Time for an admission from your friendly neighborhood bracket projector: Sometimes, you badly misread teams.
That wasn’t much fun to write, but it’s a lot easier today than on March 12.
Sifting through the available data and evaluating teams is a multi-month process. Losses that look damaging can become less harmful. The value of seemingly impressive victories can fade. Each team’s picture is always in flux.
That’s a partial explanation for propping up Louisville in recent weeks. The Cardinals’ greatest appeal was a lack of minuses. They’re fine away from home (4-5). They faced a top-100 nonconference schedule. They’ve lost to no one terrible.
But Louisville — which was thrown into (further) tumult when Rick Pitino was fired just before the start of preseason practice — hasn’t accomplished much, either. On the old NCAA team sheets, the Cardinals would be 1-9 against the Rating Percentage Index top 50 (with a victory at Florida State being the highlight) and 5-9 against the RPI top 100. In the reworked quadrant system, which gives greater weight to road and neutral-court victories, they’re 2-7 against Quadrant 1 and 1-2 against Quadrant 2.
Teams have reached the NCAA tournament with underwhelming résumés similar to Louisville’s, but they usually don’t end up as single-digit seeds. This week’s projection marks a correction of sorts for the Cardinals, who are in a large scrum of ACC teams around the edge of the field. (See the latest projections below for the two at-large play-in games, an all-ACC festival in Dayton that will likely be corrected as we move closer to Selection Sunday.)
Louisville (18-9, 8-6) will finish the regular season with trips to Duke, Virginia Tech and N.C. State, with a home date against Virginia wedged in. The Cardinals have a chance to augment their hollow profile — or sputter badly and potentially fall out of the field. One thing is clear: Unlike most years, they are far from a sure thing to pop up in the field of 68.
Last four in: Miami, Syracuse, Louisville, N.C. State
First four on the outside: Kansas State, Virginia Tech, Marquette, Utah
Next four on the outside: Washington, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Louisiana State
Moving in: Baylor, Murray State, N.C. State, Penn, Southern, Wright State
Moving out: Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Belmont, Harvard, Northern Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Washington
Conference call: ACC (9), Southeastern (8), Big 12 (7), Big East (6), Big Ten (4), Pac-12 (4), American Athletic (3), Atlantic 10 (2), West Coast (2)
(1) ACC/Virginia vs. (16) IVY/Penn — SOUTHWESTERN ATHLETIC/Southern winner
(8) Alabama vs. (9) Creighton
(5) WEST COAST/Gonzaga vs. (12) SUN BELT/UL-Lafayette
(4) West Virginia vs. (13) SUMMIT/South Dakota State
(3) SOUTHEASTERN/Auburn vs. (14) SOUTHERN/East Tennessee State
(6) Florida State vs. (11) St. Bonaventure
(7) Oklahoma vs. (10) MOUNTAIN WEST/Nevada
(2) Purdue vs. (15) PATRIOT/Bucknell
Virginia won at Miami in its lone game last week, so there’s no reason to bump it from the top overall seed. … A surprisingly common flaw in the first draft of this week’s bracket was repeat matchups from the regular season. A domino effect (swapping Saint Mary’s and Florida State, then moving Gonzaga out of the Gaels’ region) is what led Mark Few’s team to the South bracket. … Oklahoma’s lost six in a row, but it does get two of its last three at home. Even at 16-11 overall, the Sooners are not in immediate danger of falling out of the field. … St. Bonaventure got the job done at home against Rhode Island on Friday. The closing stretch of the regular season (Duquesne, at VCU, Davidson, at Saint Louis) is not a breeze for a Bonnies team that still isn’t blessed with much margin for error. … Florida State owns the fifth-best résumé of any ACC team, and the gap to No. 6 is considerable.
(1) BIG EAST/Villanova vs. (16) ATLANTIC SUN/Florida Gulf Coast — SOUTHLAND/Nicholls State winner
(8) Texas Christian vs. (9) UCLA
(5) Ohio State vs. (12) Syracuse-Louisville winner
(4) Tennessee vs. (13) METRO ATLANTIC/Rider
(3) Texas Tech vs. (14) COLONIAL/College of Charleston
(6) ATLANTIC 10/Rhode Island vs. (11) CONFERENCE USA/Middle Tennessee
(7) Arizona State vs. (10) Providence
(2) North Carolina vs. (15) HORIZON/Wright State
Villanova‘s regular season sweep of Xavier moves it closer to a Pittsburgh-Boston path to the Final Four. … UCLA isn’t safe yet, but with six wins in seven tries, the Bruins are in perhaps their best position of the season. … No shortage of rabid fan bases in Dallas for an Ohio State–Tennessee-Louisville or Syracuse pod. … Texas Tech guard Keenan Evans is day-to-day with a toe injury. That’s welcome news for the Red Raiders, who fell to Baylor without their senior star available in the second half. … For your geographic notes over the next few weeks: Chapel Hill, N.C., is closer to Pittsburgh than Nashville.
(1) BIG 12/Kansas vs. (16) MID-EASTERN ATHLETIC/Savannah State
(8) Houston vs. (9) Butler
(5) Missouri vs. (12) MISSOURI VALLEY/Loyola Chicago
(4) Clemson vs. (13) WESTERN ATHLETIC/New Mexico State
(3) AMERICAN ATHLETIC/Cincinnati vs. (14) OHIO VALLEY/Murray State
(6) Kentucky vs. (11) Miami-N.C. State winner
(7) Seton Hall vs. (10) Southern California
(2) BIG TEN/Michigan State vs. (15) BIG SKY/Montana
Yup, Kansas is back as a No. 1 seed. Just when you ponder writing off the Jayhawks. … Houston jumped a bunch this week for two reasons. One, it beat Cincinnati. Two, its résumé is finally hefty enough to create separation from the edge of the field. For a team with a poor nonconference schedule like the Cougars, that’s significant. … Speaking of shaky nonconference schedules, at this stage one of the highly borderline teams would probably receive clemency despite largely empty pre-league slates. N.C. State gets the nod over Kansas State and Virginia Tech. That means four ACC teams in the two at-large play-in games for now. … Michigan State moves up a line to a No. 2 seed after the selection committee pegged the Spartans as a No. 3 seed a little more than a week ago.
(1) Duke vs. (16) NORTHEAST/Wagner
(8) Arkansas vs. (9) Texas
(5) Michigan vs. (12) MID-AMERICAN/Buffalo
(4) Wichita State vs. (13) AMERICA EAST/Vermont
(3) PAC-12/Arizona vs. (14) BIG WEST/UC Santa Barbara
(6) Texas A&M vs. (11) Baylor
(7) Saint Mary’s vs. (10) Florida
(2) Xavier vs. (15) BIG SOUTH/UNC Asheville
Duke might be flawed, and it definitely needs to get Marvin Bagley III back from injury, but a victory at Clemson helped it vault back to the top line. … Wichita State earned a victory at Cincinnati, and that will do the Shockers a lot of good when it comes time to seed the field. … Vermont’s 33-game conference winning streak ended against Hartford. That cost the Catamounts a seed line in this projection. …
Arizona Coach Sean Miller would meet one of his former assistants (UC Santa Barbara’s Joe Pasternack) in this scenario. … Baylor has won five in a row heading into Tuesday’s date with West Virginia and surges back into the field, bypassing the play-in games. … Florida’s poor RPI (63) is an outlier among both results-based and predictive metrics. The Gators are 6-3 against Quadrant 1 opponents, but they are coming off a poor week (losses to Georgia and Vanderbilt).
A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that Virginia won at Florida State in its only game last week.
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