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Bracketology 2022: Building Off the Committee’s Sneak Peek

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The top four lines of Friday’s bracket largely resembled the Selection Committee’s top 16, revealed one day later. The differences (and similarities, for that matter) will guide this exercise over the remaining three weeks of the season.

The top four seeds in each region of the projected bracket for Tuesday, February 22, 2022.
Graphic by Chris Dobbertean using logos from SportsLogos.net.

Note: This story is best viewed on desktop.

✴️ = new bracket entrants
⬆️ and ⬇️ = bracket returnees’ seed movement relative to Friday’s bracket
(#) = Overall rank of the top 16 teams (top four seeds in each region)

Acknowledgements: NET rankings and records are accurate as of Tuesday, February 22, 2022 and reflect only games against Division I teams. Selection Sheet info is from WarrenNolan.com. Team logos are from Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net.

On Friday and Saturday, this humble bracketologist and the 10 people tabbed with selecting and seeding the actual March Madness field for 2022 both gave you their thoughts on how the top four seed lines. Let’s see how they compared to one another.

  • No. 1 seeds: Friday’s projection and the Committee’s sneak peek both featured the same four teams, just in a slightly different order. I put Auburn at the top of my projected field due to their higher number of Quad 1 and 2 wins, while the real deal had Gonzaga at No. 1 overall. (Given the Tigers’ loss at Florida on Saturday, the Committee’s findings hold here.) Both the Committee and I placed Auburn in the Midwest (Chicago) given the lack of super convenient regional site for Bruce Pearl’s club, so that solved one of the bigger bracket questions I had. Beyond the top two, we both had Arizona and Kansas third and fourth overall.

Curiously, in the previous four sneak peek shows that previewed an actual NCAA Tournament, three of the four No. 1 seeds ended up anchoring a region when the real bracket arrived a few weeks later.

  • 2017: Baylor, No. 3 overall in the first-ever bracket preview show, slipped to all the way down to a No. 3 seed. North Carolina, the preview No. 2 seed in the Bears’ South region, ended up securing the final No. 1 spot a few weeks later.
  • 2018: Purdue, No. 4 overall, was the unfortunate squad, with yet another preview No. 2 seed, Kansas, passing them. Of course, the Jayhawks, 6th overall, were the second-seeded team in the Boilermakers’ region, the West. Unlike Baylor in 2017, Purdue managed to secure a No. 2 seed in the real bracket.
  • 2019: Tennessee was the second-ranked team overall in February 2019. UNC, the 2 seed in the Vols’ South region, ended up replacing them. But the Tar Heels ended up heading up the final Midwest bracket, with Tennessee eventually serving as the No. 2 seed in the South bracket—topped by the eventual national champs, Virginia.
  • 2021: Ohio State was the No. 1 seed in Region 4, fourth overall. The Buckeyes were eventually replaced by Big Ten rival Illinois, the No. 2 from preview Region 2. Of course, OSU ended up on the real bracket’s No. 2 line and was eventually upset by 15th-seeded Oral Roberts in the First Round.

Amazingly, this was the only time that the unlucky No. 1 was not replaced by the No. 2 seed from its bracket preview region. At least when there was an NCAA Tournament played ...

For the record, the four No. 1 seeds in 2020’s reveal were Baylor, Kansas, Gonzaga, and San Diego State. Even though the NCAA Tournament ended up being canceled, the three out of four pattern was set to repeat had it occurred (based on the Bracket Matrix)—with Dayton being the No. 2 seed replacing the Aztecs.

Back to 2022!

  • Three of my four No. 2 seeds from Friday—Kentucky, Purdue, and Baylor—made the Committee’s quartet. The selectors ranked Duke ahead of Villanova, however. The sneak preview bracket also placed Baylor No. 5 overall, ahead of No. 6 UK and No. 7 Purdue. Remember that the fourth “passing lane” No. 1 seed has always come from the group of No. 2s. At this point, I think Baylor, Kentucky, and Purdue have a better chance at ending up on the top line than Duke does, simply because the ACC is so much weaker than the Big 12, SEC, and Big Ten in 2022.
  • Villanova, my fourth No. 2, led off the Selection Committee’s No. 3 seeds. I ranked another Big East team, Providence, No. 9 overall Friday’s projection, but the Committee seemed to balance the Friars’ relatively low NET ranking against their impressive record and number of quality wins, knocked them down to a 4 seed. In fact, just one of the four No. 3 seeds in my Friday’s bracket—Texas Tech—was also a 3 in the sneak preview bracket. That being said, I had both Tennessee and Illinois in my top 16, just one seed line lower.
  • Joining Providence as the Committee’s No. 4 seeds: Wisconsin (a No. 3 for me, at Illinois’ expense), UCLA (who I projected as a 4), and Texas. I had the Longhorns on seed line 5 on Friday, along with Ohio State. The Buckeyes, Longhorns, Alabama (a 6 seed for me), and Houston (the team I had as my final No. 4 seed) were all in contention for that No. 16 overall nod.

Looking back at how the Preview Show Top 16 fared on Selection Sunday ...

  • 2017: 15 of the 16 from the preview ended up with protected seeds in the final bracket. Virginia, who dropped down to a 5 seed, was the exception. Purdue, one of the four teams mentioned as a contender for the final 4 seed in February ended up replacing the Cavaliers in the final Top 16. (15/16)
  • 2018: Three teams—Clemson, Ohio State, and Oklahoma—dropped out of the top 16 between the preview and Selection Sunday, replaced by Gonzaga, Michigan, and Wichita State. While both the Tigers and Buckeyes ended up as 5 seeds, the Sooners fell all the way to a 10. (13/16)
  • 2019: A full one-quarter of the Committee’s February Top 16 dropped out on Selection Sunday: Iowa State, Louisville, Nevada, and Wisconsin. Three of the four teams mentioned as knocking on the door—LSU, Texas Tech, and Virginia Tech—ended up joining Florida State on the top four lines in the final bracket. Of the four teams that faded down the stretch, only Wisconsin ended up as a 5 seed. Iowa State earned a 6, while both Louisville and Nevada dropped down to seed line 7. (12/16)
  • 2021: Once again, four teams saw their fortunes fade in the final month of the unusual 2020-21 season: Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Villanova. They ended up being passed by Arkansas, Florida State, Kansas, and Purdue. While Nova ended up as a 5 and Texas Tech a 6, Oklahoma and Missouri both fell into the same 8/9 game—which the Sooners won, 72-68. (12/16)

So, in the four seasons where the Bracket Preview Show was followed by an actual NCAA Tournament, 52 of the 64 teams given a top 4 seed in February held their places in the final bracket—81.25 percent. If you factor in 2020 (again, thanks to the Bracket Matrix), it was likely to be a similar story. Three of that season’s preview show’s Top 16—Auburn, Butler, and West Virginia—fell out of the final projected matrix Top 16. Creighton, Kentucky, and Wisconsin replaced them, with the Tigers and Bulldogs both dropping down to the Matrix’s 5 seed line. The Mountaineers, however, ended up as a 6.

What Does That Mean for Today’s Bracket (and Future Ones)?

For starters, the top 16 of this bracket is largely unchanged from the Selection Committee’s offerings, even after Auburn’s loss at Florida. However, I did drop Tennessee to a 4 after its 58-48 loss at Arkansas on Saturday, with Wisconsin replacing them on seed line 3 (behind Illinois). Another Big Ten team also cracks today’s Top 16, with Ohio State replacing Texas as the lowest-ranked 4 seed.

Otherwise, I’ve made adjustments down to the cut line based on what the Selection Committee seems to be valuing. Once again, racking up quality wins seems to matter, which explains why Alabama ended up being considered for a spot on the 4 line despite some questionable losses, but winning percentage in such games isn’t considered as strongly. Tennessee, a 3 seed on Saturday, had a 5-6 record in Quad 1 games heading into that loss in Fayetteville that dropped them to 5-7. Also, the NET isn’t the be-all/end-all, as Houston, the fourth-ranked team in the metric, is currently no better than a 5 seed. Auburn, on the other hand, is 10th in the NET, and the No. 2 overall seed.

In terms of conferences, the Committee seems to value the Big 12, Big Ten, and SEC more highly than the Big East and American, and the ACC more highly than pretty much everyone else, considering Duke’s placement on the No. 2 line. (The Pac-12 seems like a push.) That perception will help drive the bubble selections and seeding choices I make from seed line 5 to the cut line.

Since this post is already well over 2000 words, I’m going to dispense with the usual anointing of winners and losers and cut to the chase of what to look forward to this week.

Breakdown by Conference with Key Midweek Games

Big Ten (8 Teams)

Tuesday: (6) Michigan State at (8) Iowa, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

Wednesday: (11) Rutgers at (11) Michigan, 7 p.m. (BTN) | (3) Wisconsin at Minnesota, 9 p.m. (BTN)

Thursday: Maryland at (F4O) Indiana, 7 p.m. (FS1) | (4) Ohio State at (3) Illinois, 9 p.m. (FS1)

Do you like storylines? The five selected Big Ten games here have them in spades (sorry, Nebraska-Northwestern). On Tuesday, Michigan State heads to Iowa teetering. The Spartans have dropped four of five, with last week’s defeats at Penn State and to Illinois at the Breslin Center coming by nine total points. The Hawkeyes, on the other hand, made a statement in grabbing a Quad 1 win that won’t decrease in value, as they knocked off Ohio State in Columbus by 13.

Then you get to Wednesday, which sees both Wisconsin and Michigan take the floor for the first time since Sunday afternoon’s fisticuffs and general unpleasantness. While the Badgers have to travel to Minnesota, that shouldn’t be as much of a potential trouble spot as the Wolverines’ home date with Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights were unable to grab their fifth consecutive win over a ranked team on Sunday at Purdue, but they also can’t be written off as they travel to Ann Arbor, particularly since they’ve already won in Madison.

Thursday sees Indiana host Maryland in a must-win game, as the Hoosiers have dropped five in a row to drop down to the wrong side of the cut line. The final midweek contest, however, features the lone regular-season meeting of current 3 seed Illinois and final 4 seed Ohio State.

SEC (7)

Tuesday: (6) Arkansas at (12) Florida, 7 p.m. (ESPN2) | Georgia at (AC) Texas A&M, 7 p.m. | (4) Tennessee at Missouri, 7 p.m. (SECN) | (5) Alabama at Vanderbilt, 9 p.m. (SECN)

Wednesday: (AC) Mississippi State at South Carolina, 6:30 p.m. (SECN) | Ole Miss at (1) Auburn, 8:30 p.m. (SECN) | (6) LSU at (2) Kentucky, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

Florida’s win over Auburn was the Gators’ second top-tier Quad 1 win, enough to put the Gators in the field for now. Beating Arkansas tonight, however, might just keep UF there longer. Elsewhere, the most intriguing matchup is the last one to tip in the midweek window, as Kentucky hosts LSU. Since the Tigers defeated the Wildcats in Baton Rouge on January 4th, John Calipari’s club has won 11 of 13. Will Wade’s squad, on the other hand, has been a pedestrian 6-7.

Tennessee and Alabama both face tricky road tests, while Auburn has a home game against a poor Ole Miss squad to get back on track. For the two SEC teams below Florida on the bubble, Texas A&M and Mississippi State cannot afford to lose their upcoming contests. The Bulldogs, fresh off a Friday-Sunday sweep of Missouri, has the tougher task, visiting South Carolina. While the Gamecocks lost by 14 in Starkville to start February, they stunned LSU on Saturday.

Big East (6)

Tuesday: (3) Villanova at (7) UConn, 8 p.m. (FS1)

Wednesday: (9) Creighton at St. John’s, 6:30 p.m. (FS1) | (8) Xavier at (4) Providence, 7 p.m. (CBSSN) | Butler at (7) Seton Hall, 8:30 p.m. (FS1)

Solidifying position is the name of the game in the Big East this week. For starters, Villanova has the conference regular season crown within its grasp, but UConn, currently tied for third with Creighton would love to spoil the Wildcats’ title hopes ... and their chances at earning a 2 (or 1) seed. Speaking of the Bluejays, they will look to run their win streak to six when they visit St. John’s on Wednesday evening. The Red Storm, who have defeated Xavier and Butler in their last two outings, could put themselves back in the picture by taking down Creighton. Later, Providence, which has recorded a three-point OT win, five-point loss, and one-point OT victory in its last three outings, hosts Xavier. The Friars only defeated the Musketeers by three in Cincinnati on January 26th. Travis Steele’s club has won just one of its last five games; however, so the bubble has claimed it. Seton Hall is on slightly more stable ground, even if the Pirates have only defeated DePaul in their last three games. But failing to sweep Butler would increase the Hall’s anxiety.

Big 12 (6)

Tuesday: (N4O) Oklahoma at (3) Texas Tech, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | (AC) Kansas State at (1) Kansas, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

Wednesday: (10) TCU at (5) Texas, 7 p.m. (ESPN2) | (AC) West Virginia at (7) Iowa State, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)

The fact that Committee has three Big 12 teams in its top 10 and four in its top 16 bodes well for the conference’s bubble teams. While TCU (17-8) and Iowa State (18-9) are currently far enough above .500 to be in good shape, Kansas State (14-12), West Virginia, and Oklahoma (both 14-13) really need to start winning consistently to not test the Committee’s patience. All three hit the road in the midweek window take on rivals who are far better placed in the seed list. Then there are the Horned Frogs, who ended a three-game losing streak Monday against West Virginia. They’ll hope to get pick up a big revenge win at Texas. Remember that the Longhorns torched TCU, 73-50, in front of a record crowd in Fort Worth on January 25th.

ACC (5)

Tuesday: (9) Miami at Pittsburgh, 8 p.m. (ACCN)

Wednesday: (2) Duke at (F4O) Virginia, 7 p.m. (ESPN) | Syracuse at (10) Notre Dame, 7 p.m. (ESPN News) | (10) Wake Forest at Clemson, 7 p.m. (ACCN) | (N4O) Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech, 9 p.m. (ACCN)

In Saturday’s 88-70 rout of Florida State, Duke looked very much the part of a top-seed contender. Wednesday brings a different challenge though, as the Blue Devils head to Charlottesville looking to avoid a sweep at the hands of Virginia. The Cavaliers picked up a second win over Miami on Saturday to boost their bubble hopes, but a pair of victories over the Canes will pale in comparison to two against the ACC leaders.

Miami travels to Pittsburgh looking for an instant bounce back on Tuesday night, the rest of the ACC’s at-large hopefuls take the floor along with Virginia on Wednesday. Notre Dame, a road loser at Wake on Saturday, hosts Syracuse, while the Demon Deacons and and Virginia Tech, dropped by UNC on Saturday, visit Clemson and Georgia Tech, respectively.

MW (4)

Tuesday: (12) San Diego State at (9) Boise State, 9 p.m. (CBSSN) | Fresno State at Air Force, 9 p.m. (MWN) | New Mexico at Utah State, 10 p.m. (FS1) | UNLV at Nevada, 11 p.m. (CBSSN)

Wednesday: (10) Wyoming at (8) Colorado State, 9 p.m. (CBSSN)

The five midweek games on tap in the Mountain West will serve as a preview for what should be an extremely competitive conference tournament in Las Vegas. The main courses are of course the two showdowns featuring the league’s top four teams. Boise State will look for a repeat of January 22nd’s 42-37 win at SDSU on Tuesday (though maybe with more offense), while Wyoming travels to Colorado State for a rematch of their 84-78 OT victory of January 31st. Tuesday’s other three games are not without their charm; however, considering how spicy the Mountain West’s middle class has been in conference play.

Pac-12 (3)

Wednesday: Washington at (AC) Washington State, 11 p.m. (ESPNU)

Thursday: Arizona State at (AC) Colorado, 9 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks) | (4) UCLA at (N4O) Oregon, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN) | (5) USC at Oregon State, 11 p.m. (ESPN2) | (1) Arizona at Utah, 11 p.m. (FS1)

All eyes will be on Eugene this weekend, as Oregon can really juice its NCAA prospects by matching its 2-0 trip to UCLA and USC with a strong home performance against those same two squads. The Trojans cannot get caught looking ahead to their trip to Matthew Knight Arena when they visit struggling Oregon State. Arizona, meanwhile, puts its No. 1 seed status on the line when it heads to the Rockies. Sean Miller’s teams went 1-5 in their last three Utah/Colorado trips. Will Tommy Lloyd’s first team be able to do better?

WCC (3)

Thursday: (1) Gonzaga at (12) San Francisco, 9 p.m. (ESPN2) | Loyola Marymount at (F4O) BYU, 10 p.m. (CBSSN) | (7) Saint Mary’s at San Diego, 10 p.m. (Stadium/Marquee)

The regular season wraps up for the WCC this weekend. After their Saturday meeting, Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s should both be able to rest until the conference tournament semifinals on Monday, March 7th, San Francisco and BYU both have lots of work to do to get to that point ... and the field of 68, for that matter. The Cougars host LMU in a game they cannot afford to drop, while the Dons, fresh off crushing Pacific on Monday night, host the Zags in one last attempt to record a marquee win.

American (2)

Wednesday: Tulsa at (12) SMU, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | (5) Houston at Tulane, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Cincinnati at UCF, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)

Thursday: Temple at (F4O) Memphis, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

The revolving door for second in the AAC took yet another turn on Sunday when SMU completed a season sweep of Memphis, 73-57, in Dallas. On Wednesday, the Mustangs host a Tulsa team they should be able to handle. One night later, the Tigers host the Temple team that beat the Ponies last Wednesday. Then there’s conference leader Houston, who travels to resurgent Tulane after needing two overtimes to win at Wichita State on Sunday. Such results won’t help the Cougars’ case for a protected seed.

Atlantic 10 (1)

Tuesday: Rhode Island at (AC) St. Bonaventure, 7 p.m. (CBSSN) | Saint Joseph’s at (AC) Saint Louis, 8 p.m. (Bally Midwest Plus/ESPN+ ($))

Wednesday: George Mason at (AC) VCU, 7 p.m. (MASN2/ESPN+ ($)) | UMass at (N4O) Dayton, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | (9) Davidson at Duquesne, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

Despite a decent number of contenders, the Atlantic 10 remains a one-bid conference for now, thanks again to the quality of the competition. All five at-large contenders will face difficult opponents in the midweek window, with leaders Davidson being the only team set to hit the road. The Wildcats will look to complete a season sweep of Duquesne they began at home on Valentine’s Day.

MVC (1)

Wednesday: Drake at Valparaiso, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Northern Iowa at Indiana State, 7 p.m. (Bally Midwest/NBCS Chicago/ESPN+ ($)) | Evansville at (11) Loyola Chicago, 8 p.m. (NBCS Chicago Plus/ESPN+ ($)) | Bradley at Missouri State, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

On Saturday, Loyola lost to Drake for a second time, falling 83-76 in Rogers Park. The Ramblers rebounded on Monday by winning at Illinois State to take the Valley’s auto bid back from Northern Iowa, who briefly held it over the weekend, following the Panthers 95-75 rout of Missouri State. Increasingly, the at-large chances for Drew Valentine’s team look dour, thanks to four conference losses and a mere single win over a team in this projected field, the hastily-arranged 79-74 win over San Francisco in Utah in early January. And given how rough and tumble the Ramblers have found it in the league, earning the auto bid isn’t a foregone conclusion.

Elsewhere

Tuesday: Yale at Dartmouth, 6 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Ball State at Kent State, 7 p.m. (ESPN3) | Central Michigan at Ohio, 7 p.m. (ESPN3) | (13) Toledo at Western Michigan, 7 p.m. (ESPN3)

Wednesday: (13) Chattanooga at ETSU, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | (13) Vermont at Binghamton, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | FGCU at Liberty, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | North Florida at Jacksonville, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Radford at (15) Longwood, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | (150 Colgate at Holy Cross, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | James Madison at Towson, 7 p.m. (FloHoops ($)) | Appalachian State at Little Rock, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | (15) Texas State at South Alabama, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Eastern Kentucky at (15) Jacksonville State, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

Thursday: (14) Wagner at Fairleigh Dickinson, 6 p.m. (CBSSN) | USC Upstate at Winthrop, 7 p.m. (ESPNU) | Elon at Hofstra, 7 p.m. (SNY/FloHoops ($)) | (16) UNCW at Drexel, 7 p.m. (NBCS Philadelphia Plus/FloHoops ($)) | College of Charleston at Delaware, 7 p.m. (NBCS Philadelphia/FloHoops ($)) | (16) Cleveland State at Detroit Mercy, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Purdue Fort Wayne at Oakland, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Robert Morris at Northern Kentucky, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Youngstown State at Wright State, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | (AC) UAB at UTSA, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Southern Mississippi at (12) North Texas, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Seattle at Utah Valley, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | (13) South Dakota State at Oral Roberts, 8 p.m. (ORU stream) | (AC) Belmont at (8) Murray State, 9 p.m. (ESPNU) | (16) New Orleans at Southeastern Louisiana, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | UC San Diego at (16) Long Beach State, 10 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | UC Irvine at Cal State Fullerton, 10 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

With the first conference tournament action of 2022 set for next Monday, things are getting very real in the race for higher playoff seedings and the advantages they provide (and fail to provide). Tuesday is a huge night in the MAC with the top three all in action. Wednesday features crucial games in the ASUN, Big South, CAA, and Sun Belt. Thursday has the Big South and CAA center stage again alongside the NEC, Horizon (even though Cleveland State has already clinched the top seed), Southland, WAC, and Big West.

As usual, on Friday, I’ll have an updated bracket and look at the lock and bubble picture for the weekend.