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Bracketology 2022: Entering the Homestretch

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For some, the regular season comes to a close this weekend. For others, the dreams of an NCAA bid might just end today or tomorrow. Here’s a look at where things stand on this Saturday, as I move to daily (at a minimum) projections from now until Selection Sunday.

The top four seeds in each region of the projected bracket for Saturday, March 5, 2022.
Graphic by Chris Dobbertean. Logos via SportsLogos.net.

Note: This story is best viewed on desktop.

Acknowledgements: NET rankings are accurate as of Friday, March 4, 2022, and records are accurate as of Saturday, March 5, 2022. Both reflect only games against Division I teams. Selection Sheet info is from WarrenNolan.com. Team logos are from Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net.

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

So, How Many Bids Remain Available on March 5th?

Once again, a quick reminder of how I count available bids.

  • The 2022 NCAA Tournament will feature 68 teams: 32 conference tournament winners who will claim automatic bids and 36 teams the Selection Committee will select at-large.
  • Of the 32 auto bids, it’s looking like 23 of those will come from conferences that are likely to earn one bid.
  • Combine the 9 likely multi-bid auto bid winners with the 36 at-large teams, and you’re left with 45 spots that are up for grabs. (Of course, if the power conference tournaments go haywire like they did in 2021, this number will decline as Selection Sunday gets closer.)

Based on the designations below:

  • 31 teams are currently locks.
  • 4 teams are near-locks.
  • That’s 35 of 45 spots gone, leaving 10 for the bubble. That’s a drop of one from the 11 spots noted last week. Several teams moved from ‘near lock’ to ‘lock’ due to either results or the fact time is running out for them to be passed.

Note: Each team’s overall rank on the seed list is before its name.

Conference by Conference Breakdown and Saturday Slate

Big Ten (7 Bids)

Locks (6)

  • (6) Wisconsin (auto bid, 24-5/15-4 Big Ten/16-5 vs. Q1 & Q2/9-3 vs. Q1/NET: 20/KenPom: 25)
  • (9) Purdue (24-6/13-6/12-6/7-6 vs. Q1/13/13)
  • (13) Illinois (21-8/14-5/102-8/5-6/14/18)
  • (21) Ohio State (19-9/12-7/10-8/5-6/21/24)
  • (26) Iowa (22-8/12-7/8-8/2-6/15/14)
  • (29) Michigan State (19-11/10-9/11-10/4-9/40/44)

Last Four IN (1)

  • (43) Michigan (16-13/10-9/8-12/4-10/34/34)

First Four Out

  • (71) Indiana (18-11/9-10/6-11/2-6/45/47)

Next Four Out

  • (73) Rutgers (17-12/11-8/9-9/6-4/75/70)

Today’s game: Indiana at Purdue, 2 p.m. (ESPN)

With most of the Big Ten wrapping up conference play, the lone offering on the Saturday slate sees a Purdue squad that’s dropped down to a three seed following consecutive losses to Michigan State and new No. 2 seed Wisconsin and Indiana, now out of the projected field following Wednesday’s home loss to Rutgers. Since defeating the Boilermakers on January 20th, the Hoosiers are just 4-11, with all of those victories coming against non-contenders.

I’ll have more on Michigan, Rutgers, and a Michigan State team that’s sliding despite last weekend’s win over Purdue, in Sunday’s post.

Big East (7)

Locks (5)

  • (11) Villanova (22-7/15-4 Big East/13-7 vs. Q1 & Q2/7-6 vs. Q1/NET: 7/KenPom: 12)
  • (14) Providence (auto bid, 24-4/14-3/14-4/5-3/24/32)
  • (18) UConn (21-8/12-6/12-8/5-6/18/20)
  • (24) Seton Hall (18-9/10-8/9-9/5-6/33/33)
  • (31) Marquette (18-11/10-8/9-11/6-7/36/42)

Bubble IN (2)

  • (33) Creighton (20-9/12-6/9-7/5-5/60/67)
  • (39) Xavier (17-12/7-11/9-11/5-9/37/52)

Today’s games: Villanova at Butler, 12 p.m. (Fox) | Seton Hall at Creighton, 2:30 p.m. (Fox) | DePaul at UConn, 5 p.m. (Fox) | Georgetown at Xavier, 7 p.m. (FS1) | St. John’s at Marquette, 9 p.m. (FS1)

The Big East regular season concludes with tournament No. 1 seed Providence on a bye. Otherwise, Seton Hall has moved to ‘lock’ status thanks to four straight wins, while Creighton is still on the bubble despite winning eight of 10. What gives? Well, the Bluejays’ computer numbers are still terrible, but I think if they beat the Pirates at home this afternoon, they’ll ultimately be fine.

Both Marquette, which is testing ‘lock’ status by winning just three of its last eight games, and Xavier, loser of five straight and seven of eight, could really use victories today. Each gets a winnable home game, with the Musketeers having the opportunity to hand Georgetown an 0-19 conference record. If Travis Steele’s team drops this one, the cut line and unemployment line will beckon.

Big 12 (6)

Locks (6)

  • (3) Baylor (auto bid, 25-5/13-4 Big 12/16-5 vs. Q1 & Q2/12-4 vs. Q1/NET: 4/KenPom: 2)
  • (4) Kansas (24-6/13-4 Big 12/16-6/9-5/9/10)
  • (10) Texas Tech (23-7/12-5/13-7/6-7/11/9)
  • (20) Texas (21-9/10-7/10-9/5-8/16/15)
  • (28) Iowa State (20-10/7-10/10-10/9-6/41/41)
  • (30) TCU (19-10/8-9/9-10/6-7/44/36)

Today’s games: TCU at West Virginia, 2 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Texas Tech at Oklahoma State, 3 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Texas at Kansas, 4 p.m. (ESPN) | Oklahoma at Kansas State, 4 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Iowa State at Baylor, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)

TCU moves up to ‘lock’ status after consecutive wins over Texas Tech and Kansas, though winning at Phog Allen on Thursday was a bit beyond them. Iowa State does as well, despite a dreadful performance in a 54-36 loss at Oklahoma State. In both cases, the Quad 1 wins are too hard to ignore, with the Cyclones’ owning nine and Horned Frogs a half-dozen.

Both Baylor and Kansas are on the No. 1 seed line today, but it’s going to be difficult for both to stay there with Wisconsin, Auburn, Kentucky, and Duke all close to breaking through. Texas Tech drops from a 2 to a 3 following a loss to TCU and win over K-State. Texas, meanwhile, will have a shot at a top four seed with a strong finish: a win over KU today and run to the Big 12 final, perhaps?

SEC (6)

Locks (6)

  • (5) Auburn (auto bid, 26-4/14-3 SEC/14-4 vs. Q1 and Q2/8-4 vs. Q1/NET: 10/KenPom: 7)
  • (7) Kentucky (24-6/13-4/11-6/7-6/5/3)
  • (12) Tennessee (22-7/13-4/11-7/6-7/8/11)
  • (17) Arkansas (24-6/13-4/11-4/6-4/22/19)
  • (23) Alabama (19-11/9-8/13-9/7-7/25/22)
  • (25) LSU (20-10/8-9/9-9/5-7/17/16)

First Four OUT

  • (70) Florida (19-11/9-8/6-10/2-8/51/49)

Also Considered

Today’s games: Alabama at LSU, 12 p.m. (CBS) | Arkansas at Tennessee, 12 p.m. (ESPN) | South Carolina at Auburn, 1 p.m. (SECN) | Kentucky at Florida, 2 p.m. (CBS) | Mississippi State at Texas A&M, 8:30 p.m. (SECN)

Both the SEC regular-season title and a potential place on the No. 1 seed line are at stake for Auburn and Kentucky, while Tennessee and Arkansas still have a title shot. The Tigers will enter the day as slight favorites, as they host a South Carolina team that’s only on the margins of the bubble conversation. The Wildcats, on the other hand, travel to Florida to take on a Gator team that’s desperate for a marquee win before heading down I-75 to Tampa for the SEC Tournament. Either the Razorbacks or Volunteers will be eliminated from the title hunt, as they meet in Knoxville.

Keep an eye on the final game of the day, as Texas A&M is back in the hunt following Wednesday’s 16-point win at Alabama, with tonight’s contest against Mississippi State being a virtual elimination game. Since losing eight straight, the Aggies have won four of five to get to 8-9 in the SEC. Of course, had A&M won a couple of those, it would probably in decent shape, particularly with a head-to-head win over Florida.

ACC (5)

Lock (1)

  • (8) Duke (auto bid, 26-4/16-3 ACC/11-3 vs. Q1 & Q2/5-1 vs. Q1/NET: 6/KenPom: 5)

Bubble In (2)

Last Four Byes (2)

Next Four Out

Also Considered

Today’s games: Virginia at Louisville, 12 p.m. (ESPN2) | Miami at Syracuse, 1 p.m. (ESPNU) | Virginia Tech at Clemson, 2 p.m. (ACC RSNs/ACCNX) | Pittsburgh at Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN News) | North Carolina at Duke, 6 p.m. (ESPN)

Most eyes will be on Cameron Indoor Stadium this evening for Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game as Duke head coach. However, that contest will cap a day of bubble drama. Much like Creighton in the Big East, many of the ACC’s at-large contenders have computer number issues. Others, however, have quality win issues. Wake Forest, one of those clubs, has already completed its regular season, so the Demon Deacons will have to wait until they get another chance in Brooklyn. You could say the same for both Virginia and Virginia Tech, as respective road finales can only really hurt their chances. Miami and Notre Dame, meanwhile, need metrics boosts badly, and that’s not likely in their respective contests. The Hurricanes face a depleted Syracuse squad at the Dome, while Notre Dame host a Pitt team that has only managed to avoid the ACC basement because of the presence of NC State and Georgia Tech.

MW (4)

Near Locks (2)

  • (32) Colorado State (22-4/13-4/11-3/4-2/28/31)
  • (34) Boise State (auto bid, 23-6/15-2/11-5/4-2/30/28)

Bubble In (1)

  • (36) San Diego State (20-7/12-4/7-7/4-7/27/21)

Last Four Byes (1)

  • (43) Wyoming (22-7/12-5/9-5/4-4/47/54)

Today’s games: Fresno State at Wyoming, 4 p.m. (MWN) | Boise State at Colorado State, 8:30 p.m. (CBSSN) | San Diego State at Nevada, 10:30 p.m. (CBSSN) | UNLV at New Mexico, 11 p.m. (FS1)

On Monday night, San Diego State handed Wyoming a rare home loss. The Cowboys followed that up with a 64-57 loss at UNLV on Wednesday. Those defeats pushed their metrics down, which has suddenly left the Pokes near the cut line. Lose to Fresno State at home today and Wyoming will be in ‘auto bid or bust’ territory.

Tonight, the rematch of Boise State and Colorado State’s epic Super Bowl Sunday pregame contest is the highlight. The Rams won a 77-74 overtime decision on the Broncos’ home floor, and a third meeting may be in the cards next Saturday. However, the road to the final will be tough for both squads given the strength at the top of the Mountain West and the conference’s improved middle class, which happens to include tournament host UNLV.

Pac-12 (3)

Locks (3)

  • (2) Arizona (27-3/17-2 Pac-12/13-3 vs. Q1 and Q2/5-2 vs. Q1/NET: 2/KenPom: 4)
  • (15) UCLA (22-6/14-5/9-6/3-4/12/8)
  • (22) USC (25-5/14-5/9-4/4-2/31/39)

Next Four Out

  • (74) Oregon (17-12/11-8/7-9/3-4/66/71)

Also Considered

Today’s games: Oregon at Washington State, 4 p.m. (CBS) | California at Arizona, 5 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks) | Colorado at Utah, 8:30 p.m. (ESPNU) | USC at UCLA, 10 p.m. (ESPN)

Tonight’s USC-UCLA game will see the Bruins honor the 50th anniversary of 1972’s national title team at Pauley, so expect the hosts to be extra motivated to reverse the Trojans’ 67-64 win of three weeks’ ago. Colorado needs to win at Utah to keep its slender at-large hopes alive, and the same goes for Washington State. The Cougars welcome an Oregon team that seriously damaged its own case with a 78-67 loss at Washington on Thursday. The Ducks have lost five of seven. The two wins? Washington State and UCLA in Eugene.

WCC (3)

Locks (2)

  • (1) Gonzaga (24-3/13-1 WCC/10-3 vs. Q1 and Q2/8-3 vs. Q1/NET: 1/KenPom: 1)
  • (19) Saint Mary’s (23-6/12-3/9-6/4-6/19/27)

Last Four IN (1)

  • (45) San Francisco (22-8/10-6/8-7/3-5/26/23)

First Four OUT

  • (69) BYU (19-9/9-6/7-8/4-5/53/48)

Today’s game (WCC quarterfinals): BYU vs. San Francisco, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

This one is a virtual elimination game, with the winner getting Gonzaga in Monday night’s semifinals. The loser, however, has a long wait on its schedule.

American Athletic (2)

Lock (1)

  • (16) Houston (auto bid, 26-4/15-2 AAC/8-4 vs. Q1 & Q2/1-3 vs. Q1/NET: 3/KenPom: 6)

Last Four Byes (1)

  • (42) Memphis (18-9/12-5/6-7/3-3/42/35)

First Four OUT

  • (72) SMU (21-7/12-4/5-5/2-2/48/57)

Houston is back in the top 16, as the Cougars have won six straight and remained perfect since the Selection Committee anointed them a potential 4 seed. Something the competition was unable to do. A trip to Memphis awaits on Sunday, where the Tigers will aim to complete a season sweep and further solidify their position. SMU, meanwhile, hosts Tulane, which has a shot at a .500 regular season.

Atlantic 10 (2)

Near Lock (1)

  • (36) Davidson (auto bid, 24-4/15-2 A 10/5-4 vs. Q1 & Q2/2-1 vs. Q1/NET: 43/KenPom: 45)

Last Four IN

  • (47) VCU (21-7/14-3/6-6/2-2/49/62)

Next Four OUT

  • (75) Dayton (21-9/13-4/8-5/2-2/54/46)

Also Considered

  • St. Bonaventure (20-8/12-5/6-7/3-4/84/86)
  • Saint Louis (19-10/11-6/4-8/1-4/63/64)

Today’s games: Davidson at Dayton, 12 p.m. (USA) | VCU at Saint Louis, 4 p.m. (ESPN2)

VCU, currently on an eight-game winning streak and 11-1 in its last 12, is in the field for now, though today’s trip to Saint Louis is not the most optimal regular-season finale for a new at-large team. The Rams still have a shot at a share of the Atlantic 10 title, but they’ll need help from Dayton, now out of the running, who hosts Davidson. The Wildcats are probably safe, though their computer numbers might give the Committee pause, particularly with a loss in the A 10 quarterfinals on Friday.

MVC (2)

Last Four In (1)

  • (46) Loyola Chicago (22-7/13-5 MVC/6-6 vs. Q1 & Q2/2-2 vs. Q1/NET: 29/KenPom: 30)

Auto Bid Only (1)

  • Northern Iowa (auto bid, 18-10/14-4/6-5/2-3/98/89)

Today’s games (MVC semifinals): Loyola Chicago vs. Northern Iowa, 3:30 p.m. and Drake vs, Missouri State, approx. 6 p.m. (CBSSN)

At the end of the day, the Valley will either be a one-bid league (if Loyola loses to UNI for the second time in as many Saturday) or two (if Loyola wins and the winner of the 2 vs. 3 game claims the auto bid heading into Sunday) for another 24 hours.

Elsewhere

Near Lock (1)

  • (27) Murray State (auto bid, 26-2/18-0 OVC/5-1 vs. Q1 & Q2/2-1 vs. Q1/NET: 23/KenPom: 26)

Bubble In (2)

  • (48) North Texas (auto bid, 21-4/16-1 C-USA/6-3/1-1/39/43)
  • (49) Iona (auto bid, 24-6/16-3 MAAC/2-3/1-2/83/92)

Also Considered

  • UAB (21-7/13-4 C-USA/4-3/2-1/55/53)
  • Belmont (24-7/15-3 OVC/4-6/1-3/65/78)

Today’s most notable games: Quinnipiac at Iona, 1 p.m. (ESPN3) | Louisiana Tech at UAB, 3 p.m. (Stadium) | North Texas at UTEP, 3 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Alcorn State, 4 p.m. (Alcorn stream) | UC Irvine at Cal State Bakersfield, 4 p.m. (Spectrum Sportsnet/ESPN+ ($)) | Chicago State at Seattle, 4 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Southern at Alabama A&M, 5 p.m. (AAMU on YouTube) | Princeton at Penn, 6 p.m. (NBCS Philadelphia Plus/ESPN+ ($)) | Northern Colorado at Montana State, 6 p.m. (SWX/ESPN+ ($)) | Brown at Yale, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Stephen F. Austin at UTRGV, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Southern Utah at Weber State, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Prairie View at Texas Southern, 8:30 p.m. (TSU on YouTube) | Utah Valley at New Mexico State, 9 p.m. (Aggie Vision/Bally Arizona/ESPN+ ($)) | UC Davis at Cal State Fullerton, 9 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | UC Riverside at Long Beach State, 10 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Hawai’i at CSUN, 10 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

Bubble fans will want to watch the OVC championship game (8:30 p.m., ESPN2). While Morehead State defeated Belmont last night to likely end the Bruins’ at-large hopes, there’s still a really good chance the Ohio Valley will be a two-bid league for the second time in three NCAA Tournaments, if the Eagles repeat by defeating Murray State. The Racers should be in even with a loss, but you never know, given the Committee’s historical undervaluing of mid-majors (with 2019 being an anomaly in recent seasons).

Full bracket update tomorrow with a focus on the final day of the regular season in the Big Ten and American Athletic.