2022 Men's NCAA Tournament Bracket: February 15 Projection of the Field of 68

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystFebruary 15, 2022

2022 Men's NCAA Tournament Bracket: February 15 Projection of the Field of 68

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    Auburn's Jabari Smith Jr.
    Auburn's Jabari Smith Jr.Michael Woods/Associated Press

    The races for the No. 1 overall seed in the 2022 men's NCAA basketball tournament as well as the final spot on the No. 1 seed line are extremely tight as we enter the second half of February.

    On the No. 1 overall front, Arizona, Auburn and Gonzaga have strong arguments that we'll dive in to later. Slightly below that top tier, Baylor, Kansas, Kentucky and Purdue are jostling for that fourth No. 1 seed.

    With less than four weeks remaining until Selection Sunday, it feels like those are the only teams that could play their way to a No. 1 seed.

    For now, though, here's our best guess at what the bracket would look like if the season ended today.

    For each of the four regions, we will discuss one team in better shape than it was one week ago and another that—though still in position to dance—perhaps isn't as good as we thought.

    Before that, we will start with the bubble, like we always do. And after the region-by-region breakdowns, there will be an explanation of why the No. 1 seeds are ranked in the order they are. At the end is a list of seeds by conference as a handy reference guide.

    One quick "glossary" note: When we take deeper looks at specific teams' resumes, you'll see NET, RES and QUAL. NET is the NCAA Evaluation Tool, which is the primary sorting metric used by the selection committee and the metric from which quadrant records are derived. RES is the average of the team's resume metrics (Kevin Pauga Index and Strength of Record). QUAL is the average of the quality metrics (ESPN's BPI, KenPom.com and Sagarin).

    NET rankings are updated daily here. The others are masterfully aggregated by Bart Torvik.

Last Five In

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    Michigan's Hunter Dickinson
    Michigan's Hunter DickinsonDuane Burleson/Associated Press

    Last Team In: San Diego State Aztecs
    15-6, NET: 50, RES: 52.0, QUAL: 44.7

    An uneventful week against lowly San Jose State and Air Force was just enough to bump the Aztecs up from first team out to last team in. But here's hoping that light week helped them rest up for their closing gauntlet. Thanks to rescheduled postponements, the Aztecs have seven games in the next 19 days, including massive Quadrant 1 opportunities at Fresno State (Saturday), Boise State (next Tuesday) and Wyoming (Feb. 28). They still have Q2 home games against Utah State and Fresno State, too.


    Second-to-Last In: Creighton Bluejays
    16-8, NET: 71, RES: 50.0, QUAL: 74.3

    Creighton hung on to the next-to-last spot in the projected field with a 3-0 week of wins over Georgetown (twice) and Butler. Those results didn't actually do anything to improve the Bluejays' resume, but at least they didn't get blown out at home by California like Oregon did, nor did they lose by 23 at Oklahoma State like West Virginia did. Coin flips this week at DePaul and at home against Marquette loom large.


    Third-to-Last In: Michigan Wolverines
    13-10, NET: 35, RES: 49.0, QUAL: 30.0

    For more than a month, Michigan was the annoying team that we simply could not delete from this spreadsheet. The Wolverines had only one quality win (at Indiana) and stockpiled "quality losses." But with good metrics and no terrible losses, they stayed in the hunt just long enough for Thursday's 24-point home win over Purdue to vault them into the projected field. There's still work to do, as they are 13-10 with six Q1 games and one deceptive Q3 game (vs. Rutgers) remaining. But if they can go 3-4 (or better) the rest of the way, it would be tough to keep the Wolverines out of the dance.


    Fourth-to-Last In: San Francisco Dons
    21-6, NET: 32, RES: 41.5, QUAL: 35.7

    Less than a week after a huge road win over BYU that moved San Francisco into "just don't screw up and you'll get in" territory, the Dons lost a Q4 home game to Portland last Tuesday to plummet back to the bubble. A 16-point road win over Santa Clara on Saturday helped rectify things, but if they close the regular season with wins over Pacific and San Diego and losses to Gonzaga and Saint Mary's, you can take it to the bank they'll enter the WCC tournament in the last five in or first five out.


    Fifth-to-Last In: BYU Cougars
    19-8, NET: 51, RES: 46.0, QUAL: 60.3

    BYU's resume remains a conundrum, but at least the Cougars didn't lose this week, eking out road victories over Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine. They have five respectable wins (at San Francisco, at Missouri State, vs. Saint Mary's, vs. San Diego State, Oregon on a neutral floor) but no great wins and a bunch of questionable or bad losses. A road win over Saint Mary's on Saturday would be massive. Lose to the Gaels, though, and they darn well better win their next threevs. LMU, vs. Pepperdine, WCC tournament opener.

First Five Out

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    Memphis' DeAndre Williams
    Memphis' DeAndre WilliamsMichael Wyke/Associated Press

    First Team Out: Kansas State Wildcats
    14-11, NET: 64, RES: 63.0, QUAL: 61.3

    One month ago, Kansas State looked hopeless. At the time, its only half-decent win was a road game against Wichita State. But the Wildcats have gone 6-4 since, adding four Quadrant 1 wins and three losses to teams in the NET top 10. If they had just been able to avoid losing to Ole Miss in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge, they would be in the field. A 2-3 finish might get them there.


    Second Team Out: Memphis Tigers
    14-8, NET: 44, RES: 52.5, QUAL: 33.7

    With Saturday's 10-point road win over Houston, Memphis has won five straight and is making things interesting. The Tigers have five unsavory road losses against UCF, Tulane, Ole Miss, East Carolina and Georgia. But if they can build on that huge victory by winning at Cincinnati and SMU this week, that would almost certainly push them into next week's projected field.

    If Memphis ends up anywhere near the cut line in four weeks, prepare to hear a lot about its player absences. Six of the nine primary Tigers have missed multiple games (a combined total of 28), and playing without three of them in each of the losses to Tulane, UCF and East Carolina feels like something the selection committee needs to consider.


    Third Team Out: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
    15-9, NET: 81, RES: 63.5, QUAL: 72.0

    Rutgers already had home wins over Purdue, Michigan and Iowa, and the Scarlet Knights added Quadrant 1 wins over Michigan State (home), Ohio State (home) and Wisconsin (road) just in the past 10 days to skyrocket into the at-large mix. They do, however, have seven losses to non-tournament teams, including a terrible home loss to Lafayette. Between those bad losses and metrics that unanimously put them in the Nos. 59-86 range, it's hard to argue they belong in the field. But they might be two wins from joining the party.


    Fourth Team Out: Stanford Cardinal
    15-10, NET: 91, RES: 55.0, QUAL: 90.7

    Stanford's resume looks a lot like Kansas State's but with worse predictive metrics and substantially fewer opportunities to improve matters. The Cardinal swept USC, beat Wyoming in Hawai'i, got a road win over NET No. 47 Washington State and haven't suffered any terrible losses. But if they don't win at Arizona on March 3, they need to convincingly win all their other games against Utah, Colorado, California and Arizona State. Otherwise, they'll probably still be hovering around 90th in the NET at the start of the Pac-12 tournament.


    Fifth Team Out: Oregon Ducks
    17-8, NET: 62, RES: 61.5, QUAL: 53.0

    Not only was a 14-point home loss to California a horrible misstep, but it's also about time to revisit how impressed we are with Oregon's mid-January road sweep of UCLA and USC. When the Bruins and Trojans were ranked in the Associated Press Top Five, it looked awesome. But now that I have (spoiler alert) UCLA as a No. 5 seed and USC as a No. 6 seed, that no longer feels like a "makes up for a poor November and December" type of road trip. The Ducks simply must win at least one of their upcoming games against Arizona, UCLA and USC in the Feb. 19-26 window to get back into position for a bid.


    Also considered (in alphabetical order): Belmont, Florida, North Texas, SMU, VCU, Virginia Tech, West Virginia.

East Region (Philadelphia)

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    Iowa's Keegan Murray
    Iowa's Keegan MurrayNick Wass/Associated Press

    Indianapolis, Indiana

    No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 16 Longwood/Texas Southern
    No. 8 Iowa vs. No. 9 Seton Hall

    Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Toledo
    No. 5 UCLA vs. No. 12 Michigan/San Francisco

    Greenville, South Carolina

    No. 3 Duke vs. No. 14 Oakland
    No. 6 LSU vs. No. 11 Oklahoma

    Fort Worth, Texas

    No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 15 South Alabama
    No. 7 Saint Mary's vs. No. 10 Indiana


    On the Rise: Iowa Hawkeyes (Up Two Seed Lines)
    17-7, NET: 19, RES: 43.0, QUAL: 18.0

    When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And when the Big Ten schedule gives you Maryland and Nebraska in back-to-back games, squeeze all the juice out of them that you can.

    Iowa annihilated the Terrapins 110-87 and then doubled down with a 98-75 victory over the Cornhuskers. The Hawkeyes have 12 victories by at least 17 points, so the quality metrics absolutely adore them.

    The problem is their best win was a home game against Indiana, which we'll get to shortly as a bubble team. So even though Iowa is on the rise to a No. 8 seed, it's nowhere near a lock. Home games against Michigan and Michigan State in the next 10 days could certainly change that.


    Fading Fast: Indiana Hoosiers (Down Two Seed Lines)
    16-8, NET: 41, RES: 54.5, QUAL: 36.7

    Indiana's big home win over Purdue on Jan. 20 feels like a lifetime ago. Since then, the Hoosiers are 2-4 with relatively meaningless wins over Penn State and Maryland, a not-great loss at Northwestern and 15-point-plus losses to Illinois, Michigan and Michigan State.

    It bears mentioning that Indiana was short-handed for the loss to Northwestern. Xavier Johnson, Parker Stewart, Michael Durr, Khristian Lander and Tamar Bates were serving one-game suspensions for curfew violations, plus Rob Phinisee has been out with a foot injury since late January.

    But surely the selection committee is going to view disciplinary absences differently than it will view injury and COVID-19 absences, right? "Discounting" a loss because a bunch of guys broke the rules seems like a loophole it should avoid.

    Either way, Indiana is slipping toward the bubble with just a 4-8 record against the top two quadrants. If the Hoosiers are unable to beat Wisconsin (home) or Ohio State (road) this week, welcome to the danger zone.

Midwest Region (Chicago)

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    Providence's Nate Watson
    Providence's Nate WatsonNick Wass/Associated Press

    Greenville, South Carolina

    No. 1 Auburn vs. No. 16 Nicholls State/Norfolk State
    No. 8 Murray State vs. No. 9 Boise State

    San Diego, California

    No. 4 Houston vs. No. 13 Vermont
    No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 12 UAB

    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    No. 3 Providence vs. No. 14 Towson
    No. 6 Texas vs. No. 11 Notre Dame

    Indianapolis, Indiana

    No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 15 Liberty
    No. 7 Connecticut vs. No. 10 North Carolina


    On the Rise: Providence Friars (Up One Seed Line)
    21-2, NET: 29, RES: 5.5, QUAL: 39.3

    I've been doing these weekly, four thousandish-word bracket projections since early January and have yet to say anything about Providence, which has crept up the overall seed list. But with the selection committee's Top 16 reveal finally coming Saturday, it's time to address the terrifying Friar mascot in the room.

    Providence has identical 5-1 records against Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2 and no terrible losses. The Friars won at Wisconsin (sans Johnny Davis) and at Connecticut (sans Adama Sanogo) and boast some of the best resume metrics in the country.

    But their quality metrics have been weighing them down becauseas most recently on display in an overtime home win against DePaul on Saturday—their margins of victory have been razor thin. Their 10 Q1/Q2 wins have come by a combined 59 points, and the two losses were by a combined 50 points.

    Providence fans want you to believe all those close wins are emblematic of great coaching and a winning culture, but what the metrics see is a 21-2 team that is about 10 shots away from a .500 record. I don't know where to put the Friars and cannot wait to find out where they land in the Top 16.


    Fading Fast: Houston Cougars (Down Two Seed Lines)
    20-4, NET: 5, RES: 22.0, QUAL: 7.0

    Houston is bizarro Providence. Despite no quality wins, the Cougars skated by week after week as a projected No. 2 or No. 3 seed because of great metrics. I don't believe they ever made it to No. 1 in NET, but they were No. 2 on at least one occasion, thanks in large part to a four-game stretch early in the season in which they beat Oregon, Northwestern State, Bryant and Alcorn State by a combined 169 points.

    But after back-to-back losses to SMU and Memphis, it's time to take Houston down a few pegs. The Cougars might have Final Four potential, but they also have an 0-2 record against projected tournament teams (Alabama and Wisconsin) and a pair of losses to teams not projected to dance.

    As with Providence, I'm interested to find out what the selection committee decides about Houston. If it struggles with UCF on Thursday, it wouldn't be a surprise if we don't see the Cougars at all on Saturday.

South Region (San Antonio)

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    Wyoming's Hunter Maldonado
    Wyoming's Hunter MaldonadoMarco Garcia/Associated Press

    San Diego, California

    No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 16 Princeton
    No. 8 Iowa State vs. No. 9 Loyola-Chicago

    Buffalo, New York

    No. 4 Illinois vs. No. 13 Iona
    No. 5 Xavier vs. No. 12 Chattanooga

    Buffalo, New York

    No. 3 Tennessee vs. No. 14 Wagner
    No. 6 Marquette vs. No. 11 BYU

    Fort Worth, Texas

    No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 UC Irvine
    No. 7 Wyoming vs. No. 10 Miami


    On the Rise: Wyoming Cowboys (Up Three Seed Lines)
    21-3, NET: 25, RES: 21.0, QUAL: 63.0

    Moving up three seed lines for an overtime home win against Utah State and a road rout of San Jose State is, admittedly, ridiculous. But Wyoming's resume just keeps looking better and better, provided you're not a huge believer in BPI, which inexplicably ranks the Cowboys 91st. (BPI hates the Mountain West Conference, as I noted Friday.)

    The Cowboys have won 12 of 13 and are now in the top 30 in four of the six metrics.

    Meanwhile, teams previously on our No. 8 and No. 9 lines were wiped out. The only No. 8 that didn't move down was Murray State, which had to rally from second-half deficits against Tennessee State and Morehead State. And as our previous top No. 10 seed, Wyoming was the primary benefactor of losses by Indiana, Wake Forest, Davidson, etc.


    Fading Fast: Iowa State Cyclones (Down Two Seed Lines)
    16-9, NET: 43, RES: 43.0, QUAL: 50.3

    The Cyclones have come under a lot of scrutiny on account of their 3-9, last-place record in the Big 12. However, conference record has never mattered to the selection committee. (Shoutout to Nebraska's No. 5 seed in the NIT after a 13-5 Big Ten record in 2018.) What does matter to the selection committee is Iowa State's 7-7 record in Quadrant 1 games and its lack of losses to teams outside the NET top 70.

    If they had lost nonconference games against Iowa, Memphis and Creighton and instead won conference games vs. TCU, vs. Kansas State and at West Virginia, the Cyclones would have basically the same resumejust with a 6-6 Big 12 record instead of 3-9but everyone would be perfectly content with them as a No. 8 or No. 9 seed.

    That said, the situation is dicier now for the Cyclones than it was before they lost eight of 11. If they go 3-3 the rest of the way, they should be fine. But losses to both TCU (road) and Oklahoma (home) this week would put them on the chopping block.

West Region (San Francisco)

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    Arkansas' JD Notae
    Arkansas' JD NotaeMichael Woods/Associated Press

    Portland, Oregon

    No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Montana State
    No. 8 Colorado State vs. No. 9 TCU

    Portland, Oregon

    No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 13 South Dakota State
    No. 5 Alabama vs. No. 12 Creighton/San Diego State

    Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 14 New Mexico State
    No. 6 USC vs. No. 11 Davidson

    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 15 Colgate
    No. 7 Arkansas vs. No. 10 Wake Forest


    On the Rise: Arkansas Razorbacks (Up Four Seed Lines)
    19-6, NET: 33, RES: 28.0, QUAL: 22.0

    Arkansas was my top No. 11 seed one week ago, which I acknowledge was probably the lowest ranking among all bracketologists. But I saw a team with only one quality win (at LSU, which proceeded to lose five of its next six games) and five losses to teams on the bubble or not even in the at-large conversation.

    The Razorbacks' metrics were rock solid, but that was more a product of going 9-0 with a margin of plus-23.8 points per game against teams outside the NET top 125 than it was a case of a team with a good ratio of quality wins to questionable losses.

    But one win over a projected No. 1 seed (Auburn) and a near win on the road against a projected No. 5 seed (Alabama) sure can change things. Arkansas appears to be in great shape and could just about lock up its spot in the field with a win over Missouri on Tuesday.


    Fading Fast: Davidson Wildcats (Down Three Seed Lines)
    21-4, NET: 61, RES: 34.5, QUAL: 69.7

    Davidson entered last week looking like a mid-major version of Providence: great record, solid resume metrics and iffy quality metrics on account of an apparent addiction to winning nail-biters.

    From Jan. 8 through Feb. 9, the Wildcats went 9-1 with a margin of plus-4.4 points per game. Their only win by double digits was a 77-67 Quadrant 4 game against UMass. And because all those close calls came against what may well be a one-bid Atlantic 10, Davidson actually dropped 18 spots on KenPom during that five-week stretch leading up to Saturday's loss to Rhode Island.

    At that point, losing to NET No. 120 Rhode Island was a back-breaker.

    Its remaining schedule consists of two Q4 games, a Q3 game against George Mason, a Q2 game against Saint Louis and a Q1 road game against Dayton. Even a 4-1 record would leave the Wildcats on the bubble heading into the A-10 tournament.

Ranking the No. 1 Seeds

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    Gonzaga's Drew Timme
    Gonzaga's Drew TimmeYoung Kwak/Associated Press

    No. 4: Kentucky Wildcats
    21-4, NET: 3, RES: 8.0, QUAL: 3.3

    Kentucky just keeps trucking along, adding convincing wins over South Carolina and Florida in the past week. And if the Wildcats continue to dominate for another two weeks, they are going to start pounding on the door of the No. 1 overall seed, as they have four Quadrant 1 games (at Tennessee, vs. Alabama, vs. LSU, at Arkansas) at their doorstep.

    As far as the teams directly behind Kentucky are concerned, Purdue would have jumped to No. 3 overall thanks to a win over Illinois last Tuesday...if it hadn't gotten blown out by Michigan on Thursday. Both Kansas and Baylor are firmly in the mix, too, and it would be a surprise if the eventual Big 12 champion fails to land on a top line, especially considering Kentucky and Auburn can't both win the SEC. As things stand, though, UK has the edge.


    No. 3: Arizona Wildcats
    22-2, NET: 2, RES: 3.0, QUAL: 2.0

    No. 2: Auburn Tigers
    23-2, NET: 7, RES: 1.5, QUAL: 8.0

    No. 1: Gonzaga Bulldogs
    21-2, NET: 1, RES: 10.0, QUAL: 1.0

    There are no gaps between the top three resumes.

    Arizona, Auburn and Gonzaga each have two losses, all of which occurred away from home against the top half of Quadrant 1. And of the bunch, only Arizona's loss at UCLA got even a little bit out of hand.

    Arizona and Auburn each have two wins against the top half of Quadrant 1, each of which came by 10 points or fewer. Gonzaga has three wins against that club, all by 12 points or more. In fact, Gonzaga has only one win this season by fewer than 12 points, which was strangely a nine-point home win over Tarleton State. Because of that consistent dominance, the Zags hold the edge for the No. 1 overall seed.

    As far as Arizona vs. Auburn is concerned, we're still leaning Tigers because they have one more Q1 and one more Q2 win, plus both of their losses were overtime affairs.

    But Arizona's metrics are ridiculous. As of Monday morning, five of the six metrics had the Wildcats at No. 2 with KPI (No. 4) the exception. If Arizona and Gonzaga win out, it's likely the Wildcats will finish ahead of the Bulldogs.

    Here's a "Did you know?" factoid, though: San Antonio is four miles closer to Tucson than San Francisco is. So as long as Arizona stays ahead of Baylorwhich would strongly prefer San Antonio to any other regionit's probably going to be Gonzaga in the West and Arizona in the South. It will still be a fun race to watch, though.

Seeding by Conference

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    Miami's Charlie Moore and Notre Dame's Blake Wesley
    Miami's Charlie Moore and Notre Dame's Blake WesleyWilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    In case seeded regions aren't enough and you want to know where the top 68 teams stand in relation to one another, here is a list of each team's overall seed, broken down by conference. First five out teams are included in italics.


    ACC (5): 9. Duke; 37. North Carolina; 38. Miami; 39. Wake Forest; 43. Notre Dame

    Big 12 (7): 6. Kansas; 7. Baylor; 11. Texas Tech; 21. Texas; 32. Iowa State; 34. TCU; 42. Oklahoma; 69. Kansas State

    Big East (7): 8. Villanova; 10. Providence; 19. Xavier; 24. Marquette; 25. Connecticut; 33. Seton Hall; 47. Creighton

    Big Ten (8): 5. Purdue; 13. Wisconsin; 14. Illinois; 15. Michigan State; 17. Ohio State; 30. Iowa; 40. Indiana; 46. Michigan; 71. Rutgers

    Mountain West (4): 26. Wyoming; 29. Colorado State; 35. Boise State; 48. San Diego State

    Pac-12 (3): 3. Arizona; 20. UCLA; 22. USC; 72. Stanford; 73. Oregon

    SEC (6): 2. Auburn; 4. Kentucky; 12. Tennessee; 18. Alabama; 23. LSU; 27. Arkansas

    West Coast (4): 1. Gonzaga; 28. Saint Mary's; 44. BYU; 45. San Francisco

    Other (24): 16. Houston; 31. Murray State; 36. Loyola-Chicago; 41. Davidson; 49. UAB; 50. Chattanooga; 51. Iona; 52. South Dakota State; 53. Toledo; 54. Vermont; 55. New Mexico State; 56. Wagner; 57. Towson; 58. Oakland; 59. Liberty; 60. UC Irvine; 61. South Alabama; 62. Colgate; 63. Montana State; 64. Princeton; 65. Longwood; 66. Texas Southern; 67. Norfolk State; 68. Nicholls State; 70. Memphis


    Statistics courtesy of Sports Reference, KenPom and Bart Torvik and accurate through the start of play Monday, unless otherwise noted. Records accurate through the start of play Tuesday.

    Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @kerrancejames.