2019 March Madness Bracketology 2.0: Who’s on Top as Conference Championships Wrap Up?

Selection Sunday is finally here.  There are just about seven hours left till the big reveal, and today, I’ll be releasing my final projection of the March Madness bracket before the selection committee reveals the real bracket. Feel free to comment with your thoughts, and let’s get started with the East Region.

Note: Bracketology is Accurate as of March 16, 2019 at 12:00 PM EST

Since this was written:

  • Prairie View A&M has defeated Texas Southern in the SWAC Championship, clinching a March Madness bid and likely taking Texas Southern’s previously expected tourney slot.
  • My only A10 reps, VCU and Davidson, have been eliminated from the A10 tournament.  Saint Louis or Saint Bonaventure will punch their ticket as well.
  • Oregon has defeated Washington in the Pac-12 championship.  It is now highly unlikely that they will have to play in the First Four as I predicted

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After winning the ACC tournament thanks to Zion Williamson’s return, I have Duke winning the ACC and grabbing the 1 seed and take on the Patriot League winner, Colgate. I have Michigan State snagging a 2 seed in the East after they win the B1G, as they don’t have a 1-seed resume regardless of their Big Ten tournament results. They’ll take on Gardner-Webb, who surprised some when they punched their March Madness ticket this week. LSU should also earn a Top 4 seed after a strong finish to the season. Virginia Tech will grab the 4-seed after a strong start to the ACC season. They’ll play New England-based teams in the Round of 64 (Northeastern and Yale).

Kansas State will take the 5 seed after missing out on the Big 12 championship, and Cincinnati will grab the 6 seed on an at-large bid. I see Colorado grabbing one of the last four at-large bids despite playing in a weak Pac-12, but Clemson will beat them out in the First Four and take on Kansas State. UNC Greensboro will grab an at-large bid as well in an unusually strong SoCon. Villanova hasn’t quite been themself this year, but they’ll still win the Big East and snag a 7 seed. Syracuse will grab a 10 seed and take on Villanova despite an underwhelming ACC performance. NC State has been inconsistent, but they’re fitting for an 8 seed. Davidson should still make the tourney even if they lose the Atlantic 10 to VCU or someone else. They’ll take the 9 seed.

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Tennessee just took down Kentucky in the SEC semifinals, and as long as they win the SEC, they should grab the final 1 seed. They’ll take on Montana, who won a weak Big Sky. UNC may have lost in the ACC semifinals. But after a very strong finish to the season, they are still 2-seed material in my eyes. They’ll face off with Northern Kentucky. Texas Tech finished the regular season with a bang despite a playoff choke.  They should still earn a 3 seed as they did last year. Georgia State will challenge them after making the tournament for the third time in 5 years. Purdue will take the 4 seed after a similar situation to the Red Raiders, facing the winner of a strong C-USA, Old Dominion.

Wofford turned out to one of the best mid-major teams in a long time, and they are deserving of a top half slot in the NCAA tournament. I have them taking on the Florida Gators, who have come up big when they needed to despite inconsistency. The Gators will take down another PAC-12 team, Oregon in the First Four. Maryland will grab a 6 seed after finishing the season strong, taking on an Ole Miss team who topped off a strong start with a decent SEC performance. Mississippi State may have struggled down the stretch this year in the SEC, but they should still grab a top half seed as well. Belmont will face them: I feel that their strong season is enough to justify an at-large bid despite playing in a weaker conference. Temple’s resume is somewhat underrated as well, and they’ll snag the 8 seed to play Arizona State, one of the stronger teams in the PAC-12.

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Virginia is coming off another strong regular season despite being upset by UMBC a year ago today. The question is, will they choke in the tourney again? They will play either Iona or NC Central, both of whom are experienced March Madness teams. Michigan will grab the 2 seed after their strong inter-conference performance, and Bradley will take them on after a surprise MVC victory. Nevada will still grab a 3 seed despite losing the MWC – they are still another one of the best mid-major teams in the NCAA. Vermont will give them a run for their money though after beating UMBC in the America East finals. Kansas will snag the 4 seed despite an inconsistent year and relatively early Big 12 tourney elimination. They’ll play Liberty, one of this year’s first ticket punchers.

Auburn is not quite on the level of SEC rivals Tennessee and Kentucky, but they should still get a fairly high seed, playing Saint Mary’s, who shocked Gonzaga in the WCC tourney. Marquette didn’t finish as strong as they started, but their early success still warrants a 6 seed, and they’ll play Oklahoma, whose struggles in the Big 12 aren’t enough to disqualify them from an at-large bid. Buffalo, another strong mid-major, was undefeated for almost half the season, but their slightly underwhelming intra-Conference performance will keep them to a 7 seed and a first round date with Louisville, who just barely makes the cut after an underwhelming start and struggles late in the season. Iowa and UCF will face off in the 8-9 game, as UCF nearly kept up with Cincinnati and Houston in the AAC and Iowa improved upon 2017-18 struggles.

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Gonzaga should still be able to grab a #1 seed, even after losing in the WCC Championship. Fairleigh Dickinson or North Dakota State (Both already punched tickets) will face them.  After a strong SEC performance, Kentucky will grab a 2 seed despite losing to Tennessee in the SEC semifinals and should easily defeat Abilene Christian of the Southland Conference.  AAC favorite Houston should be able to snag a 3 seed after just two regular season losses.  UC Irvine, who has been a regular contender in the Big West throughout the Russell Turner era will challenge them.  Florida State made the ACC finals.  Considering their above average regular season, they are definitely deserving of a Top 4 seed.  Texas Southern will win the SWAC and take them on.

Wisconsin was at least competitive in the B1G, and Ethan Happ’s return gave them a boost this year.  They should earn the 5 seed after their performance, but New Mexico State is an experienced NCAA tournament team who has pulled many upsets before.  They will not be an easy opponent.  Washington, the Pac-12 regular season winner, should still be considered a Top 25 overall team despite their weak conference.  TCU will just barely earn the at-large bid and first-round bye as they take Washington on.  Whether VCU wins the A10 or not, they should still make it in with a top half seed after a late-season surge to the top of the A10 standings.  Murray State, the OVC winner will give them a hard time though after losing just 4 games on the season.  I have Big 12 winner Iowa State and MWC winner Utah State in the 8-9 game.  Neither is deserving of Top 4 seeds due to underwhelming regular season performances.  But their conference victories will boost their resumes.

Additional Notes

Conferences with Multiple Teams:

  • ACC: 9
  • SEC: 7
  • Big 12: 6
  • B1G: 6
  • AAC: 4
  • PAC-12: 4
  • A10: 2
  • Big East: 2
  • MWC: 2
  • OVC: 2
  • SoCon: 2
  • WCC: 2

Bubble Watch

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That’s all for my final bracketology of the year.  Stay tuned for more March Madness coverage soon, including a region-by-region breakdown of my bracket this week.

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Bracketology 1.0: February Frenzy Bracket Dominated by ACC, B1G

It took a week for me to recover from the tough Super Bowl loss, but with the Winter Olympics, spring training, and March Madness coming up and the NBA and NHL seasons still finishing up, I will be actively posting for the rest of February.

Tomorrow, for the 2nd year in a row, the NCAA will be releasing a February preview at this year’s March Madness bracket, portraying the top 16 teams and dividing them into the four regions, therefore previewing the top four seeds of each region.  The Top 16 will be seeded based on their performance so far, not what is expected of them in the coming weeks.  Rather than making a bracketology after the fact like I did last year, I’ve put together my own version beforehand.  Although I am focusing on the top four in each reason, I have made a complete bracketology.

Let’s get started.

East Region

Fun Fact: Boston’s TD Garden will host the East Regional Finals, including the east region’s Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight match-ups.

The Top Four

  1. Image result for villanova logo blue Villanova
  2. Image result for duke logo blue background Duke
  3. Image result for clemson logo colored background Clemson
  4. Image result for west virginia logo colored background West Virginia

Villanova has put up great season after great season, and not only are they a clear #1 seed, they are the clear #1 overall, especially after Virginia’s recent loss.  Duke takes the #2, even though they’ve had a rough patch over the last couple weeks.  They were a clear #1 seed two weeks ago, but they’ve lost to Virginia, St. John’s and North Carolina since.  They went from 17-2 to 19-5.  Meanwhile, Clemson has emerged as an elite team in the ACC, earning them the #3.  I still see West Virginia getting a #4 even after their loss to Oklahoma State, although you could argue they should be moved down a seed after a rough patch of their own.

The Rest of the East

5. Kentucky

6. Florida

7. Rhode Island

8. Florida State

9. Butler

10. Virginia Tech

11. Providence/UNC Greensboro

12. ETSU

13. Vermont

14. Georgia State

15. Rider

16. UNC Asheville

This is a pretty strong region, and I couldn’t see that many upsets happen.  But you should watch out for Vermont, who has dominated their conference over the last two years.  They challenged Purdue in last year’s tournament, and they may be able to do the same to West Virginia, who we have seen lose to some lower end teams in recent years.  Remember when Stephen F. Austin shocked them in 2016 (I had predicted it)?  They have also lost to teams like Oklahoma State and Iowa State this year, both of whom have struggled to win games in the Big 12.

Midwest Region

The Top Four

  1. Related image Xavier
  2. Image result for michigan state logo Michigan State
  3. Image result for texas tech red raiders logo Texas Tech
  4. Related image Ohio State

MSU did impress me today with their win over Purdue, but in my opinion, they fell just short of taking the #1 seed from Xavier here.  You could argue for Texas Tech to be seeded higher as well, but I feel that teams like Duke and Kansas are more deserving of #2 slots.  But Texas Tech is a clear #3 as well as Auburn, another top team that couldn’t get a #2 on my bracket.  Ohio State grabs the #4 after a strong run where they upset Purdue and beat other Big Ten foes in Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa.  The Buckeyes have had some tough losses, but they’ve also put up some impressive victories against conference rivals.

The Rest

5. Wichita State

6. Louisville

7. Michigan

8. Arizona State

9. Kansas State

10. Middle Tennessee

11. Loyola-Chicago

12. Arkansas

13. Buffalo

14. Pennsylvania

15. Bucknell

16. Weber State/Grambling

 

Again, upsets will be tough in another strong region, but Middle Tennessee is ambitious to go on another playoff run.  They have pulled a major first-round upset in each of the last two years.  This year, in a higher seed, they have an even better chance at a deep run.  In this scenario, if they were able to get past Michigan, they would get another chance at Michigan State, who they shocked back in 2016 as a #15 seed, therefore ruining my 2016 bracket.  I’m not underestimating them again.  Loyola-Chicago and Buffalo are other teams to watch for.  If you’re looking for a higher seed to pull a late round upset, watch for Wichita State, who has only gotten stronger after switching to a conference with more competition for them.  I could also see Louisville bouncing back from a rocky start to the year.

 

South Region

The Top Four

  1. Image result for virginia logo Virginia
  2. Image result for cincinnati bearcats logo colored background Cincinnati
  3. Image result for auburn logo Auburn
  4. Related image North Carolina

Virginia’s loss to Virginia Tech this weekend has lowered their chances at a #1 seed, but I still think they’d qualify for one if the season ended today.  I have Cincinnati grabbing a #2 seed.  They have really impressed me of late as they take control of a conference race against Wichita State, Houston, and other contenders.  Auburn takes the #3.  They climbed their way into the Top 10 as the season progressed, and I cannot see them budging,  The defending champs grab the #4 seed after another strong season.  They aren’t quite what they were last year, but they are still Top 16 material.

The Rest

5. Oklahoma

6. Miami

7. Nevada

8. Seton Hall

9. USC

10. New Mexico State

11. Louisiana

12. UCLA

13. Belmont

14. Charleston

15. FGCU

16. Wagner/North Carolina A & T

I think this is a more upset-friendly conference.  New Mexico State-Nevada is an intriguing match-up that could go either way.  I could also see Louisiana, Belmont, or UCLA pulling an upset.  But UCLA would have to get past Trae Young and the Sooners in this scenario.  Speaking of Oklahoma, I could very well see them outplay UNC and advance to the Sweet 16, or even the Elite Eight (they would have to upset Virginia to go that far) with the help of Trae Young.

 

West Region

The Top Four

  1. Related image Purdue
  2. Image result for kansas logo Kansas
  3. Image result for arizona logo Arizona
  4. Image result for tennessee volunteers logo Tennessee

Even after falling short to Michigan State, Purdue should grab the #1 seed if they keep things up, even if they fall short to the Spartans again in the conference tourney.  Kansas should still get a #2 seed.  Although they aren’t living up to their usual expectations, their squad is still Top 10, and despite Texas Tech’s big year, I still think they are the best team in the Big 12.  Arizona is leading their own conference (the Pac-12) and having a strong year as usual, and they aren’t Top 10 material, but they at least have enough in them to grab the #3 seed.  Meanwhile, Tennessee has bounced back from a rough 2016-17 season to become one of the SEC’s top teams as well as one of the nation’s Top 16.

The Rest

5. Saint Mary’s

6. Gonzaga

7. Creighton

8. Houston

9. Washington

10. Nebraska

11. Boise State

12. Texas A & M/Montana

13. South Dakota State

14. Stephen F. Austin

15. UC Santa Barbara

16. Northern Kentucky

I definitely see a lot of upsets happening here.  Stephen F. Austin pulled a big one the last time they made the big tournament, can they do it again?  South Dakota State also came close to pulling an upset in their 2016 March Madness appearance.  I could also see Boise State, and either Texas A & M or Montana potentially pulling an upset.  The teams that could suffer against this strong group of underdogs include Tennessee, Saint Mary’s, and Gonzaga.  Will they let these lower seeds mess with them?

 

That’s all for my February bracketology.  Be sure to catch the March Madness February Bracket Preview tomorrow at 12:30 PM EST.