This article is part of our RotoWire Bracketology series.
The clock is ticking until Selection Sunday and everyone is looking to make one final push. I touched on the bubble last week and not a ton was settled since then. Before I try to decipher it this week, it's still important to keep an eye on the higher-seeded teams.
There's a firm separation between the top 16 or 18 teams and the rest, which is usually the case. We already know, more or less, which teams will be in the top 14. Villanova and Virginia are close to locks for a one seed. Xavier is almost there and Kansas would have to lose early in the Big 12 tournament, but that still may not matter.
Duke and North Carolina are in good positions to grab a two seed, while Michigan State should ideally be there, as well. The final two seed is a bigger question with Auburn dealing with injuries and Purdue looking unimpressive as of late. It wouldn't be surprising if Tennessee jumped in there with a successful SEC tournament. Cincinnati and Wichita State are also part of the upper echelon with Texas Tech, West Virginia and Clemson. There are questions about injuries, but there aren't many more teams that could have a chance for the four seed.
Ohio State and Kentucky could be the teams to grab that spot with runs in their respective conference tournaments, while Arizona is apparently no longer a question mark (Allonzo Trier and Sean Miller returned Thursday). Gonzaga technically has a chance for a four seed, but I'm not personally sold. That's 19 teams with a legitimate shot at a top-four seed and there isn't anyone else in the conversation. There's a slight chance Michigan or TCU could make it, although each would have to win their tournaments.
And now for the fun…
To reduce the size, here are teams that are out of the running unless they make a run (or win their tournament).
- Boise State. Some people are still on the Broncos train for an at-large bid, but the lack of good wins is relevant.
- LSU. Back-to-back losses against Georgia and South Carolina mean you aren't worthy.
- Syracuse. A loss at home to the Bonnies doesn't help and no great win.
- Temple. A loss to UConn was a dagger.
- UCLA. Wins against Arizona and Kentucky are keeping Bruins alive, but you can't get swept by Colorado and say you deserve a bid. I'm also not listing USC here because I think it will beat UCLA on Saturday.
- Utah. The resume is not good enough to lose at home to a fellow bubble team (USC).
FIRST FIVE BYES
N.C. State (KenPom 42, RPI 61, SOR 38):
I had the Wolfpack firmly into the field and then they lost at Georgia Tech on Thursday, which amounted to a 14-spot drop in RPI. Not a great strategy for making the tournament.
St. Mary's (KenPom 23, RPI 36, SOR 42):
Since they haven't played a relevant game, here's what I said last week: "The Gaels purposely didn't schedule a tougher non-conference slate and neutral losses to Washington State and Georgia can't be overlooked. Wins at BYU and Gonzaga are great, but those may be their only legit ones to go with some bad losses. If it were up to me, the Gaels would miss March Madness unless they win the WCC tourney."
Providence (KenPom 72, RPI 39, SOR 46):
The Friars cannot lose at home to St. John's on Saturday. They don't have any elite wins and all of their road wins came against the worst competition in the Big East. Still, any team that has wins against Villanova, Xavier, Butler and Creighton has to be considered.
Louisville (KenPom 34, RPI 41, SOR 43):
The Cardinals are in a precarious position, which was known last week. If they lose at NC State on Saturday, a couple wins in the ACC tournament may be needed. For now, they're fine due to a road win at Virginia Tech, but are far from a lock after giving away Thursday's game against Virginia.
Kansas State (KenPom 46, RPI 63, SOR 32):
A lot of people are bashing K State's non-conference, but a win at Vanderbilt can't be overlooked. The Commodores have six home wins against teams in the tournament or on the bubble this season. However, a home loss to Baylor in the regular-season finale won't help matters. But with a win, the Wildcats would have swept fellow Big 12 bubble teams Texas and Baylor.
FIRST FOUR IN
Alabama (KenPom 56, RPI 58, SOR 62):
The Crimson Tide weren't on my radar until I saw they lost four-straight games and a fifth could be possible with a trip to Texas A&M on Saturday. It would be unfortunate for Collin Sexton to miss the tournament, but it's possible. Their best wins are at Florida and LSU and that may not be enough at this point with non-conference losses to Minnesota (no idea how the committee will rate Gophers, as it was a much different team early in the season) and UCF.
Baylor (KenPom 29, RPI 55, SOR 40):
To put things into perspective, TCU didn't make the tourney last year and was in the same KenPom range. Of course, the Horned Frogs also lost their last seven games of the regular season. The Bears could fall into that trap if they lose at K State and then win only one in the Big 12 tourney.
Texas (KenPom 43, RPI 59, SOR 41):
The Longhorns are in close to a dire situation with the home game against West Virginia on Saturday. That needs to be a win for a team that has already lost home games to Kansas State and Baylor in the last month. Like most Big 12 teams, they lack a truly bad loss and while the win over Alabama helps, the lack of elite wins doesn't.
St. Bonaventure (KenPom 66, RPI 22, SOR 35):
I'm not entirely sure the Bonnies are a great overall team, but Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley form a solid backcourt. Their resume is far from overwhelming, yet it's looking like they could close the regular season on a 12-game winning streak.
FIRST FOUR OUT
Mississippi State (KenPom 59, RPI 66, SOR 49):
I'm sort of in the SEC is overrated camp and that's where I'm at with this team. The Bulldogs were destroyed at Cincinnati in their only difficult non-conference game, and they have nine SEC wins, but only two of those came on the road. If they lose at LSU on Saturday, they are about done for me and I'd be shocked if the committee decides to put them into the field.
Marquette (KenPom 49, RPI 64, SOR 47):
The Golden Eagles are another team that I don't think is very good, mainly because of a bad defense. Their short guards can only do so much. But, with a win against Creighton, this team will continue to fight for a spot, only because it has road wins at Providence, Seton Hall and Creighton.
Washington (KenPom 94, RPI 45, SOR 67):
The Huskies are another team that I'm not fond of, yet you can't deny their best wins. They're in the conversation because of those, but a loss to Oregon on Saturday or against a subpar team in the Pac-12 tournament will likely keep them out.
Nebraska (KenPom 50, RPI 54, SOR 33):
Nebraska's Strength of Record has to be looked at in this situation. Maybe the elite wins aren't there, but the Cornhuskers were 13-5 in conference play. If they can beat Michigan for a second time in the conference quarterfinals, things could get interesting on Selection Sunday. (This article was written before Friday's game. If Nebraska loses, it will likely miss out).
Penn State (KenPom 32, RPI 83, SOR 63):
I've mentioned that the last teams to usually make the NCAA tournament usually go on winning streaks to close the regular season. The Nittany Lions entered the Big Ten tournament with three-straight losses. There's still a slight chance for them if only because they could beat Ohio State three times (another Friday game).
Notre Dame (KenPom 31, RPI 68, SOR 59):
The Irish could be in an interesting situation if they steal a win at Virginia or go on a run in the ACC tournament.
As always, check out my latest updated bracket here.
*Stats from KenPom, RPI and SOR are as of March 2.
**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.
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.