Back in November, we made our picks for the upcoming basketball season. But that was before any games had been played, and now we are in mid-January and about halfway through the schedule (well, more than halfway, but some of those were guaranteed home gimmes in December).
I initially had Villanova, Kansas, Duke and North Carolina as my projected top seeds. Duke looks like a longshot on recent form and with Coach K sidelined this month. North Carolina is close, and I’m still projecting Kansas and Villanova to hold those spots. I had Kentucky as a #2 seed and UCLA as a #4 seed, but the Bruins have exceeded expectations.
These are my projections for Selection Sunday. Lots of people do current bracketology. I would rather project where teams will be, once they play the entire schedule. We know, for example, that the ACC teams are going to play several more big games. Ignoring those and going off current RPI would miss the mark. So using predictive rankings and the info at RPI Forecast, which projects future RPI rankings, here are my projections for the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
Villanova is on track for the top overall seed, playing in a tough conference that should provide quality wins. It’s hard to bet against Kansas in the Big 12 until someone else actually knocks them off, and the conference should produce a top seed. UCLA has a relatively low RPI, but if they get to 28 wins with the road win at Kentucky and win the Pac-12, they will get a top seed.
Gonzaga is the wildcard. They have to go undefeated to get a top seed. Right now, we’ll project them just outside with two likely games against St. Mary’s (on the road and in the conference tourney) coming.
The ACC is loaded at the top. The first projection has five teams in the top four seeds, and that doesn’t include Notre Dame, who falls just outside but could easily swap spots with one of these teams.
The Big Ten is likely to be seeded lower than people think, because of RPI issues. Wisconsin is the first Big Ten team here. One could sneak into the top 3 seeds, but it will take a big run. Seven different Big Ten teams fall in this range on the projections. Indiana has the two big wins, which should push them up despite a RPI ranking that could be near 40 by season’s end.
The bubble is full of Big 12 teams, and some ACC teams. The teams on this list will face tough tipping against the top teams in their conferences, but will also have opportunities to add the big win that can get them in. Those marked with a + are projected as the last four in, to play in Dayton.
Illinois State moved ahead of Wichita State in the MVC, and right now, I’ll project that both can make it in as at-larges based on an otherwise soft bubble.
The teams that were under consideration and just missed include: Marquette, Michigan, Ohio State, Seton Hall, Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Boise State, and Georgia.