 6 Q1 wins.

Where we're prepared to be wrong: The computers like Alabama and Auburn more than Duke or Wisconsin, but the SEC schools are 3-6 and 2-4 in Q1, respectively. Traditionally, teams need to have .500 records or better in Q1 to be 3-seeds. If the committee values metrics over Q1 performance, either or both SEC schools could find themselves here, knocking Duke and Wisconsin down in the process.


Photo by Jeff Hanisch | USA Today Sports

4-Seeds: 13-Alabama (West) / 14-Creighton (Midwest) / 15-Auburn (East) / 16-Clemson (South)

As mentioned above, Alabama and Auburn have the predictive metrics to be much higher, but fall here due to their lack of Q1 production. Between the two of them, they only have two wins against top-25 NET teams, and that's because they split the season series with each other. Creighton was a tough call here, but makes the 4-line because of their win over Alabama, 4-4 Q1 record, and 6-4 road record. Clemson gets the last protected seed, though this may be controversial. The Tigers are the only team in the country with two road wins over top-15 NET teams (Alabama and UNC). They are 4-4 in Q1, 2-2 in Q1A, and 5-4 on the road. Their resume warrants it, even if the predictive metrics do not. Regional placement here was largely to try to balance the regions, especially as the West was shaping up to be particularly weak.

Where we're prepared to be wrong: If anyone else shows up here, it is most likely Illinois. The Illini have all-around metrics of a 3-seed, but 3-5 in Q1 with zero Q1A wins makes us suspect. Their best win is FAU on a neutral court, and their best road win is at Ohio State, a team so far from at-large consideration they just fired their coach. The committee may also mention Dayton and San Diego State, but neither have the overall body of work to be included. It's worth mentioning San Diego State hosts New Mexico Friday night, which may be another contingency the Selection Committee planned for.


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