For Valentine’s Day, I took my girlfriend out to dinner, to see puppies, and even made her a cake. But don’t worry, that did not stop me from watching a double overtime thriller between Providence and Creighton.
Oh boy, we are so close to the madness in March. Selection Sunday is less than a month away and conference tournaments begin in a few weeks. Now is a good time to focus on who we might see in the NCAA Tournament.
Yes, it is time for some Boydetology.
There are 68 teams to choose from – some may be close to making it, others might need a miracle in their conference tournament. Many features go into a team’s projected seeding, notably a team’s record and TRACR, while also accounting for a team’s strength of schedule and big wins or close losses. TRACR (Team Rating Adjusted for Conference and Roster) is a net efficiency metric that calculates a team’s points per possession on both sides of the ball, adjusted by the team it plays. The model rewards teams that do well against good teams and punishes those that do poorly against weaker squads.
Let us look at the major conferences and see where each team is projected to land in March. Stay tuned until the end for a new release, too!
The Big 12 is stacked and the best conference in Division I, per TRACR. Of the 10 teams in the conference, we project eight will make it, leaving quality teams in Texas Tech (50th in TRACR) and Oklahoma (58th) out. The Big 12 has three teams projected as a top two seed. Whichever team wins the Big 12 regular season – likely Kansas, Texas, or Baylor – will likely receive a number one seed. Right now, TRACR projects Kansas to win.
Kansas State might rank lower in TRACR than Oklahoma State and TCU, but wins over Kansas, Texas and Baylor keep the Wildcats ahead. Still, recent losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma on the road bumped them down in seeding. Oklahoma State has played much better basketball in February and might have secured a spot in March already. TCU might be in trouble, losing four of its last five, but injuries have plagued the Horned Frogs. After crushing Oklahoma, West Virginia beat Iowa State but lost on the road to Texas and Baylor. The Mountaineers need to finish strong to make the tournament.
It is Purdue’s conference this year, though some teams are creeping up. Despite losing two of their last three, the Boilermakers look ready to secure a number 1 seed and win the Big Ten outright. They will have tough games at Maryland and at home against Indiana, but it should still be enough to win the conference.
Indiana ranks higher in seeding than some sites because of its TRACR and quality wins. The Hoosiers have won eight of their last nine, four by double digits, while escaping with road wins against Illinois, Minnesota (198th) and Michigan (46th). Credit to Mike Woodson for stepping up the defense, holding opponents to 63.0 points per game since Jan. 14. This stretch began after allowing more than 80 points to three Big Ten opponents, all losses.
Maryland ranks high in TRACR after winning five of its last six, but there were struggles in December and January that hold it from being a higher seed. TRACR does have a recency bias added in, explaining why the Terrapins rank higher than in the AP. Michigan State and Iowa are in a similar position.
Rutgers has lost three straight including a surprising home loss to Nebraska, but the defense can still propel it to a tournament bid. Northwestern is going to make it to the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in school history, but TRACR does question how good the team is.
Finally, Wisconsin just barely makes it in Boydetology. The Badgers rank low in TRACR and blew a 17-point lead to lose to Nebraska on Feb. 11, but they have key wins against Marquette, Maryland, and USC. They also barely lost to Kansas, which ended on a wild shot at the buzzer. They are the last team in and would be in the First Four at the moment. They will need to go at least 3-2 for the rest of the regular season and win one Big Ten Tournament game to make it.
The ACC is down once again this year, though there are some bright spots. Pittsburgh might win the conference despite ranking somewhat low in TRACR. Virginia and Miami look strong. Clemson (75th) has an 18-7 record but has lost three straight while having few key wins. The Tigers are one of the first four teams out in Boydetology.
For the second straight year (at least), the SEC has played better than the ACC. We project seven teams out of the conference making the NCAA Tournament, but only two with a top-five seed. Alabama and Tennessee are by far the best teams in the conference and Alabama could be the number one overall seed in the tournament. Tennessee has had some struggles but still ranks highly in TRACR and can be a two seed with a strong finish.
The rest of the conference has some question marks but can still be a threat in the tournament. Auburn had some close losses against good teams, but its recent killing of Missouri puts them as a six seed for now. Missouri has had key wins against Illinois and at Tennessee, but its defense might set them back the rest of the way. A test against Texas A&M on Saturday may alter both teams’ chances to dance. After losing five straight, Mississippi State has won five in a row and looks like it is back on track to make a tourney appearance.
The Big East is top heavy, but those top teams keep beating each other up, too. UConn was one of the best teams out of the gate this season but has not been able to beat a top Big East team on the road yet. Creighton has the talent to make a deep run in the playoff (and TRACR acknowledges it) but losing six in a row in November and December hurts it from having a top seed right now. Marquette and Xavier are quality teams but need to beat teams by larger margins in order to get a three seed or lower. They play each other tonight, which could change that. Like last season, Providence just finds ways to win, as shown in the double overtime win against Creighton on Valentine’s Day, though I do question its ability to finish when away from home. The Friars have lost four of their last five games on the road, with all five games being decided by single digits.
The Pac-12 has only three teams selected right now, though it can both shrink or grow. UCLA and Arizona are in, and whichever wins their meeting on March 4, or whichever wins the Pac-12 tournament will be a 1 or 2 seed.
Utah might not be a team on other Bracketology, but we have them as one of the last teams in. The Utes have a win against Arizona and some quality road games, but they would have to beat either UCLA or USC (or both) in late February to make it. If Selection Sunday were today, they would be in the First Four, playing Wisconsin. Oregon (35th) just missed the cut, but the Ducks have a three-game road trip coming up that can change things. USC (76th) ranks much lower in TRACR and missed the cut.
More Boydetology will come down the road, but I also wanted to share one more thing. I am happy to announce our new women’s college basketball TRACR, which will be available on The Analyst in the next few weeks. It has been a great season in women’s Division I, highlighted by a dominating South Carolina team that can go undefeated. Women’s college basketball is much more top heavy than men’s, so the best teams may finish with only a few losses, if any, entering the tournament.
Here are the top five teams in women’s basketball TRACR:
If you have not watched South Carolina play yet, I highly suggest dropping everything to take in a game. With a TRACR rating of 60.9, that means that the Gamecocks can outscore an average WCBK team by about 60 points per 100 possessions. Given that they average about 69 possessions per game, it means that they would outscore an average team by about 42 points per game. They have beaten 11 teams by at least 42 points this season.
The Gamecocks are 25-0 and just beat LSU by 24 points! Yes, they just beat the second-best team in TRACR and an undefeated Lady Tigers team by 24 points on Saturday. The defense is incredible, holding opponents to 49.0 points per game. That is the lowest in men’s or women’s Division I. Aliyah Boston has recorded 16 double-doubles this season and is currently the projected number one overall pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft.
Another team that is worth watching is Indiana, ranked fifth in TRACR and number two in the AP Poll behind South Carolina. The Hoosiers are 24-1 and have won four of their last five games by at least 20 points. They just beat Caitlin Clark and No. 5 Iowa by nine and No. 13 Ohio State by 24 on the road. Senior Mackenzie Holmes is averaging 22.5 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 69.8% from the field. Mike Woodson is even borrowing plays that the women’s team uses for his squad!
We will have more women’s CBK coverage in the next few weeks, along with men’s CBK. It’s almost March, folks. Be ready for anything.