Bracketology: UNC drops NCAA Tournament screening of SI

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Our second Projected Men’s NCAA Tournament Chart of the season is here! We have a big week ahead of us, with several top-20 matchups ahead of Saturday’s always-entertaining Big 12/SEC Challenge, headlined by Kansas hosting Kentucky. What does the pitch look like as we end January?

on the bubble

Last four byes:

San Francisco
West Virginia
Miami
Oregon

The last four entrants:

Oklahoma
Florida
Wyoming
Arkansas

First four out:

Creighton
North Carolina
Mississippi State
Michigan

Next four outings:

Cincinnati
Texas A&M
VCUs
Belmont

As expected, we had some movement on the bubble this week. The most notable move? North Carolina fell off the field after a pair of blistering losses last week to Miami and Wake Forest. The Tar Heels are currently winless in Quadrant I and sit 46th in the NET. They don’t have a single win against our projected field of 68. UNC has plenty of time to fix their resume and go dancing, but right now things aren’t looking great in Chapel Hill.

Tar Heels sophomore Caleb Love

The rubber is about to meet the road for Wyoming, which is probably the most surprising team based on preseason projections to be in the general mix. The Cowboys are 31st in the NET and have a winning record in Quad 1 + Quad 2 games, which is enough for me to have them on the field as of today. A grueling five-game streak could decide their fate, starting Tuesday at Boise State. They will also host Colorado State, Utah State and the Broncos in their next five games. Walk away with a winning record in those games, and the Cowboys could be heading to March.

* = team should win their conference’s automatic auction

West Region

#1 Gonzaga* vs. #16 New Orleans*/UNC-Wilmington*
No. 8 Loyola Chicago* vs. No. 9 Davidson*
No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 12 Iona*
No. 4 Providence* vs. No. 13 Toledo*
No. 6 Illinois vs. No. 11 Boise State*
No. 3 Villanova vs. No. 14 Arkansas State*
No. 7. Texas vs. No. 10 Miami
No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 15 Cleveland State*

There is a 15 point difference in the NET and a 19 point difference in KenPom between Villanova and Wisconsin. So why are the Badgers on the No. 2 line while Villanova falls on the No. 3 line? Wisconsin’s 5-2 record against Q1 (including two road/neutral wins over NET top 10 teams) means I’m keeping the Badgers on the No. 2 line despite their lackluster metrics. The bottom line is this: If these predictive metrics are correct, Wisconsin will lose more games in stride and drop to the top-seeded list once they do. If they’re wrong and Wisconsin continues to win, the Badgers will climb in the predictive metrics. For now, I rely heavily on the resume.

Another team in a special position in terms of resume versus metrics is Texas, which is No. 17 in both the NET and KenPom, but a No. 7 seed in our bracket. Texas is only 5-5 games against Q1 and Q2 and only has one win in Q1. The Longhorns have the opportunity to strengthen that record every night in Big 12 play, so don’t be surprised if things turn around. But right now it’s very difficult to give the Longhorns anything better than a number 7.

South Region

#1 Auburn* vs. #16 Southern*/Colgate*
Colorado State #8 vs. Wake Forest #9
No. 5 Alabama vs. No. 12 UAB*
UCLA No. 4 vs. Chattanooga No. 13 *
No. 6 UConn vs. No. 11 Oklahoma/Florida
#3 Duke vs. #14 Wagner*
No. 7 USC vs. No. 10 San Francisco
No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 15 Weber State*

Auburn’s win over Kentucky didn’t move the Tigers over Gonzaga on the seeded list, but the victory helps solidify the Tigers’ hold on No. 2 overall ahead of Baylor. However, it should be noted that Auburn has just two games left on its regular season slate against KenPom’s top 30 teams. Baylor has six. It could go one of two ways: Auburn could rack up wins and distance themselves from Baylor while the Bears experiment with Big 12 play, or Baylor could get hot and catch up to Auburn even if the Tigers keep a clean resume. Remember that whichever of the two tops the seed list can play their Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matches in San Antonio, rather than Chicago or Philadelphia.

UCLA has just two wins in Q1, and the weak Pac-12 (just five teams in the NET’s top 75) will give the Bruins fewer opportunities to increase that number than their counterparts in other conferences. That raises the stakes even further for UCLA’s Tuesday night showdown with Arizona, which sits at No. 1 on the NET. Over the next 10 days, the Bruins will face the Wildcats twice. If UCLA wants a protected (i.e., top-four) seed in March, it needs a split.

Midwest region

No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 16 Norfolk State*
Indiana No. 8 vs. Saint Mary’s No. 9
No. 5 Xavier vs. No. 12 Wyoming/Arkansas
No. 4 Texas Tech vs. No. 13 South Dakota State*
Marquette No. 6 vs. Murray State No. 11 *
No. 3 LSU vs. No. 14 Princeton*
No. 7 BYU vs. No. 10 West Virginia
No. 2 Houston* vs. No. 15 Cal State Fullerton*

Indiana had a bumpy week, beating Purdue for the first time since 2016 and handing Mike Woodson a first victory before being crushed at home by Michigan. As a result, the Hoosiers are not moving from the No. 8 line where they were in last week’s predictions. The lack of a meaningful win in the non-conference won’t help IU, but if he ends up with a Big Ten winning record, he should finish a few rows higher than he is. is actually.

In the “fun hypothetical games” department, this 6-on-11 game between Marquette and Murray State – in what would be a rematch of when Ja Morant led the Racers to an upset 12-5 victory in 2019 – is right there- high . Marquette has played great basketball under Shaka Smart and the Golden Eagles’ 5-4 record against Q1 gives them a chance to climb even higher on the seeded list as we move forward into February, while Murray State has a real chance of winning if he can keep racking up wins in the OVC.

Eastern Region

No. 1 Arizona* vs. No. 16 Longwood*
No. 8 Iowa vs. No. 9 TCU
No. 5 Iowa State vs. No. 12 Florida State*
No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 13 Vermont *
No. 6 Tennessee vs. No. 11 Oregon
#3* Michigan State vs. #14* Liberty
No. 7 Seton Hall vs. No. 10 San Diego State
No. 2 Kansas* vs. No. 15 Seattle*

Arizona remains our fourth No. 1 seed despite climbing to the top spot in the NET since our last screening. One notable stat: In six Pac-12 games leading up to Tuesday’s game against UCLA, the Wildcats haven’t faced a top-75 team. It’s hard to build a resume in league play when half your conference won’t play in the playoffs.

One of the biggest rises in our bracket over the past week has been TCU, as the Horned Frogs went from off the court to a No. 9 seed. Winning by 15 at Iowa State completely changed the complexion of TCU’s resume. If Jamie Dixon’s side can go 8-10 in the league, I guess they will find themselves on the pitch.

Full support projection (as of January 25)

SI's Support Watch on January 24

Click here for full size image.

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Mailbag: Who is the best Big Ten team?
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