Friday, April 23, 2021

March Madness 3.0 Fork Predictions: Screening of the 68-field for the 2021 NCAA Tournament

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Selection Sunday is, well, Sunday. How cool is that?

As always, Sporting News’ Field of 68 projections are based on where teams should be ranked based on CV comparison, if the season ended yesterday. We’re not predicting how this week will play out because we have no idea how this week will play out. For each team, I have included a few rankings and records that will be very relevant when the selection committee meets to build the real support.

AFTER: March Madness Replacement Rules, Explained

Teams that landed automatic bids have double asterisks. Automatic bids for conferences that have not completed their tournaments are allocated to the highest remaining seed, and these are shown in parentheses.

Seeds n ° 1 projected

Gonzaga (West Coast), Baylor (Big 12), Michigan (Big Ten), Illinois

Gonzaga (24-0): NET / Pom: 1/1. vs Q1: 7-0. against Q3 / 4: 13-0
Baylor (21-1): NET / Pom: 2/2. vs Q1: 8-1. vs Q3 / 4: 10-0
Michigan (19-3): NET / Pom: 3/3. vs Q1: 7-2. against Q3 / 4: 6-0
Illinois (20-6): NET / Pom: 4/5. vs Q1: 9-5. against Q3 / 4: 6-0

Remember how we told you that Gonzaga, Baylor and Michigan all had a lot of room for error on the first seed line? Well, Michigan tested that theory last week, with a home loss to Illinois and a loss to a Michigan State team that just made their way through the bubble in recent weeks. And the Wolverines are still strong on the 1 seed line.

Screened n ° 2 seeds

Alabama (SEC), Iowa, Ohio State, Houston

Alabama (21-6): NET / Pom: 7/8. vs Q1: 7-4. against Q3 / 4: 6-1
Iowa (20-7): NET / Pom: 6/4. vs Q1: 7-5. against Q3 / 4: 8-0
Ohio State (18-8): NET / Pom: 9/7. vs Q1: 7-6. against Q3 / 4: 6-0
Houston (20-3): NET / Pom: 5/6. vs Q1: 2-1. against Q3 / 4: 13-1

It has been a difficult time for the state of Ohio; the Buckeyes have lost four in a row – at Michigan State and at home to Michigan, Illinois and Iowa. Four good teams, so they don’t lose much, but if they had gone 2-2 in those four, they would probably be on the 1st row instead of Illinois.

Screened n ° 3 seeds

Arkansas, State of Oklahoma, Virginia (ACC), Texas

Arkansas (21-5): NET / Pom: 16/18. vs Q1: 6-4. vs Q3 / 4: 10-0
Oklahoma State (18-7): NET / Pom: 33/37. vs Q1: 8-5. against Q3 / 4: 8-1
Virginie (17-6): NET / Pom: 12/13. vs Q1: 4-4. vs Q3 / 4: 9-1
Texas (17-7): NET / Pom: 24/26. vs Q1: 6-6. against Q3 / 4: 8-0

Three weeks ago, I wouldn’t have guessed Arkansas would be on the 3-seed line, but college basketball is nothing if not unpredictable. The Razorbacks have won eight in a row, including the Ws against Alabama, Mizzou (on the road), Florida and LSU. Their no-con slate wasn’t great, but it’s worth noting that their five losses are against teams that will solidly make the NCAA Tournament as teams in general.

Screened n ° 4 seeds

Kansas, West Virginia, Florida State, Texas, Villanova (Big East)

Kansas (18-8): NET / Pom: 14/22. vs Q1: 6-8. against Q3 / 4: 8-0
West Virginia (18-8): NET / Pom: 23/25. vs Q1: 6-7. against Q3 / 4: 7-0
Florida State (15-5): NET / Pom: 22/14. vs Q1: 3-3. against Q3 / 4: 6-1
Villanova (16-5): NET / Pom: 11/10. vs Q1: 3-3. against Q3 / 4: 8-0

West Virginia was sitting at 16-6 with four games to go – all at home, where the climbers have always been tough. But they lost both games against quality teams (in OT against Baylor and five points against Oklahoma State). With those losses evaporating any long shot at a # 1 seed, and any realistic shot at a 2 seed, too.

Screened n ° 5 seeds

Purdue, USC, Colorado, Tennessee

Purdue (18-8): NET / Pom: 20/13. vs Q1: 6-6. vs Q3 / 4: 5-1
USC (21-6): NET / Pom: 15/15. vs Q1: 4-3. vs Q3 / 4: 12-0
Colorado (20-7): NET / Pom: 12/16. vs Q1: 3-4. vs Q3 / 4: 10-3
Tennessee (17-7): NET / Pom: 18/23. vs Q1: 6-5. vs Q3 / 4: 10-0

Pac-12 teams are difficult to sow. You see the solid IT metrics for USC and Colorado, but both teams are light on first-quarter wins, compared to the other teams with the best 16 metrics. And Colorado has all three losses in the third quarter, which isn’t great. And then factor in Oregon, which has lower metrics but won the # 1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament. The safe guess for these three teams is somewhere in the 5-7 seed range at the moment.

Screened n ° 6 seeds

Creighton, Oregon (Pac 12), Texas Tech, Clemson

Creighton (18-7): NET / Pom: 25/17. vs Q1: 4-3. vs Q3 / 4: 7-3
Oregon (19-5): NET / Pom: 32/35. vs Q1: 3-3. vs Q3 / 4: 9-2
Texas Tech (17-9): NET / Pom: 17/21. vs Q1: 4-9. vs Q3 / 4: 12-0
Clemson (16-6): NET / Pom: 36/38. vs Q1: 3-6. against Q3 / 4: 6-0

Creighton and Texas Tech are both higher on other support projections. Creighton’s three losses in the third quarter are troublesome, and Texas Tech went 0-8 in the Big 12 game against four of the top five teams in the conference: Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia and Oklahoma State. I just don’t think those resumes work well when the committee gets to the point.

Screened n ° 7 seeds

Missouri, Oklahoma, LSU, Florida

Missouri (15-8): NET / Pom: 45/48. vs Q1: 7-5. against Q3 / 4: 6-0
Oklahoma (14-9): NET / Pom: 30/31. vs Q1: 5-8. against Q3 / 4: 8-1
LSU (16-8): NET / Pom: 28/28. vs Q1: 4-7. against Q3 / 4: 9-0
Florida (13-8): NET / Pom: 29/30. vs Q1: 5-4. vs Q3 / 4: 5-1

Lots of successful SEC schools on this starting line. It wasn’t intentional, I promise.

Screened n ° 8 seeds

UConn, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, UCLA

UConn (14-6): NET / Pom: 31/24. vs Q1: 3-3. against Q3 / 4: 8-0
Virginia Tech (15-5): NET / Pom: 42/47. vs Q1: 2-2. vs Q3 / 4: 10-0
Wisconsin (16-11): NET / Pom: 11/26. vs Q1: 4-9. against Q3 / 4: 7-0
UCLA (17-8): NET / Pom: 41/42. vs Q1: 2-6. vs Q3 / 4: 12-0

Wisconsin has 11 losses and is 11th in KenPom odds. It must be a first, right? The Badgers were 0-8 in the Big Ten game against Michigan, Illinois, Ohio State, Iowa and Purdue, and their best win of the season is likely against a team from the Missouri Valley (Loyola Chicago).

Screened n ° 9 seeds

Saint-Bonaventure (Atlantic 10), BYU, State of San Diego (Mountain West), Loyola Chicago (Missouri Valley)

Saint-Bonaventure (15-4): NET / Pom: 27/27. vs Q1: 3-2. vs Q3 / 4: 9-1
BYU (18-5): NET / Pom: 19/20. vs Q1: 3-3. against Q3 / 4: 11-0
San Diego State (19-4): NET / Pom: 21/19. vs Q1: 0-3. against Q3 / 4: 13-0
** Loyola Chicago (22-4): NET / Pom: 10/9. vs Q1: 2-2. against Q3 / 4: 16-0

Again, an involuntary regrouping. Four teams outside the “power” conferences with sparkling records. If I’m a seeded 1, I’d be worried about facing one of those four in the second round.

Screened n ° 10 seeds

North Carolina, VCU, Rutgers, Georgia Tech

North Carolina (16-9): NET / Pom: 39/32. vs Q1: 2-8. vs Q3 / 4: 7-1
VCU (19-6): NET / Pom: 35/43. vs Q1: 2-4. vs Q3 / 4: 10-2
Rutgers (14-10): NET / Pom: 37/33. vs Q1: 4-8. against Q3 / 4: 5-0
Georgia Tech (15-8): NET / Pom: 38/31. vs Q1: 2-6. vs Q3 / 4: 7-2

A win over Duke isn’t what it was in previous years, but the Tar Heels virtually allayed any lingering doubts about their overall status with their 18-point win over the Blue Devils on Saturday. Partly because it was a decent win, but also because it probably got Duke out of the bubble.

Screened n ° 11 seeds

Maryland, Michigan, Louisville, ** Winthrop (Big South)

Maryland (14-12): NET / Pom: 34/29. vs Q1: 4-9. against Q3 / 4: 8-0
Michigan State (15-11): NET / Pom: 67/56. vs Q1: 5-9. against Q3 / 4: 6-0
Louisville (13-6): NET / Pom: 51/52. vs Q1: 1-5. against Q3 / 4: 6-1

What are you doing, Maryland? The Terps have dropped games at Northwestern and Penn State to end their regular season, teams that have eight combined games under 0.500 over the season. They fell to the No.8 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and face a very hot – and motivated – team from Michigan State. Yikes.

Screened n ° 12 seeds

Drake, Saint Louis, Wichita State (American), Western Kentucky (Conference USA),

* Colorado State (16-5): NET / Pom: 50/61. vs Q1: 2-3. against Q3 / 4: 13-0
* Drake (23-4): NET / Pom: 47/55. vs Q1: 1-2. vs Q3 / 4: 17-2
* Xavier (13-7): NET / Pom: 57/60. vs Q1: 1-2. against Q3 / 4: 7-0
* Saint Louis (14-6): NET / Pom: 44/49. vs Q1: 2-2. vs Q3 / 4: 10-2

The good thing for the teams that have crept into the last four spots off this week is this: Seton Hall, Indiana, Minnesota, Duke and Stanford have had terrible weeks. So, you know, the competition for the last places was more a battle of attrition than a race to the finish.

No. 13 seeds: Colgate (Patriot), UC Santa Barbara (Big West), UNCG (Southern), Toledo (MAC)
N ° 14 seeds: Cleveland State (Horizon), ** Liberty (Atlantic Sun), ** Morehead State (Ohio Valley), Grand Canyon (WAC)
No. 15 seeds: Siena (MAAC), Hartford (East America), Southern Utah (Big Sky), Northeast (Colonial)
N ° 16 seeds: South Dakota State (Summit), Nicholls State (Southland), * Georgia State (Sun Belt), * Prairie View A&M (SWAC), * Bryant (Northeast), * North Carolina A&T (MEAC)

* First four teams
** Teams that landed automatic bids

Dropped out: Abilene Christian, Belmont, Boise State, Eastern Washington, James Madison, Texas State, Vermont

Beginners: Georgia State, Hartford, Michigan State Morehead State, Nicholls State, Northeastern, Southern Utah



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