RotoWire Bracketology: Version 4.0
RotoWire Bracketology: Version 4.0

This article is part of our RotoWire Bracketology series.

One month ago, I thought there were six teams with a real chance to get a 1-seed and that's kind of how it still is, except with different teams. Ahead of the weekend, Duke, Gonzaga, Kentucky and Virginia are on the top line, but things can change fast. One month ago, Kentucky and Gonzaga were on the outside of the discussion. The Wildcats jumped a spot because they've won 13 of their last 14 games, while the Zags have benefitted from other teams falling off like Tennessee and Michigan.

With two weeks to go, there are 10 teams in the discussion, but only seven likely to battle for the top seeds. Texas Tech (NET 10) has a chance if it runs the table and wins the Big 12 tournament, but it still has to travel to TCU and Iowa State. It's the same situation for Michigan (NET 9) unless it wins both of its road games at Maryland and Michigan State. Houston is the most intriguing because its NET as of March 1 was No. 4. According to other analytics like KenPom, the Cougars are just 14th so the committee could have a debate on their hands. That said, they still have to win at Cincinnati so another loss is possible. If they run the table, they'd only have one loss and their best wins would be home against LSU and Utah State or at UCF and Cincy.

As for the top seven teams, a lot will be decided on head-to-head matchups against each other. If Kentucky (NET 5) wins at Tennessee (NET 7) on Saturday, that moves the Vols out of the discussion and cements the Wildcats as a 1-seed unless they pick up an iffy loss somewhere else. If the Vols win, that'll make things even more interesting and the winner of the SEC tournament could easily decide the final 1-seed.

At this point, it's hard to see Gonzaga (NET 1) or Virginia (NET 2) falling off the top spot. For the Zags, they have to win at St. Mary's on Saturday and then take the WCC tournament, which shouldn't be too difficult, likely as a double-digit favorite in every game. As for the Hoos, even if they lost at Syracuse, they'd still be on the top line. The only way for them not to get a 1-seed would be if they lose that game and then lose early in the ACC tournament, which I don't envision unless it's against a team like Duke or UNC.

Speaking of the ACC, there will likely only be one spot for Duke (NET 3) and North Carolina (8). The Blue Devils have the edge due to their sweep of Virginia and wins over Kentucky and Texas Tech, but things could change if the Tar Heels sweep them. Duke should still have the edge in analytics and since Zion Williamson missed a few games, that could also help. But if UNC gets further in the ACC tournament than Duke, that could be the final thing that pushes it ahead.

Michigan State (NET 6) is the team that could come from nowhere and grab a 1-seed if Kentucky loses to Tennessee or UNC beats Duke again. The Spartans are in a hole because of losses to Indiana and Illinois, but if they win their final three of the regular season and at least make it to the final of the Big Ten tournament, they'll be in the conversation because of analytics alone (KenPom 4).

With a slew of head-to-head matchups remaining to go with the conference tournaments, there are some things that could change, but the picture is fairly clear at the top.

As for the bubble, well…

Utah State (NET 34) is in the conversation mostly because of analytics. Even if it loses three games to Nevada, it will still be everyone's favorite talking point. The problem is that the Aggies already have three losses to non-tournament teams (possibly four, depending on Arizona State) and don't have a win over a likely tournament team. That's why their home game against Nevada is so important on Saturday. And while analytics like them, I don't think they should make the tournament if they can't beat Nevada at home. That's what happens when you lose by 15 points to BYU and are just 3-5 in Q1 and Q2 games.

People may not think Indiana (NET 58) or Minnesota (55) should be in the field, but in Q1 and Q2, the Hoosiers are 6-14 and the Gophers are 9-11. Extrapolate USU's numbers and they're slightly better than Indiana's and worse than Minnesota's. Of course, Utah State also has a Q3 loss, something neither IU nor Minnesota has. I'm not saying the Hoosiers should be in the tournament, only showing that Utah State isn't better than a team that people openly despise on Twitter because some say they're on the bubble. As for the Gophers, they got a key win on Thursday and need one more (vs. Purdue, at Maryland) to make sure they aren't the last one making my bracket.

As for others, Clemson (NET 41) could jump off the bubble if it beats UNC on Saturday, but taking down Notre Dame and Syracuse in the following two games will be just as helpful. At the least, I like Clemson's chances better than Butler (NET 54), which could easily lose two more games before the conference tournament. Seton Hall (NET 64) has a worse NET, but has a chance to decide its season with home games against Marquette and Villanova. Win both of those and there may not be a question about them being in the field.

Alabama (NET 48) is in a similar situation, living off its Kentucky win, but has two upcoming home games against LSU and Auburn. If they lose both of those, the Tide will be in trouble. I'm avoiding Temple (NET 56) even though my bracket is one of few without the Owls in the Bracket Matrix. Their KenPom of 72 is all I need to back my stance, but they are one of the teams that gamed the RPI with non-conference scheduling, hence their No. 31 ranking. That's due to scheduling a bunch of mediocre teams in non-conference play to boost their strength of schedule. Even worse is that their best non-conference wins came against Georgia, Missouri and Davidson. The committee has seen through that in the past and I don't think this case should be different unless they win their final three games. The fact that they'll likely be underdogs at UConn next week also supports my stance.

A lot of people will have their eyes on Arizona State (NET 68) because its NET is so bad. The Sun Devils can be a good team, but they also lost home games to Princeton and Washington State. After Thursday's loss at Oregon, they're one of my last four in and a bit lucky to be there.

The issue with being one of the last four in is that teams like Buffalo and Wofford could lose their conference tournaments, which would reduce the bubble by a couple teams. The same goes for a conference like the Big East, where a team like Xavier could make a run and win the tournament. It also wouldn't be that surprising since the Musketeers are on a nice five-game winning streak.

With all the above considered, here is my latest bracket:

*NET prior to games on Friday, March 1

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adam Zdroik
Adam writes on sports ranging from NFL and MLB to soccer and college basketball. Outside of writing, he has worked with a professional soccer team, Sporting Kansas City, and in the stats department at ESPN. He is a former Streak for the Cash winner and Michigan State graduate. 2018 and 2017 Finalist for FSWA Soccer Writer of the Year.
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