This article is part of our RotoWire Bracketology series.
This article comes on the heels of Yahoo's latest report, which includes multiple NCAA tournament teams. It's impossible to know what will happen next so that's how we'll look at things for now.
Last week I focused on the problems ahead for the NCAA committee and it's time to dive into them myself. We're less than three weeks from Selection Sunday, which means the bubble is heating up. Games won and lost over the next few weeks can have immediate consequences.
Looking back at last year, all four of the play-in game teams closed the season on a winning streak (before losing in respective conference tournaments). Kansas State won three straight. USC won three straight. Wake Forest won four straight. Providence won six straight. None of them lost in the final week of the regular season if that says anything. So while there are a few weeks left, it's important to remember most teams can't lock up spots in the tournament just yet.
For the stats used, KenPom and RPI are most relevant in the conversation and I replaced BPI with Strength of Record (SOR) because BPI is extremely similar to KenPom these days. The combination of KenPom and SOR is what I believe to be the best and easiest metrics to use when looking at teams. It doesn't overrate mid-majors for beating up on weaker competition, which is KenPom's biggest problem.
Here. We. Go.
FIRST FIVE BYES
Kansas State (KenPom 46, RPI 52, SOR 21):
I'm fairly confident in the Wildcats even with a poor non-conference schedule. They have four road wins in the Big 12 with two of them coming against fellow bubble teams (Texas, Baylor). Unless it loses its next three, I'd say K State is safe to march on.
St. Mary's (KenPom 21, RPI 36, SOR 39):
I've said it before, but I'm not huge on this team. The Gaels purposely didn't schedule a tougher non-conference slate and neutral losses to Washington State and Georgia can't be overlooked. Winning at BYU and Gonzaga are great, but those may be their only legit wins to go with some bad losses. If it were up to me, the Gaels would miss March Madness unless they win the WCC tourney.
Baylor (KenPom 36, RPI 58, SOR 40):
A week ago I would've said the Bears are looking good having won five straight, but the season isn't over yet. Baylor could easily lose its next three games. If it loses two of those, a win in the Big 12 tournament may be needed to feel better on Selection Sunday.
(KenPom 76, RPI 39, SOR 55):
The love for the Friars is hard to buy into and I had them out of the field before beating Villanova. They lost against every relevant opponent in non-conference and were trounced by 17 at home against DePaul. Sure, its wins are great, but if Providence loses two of its final three, it should be shaking to hear its name called.
North Carolina State (KenPom 49, RPI 56, SOR 30):
The Wolfpack have been inconsistent, but they've gotten huge wins to counteract early losses to UNC Greensboro and Northern Iowa. Winning at UNC is what may ultimately keep them in the tournament unless they fall apart in the final week with winnable home games against tournament-worthy teams.
FIRST FOUR IN
USC (KenPom 52, RPI 35, SOR 63):
I don't care who was injured, a home loss to Princeton is unacceptable for a tourney-hopeful. The Trojans are living on the bubble and the only way to stay in this spot is by winning their next two games against fellow bubblers (at Utah, vs. UCLA).
Louisville (KenPom 38, RPI 49, SOR 48):
The Cardinals didn't do much in the non-conference and that could hurt them in the end. They need to win two of their next three (at VT, vs. Virginia, at NC State) or will be on the outside ahead of the ACC tournament. Their best wins are at Florida State and Notre Dame.
Marquette (KenPom 47, RPI 57, SOR 43):
I was ready to throw Marquette into the wind and then it improbably came back and beat Creighton over the weekend. With top scorer Markus Howard injured, things won't get any easier. The Golden Eagles have an uphill task and need to win two upcoming road games against non-tournament teams (DePaul, Georgetown). Maybe most important is that their worst losses aren't that bad (vs. Georgia, vs. Providence).
Texas (KenPom 41, RPI 54, SOR 41):
The Longhorns finally got their desired road win at Oklahoma last weekend and that concluded a sweep of the Sooners to go with wins over Alabama, TCU and Texas Tech. Watching Mo Bamba in the tournament is what we should all hope for and that should be possible unless Texas loses its next three.
FIRST FOUR OUT
Syracuse (KenPom 51, RPI 47, SOR 54):
I feel like Syracuse is always in this position and that's been the case the last few seasons. The Orange's best non-conference wins came against teams not headed to the tournament (Maryland, Georgetown) and they also lost to the Bonnies at home. They need to close the season with two wins because road wins at Louisville and Miami can only go so far.
UCLA (KenPom 54, RPI 50, SOR 57):
It's hard to pick up quality wins in the Pac-12, which is why beating Kentucky on a neutral court was so important for the Bruins. The problem is that they close with a couple more on the road. Lose at Colorado or USC and they'll need a win or two in the conference tournament.
St. Bonaventure (KenPom 68, RPI 24, SOR 38):
It's amazing to me that the majority of brackets moved the Bonnies into the field after beating Rhode Island at home. Let's not forget this team also lost at home to Niagara, in addition to trips to Dayton and Saint Joseph's with top player Jaylen Adams in the fold. They can be a good team, but also needed 40 points from Adams to escape past Duquesne recently. The Bonnies need to win out to have a chance.
Mississippi State (KenPom 48, RPI 63, SOR 44):
The Bulldogs have some good wins, but it's important to note only one of those was on the road in SEC play (South Carolina). There's no reason this team should be in the field right now with their best non-conference win being a toss up between bad teams. To have a chance, Mississippi State needs to win out and that includes home against Tennessee and at LSU.
NEXT FOUR OUT
LSU (KenPom 63, RPI 76, SOR 61):
This team has been all over the place, which is a main reason it has a losing record in conference play. Good non-conference wins over Michigan and Houston to go with sweep of Texas A&M is what's propelling them. The Tigers still have to show up in one of these upcoming away games (Georgia, South Carolina) or their losses will be too much to overcome.
Penn State (KenPom 27, RPI 87, SOR 64):
I would put Nebraska in this spot, but I think the Nittany Lions are a better overall team and could sweep the Huskers if they win Sunday's regular season finale. They have great advanced metrics, but that can only get you so far. Their hope is that the committee ignores three losses when Josh Reaves was suspended.
Utah (KenPom 59, RPI 43, SOR 59):
The Utes have dealt with numerous injuries and lost a lot of early games because of them. That'll likely keep them out of the tournament, but there's a good chance they win seven straight going into the Pac-12 tourney. It helps that they swept another team fighting to get in, Washington.
Washington (KenPom 98, RPI 53, SOR 73):
Its wins are great (Kansas, Arizona), but its many losses outweigh those in addition to an abominable KenPom ranking. The brackets with the Huskies in the tournament are ignoring home losses to Stanford and Utah as well as neutral-court losses to fellow bubble teams in Providence and Virginia Tech. They need to win their next three games to have a chance, and even then that shouldn't do much given the strength of those opponents.
Nebraska (KenPom 55, RPI 60, SOR 34):
The loss at Illinois was not good. The Huskers had a chance to close the regular season with nine-straight wins and that fell apart with a bad loss. They still have a chance, but they'll first have to beat Penn State on Sunday and then beat Michigan in the Big Ten tournament.
Temple (KenPom 85, RPI 44, SOR 67):
Too many bad losses for me to consider at this point.
Boise State (KenPom 53, RPI 46, SOR 47):
Nowhere near close to the level of good wins needed.
Notre Dame (KenPom 30, RPI 68, SOR 65):
The return of Bonzie Colson would mean everything for a run in the ACC tournament.
As always, check out my latest updated bracket here.
*Stats from KenPom, RPI and SOR are as of Feb. 23
To view a compilation of all bracket predictions in the world, check out the Bracket Matrix. This bracket started in 2014 and has been among the most reliable the last three years.