College Basketball Bracketology: Latest NCAA Tournament Projections & Regional Betting Value (Feb. 22)
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We’ve made it to the final week of February, and there continues to be some significant movement across the bracket.
Gonzaga has taken control of the No. 1 overall seed, and Arizona has moved up to the second spot.
Several bubble teams will have pivotal games this week to help their chances of making the field.
So, let’s get into this week’s projection.
As always, here are the core ground rules that will hold true throughout the rest of the year:
- First and foremost, the bracket will always be based off of the games that have been played. I am not projecting out how I think the year will finish, but rather seeding teams off of their current body of work. Each team will be seeded off of its total resume to this point in the year — the same process the Selection Committee ultimately uses when they give us the finalized bracket in mid-March. As a result, there will be a lot of changes in the bracket as we get more data and conference play unfolds.
- I will be using the current conference leader for the 32 auto-bids until we get into the conference tournaments.
- Lastly, if you think I have under-seeded your favorite team, no that does not mean I hate it. My job is to compare resumes and rank them from most complete down the line.
Here are some quick facts for this week’s projection:
- Last Four Byes: Miami (FL), San Francisco, North Carolina, Indiana
- Last Four In: San Diego State, Rutgers, SMU, BYU
- First Four Out: Oklahoma, Memphis, Oregon, Michigan
Bids by Conference:
- Big Ten: 8
- Big East: 7
- Big 12: 6
- SEC: 6
- ACC: 5
- MWC: 4
- WCC: 4
- Pac-12: 3
- AAC: 2
What Stands Out in West?
- The Zags just keep winning, and they have taken over the top spot in the bracket. If Gonzaga wins out it will maintain the top spot, and its path to the Final Four will be via Portland and San Francisco.
- SMU got a big bubble victory over Memphis, and the Mustangs are just inside the cut-line as a result of it. Winning the AAC Tournament is still the preferred route for the Ponies to avoid sweating out Selection Sunday, though.
- Saint Mary’s is all the way up to a 6 seed after back-to-back home wins over San Francisco and BYU.
- Baylor drops a seed after losing in Lubbock to Texas Tech last week. I give the Red Raiders’ profile a slight edge at this point, largely because they swept the Bears. A potential third meeting would be possible in this bracket.
- From a betting perspective, I’d be looking to play the chalk here in this hypothetical region. I’d take Gonzaga at +130 or better to win the West with this draw.
What Stands Out in South?
- North Carolina hangs on Monday night against Louisville, and as a result, stays inside the field.
- Murray State has played its way up to a single-digit seed, as the Racers remain perfect in Ohio Valley play.
- Michigan State has dropped four of five, and the Spartans have a very difficult schedule left in the Big Ten.
- A Sweet 16 matchup between Duke and Villanova would have “game of the tournament” potential. I’d give the edge to the veteran Wildcats in that matchup, largely because of their guard play.
- Given its youth, I’m still not fully sold on Arizona come March, so I’d be looking to take two chances here on some higher seeds. Give me Nova at +300 or better and Texas at +400 or better to win the South.
What Stands Out in Midwest?
- Both Iona and Chattanooga would be very dangerous double-digit seeds in this region. Given the matchups here, I’d expect at least one of them to advance to the second round.
- After a slow start to SEC play, Arkansas is now one of the hottest teams in the entire country and up to the 6 line.
- Providence wins another tight game at Butler on Sunday, and as a result, holds serve on the 3 line.
- I like the path for UCLA here to make another run. I don’t think the Bruins are good enough to beat Auburn and Purdue consecutively, but I’d back them to make the Sweet 16 with this path.
- I think this hypothetical region presents a very favorable draw for Matt Painter to take Purdue to his first Final Four. I’d play Purdue to win the Midwest at +175 or better.
What Stands Out in East?
- After a home loss to Drake, Loyola Chicago likely cannot afford another regular-season loss if the Ramblers want to have a shot at an at-large bid. Winning the MVC Tournament is obviously the preferred option anyways.
- TCU secured a much-needed win over West Virginia to end its recent skid. A couple of wins down the stretch should be enough to get the Horned Frogs back to the Big Dance.
- UConn is starting to get hot at the right time of the year. The Huskies host Villanova tonight, and have an opportunity to continue to improve their seeding.
- The battle between Kansas and Kentucky was extremely close for the final one seed, but I give the slight edge to the Jayhawks’ resume despite Kentucky winning in Lawrence. Both could finish the year on the top line, depending on how things play out.
- I’ll take a bite at Illinois at +300 or better to win the East. The Illini can play with anybody, and a Kofi Cockburn/Oscar Tshiebwe matchup in the Elite 8 would be all kinds of fun.