Every year around Martin Luther King Day, I officially transition from college football fanaticism to college basketball fanaticism, and I begin working on my annual NCAA and NIT tournament bracket projections. This year is no different, despite the bracketing issues that have occurred as a result of the Covid-impacted schedules. Every season it is difficult to compare teams in different leagues who play different schedules, but for the past two seasons I have had to deal with the extra variable of teams playing a drastically different number of games due to covid-19. Nevertheless, the bracketing must go on and I am up to the challenge in publishing an accurate bracket projection on a bi-weekly basis. Thus, for the 13th consecutive season, this column will become the staple of my blog from now until Selection Sunday. Brad-ketology is a little different than other NCAA bracket projections in that it is much more expansive, as it also includes the NIT field and NIT bubble. Furthermore, it is one of the columns used in the nationally-recognized bracket project which seeds NCAA teams by taking an average of the most prominent bracket projections in the country.
The teams below are displayed below on an S-curve, so they are ranked from left to right within each seeding line. The italicized teams are ones predicted to win their conference tourney and gain an automatic bid to the dance. For the conferences who currently have NCAA tourney teams, it is assumed that one of those teams will win their conference tourney. If not, then a stolen bid would result, and the number of at-large bids would drop. You may also notice that some teams are listed in both the NCAA and NIT fields. These are teams predicted to be automatic qualifiers to the NCAA tournament that would also earn at-large bids to the NIT tournament but not the NCAA tourney. There are several reasons reason these teams are displayed like this.. First and foremost, it shows how close those teams are to getting at-large bids in the NCAA tournament field. Secondly, it shows where those squads would be seeded if in fact they lost in their conference tournament and garnered an automatic bid to the NIT. Finally, there will inevitably be 6-8 regular season mid-major conference champions that lose their conference tourney and earn an NIT automatic bid, so by going ahead and adding 6-8 teams that may later get removed, we end up with an NIT cut line that is more representative of what it will actually look like on Selection Sunday.
Moreover, just to clarify, my bracket projection is intended to project the NCAA Tournament field if it was chosen today. Unlike some bracketologists, I am not trying to predict how each team will finish the season and then seed the teams based on that. There is one slight exception to this rule, however, and that is that I have always chosen to award the projected automatic bid for each conference to the best team in that conference, and not the team who is currently leading the conference standings. Given how unbalanced conference schedules are, it just seems like common sense to project that the best team in a conference will win the league championship, not the squad currently in first place. For example, you will see that Miami is currently outside of my NCAA tourney field because even though they are leading the ACC, several other teams in the league are seeded higher (UNC, Duke, and Wake), and the Canes currently don’t have the computer numbers to merit an at-large bid (NET in the 80’s).
This bracket projection has been updated through all games played on Tuesday March 18th. Brad-ketology columns will typically be published twice a week (typically on Mondays and Fridays) and likely more often than that when it gets closer to tourney time. Please feel free to comment or debate.
NCAA Tourney Field:
1-seeds: Auburn, Baylor, Purdue, Gonzaga
2-seeds: Villanova, Arizona, Kansas, LSU
3-seeds: Wisconsin, Houston, Duke, Xavier
4-seeds: Illinois, UCLA, Michigan State, Kentucky
5-seeds: Texas Tech, UConn, Ohio State, Tennessee,
6-seeds: Iowa State, Alabama, Providence, Southern California
7-seeds: Seton Hall, Texas, Iowa, West Virginia
8-seeds: Loyola-Chicago, Oklahoma, Brigham Young, Indiana
9-seeds: Colorado State, San Francisco, Marquette, Davidson
10-seeds: North Carolina, Mississippi State, Murray State, Creighton
11-seeds: Wyoming, Florida, San Diego State, Wake Forest
12-seeds: Belmont, Oregon, Saint Mary’s, Arkansas, UAB, Iona
13-seeds: Chattanooga, New Mexico State, Oakland, Vermont
14-seeds: Wagner, Ohio, South Dakota State, Navy
15-seeds: Princeton, Liberty, Weber State, Cal State Fullerton
16-seeds: Norfolk State, Troy, Winthrop, UNC Wilmington, SE Louisiana, Alcorn State
NIT Tourney Field:
1-seeds: Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, UAB, Miami-FL
2-seeds: Minnesota, Memphis, Florida State, Iona
3-seeds: Michigan, Boise State, Texas A & M, Chattanooga
4-seeds: TCU, North Texas, Kansas State, Fresno State
5-seeds: New Mexico State, Vanderbilt, Grand Canyon, Stanford
6-seeds: Oakland, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Saint Louis
7-seeds: Washington State, Dayton, Penn State, Utah State
8-seeds: Virginia, St. Bonaventure, SMU, Clemson
First Four out of NIT: Colorado, Vermont, VCU, UCF