Here are the final January projections for the NCAA Tournament bracket. I like to project where teams will finish, and not necessarily just base it on games to date. I use RPI Forecast for a view of how the RPIs will end up (since we know that certain conferences will see those numbers go up due to playing each other).
Starting this week, the projections will be released every week, on Sunday night with the exception of next week’s version (this thing called the Super Bowl will be taking place, so this will go up on Monday before any games). Here was the last projection, from mid-January.
The full bracket projection is below. But first, I wanted to discuss two of the more difficult cases for me in trying to project how a committee might treat them. Wichita State is a team with a veteran core that has had plenty of tournament and big game success. They got off to a rough start at 2-4 this year, and Fred Van Vleet missed several games. When it comes to profile wins, December can be bigger for a team like Wichita State since they aren’t going to have as many opportunities. And Wichita State lost out on those games. So from a profile perspective, they aren’t going to have as good of one as teams that they can certainly play with now.
But they’ve been dominating the Missouri Valley and playing like the team that we’ve become accustomed to. They are now ranked in the national polls again, and they’ve climbed to 15th in Pomeroy’s ratings. From a profile perspective, they are more like a 9 or 10 seed. From a “do you want to play them” perspective, they are more like a 5 seed. I’ve split the difference for now, but admit that I don’t know how the committee will treat it. (I thought the committee underseeded Wichita State last year as a 7).
Then there’s LSU. They just lost a fantastic basketball game to the best team in the country at home on Saturday. They’ve been one of the best 50 teams in the country since the start of the new year, and Craig Victor and Keith Hornsby missed most of the first month and a half of the season. But let’s face it, before that, they weren’t very good. The RPI is not going to be good. They could be sitting there on Selection Sunday outside the top 70.
Oh, and then there’s this guy named Ben Simmons, the likely first overall pick and one of the dynamic players in the sport. If LSU finishes 13-5 in the SEC (they are currently 6-2) and that includes a couple of key wins (at South Carolina, at Kentucky, Florida, and Texas A&M are the opportunities), then it’s going to be very interesting. I don’t know how you leave them out if that’s the case. I’ve got them just on the edge right now, and out based on current profile and a projection that they won’t get to 13-5. But it’s going to be close. Can LSU close on a surge? I know the committee will say they don’t think this way, but it would be hard to top opening with them on a Tuesday night in a Dayton game.