NCAA Bracketology: Latest Projections of 2020 March Madness Field

Jordan Schwartz
February 12, 2020 - 9:45 am

The Selection Committee’s Bracket Preview last Saturday shed a great deal of light on how its members are seeding teams this year. There is a clear emphasis on NET and high-end Quadrant 1 wins. With that in mind, let’s update our latest bracket projections.

Teams will be broken down into three categories:

• “Wallflowers” are bubble teams. Everyone wants to get into the Big Dance, but not all of them have the guts to ask someone out on the dance floor.

• A school in the middle is “On the Way.”

• And elite teams that are safely in are “Dancing.”

Last four in: Minnesota, USC, Oklahoma, Wichita State

First four out: Mississippi State, Virginia, Utah State, Arizona State

Next four out: Richmond, Georgetown, Providence, Notre Dame

Let’s break things down by conference.

Mike Krzyzewski and Duke are having another strong season.
Mike Krzyzewski and Duke are having another strong season. Photo credit (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)


Dancing: Duke (2 seed), Louisville (2), Florida State (3)

Wallflowers: Virginia (2nd team out), Notre Dame (8th team out)

Virginia’s loss at Louisville is nothing to be ashamed of, but the Cavs’ NET is now down to 54 and with the Committee’s clear emphasis on this metric, that’s just a little too low. UVA’s home win over Florida State is its only victory over a surefire Tournament team. Virginia would’ve been in even worse shape had it not pulled out a one-point overtime win over Notre Dame on Tuesday. That was a big missed opportunity for the Irish.

Things are even worse for NC State (NET 60) and Syracuse (NET 67). The Wolfpack need Wisconsin to move into the top 30 so that their home win over the Badgers counts in Quadrant 1 to go along with weak Q1 victories at Virginia and UNCG. The Orange, meanwhile, have no wins over definite at-large teams. The two schools met at the Carrier Dome on Tuesday with NC State picking up the win after SU leading scorer Elijah Hughes went down to injury in the first few minutes of the game.

Bill Self is looking for his second National Title.
Bill Self is looking for his second National Title. Photo credit (Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Big 12

Dancing: Baylor (1), Kansas (1), West Virginia (3)

On the Way: Texas Tech (6)

Wallflowers: Oklahoma (12)

The NET loves Texas Tech, which means the Committee will love the Red Raiders come Selection Sunday. TTU is up to 17th in the metric following a very efficient 88-42 win over TCU. Texas Tech is just 3-7 in Q1 games, but two of those victories are of the high-end variety over Louisville (neutral) and West Virginia (home).

Oklahoma returns to the field following a huge win over West Virginia on Saturday. That was the Sooners’ first high-end Q1 win and moved them to 8-8 against the top two quadrants.

Jay Wright has led Villanova to two National Championships.
Jay Wright has led Villanova to two National Championships. Photo credit (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Big East

Dancing: Seton Hall (2), Butler (4), Villanova (4)

On the Way: Marquette (6), Creighton (7)

Wallflowers: Xavier (11), Georgetown (6th team out), Providence (7th team out)

Creighton’s 17-point loss at Providence was a hit to the team sheet, dropping the Bluejays to 24th in the NET. They’re still in good shape with a 6-6 Q1 record and no losses outside the top quadrant.

The best thing a bubble team can do in February is win and that’s exactly what Xavier has done over the past two weeks. Victories over Seton Hall (away), DePaul (away) and Providence (home) have moved the Musketeers to a much more comfortable 42nd in the NET.

Georgetown avoided falling off this page maybe for good with a comeback win over DePaul on Saturday. The Hoyas still lack that signature high-end Q1 victory, but have an opportunity to pick one up this weekend at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Providence was on fire with back-to-back wins over Butler (away) and Creighton (home), but then Xavier tossed water on the Friars Saturday. They have four Q1 victories, but four bad losses to Charleston (neutral), Northwestern (away), Penn (home) and Long Beach State (neutral) are dragging down the team sheet.

Chris Holtmann has one of the best teams in the country in Ohio State.
Chris Holtmann has built a strong program in Ohio State. Photo credit (Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Big Ten

Dancing: Maryland (3), Michigan State (4)

On the Way: Iowa (5), Penn State (5), Ohio State (7), Purdue (8), Wisconsin (8), Michigan (8)

Wallflowers: Illinois (9), Rutgers (9), Minnesota (12)

Like Texas Tech, Purdue is a beneficiary of the NET emphasis the Committee revealed during its Bracket Preview. The Boilermakers were a possession or two away from losing at Northwestern to drop to 11-11 on Feb. 1, but they pulled that game out, obliterated Iowa by 36 four days later and then silenced an emotional Assembly Hall crowd celebrating the return of Bobby Knight. All told, Purdue is 30th in the NET (38 spots above where they’d be in the RPI) and the Boilers only dropped four places after losing at home by 12 to Penn State on Tuesday night.

Minnesota is 12-11 overall and 1-8 on the road, something the NET cares little about when all of your losses have come against teams ranked in the top 64 of the metric. The Gophers’ team sheet includes a high-end Q1 win at Ohio State and two more Quadrant 1 home victories over Penn State and the Buckeyes.

Indiana is in bad shape following four straight losses. The Hoosiers are now 64th in the NET and 1-5 in true road games. Plenty of opportunities left, though, in the Big Ten.

Dana Altman is Oregon's head coach.
Dana Altman is Oregon's head coach. Photo credit (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)


Dancing: Colorado (4)

On the Way: Arizona (5), Oregon (6)

Wallflowers: Stanford (9), USC (12), Arizona State (4th team out)

USC has dropped three straight to fall into Last Four In territory. The good news is the Trojans are still top-50 in the NET and 8-5 away from home, but they still don’t have a high-end Q1 win.

USC’s most recent loss came at the hands of Arizona State, a team headed in the opposite direction. The Sun Devils have won three in a row and five of six. They’re still just outside the NET top-50 and have a low-end Q2 loss at Washington State.

Bruce Pearl has found a second life as Auburn's head coach.
Bruce Pearl has found a second life as Auburn's head coach. Photo credit (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)


Dancing: Auburn (3)

On the Way: Kentucky (5), LSU (6)

Wallflowers: Arkansas (10), Alabama (11), Florida (11), Mississippi State (1st team out)

Three straight losses to Auburn (home), Missouri (away) and Tennessee (away) have dropped Arkansas down to more shaky ground. The Razorbacks still lack a true signature win and their home loss to South Carolina is dangerously close to Q3 with the Gamecocks slipping to 75th in the NET.

Let’s welcome Alabama back to the fold following an OT win at Georgia and – more importantly – the Bracket Preview that emphasized two things the Tide has going for it: a solid 40 NET and a great high-end Q1 win over Auburn.

Mississippi State was in the field until suffering a 25-point shellacking at Ole Miss on Tuesday. That was the Bulldogs’ first loss outside Q1 since December. They are just 1-6 in the top quadrant and have two Q3 losses.

Mark Few is Gonzaga's head coach.
Mark Few is Gonzaga's head coach. Photo credit (Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

Other Conferences

Dancing: Gonzaga (1), San Diego State (1), Dayton (2)

On the Way: BYU (7), Houston (7), Northern Iowa (8)

Wallflowers: Rhode Island (9), Saint Mary’s (10), ETSU (10), VCU (10), Cincinnati (11), Wichita State (12), Utah State (3rd team out), Richmond (5th team out)

It seems like there’s always a mid-major automatic bid from a single-bid conference that sneaks into an 8/9 game. This year, that team figures to be Northern Iowa. The Panthers are 19-3 overall, 36th in the NET, 7-2 in road games and possess a road win at Colorado that continues to increase in value.

Losing to Gonzaga is no big deal. Neither is losing at home to Gonzaga. But losing by 30 when you were just a 5.5-point underdog is going to hurt the efficiency numbers and, in turn, your NET ranking. Saint Mary’s has now lost to its two biggest conference foes (the Bulldogs and BYU) in the past two weeks. Both were missed opportunities to secure a high-end Q1 win.

East Tennessee State’s at-large hopes appeared to be done following a home loss to Mercer on Jan. 29, but maybe not. Since then, the Bucs have won three straight, including its second Q1 win at UNC Greensboro. Taking into account the added emphasis on NET (41) and high-end Q1 victories (at LSU on Dec. 18) and ETSU is in better shape than we may have thought.

Cincinnati suffered a tough one-point OT loss at UConn on Sunday, but the Bearcats did enough damage during the preceding five-game winning streak to keep themselves in the field. Cincy beat Houston and Wichita State to secure its first two Q1 victories and move into the NET top-50.

The Shockers, meanwhile, have dropped three straight to fall to the last team in. Wichita State has no wins over surefire Tournament teams.

A home loss to South Florida drops Memphis off the at-large radar for the time being. The Tigers are 58th in the NET and have twice as many Q3 losses as Q1 wins.

Automatic Bids

12 – Yale, Liberty

13 – Vermont, SFA, North Texas, New Mexico State

14 – UC Irvine, Winthrop, Colgate, Wright State

15 – Hofstra, North Dakota State, Little Rock, Murray State

16 – Montana, Bowling Green, Prairie View A&M, Rider, Robert Morris, NC A&T

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