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STL March Madness Bracket Preview

Before you watch CBS unveil the committee’s Top-16, here’s what we project

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Purdue Boilermakers vs Butler Bulldogs Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday at 12:30, CBS will unveil the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee’s Top-16 teams for the upcoming 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament if the season were to end today. This is the third year the Committee has given us a look at the teams that they’ve dubbed to fill out the top four seeds in each region come tournament time. And as I’ve done each of the last three years, here is how I project the Top-16 teams to shake out.

  1. Virginia Cavaliers
  2. Michigan Wolverines
  3. Tennessee Volunteers
  4. Duke Blue Devils
  5. Michigan State Spartans
  6. Gonzaga Bulldogs
  7. Kentucky Wildcats
  8. North Carolina Tar Heels
  9. Houston Cougars
  10. Kansas Jayhawks
  11. Wisconsin Badgers
  12. Virginia Tech Hokies
  13. Purdue Boilermakers
  14. Marquette Golden Eagles
  15. Iowa State Cyclones
  16. Louisville Cardinals

Just Missed the Cut: Nevada Wolf Pack, LSU Tigers, Villanova Wildcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders

At the very top, I was surprised to see how different the teams look than the polls. But one tweak I made to my formula this season was to penalize losses a bit more than I have in the past. Part of this reason was that Michigan State had no business being the number two team overall, but that was exactly the result I was getting from my model. Their nine KenPom A Game wins and eight NET Quadrant One wins are impressive, but you can’t ignore their five losses when other teams in their tier only have one and two.

So the result pushed Duke to the number four overall seed as their loss at home to Syracuse is more penalizing than Virginia’s loss in Durham, Michigan’s two losses to top teams, and Tennessee’s overtime loss to Kansas. That being said, I’m not sure anyone can argue these should be the top four teams.

But what about Gonzaga? When I published my first Bracket of the season after non-conference play wrapped up, I said Gonzaga’s resume was pretty much set where it was. Without the ability to accumulate quality wins like the other teams, it would be difficult for them to move up a seed line without those teams in front of them falling. And their lack of resume is a big factor as I rank their KenPom resume 12th and their Net Resume 11th.

Further down the list, you’ve got UNC and Kentucky both on the rise with Kansas being propped up by their eight KenPom A wins and eight NET Quad One wins falling. Unless the Jayhawks right the ship, I’d expect their seed line to continue to fall as other teams around them pick up more quality wins.

On to the teams left out. Nevada, LSU, and Villanova all have a case to be made for being included in these rankings, but honestly, the only one I am truly surprised about is Villanova. Their losses to Furman and Penn are really tanking their overall standing, but considering they were a nine seed in that first bracket a month ago, rising to the cusp of the Top-16 is very impressive. LSU is a team nobody even expected to be in this position at the beginning of the season, yet here they are. Additionally, they’ll have some opportunities to jump into the upper crust nationally with a home game with Auburn on Saturday and a visit to Rupp Arena Tuesday to face Kentucky.

Then there’s Nevada. Full disclosure, I like the Wolf Pack and I think they have a starting five that can compete with anyone in the country. Frankly I’d be pretty upset if I were a number one seed and saw Nevada on my four/five line. They are that good. But their resume is terrible. Some of that isn’t their fault, cough cough Arizona State. But regardless, they have ZERO NET Quad One wins. You heard that right, ZERO. They haven’t even played a Quad One game. Of the teams in my current bracket, everyone else has played at least two, with only three teams having played three Quad One games or fewer (UCF, Buffalo, and fellow Mountain Westerner Utah State). No matter how good a team is, we simply can’t evaluate their merit alongside their peers given so little quality opponents to go against. Add to that an egregious loss against New Mexico and I can’t vouch for them earning a higher spot in the rankings.

We’ll all find out Saturday at 12:30. But in the meantime, what do you think? Who’s in who shouldn’t be, and who was left out?