numberFire Bracketology: 3/8/14
As always, this past week provided some excitement around the college basketball world. Syracuse continued their slide, falling to our 112th-best team, Georgia Tech, at home on senior night. Meanwhile, North Carolina extended their win streak to 12, just in time for their matchup against rival Duke to close out the regular season. Wichita State put the bow on an undefeated regular-season, and top-ranked Florida continued to roll, having now won a school-record 22 straight. The Oklahoma State Cowboys got a validating win over Kansas, too, while Louisville bounced back from a loss to Memphis to knock off SMU.
College basketball is now in the home stretch - the regular season ends on Sunday, and next week the focus turns to conference tournaments. We're so close to Selection Sunday, but there are plenty of things that can still change. What do our numbers say about the upcoming NCAA Tournament? Take a look below.
The One Seeds
The Arizona Wildcats took advantage of Kansas’ loss from this past weekend to claim the spot as the top overall seed in our field of 68. The Wildcats have the top RPI, and rank number one within our nERD statistic. They’ve been playing like the best team in the country the past four games despite not having Brandon Ashley, after close calls in five of the previous six.
Though they fell this past week for their seventh loss of the season, the Kansas Jayhawks still hold a number one seed in our field. Kansas now has the same number of losses as the other one seeds combined, but thanks to having the toughest schedule in the country, they’ve held onto a top seed. The Jayhawks rank third in terms of nERD, and look poised to dance deep into March.
The Florida Gators are the third overall team in our field of 68. The Gators are the top ranked squad in the country by the polls, and come in ranked third in RPI. They're ninth in nERD, and have an excellent opportunity to sweep the Kentucky Wildcats for the season on Saturday, which would certainly boost their resume.
Our final one seed goes to Villanova, a team currently ranked sixth in nERD, having locked up the regular season Big East crown. The Wildcats have played really well for most of the season, and even grabbed a win over Kansas back in November.
The Rest of the Field By Conference
The American Athletic Conference is expected to land five teams in this year's dance. Conference leaders Cincinnati and Louisville lead the way as a current four and six seed according to our numbers, respectively. The Bearcats may be a bit overrated with only the 23rd-highest nERD (third best in the conference behind Louisville and UConn), but Louisville is a team that could make a run in the tournament regardless of their seed - the Cardinals currently rank as our second-best team, and because nERD is a measure how one is expected to fare a neutral court, they could, once again, make a deep run.
The ACC should punch four tickets to the dance, with Duke finishing as a two seed, despite champion Virginia only receiving a three seed. This conference will be really interesting to watch, as Carolina is playing as well as anyone right now, while the once 25-0 Syracuse Orange can’t seem to find the win column. With a ranking of four in nERD, Duke looks poised to go far as well, though all four of the ACC’s teams sit in the top 25. Pittsburgh now currently rests on the cusp of the field of 68, but are on the outside looking in despite being 19th in nERD. Their game against Clemson and performance in the ACC tournament will determine if they make the field or not, even with a 22-8 record.
The Atlantic 10 has been intriguing this season, as Saint Louis was dominating competition until we, numberFire, called them overrated. The result? Three straight losses, including one to the 158th nERDiest team, Duquesne. Now Saint Louis sits as a six seed, with both UMass and VCU ahead of them at four spots. UMass is particularly interesting as ESPN and CBS have them currently slated as a seven seed, yet our computer has them simulated finish as a three. Oddly enough, nERD only has them as the 47th best team, yet it appears by body of work they will be under seeded.
With the resurgence of Baylor and Oklahoma State, the Big 12 yet again appears to be a seven-bid league, which is incredible for only having 10 teams in the conference. As I said earlier, the Jayhawks look poised to run deep into March, but Iowa State (13th in nERD) and Oklahoma State (7th in nERD) should hold their own as well. In fact, eight of the Big 12’s squads rank in the nERD top 46, though West Virginia won’t come close to a bid without making a deep run in the Big 12 Tournament. All around, this conference appears to be the best in the country, with all seven squads legitimate threats to make it to the tournament’s second weekend.
The Big East currently claims three bids, though Providence is teetering towards the right side of the field of 68. Leading the way are Villanova and Creighton as a one and two seed, respectively. The Jays have finally shrugged off mid-major status, and with the top offensive rating in college basketball of 120.4 to go along with the eight-best nERD score in the country, they're certainly a team to watch. Having lost two in a row, Xavier could be sweating it out come Selection Sunday, especially if they fail to win in the Big East Tournament. Georgetown also sits on the bubble, yet are unlikely to make it unless they upset ‘Nova or make a deep run in the conference tournament as well.
According to our metrics, the Big 10 also has seven bids, though that only represents half of their teams. The top of the conference has been as good as anywhere, with Iowa, who ranks fifth in nERD, already having accumulated eight conference losses. Five squads rank inside the nERD top 14, while Nebraska and Minnesota lying on the edge of the bubble. The Golden Gophers are expected to miss the field, and only have themselves to blame after going 7-10 in conference play. The Huskers are also on the edge of the bubble, though they have an excellent opportunity to improve their standing when they host Wisconsin on Sunday.
New Mexico and San Diego State will battle for the conference championship on Saturday. Both teams rank in the top 25, though the nERD metric believes they're both a little overrated (San Diego State 29th, New Mexico 42nd). Barring upsets in the tournament, they will be the only two representatives of their conference, and are both simulated to be four seeds.
The Pac 12 has been led by Arizona all season long, and that should continue in the NCAA Tournament. As noted, the Wildcats rank first in nERD, though fellow teams UCLA and Oregon aren’t far behind at 16th and 26th respectively. Right now, Stanford is on the bubble, but appear to be safe for a bid. California and Utah have a lot of work to do, but if either can make a deep run in the conference tourney, it would go a long way.
Florida continues to be the class of the SEC, with Kentucky trailing far behind and several bubble teams lagging even further. Both Florida and Kentucky are locks for the tournament, while the last two to three bids will depend on how Arkansas, Mizzou and Tennessee fair. The Razorbacks aren’t expected to make the field despite a 21-9 record, a sweep of Kentucky and the 24th-best nERD rating. Tennessee’s battle with Missouri will probably give the winner the upper hand on making the field of 68.
Gonzaga has won the West Coast Conference 12 times this millennium, and are, to no surprise, in position to earn another trip to the NCAA Tournament. The ‘Zags rank 21st in nERD, yet are likely looking at only receiving a seven seed in the NCAA Tournament. BYU is also poised to crack the field, sitting at a nine seed. Meanwhile, Saint Mary’s sits on the bubble, but may need to win the WCC Tournament to make the field.
A full breakdown of our multiple bid leagues follow
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