There is no shortage of experts using modeling to try to predict the NCAA Tournament field every March. But with the powers that be ditching RPI for a new measuring tool, we’ve tinkered with our own model to try to predict where all our local teams sit exactly four weeks before the first full day of action begins.
Remember, this isn’t a prediction of where they will finish at season’s end — it’s where they are right now, with the final stretch of league play and the conference tournaments still to come.
Virginia: 1 seed (second overall)
The ACC is loaded with giants, and Virginia still has to play one of them — Louisville — twice, beginning in Kentucky this weekend. The Hoos also still have to travel to the Carrier Dome to take on Syracuse. But they’ve been a 1 seed all year, and barring a major collapse (or a substantial upset in the ACC Tournament) seem destined to enter March Madness that way.
An undefeated non-conference slate includes a neutral court win over Wisconsin and a road win at Maryland, and no team other than Duke has beaten UVa. all season. And with the Blue Devils without Zion Williamson for a still to be determined period of time, Virginia could well move up to the top spot in the country. The Cavaliers could also get their third shot at the Blue Devils in March … or even in April.
(AP Photo/Lee Luther Jr.)
(AP/Lee Luther Jr.)
Maryland: 5 seed
Fresh off their first road win over a ranked opponent in more than a decade, the Terps shot up the board this week. Their particularly week non-conference strength of schedule (303 rd of 351 Division I teams) is arguably the biggest thing holding them down right now. But because of the way the overall formula is calculated, it will factor in less and less as more conference results come in — they were a 7-seed last week. In other words: The weak NCSOS can’t hurt Maryland more than it already has in these rankings, which bodes well down for the rest of the conference slate and into the Big Ten Tournament.
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Virginia Tech: 7 seed
The Hokies had a chance for a big breakthrough into potential top-5 seed territory with a home game against Virginia this week, but couldn’t come away with the win. They sit atop the 7 line in this model, with a host of teams narrowly ahead, so their potential for upward mobility is strong. Their peripheral numbers are great, sporting a top-10 offense and the 32 nd ranked defense, but a very weak non-conference slate is still hurting them. That said, neutral court wins against Washington and Purdue continue to look better, and there are a couple more chances for marquee victories down the stretch at Florida State and at home against Duke.
(Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP)
VCU: 9 seed
The Rams tiptoed their way inside the bubble over the last few weeks and have moved out of the last four in to a spot more firmly in the field this week. Since a bad loss to Rhode Island in late January, they have ripped off seven straight wins, four away from home including a one-point victory at Dayton Saturday (and a 34-point revenge drubbing of URI). Sporting a top-five defense in the country efficiency-wise, VCU controls its own destiny to win the Atlantic 10 regular season title. The good news: The Rams should be favored in every game from here on out. Running the table would take a lot of the jitters out of the always unpredictable A-10 Tourney.
(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
(AP/Frank Franklin II)
Possible automatic bids: Old Dominion, UMBC
The Monarchs (21-6, 11-3) lead Conference USA by two games with four to play. While early-season wins over VCU and at Syracuse continue to look better and better, ODU needs to win the C-USA Tournament to secure its bid. The math just isn’t there for an at-large berth.
Meanwhile, UMBC (17-10, 9-3 America East) isn’t nearly the sleeping giant of last year, but the Retrievers have won eight of nine, including dealing conference front-runner Vermont (who they memorably beat last year to make the dance) its only conference loss. They likely won’t win the regular season title, but have proved capable of beating anyone in the conference and snagging the automatic bid.
(AP Photo/Nick Lisi)
Outside Looking In: American, George Mason, George Washington, Georgetown, Howard, Navy, Richmond
With only one senior rotation player, American (13-13, 7-8 Patriot League) is probably still a year away, after dropping four of their last five.
George Mason (15-11, 9-4 Atlantic 10) shook off a brutal start and can still secure a crucial top 4 seed in the volatile A-10 Tournament, giving them a double-bye into the quarterfinals.
GW (8-18, 4-9 A-10) has only managed consecutive wins once all year and would need a miracle run in Brooklyn.
Even after a needed upset of Villanova Wednesday night, the Hoyas are still well off the bubble. They likely need a 4-1 finish (against a slate that includes a trip to Marquette) and a strong conference tournament showing to hear their school called on Selection Sunday.
Howard (12-15, 6-6 MEAC) can score, but sports a bottom 15 defense in the country. They’ll need to get more stops to run the table for a winning record, much less a tournament berth.
Navy is 8-3 when they score 70 or more points. The fact that the Midshipmen are 9-16 overall shows how much they’ve struggled to do so.
Richmond (11-15, 5-8 A-10) will get a second chance in the A-10 Tournament, but will need more second chance opportunities to make a run — the Spiders are dead last in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage.
(AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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