February 8, 2021 

NCAA Bracketology: Feb. 8

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A shakeup on the top line

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Can I say I hate this bracket? I’m sorry, but I do. It was almost impossible to balance. I couldn’t avoid putting conference teams in the same half of regions, some seed-line movements seem erratic. Bleh.

But what can I do? I have to evaluate teams as best I can, so here we are. I had UCLA as a 1 seed last week, all it did was lose at a solid Washington State team and beat Washington, and now it’s a 3 seed. Are you kidding me? The reality is this: UCLA was No. 4 overall last week and is now No. 9 — a five-spot drop instead of what some might interpret as much worse. The loss itself was only worth a couple spots, but at the same time no team immediately behind the Bruins lost and both UConn and Texas A&M beat projected tournament teams. With what should be a couple easy wins coming up this week, UCLA could easily be back on the 2 line next week.

The top line

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: there is very little separation between teams on the top 2-3 seed lines. It’s going to make for a wild second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, but in the meantime it’ll make any bracketologist want to pull their hair out.

South Carolina remains a 1 seed and will stay there even with a loss to UConn this week. The next six teams on the overall seed list — Stanford, Louisville, NC State, Texas A&M, UConn, and Maryland —seem interchangeable. The Cardinal are second in the NET with two wins over projected top-three seeds but took a bad loss to Colorado. Louisville’s only loss was to NC State but it has yet to beat a team projected to be better than a 7 seed. UConn has a better win (at Tennessee) but has beaten far fewer projected tournament teams. Texas A&M has a host of great wins but a so-so loss at LSU and a NET of only 14.

What I’m saying is pick those names out of a hat and you could probably justify the order in which you draw them. Now excuse me while I close my eyes and hit publish before I decide to change my order again.

Evaluating Milwaukee

Looking a little further down the bracket, there was something else I struggled with. Milwaukee has lost four straight games and for a team in a mid-major conference, that should be the death-knell for any at-large chances.

Here’s why the Panthers are still alive: Two wins at IUPUI and one at Marquette all qualify as quadrant 1 wins. The win at Bradley is quad 2 and Milwaukee is 8-3 overall on the road. As for the losses, the worst is that sweep at the hands of Northern Kentucky (NET 104). Hardly embarrassing. Furthermore, the committee will look at how a team looks in wins and losses. Except for one stinker against Northern Kentucky, each of Milwaukee’s losses has been by single digits and it has dominated the lesser teams of the Horizon League. That has to count for something.

All that said, Milwaukee needs to win its four remaining regular season games to stay in the field. While the NKU losses aren’t terrible, they are still in quad 3 and losses to Oakland or UIC would be even worse. While it’s impossible to project exactly what a team needs to do the rest of the way, it appears the only loss Milwaukee can afford would be in the Horizon tournament to Wright State or IUPUI.

Nitty Gritty

Bids by conference:

ACC: 9
SEC: 8
Big Ten: 7
Big 12: 5
Pac-12: 5
Big East: 3
American: 2
Horizon: 2

Last Four In:

Notre Dame
Wake Forest
Virginia Tech
Marquette

First Four Out:

LSU
Miami
North Carolina
Arizona State

Next Four Out:

Villanova
Houston
USC
Missouri

Procedural Bumps:

UCF 10 to a 9
Florida State 9 to a 10

Next Update: 2/15

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