Dance tickets have been punched and dreams have been shattered. There’s has also been a lot of movement in the RPI the last few days, and with only a few more games left tomorrow we wanted to take a look at how the tournament field is stacking up.
The NCAA selection criteria states that teams will be selected based on won-lost record/RPI and SOS. If you want detailed information on what criteria are used check out one of our past brackets. But with only 24 hours until Selection Sunday, we want to dive right in.
Below is an overview of who we project in, who we project out and the projected seeding and bracket.
Automatic Qualifiers Earned: Albany (America East), Syracuse (Big East), Towson (Colonial), Ohio State (ECAC), Lehigh (Patriot), Bryant (Northeast)
Automatic Qualifiers Remaining: Ivy League (Yale or Princeton), MAAC (Siena or Detroit)
For the purposes of our bracket projections we are going to use the team higher-rated in the RPI to predict conference tournament champions. In this case it would be Yale and Siena. This leaves us at-large bids.
At-Large Locks: Notre Dame, North Carolina, Denver, Cornell, Penn State
Bubble Teams In: Maryland, Duke, Loyola
Bubble Teams Out: Bucknell, Princeton
Keep in mind that only teams 1-8 are seeded, with the other teams matched up according to a variety of factors, including geography. With that in mind, we are projecting the NCAA tournament field to look something like this:
1. Notre Dame vs. Bryant
2. Syracuse vs. Siena
3. Ohio State vs. Towson
4. Denver vs. Yale
5. North Carolina vs. Lehigh
6. Cornell vs. Albany
7. Penn State vs. Loyola
8. Maryland vs. Duke
Below is a chart detailing out where teams fell in these evaluations, as well as on overview of each team. Because the most updated NCAA RPI was not yet available at the time, LaxPower’s RPI data was used, as was the SOS and quality win ranking information. They do a great job of updating this information and we encourage you to visit their page with links to rankings that relate to NCAA Selection Criteria. Teams highlighted in blue have already earned an automatic qualifier.
Here’s a summary of each team and why we seeded them where we did.
Notre Dame: With the #1 RPI and #3 SOS, combined with five top 10 RPI wins, Notre Dame still has the overall best tournament resume. They earn the top seed.
Syracuse: The Orange have a very impressive tournament resume, with the #2 RPI and the #6 SOS. They have three top 10 wins, the same amount as Ohio State. Syracuse was seeded here because of their success against the top 20 (7-2 overall vs. 4-2 for Ohio State) and against common opponents with Ohio State.
Ohio State: What a difference a few weeks make. Two weeks ago Ohio State was our first team out. Last week they were one of the last two teams in. By beating Loyola and Denver in the ECAC Tournament, Ohio State’s RPI skyrocketed to #3, with a SOS of #2. They have a very similar resume to Syracuse, but ultimately we seeded Ohio State #3 because of common opponents and top 5 wins. Against common opponents Syracuse is 3-1, Ohio State is 2-1. Syracuse also has two top five wins (both over #1 Notre Dame), and Ohio State just has one (over #5 Denver). However, if the selection committee relies on looking more at losses, Ohio State could steal the #2 seed from Syracuse because of the Orange’s losses to Albany, St. John’s and Hobart (Ohio States losses were all to top 10 teams).
Denver: Denver has a comparable RPI to UNC (#5 vs. #4), but a significantly better SOS (#5 vs. #17). If the selection committee penalized Denver for their loss to Fairfield, UNC could climb to #4. But traditionally SOS has weighed heavily in these decisions.
North Carolina: What dropped North Carolina to #5 is their SOS (#17) and lack of top 10 wins (UNC’s only top 10 win is against Maryland). Denver had a comparable RPI, but a higher SOS and a top 5 win that UNC lacked.
Penn State: The Nitanny Lions picked up their first “bad loss” of the season in the Colonial championship against Towson. While they have one more loss than Maryland and Cornell, they are seeded ahead of them because of a significantly tougher SOS (#8) and a top 5 win (Denver) that both the Terps and Big Red are missing.
Cornell: While Cornell has a good RPI (#6) and only 3 losses, they lack quality wins. The Big Red have just one top 10 win (over Yale) and the #20 SOS. Cornell and Maryland are similar — they both have four top 20 wins, but with a slightly better SOS, a better win percentage, and a better record against common opponents (Cornell 2-0, Maryland 2-1), Cornell is seeded ahead of Maryland.
Maryland: The Terps have a solid, but not great, resume. They have the #7 RPI, but the #23 SOS. Traditionally a SOS that low means a team is seeded a bit lower than you’d expect them. As a result, we have Maryland at #8, but only because the other two teams who could have this spot (Duke or Loyola) both lost to Maryland. Maryland will be rooting for Yale in the Ivy League championship tomorrow, because if Yale (a team Maryland beat) drops out of the top 10 RPI, the Terps could be on the road again in the first round. Traveling to Durham would be a tough trek.
Duke: While Duke has been on a tear through the second half of the season, when you look at the numbers you realize just how close they came to almost missing the NCAA tournament. If the Blue Devils had lost to Carolina earlier this season they’d certainly be on the outside looking in. Duke has the #12 RPI and a strong SOS (#7). The only challenge is their 3-5 record against the top 20. Still, they edge out Loyola due to head-to-head results and Bucknell due to Bucknell’s lack of a top 5 win. Duke plays Marquette tomorrow, and if they lose they are out of the NCAA tournament. Because Duke is a southern team it limited where we could send them. We ended up sending them to ACC foe Maryland for a chance at avenging an early season loss.
Loyola: If Loyola makes it in the NCAA tournament they might want to send Princeton a nice gift, because Cornell’s loss to Princeton dropped Cornell in the RPI and means Bucknell has no top 5 wins. They also benefited from Ohio State beating Denver, catapulting the Buckeyes (a team Loyola has a win against) into the top 5. Loyola and Bucknell have similar RPIs and SOSs, but the Greyhounds get the nod because of a top 5 win and no bad losses. We sent Loyola to former ECAC rival Penn State.
Yale: Yale has the #9 SOS and #9 RPI, but even if they win tomorrow and their RPI improves, it is unlikely they’d end up seeded, as teams like Maryland and Cornell beat them head-to-head. If Yale loses tomorrow the will likely miss the tournament, as they have no wins against top 10 RPI teams while the other bubble teams in (Duke and Bucknell) do. However, the Bulldogs have a shot if Duke drops their game to Marquette.
Lehigh: Lehigh won their automatic qualifier, but with the #17 RPI and #19 SOS, they will not end up with a seed and will be on the road in the first round. With Carolina the furthest south team hosting a game, we sent Lehigh there, which is 454 miles from UNC.
Albany: Albany won the America East automatic qualifier by beating UMBC and has a great top 5 win (over Syracuse), but with a RPI at #13 and a SOS at #24 (as well as a bad loss to Siena), the Great Danes will travel in the first round. We sent them to Cornell for an in-state battle.
Towson: The surprise of the tournament so far is Towson, which snatched a bid by beating Penn State in the CAA final. The Tigers were not going to make the tournament if they didn’t get an AQ and will also travel for their first round game. Due to travel guidance, combined with other factors, we sent the Tigers to Ohio State for their first round game.
Siena: The Saints face off with Detroit tomorrow for the last AQ bid. If Siena wins, expect them to likely make a trip to the Carrier Dome. However, if Detroit ends up winning the AQ, they will probably be sent to South Bend and Bryant could end up at Syracuse.
Bryant: Bryant won the Northeast automatic qualifier and, if Siena wins its AQ, will be the only team in the tournament with a losing record. Nevertheless, they are in. And with the lowest RPI, the Bulldogs will likely head to Notre Dame in the first round.
FIRST TWO OUT
Bucknell: Duke, Loyola and Bucknell are all a toss-up for the last two spots. What really held Bucknell out of our bracket were two things: no top 5 wins (Loyola and Duke both had one) and a very bad loss (Bucknell lost to #44 RPI Mt. St. Mary’s). Bucknell’s best hope in that Marquette upsets Duke tomorrow to leave the Blue Devils on the outside.
Princeton: With a 9-5 record and the #15 RPI, Princeton will need to win the Ivy final tomorrow to make the tournament. Should they lose to Yale they’d drop to 9-6, and there just isn’t the justification to put a team with a 60% win percentage in over a team with a 70%+ win percentage and a higher RPI.