NCAA Bracketology Update: Clemson Climbs the Ranks

Clemson is a borderline top-30 team. Can they earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament?

One of the best parts of March Madness is the build up, the road to get in. Even if some schools get slotted into an ill-fated 16 seed, an NCAA Tournament berth can be historic for programs with a lacking track record.

Of course, some schools -- power conference teams and teams firmly in the AP Top 25 -- are pretty much shoo-ins to lock up a spot even before guaranteed bids are earned or conference tournaments start.

Which teams never ranked in the AP top 25 this season are looking likely to get a chance to dance, based on our bracketology projections?

These are the schools without an AP rank during the season with at least a 50% chance shot to make the tournament, per our algorithm. nERD indicates expected point differential compared to an average team.

nF RankSchoolnERDProj.
55Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders9.1525.1-4.991.38%12
24Southern Methodist Mustangs13.9824.3-6.790.35%9
88New Mexico State Aggies5.6623.3-3.790.13%12
42Illinois State Redbirds10.6622.6-6.489.28%11
59North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks8.6123.0-6.088.82%12
36Dayton Flyers11.321.1-7.984.67%10
78Belmont Bruins6.2920.5-5.582.36%15
47Virginia Commonwealth Rams10.122.5-8.582.06%12
84Valparaiso Crusaders6.1723.3-6.780.44%13
99Akron Zips4.8423.4-6.680.12%13
81Vermont Catamounts6.2423.0-7.080.06%14
44Arkansas Razorbacks10.521.8-9.276.05%9
89Monmouth Hawks5.5123.1-7.975.79%13
68Nevada Wolf Pack7.1823.0-8.074.89%12
90Bucknell Bison5.522.8-8.270.23%14
60East Tennessee State Buccaneers8.221.2-7.868.66%14
85Texas-Arlington Mavericks6.0519.8-9.266.03%13
23Oklahoma State Cowboys14.2217.7-12.362.08%8
125Winthrop Eagles2.419.9-7.161.52%14
117Florida Gulf Coast Eagles3.1619.1-7.961.51%15
31Clemson Tigers11.9617.7-12.358.12%8
34Wake Forest Demon Deacons11.4517.0-13.057.55%9
33Texas Christian Horned Frogs11.4918.3-11.754.32%9

- Two teams made the cutoff this week that were absent one week ago. The first is the Virginia Commonwealth Rams, who rank 47th in the nation by nERD and 46th per They grade out in the 91st percentile defensively, per our algorithm and in the 71st offensively. They won both of their games last week, tilts against the Dayton Flyers (36th in nERD) and the Richmond Spiders (109th).

- The Clemson Tigers also join the list and rank 31st in the nation in nERD despite never being a top-25 team in the AP poll. We project them for an 8 seed and a 58.12% chance to reach the tournament. They rank just outside the top 85th percentile in offense, by our metrics, and 28th in the nation in adjusted offense, per

- Three teams to make the cut last week increased their tournament odds by at least 10 percentage points this week: the Belmont Bruins (78th in nERD, 82.36% to make the tournament), the Valparaiso Crusaders (84th, 80.44%), and the Oklahoma State Cowboys (23rd, 62.08%).

- The Winthrop Eagles (125th in nERD) dropped to 61.25% odds after losing 83-80 to the 247th-ranked High Point Panthers last week.

- Northwestern (29th in nERD) is no longer on the list -- only because they finally joined the top 25 -- and the Marquette Golden Eagles (35th in nERD) suffered two losses last week after being 65.35% likely to make the tournament a week ago. They fell to the Providence Friars (64th in nERD) and the St. John's (NY) Red Storm (100th). Their odds now sit at just 12.40%.