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Bracketology 2022: Loyola Chicago Was a Bubble Team’s Best Friend on Sunday

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The Ramblers edged Drake in the Arch Madness final, 64-58, to claim one last Missouri Valley title and ensure the conference would place just one team in the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Rutgers was the immediate beneficiary of Loyola’s victory, but the door is now a bit more open for a slew of other teams set to take the floor later this week.

The last eight teams in and first teams out of the projected bracket for Monday, March 7, 2022.
Graphic by Chris Dobbertean. Logos from SportsLogos.net.

Note: This story is best viewed on desktop.

Acknowledgements: NET rankings and records are accurate as of Monday, March 7, 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.

Teams with a gold background have secured automatic bids.
✴️ = new bracket entrants
⬆️ and ⬇️ = bracket returnees’ seed movement relative to Sunday’s bracket
(#) = Overall rank of the top 16 teams (top four seeds in each region)

Of the two teams that clinched automatic bids on Sunday afternoon, Loyola Chicago’s victory in St. Louis had the most impact on the bubble. With the Ramblers in as the MVC auto bid, Drake dropped out. That opened up one more at-large spot, which goes to Rutgers. But that’s just for the moment. The Scarlet Knights only managed to defeat Penn State by a single point, 59-58, at home. (At least they didn’t lose, like Wisconsin did to Nebraska, a result that seriously damages the Badgers’ case for a No. 1 seed.)

Rutgers is now the penultimate team in, thanks to a 9-9 record in games against Quad 1 and 2 opponents and six Quad 1 wins, including four high-quality wins at the top of that category. But all of the Scarlet Knights’ computer metrics—76 in the NET, 73 in KenPom, 69 in BPI, 59 in Sagarin, alongside a 56 and 50 in the Committee’s two result-based metrics, KPI and Strength of Record—are either borderline for selection ... or worse. So, a Big Ten Tournament loss wouldn’t be great for Rutgers’ hopes with so many teams with better computer numbers behind them.

Of course, thanks to tiebreakers, Rutgers earned the No. 4 seed from the group of three teams tied a 12-8, which means the Scarlet Knights earned a bye to the quarterfinals, which reduces their chances of recording a bad late loss—as long as the Nebraska/Northwestern winner doesn’t defeat Iowa in Thursday’s second round in Indianapolis.

Sunday’s other big winners were Memphis and Michigan. First, the Wolverines got a crucial road win at Ohio State to give them a little breathing room. As for the Tigers, they took Houston apart, 75-61, at FedEx Forum—completing a season sweep of the Cougars. I’ve moved Memphis up to a 9 seed today, though they’ll need to defeat the UCF/USF winner in the American quarterfinals to avoid slipping down to the First Four. League rival SMU took down Tulane, 74-68, to put itself in spot No. 69, but Mustangs will need to do some work in the American Tournament to make the field.

As for Houston, the Cougars claimed the No. 1 seed in Fort Worth despite going 1-3 against their two biggest rivals. That’s basically closed the door on them earning a top four seed. UH is 1-4 in Quad 1 games with the lone win coming against tournament-ineligible Oklahoma State.

While the SoCon and Sun Belt will determine their champions tonight, the two games with bubble impact are set for the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. That’s where Gonzaga will face San Francisco (9 p.m. ET, ESPN) and Saint Mary’s meets Santa Clara (11:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) in the WCC semifinals. The Dons currently occupy the final bye position in the field, even though I had to seed them 12th, below the First Four teams, to ensure there were geographically convenient preliminary matchups for both Tuesday and Wednesday. As long as USF isn’t completely obliterated tonight, it should be good. Bubble teams, however, will want to pull hard for Saint Mary’s in game two, as Santa Clara is a potential bid thief. The Broncos split with the Gaels in the regular season—winning 77-72 at home just a little less than a month ago.

However, the impact of a Bronco win on the bracket won’t become immediately apparent. Unless of course USF does beat the Zags to open the evening in Las Vegas.

I’ll have another update on Tuesday at noon Eastern.