College Basketball Bracket Predictions: Championship Week, Thursday Edition

Bracket Predictions NCAA Tournament

Indiana stays above the cutline, while Stanford falls out (Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire)

Championship Week is in full swing, with the first major conference tournaments underway. With Selection Sunday fast approaching and key results coming in by the hour, we will update this post regularly over the next few days, so check back. And remember, once Selection Sunday arrives, we provide advice with our 2020 NCAA Bracket Picks, and our advice is fully customizable for your pool size, scoring system, and prize payout structure. You can sign up now to be ready for the action.

The bracketology predictions are based on our data-driven bracketology models, though we do make some judgment calls and manual adjustments in cases where we believe they are warranted.

How Our College Basketball Bracket Predictions Are Different

Most bracketologists simply analyze team results to date when they make college basketball bracket predictions. That’s a pretty crude and simple approach. Projecting the NCAA field as if teams will not play 18 or more conference games, or as if team strength has no impact on likely future results, will not result in the most accurate bracket projections.

Unlike most bracketologists, we use our college basketball season simulations (which we update daily) to forecast where teams will end up at the conclusion of the season. Then we project the NCAA Selection Committee’s decisions using a purpose-built model we designed, based on historical selection and seeding data. Even though our predictions will never be perfect, that approach is still far more sophisticated than the prevailing standard.

The process of modeling all this stuff in a 100% automated way is quite complex, though, and there are still some corner cases where we think our models need further refinement. So the final step in our bracket prediction process for this article is having human eyes review the data, and adjust some teams up or down if we think it makes sense.

2020 College Basketball Bracket Prediction: As of Results through March 8th

 

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We provided a full Bubble Breakdown where you can see thoughts on who is on the bubble, who has locked up a spot, and who still has a chance entering the final tournaments. We also did a detailed breakdown of the Bid Thief possibilities as we head into Championship Week, and we’ve already had Utah State jump up and take a spot by beating San Diego State in the Mountain West Tournament.

Here are the key changes with this version, which includes results from Monday through Wednesday night.

  • Saint Mary’s jumped to the final 7 seed for now with their win over BYU. That bumped Houston down to the 8 seed line.
  • Arizona solidified their place with an opening round win over Washington. They moved up a seed line with that win plus the potential for a quality win versus USC in the next round.
  • Stanford dropped out of the projected field with their loss to California in the Pac-12 first round game on Wednesday.
  • As a result of Stanford’s loss, UCLA moves into the field in our last spot in the projections for now. Cincinnati and NC State are the first two teams just out entering Thursday, with Stanford behind both of them, done playing, and in trouble.
  • Xavier lost to DePaul in the Big East first round. The Musketeers are barely holding on now in one of the Dayton play-in spots. But with lots of other bubble teams still in action and the potential for at least one more bid thief, their placement is tenuous and we will see how their computer numbers fall.
  • Several automatic bids were clinched, though we will note that Northern Kentucky was the only team that wasn’t among our projected conference winners from the tournaments completed over the last three days. They slot in as the “best” No. 16 seed for now, and could end up on the 15 line.


2020 College Basketball Bracket Prediction: As of Results through March 8th

 

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Remember, we have a fully dedicated Bubble Breakdown where you can see thoughts on who is on the bubble, who has locked up a spot, and who still has a chance. We also did a detailed breakdown of the Bid Thief possibilities as we head into Championship Week, and we’ve already had Utah State jump up and take a spot by beating San Diego State in the Mountain West Tournament.

Dayton In, San Diego State Out of the No. 1 Seed, For Now

The top seed line got a shakeup over the weekend, when San Diego State lost in the Mountain West final to Utah State. That loss, for now, moves Dayton into the last No. 1 Seed spot, joining Kansas, Baylor, and Gonzaga. Kansas has locked up a top spot and looks to be the No. 1 overall seed. Baylor has nearly locked up another. Gonzaga will be the No. 1 seed in the West if they win the WCC Tournament over the next two days.

That leaves Dayton, if they win the Atlantic-10, or either San Diego State or Florida State (if the latter can win the ACC Tournament) as the most realistic top seed options remaining.

Here is a look at how the top 12 teams in our seeding projections rank in Quadrant 1 record, and combined Quadrant 1 and 2 wins and total losses. You can see why Kansas and Baylor are heavy favorites for the No. 1 Seed line, and Gonzaga, Dayton, and San Diego State are all close calls, and realistically, Florida State is the only other team that could even get in that mix with a run to the ACC title.

  • Kansas: 12-3 Quad 1; 20-3 Quad 1&2 wins vs. total losses
  • Baylor: 11-2 Quad 1; 16-4 Quad 1&2 wins vs. total losses
  • Gonzaga: 5-2 Quad 1; 9-2 Quad 1&2 wins vs. total losses
  • Dayton: 5-2 Quad 1; 13-2 Quad 1&2 wins vs. total losses
  • San Diego State: 4-1 Quad 1; 11-2 Quad 1&2 wins vs. total losses
  • Florida State: 6-3 Quad 1; 14-5 Quad 1&2 wins vs. total losses
  • Villanova:10-6 Quad 1; 16-7 Quad 1&2 wins vs. total losses
  • Creighton: 9-7 Quad 1; 15-7 Quad 1&2 wins vs. total losses
  • Duke: 5-3 Quad 1; 11-6 Quad 1&2 wins vs. total losses
  • Kentucky: 9-3 Quad 1; 14-6 Quad 1&2 wins vs. total losses
  • Michigan State: 8-7 Quad 1; 14-9 Quad 1&2 wins vs. total losses
  • Oregon: 8-5 Quad 1; 13-7 Quad 1&2 wins vs. total losses

Conference Tournament Outlooks are included in these Projections

This is a reminder that these bracket predictions include the potential outcomes this week. And now that we have finalized brackets for every conference, that means we know the specific matchups and potential future matchups for each tournament candidate. You can see our conference tournament odds for every conference here.

But I do want to clarify what this means and what it doesn’t mean, and we will use the Big Ten as an example. Michigan State is the favorite to win the tournament title, and we give them a 32% of winning the Big Ten tournament. That doesn’t mean, though, that these projections assume that Michigan State will go 3-0 in the tournament. It means that these projections are based on all the range of outcomes, and the average results for Michigan State. That ranges from three wins (all against teams in the top two Quadrants) to an opening loss, and in between.

So any team that wins the actual conference tournament in one of these major conferences will have overperformed and could be seeded higher. Any team that loses its first game will have underperformed expectations, sometimes dramatically, depending on how heavy of a favorite they were. Now, most of a team’s resumé is now set, and so one result may not swing a team’s seeding outlook much. But there are a few cases where a team could drastically alter the seeding by going on a run. In the Big Ten, for example, not much is separating Wisconsin (No. 16 on the projection, the final No. 4 Seed) and Illinois (No. 29, the first No. 8 Seed), and there are four other Big Ten teams between them. In that group, which teams add multiple wins and which ones lose right away could swing where those teams fall.

Selection Committee Meets Beginning Tuesday

Another thing to be aware of is that the actual committee begins their deliberations on Tuesday. Up until now, it’s all been educated speculation on what a committee of real people will decide. You will want to pay particular attention to the team sheets and the ranking of teams, and results by quadrant, that show up on the Tuesday report. You can see daily reports here (identical to what the committee members will be using).

As cynical as it might sound, this is a group of people that are trying to come to a lot of decisions. Those rankings on Tuesday and Wednesday are important in how the discussion is framed. Sure, they can update them, but as the week goes on, time becomes more limited. By Friday, practically speaking, most of the decisions on selection of teams will be done and it will be down to seeding (with some built-in scenarios in case a team wins an auto-bid and becomes a “bid thief.”) I’ve noticed over the last few years that my projections were as accurate if not more so on Thursday/Friday compared to any late changes I made on Sunday. So while tournament results matter, there is some case to be made that late results on Saturday or the games on Sunday do not often matter as much as what happens before then.

We’ll be back with our next update as those Wednesday results start to roll in, and update continually after that (but with an eye that there should be fewer changes on the weekend, to mimic the practicalities of the committee needing to set the field).


2020 College Basketball Bracket Prediction: As of Results through March 4th

 

Bracketology March 5

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Remember, we have a fully dedicated Bubble Breakdown where you can see thoughts on who is on the bubble, who has locked up a spot, and who still has a chance. We also have a detailed breakdown of the Bid Thief possibilities as we head into Championship Week.

That, in turn, means we will spend more of our time in this post each week discussing seeding and bracketing decisions.

Who is in Consideration for a No. 1 Seed?

Kansas is the presumptive No. 1 overall seed as we approach conference tournament week, particularly with Baylor losing at TCU. Based on Kansas being projected with better odds to win the Big 12 tournament, they are the current choice. Baylor should still be in strong consideration for the No. 1 line, but another loss at West Virginia and in the Big 12 Tournament could at least put that in doubt.

After that, it’s still Gonzaga, San Diego State, and Dayton as we head into conference tournaments. Gonzaga and San Diego State are playing in their tournaments in the coming week, so we should know by Tuesday night where those two teams stand. Dayton needs to win out and have one of those teams lose, in which case they could move into the No. 1 Seed line.

At this point, it appears like Florida State is the only other team that could get into that No. 1 Seed discussion if they win the ACC Tournament and finish 29-5.

Sparty Begins Their Rebound

Michigan State started the year as the No. 1 team in the preseason. But they often found ways to lose key games. When the Selection Committee had their early reveal almost a month ago, Michigan State was the last team listed among the Top 16. They then promptly went out and lost to rival Michigan that day, and blew a lead at home against Maryland a week later.

Through all that, they were still sitting at No. 5 in our predictive ratings. Over the last few weeks, though, the results have started to match that outlook. The Spartans have won four in a row, including three straight over tournament teams. They won at both Maryland and Penn State, two teams they had to catch for the Big Ten title. And now, they sit tied for the conference lead with one game left (vs. Ohio State at home).

Michigan State is also our projected most likely Big Ten tournament winner (33%). As a result of all that, they have climbed back up in the bracket predictions to where they were a few months ago. Oh well, the dreams that they would be a value pick as a No. 5 Seed in the NCAA Tournament have likely been dashed.

In the latest installment, they are the top No. 3 Seed, but the No. 2 Seed line is not out of the question.

Big East Scramble

The Big East continues to be a jumbled mess at the top. With a chance to win the regular season title outright on Wednesday, Seton Hall lost at home to Villanova. Now, the Pirates have to go to Creighton on Saturday. If Creighton beats Seton Hall, and Villanova wins at Georgetown, you will have a three-way tie for the Big East title.

Right now, those three teams are very close together in our projections, with Creighton at No. 7 overall (2 Seed), Villanova at No. 10, and Seton Hall at No. 11 (both 3 Seeds). But the results of the final weekend and in the Big East Tournament will dictate how things end up. We would project the Big East Tournament winner (if it’s one of those three teams) to end up with the best seed of the group, likely on the No. 2 line, while the other two are likely candidates for the No. 3 line.

Bubble Headaches for Committee with Big Ten?

Most of the Bubble discussion will be in the Bubble Breakdown, but let’s discuss a practical matter that may arise as the Committee is trying to finalize a bracket and decide the last teams in the field. You have to abide by bracketing principles as it relates to conference teams matching up. The current rules allow conference opponents to play in the Second Round if they have played only once, to meet in the Sweet Sixteen if they played twice, and restrict them from playing until the Elite Eight if they met three times in the season (including the conference tournament).

Add in that for any Dayton play-in games, the Committee has to balance where to send the teams (one set of final at-larges for each day), and is mindful of travel. They are more likely to send the winners of the Dayton game to play in Cleveland, St. Louis, or Greensboro than they are to send them to Sacramento or Spokane.

All those considerations make for some potential headaches in rounding out this year’s bracket, as it relates to the Big Ten. With Purdue’s win at Iowa, they are back in our projected field. That means 11 Big Ten teams are currently projected in the field. But a lot of those teams are in the 5/6 Seed area, making things very complicated when trying to slide in a final Big Ten team into an 11 or 12 Seed play-in game.

So I’m not saying that the committee would do this, but if they could find any reason to keep either Rutgers or Purdue out, they might have an easier time with bracketing. Oh, and those two teams meet this weekend in the regular season finale.

Big Games to Watch This Weekend

Here are some of the games to watch over the next few days that will have the biggest impact on seeding:

  • Rutgers at Purdue (play-in game at the bubble? Rutgers has only one road win, and Purdue would be only 16-15 with a loss)
  • Kansas at Texas Tech, Saturday (Texas Tech sneakily is on the bubble, and really needs this one to guarantee a bid)
  • Baylor at West Virginia, Saturday (Baylor playing for No. 1 Seed, West Virginia to bounce back and get a 5 or 6 seed)
  • Seton Hall at Creighton, Saturday (for presumptive top position in Big East)
  • Kentucky at Florida, Saturday (Kentucky playing for potential No. 3 Seed, while Florida could use a big win to guarantee they are in the tournament)
  • Ohio State at Michigan State, Sunday (Michigan State and Ohio State both playing to move up in seeding, and Michigan State to get at least a share of Big Ten title)
  • Wichita State at Memphis, Thursday (Wichita State playing to lock up a slot, Memphis just below the bubble)
  • Richmond at Duquesne, Friday (Richmond needs wins at the bubble, and this one counts as a Quadrant 2 game)
  • Mountain West, Southern, and Missouri Valley Conference Tournaments (to see if East Tennessee State and Northern Iowa get auto-bids, and whether Utah State can make a run, or San Diego State finish with only one loss)

 


2020 College Basketball Bracket Prediction: As of Results through February 26th

Bracketology predictions 2020 NCAA Tournament

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As a preliminary note, up until now we have been discussing bubble teams here. Now, we have a fully dedicated Bubble Breakdown where you can see thoughts on who is on the bubble, who has locked up a spot, and who still has a chance.

That, in turn, means we will spend more of our time in this post each week discussing seeding and bracketing decisions.

Who is in Consideration for a No. 1 Seed?

Kansas and Baylor will battle for the top overall spot in the tournament, and based on Kansas being projected with better odds to win the Big 12 tournament, they are the current choice. Both teams are heavy favorites now to be on the No. 1 line, with Kansas going to the Midwest (Indianapolis) and Baylor to the South (Houston).

After that, the triumvirate of Gonzaga, San Diego State, and Dayton seem to have the best chance of getting to the top line. Right now, Gonzaga and San Diego State are still holding in our projection. Dayton would need to win out and have one of those teams lose again to get into the discussion.

Creighton is a dark horse candidate for a No. 1 Seed if the Gonzaga/San Diego State/Dayton group falters again. They have a sneaky good No. 1 Seed quality resumé right now. Maryland is also lurking but probably needs to win out to move up from the No. 2 line. Seton Hall/Villanova/Florida State/Duke all still have slim hopes as well.

The Effect of Duke’s Two Recent Losses

Duke’s recent two losses have not only made a No. 1 Seed unlikely, but put them in a position where dropping to the No. 3 line is not out of the question. In fact, they are the top No. 3 Seed now and may need to win the ACC tournament title to move past Florida State and some other potential teams to the No. 2 line. These projections take into account conference tournament probabilities. You can see our full conference projections with tournament-winning odds here. Duke is the favorite to win the ACC title, but they probably need to pull that off now to move back in front of Florida State in tournament seeding.

Duke is 10-4 overall in Quadrant 1 & 2 games according to the current team sheets, has four Quad 1 wins, and also has the loss to Stephen F. Austin. In contrast, Florida State is 12-4 against the top two quadrants with no other losses, and five Quad 1 wins.

In fact, here are the Quadrant 1 & 2 records, with number of Quad 1 wins in parentheses, for other teams listed in our projected Top 3 Seed Lines.

  • Kansas: 19-3 (11)
  • Baylor: 15-2 (10)
  • Gonzaga: 8-2 (5)
  • San Diego State: 9-0 (4)
  • Dayton: 10-2 (4)
  • Creighton: 14-6 (9)
  • Maryland: 13-5 (7)
  • Florida State: 12-4 (5)
  • Seton Hall: 15-7 (10)
  • Villanova: 15-6 (8)
  • Kentucky: 11-4 (6)

You could make an argument that Duke is currently 12th out of 12 from that group. They are tied with San Diego State and Dayton for fewest Quadrant 1 wins, and are just ahead of San Diego State in Quad 1 & 2 wins, but have as many losses as Gonzaga, San Diego State, and Dayton combined.

BYU Jumps Into the Big Boy Mix

BYU made a big jump with their win over Gonzaga, and now has legitimate aspirations for the 5/6 line. If they beat Gonzaga again in the West Coast final, they could move up even more. That puts them in the same range as a whole host of teams from the Big Ten, Big East, and Pac-12 in the No. 4 Seed to No. 7 Seed range.

The current resumés of a lot of the teams in this mix are near indistinguishable in terms of percentage of wins in quality top tier games. Thus, a lot will be decided over the next three weeks. But don’t be surprised if BYU finds themselves in a good spot. BYU is 8-5 in games played without their top post player, Yoeli Childs, this year. They are 16-2 when he plays, with the losses coming in OT and by 1 point on the road. As they showed against Gonzaga, when at full strength, they can match up with the best teams in the country.

The Arizona and West Virginia Conundrums

What to do with teams like Arizona and West Virginia? Both teams rate very highly in power ratings, where Arizona is 6th and West Virginia is 13th in our predictive ratings. West Virginia has been slumping lately, though, and has lost six straight road games in Big 12 play, and is 0-3 against Kansas and Baylor. Arizona does just enough to lose key games. They are 0-2 against Oregon, with both losses in OT, in games the Wildcats had the lead late. Add in a one-point loss to Arizona State where they had the lead, and closes losses to Gonzaga and Baylor, and Arizona has shown they can play with tournament teams. And that they can also find new and exciting ways to lose.

Based on their predictive ratings, these teams should be capable of runs. But right now, the resumés are closer to 7/8 Seed quality, and at some point soon, they will need to add some key wins to change that.


2020 College Basketball Bracket Prediction: As of Results through February 19th

 

Bracketology February 2020

 

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Here are some observations and notes about some of the bracketing decisions, based on results through Wednesday, February 19th.

  • Creighton has made a big move in recent weeks, from what looked like a mid-seed in the 5/6 range, to now getting the last spot on the 2-seed line. The Blue Jays have won eight of nine games, and that includes road wins at Villanova, Seton Hall, and Marquette, the three other top teams in the conference.
  • NC State made the biggest move at the bubble with their big win over Duke on Wednesday. Fair or not, wins over top tier teams make a huge difference at the bubble. According to our bracketology projections, their odds went from 16% (out of the field) to 60% (and in, above plenty of other teams) with that win, and that seems about right given the importance of elite wins to the committee.
  • With Duke’s loss and San Diego State remaining undefeated, the Aztecs are now our fourth projected No. 1 Seed, while Duke falls to the No. 2 line. As a practical matter, if you are San Diego State, it might not be the worst thing for the Aztecs to be the No. 2 Seed in the West (in Los Angeles) rather than the No. 1 Seed in the East, with games in New York City on the second weekend.
  • East Tennessee State (24-4) continues to make a strong case for an at-large even if they don’t win the Southern Conference tourney. They could challenge to move up the seed lines over the next two weeks. We have them at a No. 10 here. They have a 4-3 overall record against Quadrant I and II, including a win at LSU. It’s a big week for ETSU as they have two road games over the next seven days.

Biggest Weekly Movers in our College Basketball Bracket Predictions

Here the biggest positive and negative changes over the last seven days in tournament odds

TeamCurrent OddsChange TeamCurrent OddsChange
Providence87%+47%Minnesota19%-40%
Arizona State88%+28%Purdue50%-28%
NC State60%+25%Tennessee29%-25%
Indiana69%+23%Arkansas27%-25%
Mississippi State57%+16%VCU16%-16%

And here are the biggest positive and negative changes in average projected seeding over the same time frame. In this case, remember that negative is good (as the average seed is going down) and positive is bad. These are limited to teams with at least a 10% chance of reaching the tournament.

TeamAvg. SeedChange TeamAvg. SeedChange
Michigan8.6-1.2Stanford10.9+2.0
Creighton3.4-1.1Memphis9.3+1.9
Villanova3.8-1.0VCU10.9+1.7
Providence8.8-1.0Butler6.7+1.5
Arizona State8.0-1.0LSU6.9+1.2

At the Big Ten Bubble, Indiana had a good week, while Purdue and Minnesota did not. The Boilermakers are 14-13 and the Golden Gophers are 12-13, and both teams will need better results in the next two weeks to be in the discussion. The aforementioned NC State got their big win to move into the field. Meanwhile, Arkansas has lost five in a row to fall out of the field by a deeper margin. VCU missed out on their opportunity for a key win against Dayton at home and probably needs to now secure the auto bid out of the A-10.

Bubble Watch: Bracket Predictions for the Final At-Large Teams

To see where your team stands, check our Bracketology page for up-to-date predictions, as these numbers could shift based on each incoming result.

Each week, this section presents a rundown of some of the teams closest to the bubble this week, in particular teams just on either side of the cutline in the most recent Bracket Matrix.

This week, we are going to directly compare the teams in the above bracket to those in two other projections:

Differences between this bracket and our automated predictions

There are four differences at the bubble between the bracket posted here and the automated predictions.

In Here/Out in Automated:

  • Wichita State
  • Saint Mary’s
  • Richmond
  • USC

Out Here/In in Automated

  • Purdue
  • Georgetown
  • Alabama
  • Mississippi State

I’ll start off by saying that the four teams put into the field here also happen to be the four highest teams by at-large odds that were left out of the field in our automated projections. And all four that I moved out are just on the other side of the cutline. All were seeded between a No. 10 seed and being just out by both. So there isn’t really that much disagreement here. All of these teams should be thought of as truly right on the bubble.

I’m putting Purdue and Georgetown just out because their projected overall records against Quadrants I and II are multiple games under .500. Both have some big wins, but have been inconsistent. Georgetown is 5-8 in conference and closes with three road games and a home game against Villanova. Purdue needs to win more than half its remaining games to finish above 16-15 going into the Big Ten tourney.

Alabama and Mississippi State, meanwhile, have similar resumés. Neither has enough big wins in Quadrant I to push them over the hump yet. Alabama’s loss at home to Texas A&M could also prove costly.

As for Richmond, Saint Mary’s, and Wichita State, they are not safe by any means. But all project to finish inside the Top 45 in the NET. Each of them has an overall winning record against Quadrants I and II combined. They are flawed resumés vulnerable to some of the power conference bubble teams getting the right upsets, but I project them slightly ahead right now. USC, on the other hand, is kind of like Alabama and Mississippi State. They don’t have great wins. They do have lots of good wins (projected 10-8 against top two Quads). USC also still gets Arizona and Arizona State at home, and go to Colorado. So they can play themselves in or out.

Differences between this bracket and the Bracket Matrix consensus

There are only two differences between this bracket and the Bracket Matrix consensus. A month ago, we had more differences, but the DePaul’s and Tulsa’s and other teams that were in the Bracket Matrix based on at-the-time accomplishment have fallen out. In short, the Matrix is looking more like some of our past predictions.

In Here/Out of the Matrix:

  • NC State
  • Richmond

Out Here/In the Matrix

  • Utah State
  • Georgetown

We’ve already discussed Georgetown. NC State is in only a handful of entries in the Matrix right now, but this is mostly a function of it taking a few days for the consensus on the Matrix to catch up. I suspect NC State will be moving into a lot of brackets over the next week as the Duke result is processed.

That leaves Richmond and Utah State.

The reason I think Utah State will be just out for an at-large compared to teams like Saint Mary’s and, in particular, Richmond has to do with what their path to an at-large looks like. A victory over San Diego State would give Utah State an at-large caliber win. But it can only happen in the Mountain West final, which would earn them an auto bid and make this bubble talk moot. Utah State lost both regular season games to the Aztecs. They beat Florida and LSU (both neutral court), and lost to St. Mary’s and BYU. That direct loss to St. Mary’s could matter since their profiles otherwise look similar. And since I don’t think they get in unless they beat San Diego State, I am currently projecting them just out of the field.

Richmond has a neutral win over Wisconsin, and a road win at Rhode Island. They lost the only matchup to Dayton, and just avenged an earlier loss to VCU. On balance, I think the committee will view Richmond’s two best wins as slightly better than Utah State. Richmond also has a better path to adding another result, such as a win in the A-10 semi against Rhode Island. They don’t have to beat Dayton in the final, in contrast to Utah State’s likely path.


2020 College Basketball Bracket Prediction: As of Results through February 12th

 

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Here are some observations and notes about some of the bracketing decisions, based on results through Wednesday, February 12th.

There are really about four tiers of teams when looking through the bracketing decisions, for the at-large pool:

  • The first tier consists of five teams for the four No. 1 seed spots. As noted in the Bracket Reveal analysis, we currently project Duke as a No. 1 seed, though the Committee has them and San Diego State swapped. It’s really close right now, and if San Diego State finishes undefeated, they will get that spot. If the Aztecs win at Boise State this week, the odds swing in their favor to get the final No. 1 slot.
  • The next tier has the other teams mostly on the No. 2 and 3 seed lines. These teams would have to make major runs and likely not lose another game to get in the top seed mix, but would also have to slump to fall out of this group.
  • Next comes a large cluster of teams appearing at seeds 4 to 7. There were a lot of tough calls here, and you could still see plenty of movement in this group. How the Pac-12 (Oregon, Colorado, and Arizona), Big East (lots of teams) and Big Ten (lots of teams) shake out will determine the ultimate pecking order. One or two key results could move teams a seed line or two right now.
  • After that is the big mix of teams from the No. 8 seed line to the end of the at-larges, and beyond to the other side of the Bubble. These teams are very much in the mix but also at risk of missing the tournament, and week-to-week results could alter the outlook. In our look at parity in college basketball, we noted that the bubble looked strong in terms of team quality this year. In terms of resumé and how the committee usually decides such things, though, most of these teams need to add a big win or two over a top team down the stretch to feel safe.

Biggest Weekly Movers in our College Basketball Bracket Predictions

Here the biggest positive and negative changes over the last seven days in tournament odds

TeamCurrent OddsChange TeamCurrent OddsChange
Michigan94%+29%Mississippi State41%-32%
Oklahoma97%+25%Arkansas51%-24%
NC State35%+17%VCU32%-23%
Cincinnati84%+14%Wichita State45%-21%
Tennessee54%+14%Providence40%-21%

And here are the biggest positive and negative changes in average projected seeding over the same time frame. In this case, remember that negative is good (as the average seed is going down) and positive is bad. These are limited to teams with at least a 10% chance of reaching the tournament.

TeamAvg. SeedChange TeamAvg. SeedChange
Creighton4.6-1.6Arizona4.6+1.2
Penn State5.3-1.3West Virginia4.3+1.2
Oklahoma9.7-1.1Yale11.3+1.2
Michigan9.8-1.1Stanford8.9+1.1
Texas Tech8.0-1.1

Creighton got a big road win at Seton Hall that boosted them up the seed list. Penn State continued their winning streak (now seven games) by beating Minnesota and winning at Purdue and have realistic visions of a protected seed. Meanwhile, it was a bad week for the SEC Bubble. Arkansas lost three straight to move onto the bubble, and Mississippi State suffered a bad 25-point loss against Ole Miss.

Bubble Watch: Bracket Predictions for the Final At-Large Teams

To see where your team stands, check our Bracketology page for up-to-date predictions, as these numbers could shift based on each incoming result.

Here’s a rundown of some of the teams closest to the bubble this week, in particular teams just on either side of the cutline in the most recent Bracket Matrix.

Cincinnati/Wichita State

Cincinnati is still on the outside of the bubble in the Bracket Matrix, while we have projected them in the field for several weeks in a row. Meanwhile, Wichita State is holding on as a 10-seed in the Bracket Matrix. This is your reminder that Cincinnati won at Wichita State last week, and sits tied for second in the American. Wichita State fell to 5-5 in conference, and has lost three straight. That includes important losses to Cincinnati and Houston.

We feel pretty good about this projection. Wichita State is currently just on the outside of the automated bracketology. They are just barely in the field in our projections here. But either way, this has not been a great run for them and they are very much in bubble trouble. The Bearcats are in much better shape, and still get the Shockers at home in their remaining head-to-head matchup.

VCU

VCU is currently in the field on the Bracket Matrix, and would be slotted for a play-in game in Dayton. But we have them out. They have already lost twice to Rhode Island, and lost the first game to Dayton. They also went 1-3 in the non-conference against LSU, Tennessee, Wichita State, and Purdue. VCU will almost certainly need to beat Dayton next week to keep at-large hopes alive.

Indiana

The Hoosiers are still somewhat comfortably in the Bracket Matrix field. They are in almost 75% of entries, and just above the cutline to go to Dayton for the play-in games. They are also in the last four at-larges in the automated bracketology predictions, holding on at a 46% chance. I’ve moved them out of the current projections for a few reasons, though. First, I think as a practical matter, the Big Ten is going to have a hard time getting more than 10 teams. Indiana has now lost four in a row. If they hit their projected record, they will be 8-12 in the Big Ten, and likely fall outside the Top 60 in the NET. I think those factors will give the committee enough reason not to strain to work another Big Ten team in at the bubble.


2020 College Basketball Bracket Prediction: As of Results through February 5th

 

Bracket for 2020 NCAA Tournament Predictions February 6

[click image to enlarge]

Here are some observations and notes about some of the bracketing decisions, based on results through Wednesday, February 5th:

  • The top seed line continues to have five strong candidates, and San Diego State’s case becomes stronger the longer they remain undefeated. It’s hard to imagine them not getting the No. 1 seed if they can finish the year without a loss, though right now they are slotted as the top No. 2 seed.
  • There was plenty of movement in the 3-6 seed positions in the bracket this week, and that may be an indicator of what it will be like the rest of the season. Michigan State dropped with two losses, Auburn moved up with two big wins, and the top of the Big East looks like it could swing back and forth for the rest of the season.
  • A handful of teams made big moves near the bubble or to jump in the field. Xavier (road wins over Seton Hall and DePaul) and Providence (wins over Butler and Creighton) are two teams from the Big East that improved their fortunes.
  • We slot Northern Iowa and East Tennessee State into the 12-seed line for now, but do not be surprised to see these teams finishing higher. They are the two most likely at-large candidates from mid-majors. Both have a decent case if they do not win the conference tourney auto bids.

Biggest Weekly Movers in our College Basketball Bracket Predictions

Here the biggest positive and negative changes over the last seven days in tournament odds

TeamCurrent OddsChange TeamCurrent OddsChange
Providence61%+43%USC40%-25%
Xavier75%+34%North Carolina14%-25%
Purdue73%+20%Rutgers60%-17%
Arizona State48%+19%Washington10%-15%
Penn State93%+17%Alabama74%-15%

And here are the biggest positive and negative changes in average projected seeding over the same time frame. In this case, remember that negative is good (as the average seed is going down) and positive is bad. These are limited to teams with at least a 10% chance of reaching the tournament.

TeamAvg. SeedChange TeamAvg. SeedChange
Auburn3.3-1.5Michigan State5.9+1.7
Penn State6.6-1.3Villanova4.7+1.2
Providence9.1-1.2Alabama9.8+1.2
Creighton6.2-1.1Georgia State12.9+1.0
Xavier9.8-1.0UNC-Greensboro10.7+0.9

Our computer projections are even lower on Stanford than the above bracket, but either way, it was a bad week for Cardinal, losing at Cal and then at home to Oregon State. Memphis is also continuing to go the wrong direction. Florida missed two opportunities at home against tournament-type teams, losing to Baylor and Mississippi State. Meanwhile, Virginia got a much-needed win over Florida State, and Villanova won twice on the road in the Big East in the last week.

Bubble Watch: Bracket Predictions for the Final At-Large Teams

To see where your team stands, check our Bracketology page for up-to-date predictions, as these numbers could shift based on each incoming result.

Here’s a rundown of some of the teams closest to the bubble this week, in particular teams just on either side of the cutline in the most recent Bracket Matrix.

But first, a look at some of our recent bubble discussions from the last two weeks:

Last week, we noted that the Bracket Matrix had both NC State and Virginia Tech in the field. Virginia was out, which was the complete opposite of our position. In one week, consensus moved toward us quickly. NC State and Virginia Tech have now virtually dropped out of the field across all brackets, while Virginia is now in the field in 80% of brackets. Last week, we also noted that Memphis was in and Cincinnati out in most brackets, while we had the opposite. So far, that one remains unchanged. Cincinnati’s home win over Houston did not give them a boost for whatever reason in many brackets. Cincinnati is ranked higher predictively and is projected to finish with the better record in the American Conference (and we give them the second-best chance to win the conference regular season and tournament).

Two weeks ago, we mentioned DePaul as a team that was in most brackets, but not ours. They’ve continued to lose and have now dropped out of the Bracket Matrix. We also mentioned Alabama as the opposite case. So far, that has not gone as well. Alabama has lost three in a row. We are still projecting them right at the bubble cut line, but they are generally out of the Bracket Matrix still.

Now, to this week:

USC/Stanford

USC and Stanford are both solidly in the tournament per the Bracket Matrix results. Both are on the No. 9 seed line, with at least 95% of brackets having them in. Both are out according to our computer simulation projections right now. I narrowly put Stanford in the last four after locking in the home win over Oregon, while USC did fall out. USC lost a key home game to Colorado. That was a blown opportunity for a Quad 1 win, and now they have just three left: at Arizona, at Colorado, and Arizona at home. We project the Trojans to lose more than half their remaining games.

Stanford, meanwhile, is a NET favorite (which is why I’ve adjusted them in the field) but the Oregon game was their first Quad 1 victory of the year. They are in better shape with home games against Arizona and Colorado looming, but they are not in the safest position either.

Xavier

Xavier is just on the outside of the Bracket Matrix (first team out, with 45 votes of 99). We moved them in after a big week that included a road win at Seton Hall. They had slumped with five losses in six games, but turned things around. They will get plenty of more Quad 1 opportunities in a conference with lots of good teams.


2020 College Basketball Bracket Prediction: As of Results through January 30th

Bracket Predictions 2020 NCAA Tournament

[click image to enlarge]

Here are some observations and notes about some of the bracketing decisions, based on results through Thursday, January 30th:

  • Our top seed line remains the same, and right now it looks like there are five primary contenders for a No. 1 seed. We’ve got Kansas, Duke, Baylor, and Gonzaga in our projection, and San Diego State would certainly be a strong candidate if they complete an undefeated regular season, and in the mix at 31-1 with a Mountain West title. Other teams could get in that conversation with a great closing month.
  • Some of the closest calls were deciding the last No. 2 seed (Michigan State as projected Big Ten champ over Louisville and Oregon), which team got bumped down to the No. 4 line (Florida State, versus Seton Hall or Villanova), and the group of teams on the 4/5 line and the top of the No. 6 seed line.
  • Just as with last week, the biggest seeding difference between this bracket and our automated version is the placement of Big Ten teams.
  • We will likely delve into this in more detail in a full post, but the bubble can shrink due to some current projected auto-bids falling to the at-large pool. So teams currently projected in the Dayton play-in games can realistically be thought of as at risk.

Biggest Weekly Movers in our College Basketball Bracket Predictions

Here the biggest positive and negative changes over the last seven days in tournament odds

TeamCurrent OddsChange Team Current OddsChange
Virginia60%+29%NC State 24%-36%
North Carolina40%+25%Tennessee40%-21%
Illinois86%+22%Stanford11%-20%
USC68%+22%Memphis42%-20%
Arizona State34%+16%Richmond18%-19%

And here are the biggest positive and negative changes in average projected seeding over the same time frame. In this case, remember that negative is good (as the average seed is going down) and positive is bad. These are limited to teams with at least a 10% chance of reaching the tournament.

TeamAvg. SeedChange TeamAvg. SeedChange
Villanova3.6-1.4Florida8.4+1.8
Kent State11.4-1.3E. Tenn State8.7+1.6
Butler4.6-1.1Richmond9.2+1.5
LSU4.7-1.1Stanford8.5+1.1
Maryland4.8-0.9BYU8.6+1.0

Our computer projections are even lower on Stanford than the above bracket, but either way, it was a bad week for Cardinal, losing at Cal and then at home to Oregon State. Memphis is also continuing to go the wrong direction. Florida missed two opportunities at home against tournament-type teams, losing to Baylor and Mississippi State. Meanwhile, Virginia got a much-needed win over Florida State, and Villanova won twice on the road in the Big East in the last week.

Bubble Watch: Bracket Predictions for the Final At-Large Teams

The bubble is still fairly large at this point. Our predictions give only 28 teams a greater than 85% chance of making the field.

That still leaves 20 teams that have between a 45% and 85% chance of making the field (and at least a 10% of doing so specifically as an at-large).  Eighteen of those 20 are currently projected into the field as either at-larges or auto bids. An additional 13 teams have less than a 45% chance of making it, but are given at least a 10% chance of earning an at-large. To see where your team stands, check our Bracketology page for up-to-date predictions, as these numbers could shift based on each incoming result.

Here’s a rundown of some of the teams closest to the bubble this week, in particular teams just on either side of the cutline in the most recent Bracket Matrix.

NC State/Virginia/Virginia Tech

These ACC teams are likely to be in the middle of the bubble talk for the next month and a half. Interestingly, even after the results of this week, the Bracket Matrix has NC State and Virginia Tech just in (last four), and Virginia in the first four out. Virginia beat Florida State this week, and our projections now give them a 60% chance of making it. In comparison, NC State lost twice, at Georgia Tech and at home to North Carolina. Virginia Tech also took two potentially costly losses in the last seven days, at Boston College and at Miami. Add in that Virginia Tech only gets Louisville and Duke on the road, and their outlook took a big hit.

So we are opposite the consensus here, with Virginia the most likely team now to make the field of these three.

Cincinnati/Memphis

Memphis is still in the projected field for 70% of the Bracket Matrix, while Cincinnati is rarely in (8% of the time). But this is a case of predictive measures and where we think the teams are more likely to be on Selection Sunday. These two teams are going in opposite directions.

Right now, Cincinnati does not have a “signature” win which is why Brackets that look only at current resume are largely ignoring them. Memphis, meanwhile, have the slightly better resumé, but are trending the other way without star freshman James Wiseman, who was initially declared ineligible and then opted not to return. After a 12-1 start, they have lost 4 of the last 7, and have dropped out of the top 50 in predictive ratings.

Cincinnati still has two games left against both Wichita State and Houston, and a home game against Memphis, to add to their results. We are currently projecting them to finish 2nd in the American, and for Memphis to finish up in 5th. That’s why Cincinnati is in our field and Memphis is not.

 


2020 College Basketball Bracket Prediction: As of Results by January 22nd

2020 Bracketology Predictions, January 22nd[click image to enlarge]

Here are some observations and notes about some of the bracketing decisions, based on results through Wednesday, January 22nd:

  • Kansas, Duke, Baylor, and Gonzaga currently top our list as the most likely No. 1 seed choices on Selection Sunday.
  • The top of the bracket has a pretty clear cut group of 14 teams that look targeted for the top 4 seed lines based on current performance and future schedule.
  • The most common substantive changes, compared to our automated bracketology predictions, is that the Big Ten teams are generally seeded better here. The Big Ten expanded to 20 conference games last season. This year, the conference is deep and loaded with potential tournament teams. The seeds should reflect that difficult schedule and the number of quality teams.
  • BYU’s “no games on Sunday” policy could lead to some big shifts in the bracket. The West and Midwest are this year’s Thursday/Saturday Regionals. WCC rival Gonzaga is the most likely West No. 1 seed. The other most likely West top seed, San Diego State, is a natural fit for the Sacramento site, which plays on Sunday. Kansas is the most likely Midwest No. 1 seed and would almost certainly get assigned to Omaha, another Friday/Sunday site.
  • This bracket differs on the identity of a few teams on each side of the bubble. Virginia Tech and  Stanford are two teams that our models are lower on than the consensus, and we move toward the consensus in those two cases here. Oklahoma and Mississippi State have good overall computer numbers, but they are moved out because of their poor projected Quadrant 1 records. Richmond and Rhode Island are swapped right on the cutline; Richmond won at Rhode Island recently and they otherwise are close.

Biggest Weekly Movers in our College Basketball Bracket Predictions

Here the biggest positive and negative changes over the last seven days in tournament odds

TeamCurrent OddsChange TeamCurrent OddsChange
Alabama86%+27%Purdue43%-27%
NC State 61%+25%Oklahoma State10%-22%
Rutgers72%+23%Xavier37%-20%
VCU61%+18%Oregon State5%-15%
Marquette96%+16%Cincinnati43%-14%

And here are the biggest positive and negative changes in average projected seeding over the same time frame. In this case, remember that negative is good (as the average seed is going down) and positive is bad.

TeamAvg SeedChange TeamAvg SeedChange
Seton Hall3.0-1.3Butler5.9+2.6
Marquette7.7-1.2Auburn4.6+1.7
Louisville2.8-1.2Akron9.6+1.2
Alabama8.1-1.1Purdue10.6+1.1
Houston5.8-0.9Wichita State5.8+1.1

As you can see by these results, big wins matter. Houston won at Wichita State, Alabama had a great week that included a win over Auburn. Purdue lost at home to Illinois and at Maryland.

Bubble Watch: Bracket Predictions for the Final At-Large Teams

The bubble is still fairly large at this point. Our predictions give only 30 teams a greater than 85% chance of making the field.

That still leaves 20 teams that have between a 45% and 85% chance of making the field (and at least a 10% of doing so specifically as an at-large).  Eighteen of those 20 are currently projected into the field as well as either at-larges or auto bids. An additional 17 teams have less than a 45% chance of making it, but are given at least a 10% chance of earning an at-large. To see where your team stands, check our Bracketology page for up-to-date predictions, as these numbers could shift based on each incoming result.

Here’s a rundown of some of the teams closest to the bubble this week, in particular teams just on either side of the cutline in the most recent Bracket Matrix.

Minnesota/Purdue

Minnesota and Purdue are typically projected just into the field right now (though the impact of Purdue’s home loss to Illinois may not be fully reflected in all bracket predictions). But these are the 11th and 12th teams from the Big Ten. The Big Ten, as strong as it may be, is probably not getting 12 teams in the tournament. They will cannibalize each other over the next six weeks. Right now, we project Purdue to finish 16-15 and Minnesota to finish 16-14. History shows it would be hard to make the field with those records.

DePaul

Here’s one that shows the divide between Bracketology methods that focus on current results, and those that incorporate future predictions. Based on current results, DePaul would be in. They have wins over Iowa, Minnesota, Texas Tech, and Butler. But there is no tournament taking place right now. DePaul is only 84th in our predictive ratings, and dropped to 1-5 in the Big East with a loss at home to Creighton on Wednesday. We project them to finish with 5.0 wins in the Big East, tied for last. If that projection is close, they aren’t getting in the field.

Alabama

Alabama is the opposite case. Less than 25% of bracket predictions on the Bracket Matrix have them in the field at 11-7, but we project them solidly in the field. The Crimson Tide started 4-5, but are playing much better with their current lineup. They have won 7 of the last 9, including wins over Auburn and Mississippi State. We project them to finish 11-7 in the SEC and 19-12 overall. If they hit that median expectation, that would be good enough for an at-large berth.