numberFire Bracketology: 2/9/14

What will happen to Arizona without Brandon Ashley?

With Selection Sunday rapidly approaching, there's very little time for teams to wait to bolster their tournament resumes.

What does the current tournament picture look like? Well, fortunately, we can give you a pretty good idea. Using typical selection criteria, we, numberFire, can judge tournament seeds based on the current play of college hoops teams. And by using our algorithms to simulate the rest of the season up until conference tourney time, we can even give you an idea of what the tournament may look like months in advanced.

The One Seeds

Though the Jayhawks rank ninth in numberFire's nERD statistic, a metric that looks at the expected point differential in a game between the subject team and an average one on a neutral court, Kansas is currently entrenched as the number one overall seed in numberFire bracketology based on typical selection criteria. The Jayhawks are the best team in terms of RPI and strength of schedule, which is a big reason they're still a one seed despite having five losses. Our numbers expect them to take on a top seed based on simulations up until the conference tournaments.

Following closely behind them are the Arizona Wildcats, a team that suffered their first loss of the season last week against Cal. Not a whole lot is known about how the Wildcats will be effected by the loss of Brandon Ashley, but his absence certainly won’t be easy to overcome, even for a team first in the nERD rankings.

The third one seed is currently Villanova, a team coming off of a blowout win of Seton Hall. ‘Nova is currently third in RPI, and are expected to finish there as well. Besides their blowout loss to Creighton, they've been great this year and lay claim to the top victory of the one seeds when they defeated Kansas 63-59 in November.

According to current standings, the final seed is Florida, who hasn't lost since early December and currently sits fourth in the RPI. The Gators get the nod at this point in time over undefeated Syracuse, thanks to the 33rd-hardest schedule as opposed to the Orange’s 70th. However, ‘Cuse is projected to jump the Gators for fourth in the RPI, and finish as the number three overall seed when the season is said and done.

To see the comparison between the two teams and where they're expected to go, take a look at the chart below.

nERD Ranking13th18th
Current Seed12
Current Wins2122
Current Losses20
Current RPI4th5th
Current SOS33th70th
Simulated Seed21
Simulated Wins25.927.2
Simulated Losses5.13.8
Simulated RPI5th4th
Simulated SOS38th57th

Surprise Teams

UMass currently holds a three seed in numberFire’s field of 68 thanks to the 11th-best RPI, and the Minutemen are expected to finish the regular season as a four seed. This contrasts their ranking of 39th in nERD rating, as well as the general thought from other experts who seem to have them ranked between a number six and seven seed in the dance.

The Oklahoma State Cowboys currently hold an eight seed in the field, and are expected to stay there come conference tournament time. Despite having arguably the most talented point guard in the country (Marcus Smart) and the fifth-highest nERD score, the Cowboys seem destined for a poor seed as they've only won half of their last 12 games. The Cowboys RPI is projected to be around the top 30, but with a predicted 10 losses through simulations, they probably won’t get the six seed that some are currently projecting them to.

As of now, the Iowa Hawkeyes are an eight seed with only the 30th-ranked RPI and 29th-strongest schedule. Iowa is a much better team than their resume shows, as they have the fourth-highest nERD score and are projected to pick up ground in both RPI and schedule strength to 24th and 19th respectively by the end of the season. Simulations show the Hawkeyes as a six seed in the dance entering the Big Ten tournament.

The Iowa State Cylones have struggled recently, with all four of their losses this season coming in conference play. Despite their massive drop in the rankings, the Cyclones are still a current two seed thanks to being number seven in RPI and having the fifth-hardest schedule thus far. numberFire’s nERD score has Iowa State as the sixth-best team, and their resume backs up their play. Don't be surprised if they enter the NCAA Tournament as a three seed this year.

Expected to Slide

Just a month ago, the Wisconsin Badgers were near the top of college basketball. Since that time, they’ve lost five of seven and are currently slotted as a three seed, ranking 18th in nERD. Continued struggles combined with the nation’s second-toughest schedule means a simulated five seed finish for the Badgers.

The Virginia Cavaliers are another team expected to slide a bit after starting the season with a 9-1 conference play record. The numbers see them finishing as a seven seed though, as their strength of schedule isn't very strong.

On the Bubble

The Baylor Bears remain on the bubble, despite dropping seven of their first nine conference games due to a fantastic start to the season and the 11th-hardest schedule thus far. With rematches against most of the Big 12 looming, Baylor is simulated to be just outside the tourney field come conference tournament time.

Another team on the bubble is the Kansas State Wildcats, who currently hold an 11 seed. They could see that go away quickly if they don't start to string together wins, considering they rank 42nd in RPI and 48th in nERD. The Missouri Tigers, too, currently hold a 12 seed as one of the last teams in, but at 50th in RPI and 53rd in nERD, it's unlikely that they will stay on the right side of the bubble.

Lastly, the California Golden Bears currently sit a couple slots from the numberFire field of 68, but are simulated to make it to the right side thanks to an expected bump in RPI and strength of schedule, and arguably the best win in college basketball. Still, with only the 46th-highest nERD score, they probably will be sweating it out on Selection Sunday.