"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Friday, February 17, 2023

Top-16 Reveal Preview

Shaka Smart has Marquette in the Top-16 Reveal in his second year in Milwaukee

Photo by Mark Hoffman | JS Online

The NCAA's annual Top-16 Reveal will be released Saturday morning and for the first time since 2019, Marquette should expect to hear their name included in that group of teams. Today Cracked Sidewalks looks at what we expect to see tomorrow, as well as where there might be debate along the seed lines.

1-Seeds: Alabama, Kansas, Purdue, Houston

The teams here seem relatively certain. Alabama should be the top overall seed, and we have Kansas ahead of Purdue due to the sheer volume of Quadrant 1 wins. The Jayhawks metrics have largely caught up with their gaudy resume as well. Purdue's loss at Maryland dropped them to three overall, with Houston the final 1-seed.

Where we're prepared to be wrong: The order may be different, but it would be truly shocking for any other teams to be on the 1-line. Baylor's overall resume comes up short, UCLA doesn't have the quality wins, and no one else has a legitimate case for the top line.

2-Seeds: Baylor, UCLA, Texas, Tennessee

While Baylor is our top 2-seed, if they show up on this line it would be unprecedented. Never before has a team outside the top-11 in the current NCAA metric been included in the top two seed lines at the reveal. We're standing by the Bears due to their Quadrant 1 work, and they were in the top-11 of NET earlier this week before Gonzaga's win at LMU. UCLA and Texas look very solid here as well. Tennessee was a tough call, but they have a RAP score of 6.25, which is 6th best in the country and their top-level wins (including the recent win over Alabama) really shone through.

Where we're prepared to be wrong: It isn't unprecedented Baylor but rather Tennessee we have the least confidence in. It wouldn't be shocking to see Arizona ahead of the Vols due to their 5-0 Quadrant 1A record. However, Arizona's RAP score of 9.6 just doesn't match up and they have two losses worst than Tennessee's worst loss. In fact, all of Arizona's losses came to teams outside the field. However, Arizona does have a home win over Tennessee. Last year the Selection Committee did cite head-to-head in the Reveal, so that could play in here. It's close between those two, but we're sticking with the Volunteers.

3-Seeds: Arizona, Virginia, Gonzaga, Connecticut

As mentioned, this is as low as Arizona could fall. Virginia looks very solid for the 3-line with a 9-4 Q1+2 record, zero losses outside Quadrant 1, and good metrics, but then it gets a bit murky. We went with Gonzaga and Connecticut. Gonzaga had the best RAP score, the best Q1+2 record, the best individual win (Alabama on a neutral), and the best road record. UConn got the nod because of their stellar metrics. While there are some questionable losses, the Selection Committee has consistently shown they value wins more than losses, and UConn's wins over Alabama and Iowa State on neutral courts as well as Marquette and Creighton at home are better than anyone else below them can present.

Where we're prepared to be wrong: Bracket Matrix has Marquette ahead of both Gonzaga and Connecticut, and we would be ecstatic for them to be right and us to be wrong. Last night, we joined the Delphi Bracketology podcast, and both of the other bracketologists also had Marquette on the 3-line. So why is this Marquette blog lower on Marquette? Their RAP score lags behind the Gonzaga and Connecticut teams they were being compared to. Their three best wins are all at home and they don't have a single win away from home over a team currently in the projected field. Marquette's resume is good and they've been great in Big East play, but that doesn't nullify what Gonzaga and UConn did in non-conference play. At this point, Marquette just doesn't look like a 3-seed yet. Beat Creighton on Tuesday and that would almost certainly change.

4-Seeds: Marquette, Iowa State, Kansas State, Indiana

Marquette and Iowa State were easy choices to be here. After that it was very difficult. Historically, 96.9% (93/96) of the teams included in the reveal were in the top-22 of the current metric. Both Indiana (17) and Kansas State (20) met that criteria. Kansas State boasts three wins against teams on the top-two seed lines, and two of those were in true road games. The Wildcats' predictive metrics (31.3) drag down their RAP score and limit how high they can be placed, but their overall body of work warrants a 4-seed. Indiana was a tougher call, but adding a win over Purdue to their wins at Xavier and Illinois really help. Their RAP score is consistent with this range and they have a winning Q1+2 record with no losses outside those Quadrants.

Where we're prepared to be wrong: Not on Marquette, unless they are higher than we project them. Ultimately, 5 other teams were considered for the final Top-16 spot that went to Indiana. In NET order, they were St. Mary's, Creighton, San Diego State, Xavier, and Miami. It isn't unreasonable to think any of those teams could sneak into the reveal. All of them, however, have some issues. In terms of RAP score, four of the five are behind Indiana, with only St. Mary's ahead of them. In terms of bad losses, four of the five have at least 1 Quadrant 3 loss, with St. Mary's having two and only San Diego State being unblemished there. Indiana is tied for the most wins against the field (6) with Xavier. Indiana is also the only team here with a win over a projected 1 or 2-seed, with their win over Purdue. It wouldn't shock us to not see Indiana, but in basically every category that mattered, the Hoosiers were either the best or right there, and they didn't have any borderline disqualifying blemishes, like St. Mary's two Quadrant 3 losses, Creighton's 30.5 resume average, or the sub-22 NET of #26 Xavier and #30 Miami. San Diego State also didn't have anything disqualifying but the 5-2 Quadrant 1 win edge, the 6-2 wins over the field edge, the 18.85-20.15 RAP scores, and like it or not, the Big 10-Mountain West league affiliations all played in Indiana's favor.

Other things to watch: Where Houston falls on the 1-line could be telling. They have a skimpy resume in terms of quality but excellent metrics. That could bode well for teams like Kentucky and North Carolina on the bubble. Similarly, if Kansas is closer to the top with their mass of Q1 wins, that could be good for teams like Wisconsin and Oregon who have nice wins but mediocre metrics. St. Mary's is another to watch. If their NET gets them into the Top-16 despite their bad losses, that could bolster the hopes of teams like FAU and Clemson, though for different reasons.

Our Bracket: We have a full S-Curve and bracket below. We're getting closer to the time when these things start to more closely mimic what we'll see in less than a month. A few things to remember. First, automatic bids will change the 12-16 lines significantly. Because many of these projected teams will lose in their conference tournaments, the odds of the teams here (especially in the 13-15 range) showing up exactly where predicted if they make it is unlikely. Don't put much stock in where a Bradley or Iona is today, that will likely change if they get in.

The 7-line made things very difficult because it consisted of 4 Big 10 teams. That led to moving one of the 11-seed play-in games down a line. The at-large play-ins need to be on different days (one plays Tuesday, one Wednesday), which meant a play-in had to go to Sacramento. However, it was impossible to put a non-SEC team there opposite Auburn, and despite numerous efforts to shuffle the 6-seeds, the best option was to move Charleston up to the 11 line and put a 12-seed play-in in Orlando.

Finally, Marquette's draw was interesting. Former Marquette player and assistant Brian Wardle and Bradley to open things up, the winner of St. Mary's and Sam Houston (who owns two Q1 wins), and likely overall top seed Alabama in the Sweet 16. If they advance past that, either Texas or Tony Bennett would be the likely impediments to a Final Four. Of course, plenty will change between now and Selection Sunday, but it isn't too early to start thinking about some of these matchups. Let's get on to the results of our latest bracket scrub:

Multibid Leagues

Big 10: 9

Big 12: 8

SEC: 8

ACC: 5

Big East: 5

Mountain West: 3

Pac-12: 3

American: 2

WCC: 2

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