Bracketology: Big Ten's Robust Resume, UVA Won't Play in May


With four Big Ten teams in position to host NCAA tournament games, Rutgers may have to go through Hofstra in the first round to return there in the quarterfinals.

As things stand, five Big Ten schools have a credible case for the NCAA tournament. Four of them would probably host first-round games if the postseason began now.

That can and probably will change, of course, but at the moment it is tricky finding a place to send that fifth team from the former land of Legends and Leaders since conference rematches in the first round are against the tournament committee’s guidelines.

That’s why Rutgers finds itself sent to Hofstra, while Albany (which comes out at No. 9 in this weekend’s exercise) instead is paired with Johns Hopkins. Of course, the Great Danes can change things considerably Wednesday when they play host to Maryland.

One other note: While the committee is tasked with keeping the bracket as tight as possible from a geographic perspective, any field that has Denver, Notre Dame and Ohio State as first-round hosts is likely (though not guaranteed) to require three visiting teams to fly on the opening weekend.

The RPI is from LaxPower’s RPI replica through Sunday’s games. Records against the top five, top 10 and top 20 and losses to teams outside the top 25 are based on performance against the current RPI rankings, not human polls). The strength of schedule data comes from the NCAA’s RPI Archive and reflects only a team’s 10 best opponents to date.

Automatic Qualifiers (9)







26+ L

Denver 4 7 1-0 1-1 4-2
Maryland 5 15 1-1 1-1 2-2
Hofstra 6 39 0-0 0-0 3-0
Albany 9 36 0-1 0-1 1-1
Army 14 49 1-0 1-1 2-1
Richmond 18 48 0-0 0-0 1-1 Virginia (27)
Yale 24 36 0-1 0-1 2-1 Bryant (43)
Robert Morris 31 64 0-1 0-1 0-1 Georgetown (37)
Monmouth 40 65 0-0 0-1 1-1 Delaware (26), St. Joseph's (54)

Denver is tied for the most top-20 triumphs and is in the top 10 in both RPI and strength of schedule. It sure appears the Pioneers are on their way to another first-round home game. … Maryland’s strength of schedule will improve, and not just because it has three more Big Ten games left. Since the NCAA’s metric includes only the top 10 opponents, High Point, Navy and Saint Joseph’s will be cycled out by Selection Sunday. …

Hofstra is the last of the undefeateds, though its schedule strength brings it down a bit. … Albany has a major chance to bag a high-end victory on Wednesday when Maryland comes to town for a rescheduled game. … Strength of schedule is the reason Army will almost certainly get shipped on the road if it makes the NCAA tournament. …

Imagine hopping in a time machine, going back a little less than five years and telling Dan Chemotti and the Richmond administration that a one-goal loss at home to Virginia would qualify as mildly questionable in 2017. That would provoke quite the reaction. … Yale dropped from 17th to 24th in the RPI after beating St. John’s and Dartmouth last week. In a related note, the RPI isn’t an ideal metric for a 30-game college basketball season and it is even more flawed in a sport that plays half as many games. …

No one from the NEC (Robert Morris) or Metro Atlantic (Monmouth) appears in the top 30 of this week’s RPI. It’s going to take an upset in another conference tournament for those leagues not to get sent to the play-in game.

At-Large Bids (18 teams/8 slots)







26+ L

Syracuse 1 16 1-0 3-0 4-1
Notre Dame 2 1 1-2 2-2 2-3
Penn State 3 20 0-1 1-1 2-1
Johns Hopkins 7 4 0-1 1-2 2-4
Ohio State 8 6 1-2 2-2 3-2
Rutgers 10 24 0-0 0-1 3-2 Delaware (26)
Princeton 11 21 0-0 1-2 2-2
North Carolina 12 5 1-1 1-3 1-5
Villanova 13 9 1-2 1-2 1-2 Delaware (26), Monmouth (40)
Duke 15 10 1-2 1-2 3-2 Air Force (33)
Towson 16 12 0-1 1-2 1-2 Loyola (32)
Boston U. 17 58 0-0 0-0 0-1 Bucknell (47), Lehigh (52)
Binghamton 19 68 0-0 0-0 0-0 Marist (34)
Stony Brook 20 18 0-0 0-3 0-4 UMBC (28)
Michigan 21 31 0-2 0-3 0-3
Marquette 22 42 0-0 0-1 0-3
Providence 25 54 0-0 0-1 0-2 Sacred Heart (36)
Virginia 27 8 0-2 0-3 1-4 Penn (29)

Syracuse is in the same boat as Maryland; it hasn’t reached 10 games, so all of its opponents count in the specialized strength of schedule computation. Siena and St. John’s will get cycled out before long. … Strictly going by the numbers, Notre Dame would be a tough team for the committee to slide below a No. 3 seed at this stage. …

It will take more than one loss to knock Penn State out of the picture for hosting a first round game. … Johns Hopkins is a team both Princeton and Towson will be rooting for over the next four weekends. The Blue Jays can help both of those teams out by winning a bunch down the stretch. … Ohio State now owns defeats of Denver and Johns Hopkins at home. That’s the foundation of a fine resume. …

Rutgers noses back into the top 10, and its victory over Princeton carries plenty of value at this point while sorting teams near the edge of the field. … Princeton really doesn’t have much margin for error as it ventures through the rest of its schedule. The Tigers simply won’t get the sort of bump from their remaining schedule that teams in the Big Ten and ACC will. …

North Carolina is back over .500 after outracing Virginia. The Tar Heels either need one victory over the next two weekends (against Syracuse and Notre Dame) or an ACC tournament title to be eligible for the postseason. … Villanova is squeezed out of the field right now in part because it has the worst loss of the serious contenders for the last at-large bid.

Tough to keep Duke out of the field after its victory over Notre Dame. The Blue Devils seem to be peaking, especially at the defensive end of the field. … Towson remains in the hunt, but it would do its at-large case a world of good by beating Hofstra at the end of the month. …

Boston University just played its first top-20 opponent; Binghamton has yet to do so, though the Bearcats get Albany and Syracuse later in the month. … Stony Brook, Michigan, Marquette and Providence have combined for zero top-20 victories. All four are included for the sake of thoroughness. …

Coach Lars Tiffany acknowledged Sunday night that Virginia won’t be playing in May. There just aren’t enough games left for the Cavaliers (7-5) to revive their NCAA hopes after missing out on the ACC tournament. Virginia closes with Robert Morris, Duke and Penn (ACC Showcase).


A few reminders on bracket construction:

  • The committee seeds the top eight teams and then divvies up the unseeded teams based on geography in an attempt to limit air travel.

  • Conference rematches are to be avoided in the first round.

  • Quarterfinal host schools (in this year’s case, Hofstra) are funneled into their own site.

  • Of the nine automatic qualifiers, the two with the weakest profiles are assigned to the preliminary round game the Wednesday before the first round. At-large teams are not selected for play-in games.

Hempstead, N.Y.

(1) Syracuse vs. METRO ATLANTIC/Monmouth-NORTHEAST/Robert Morris

(8) COLONIAL/Hofstra vs. Rutgers

Newark, Del.

(5) Penn State vs. Princeton

(4) BIG TEN/Maryland vs. PATRIOT/Army

Newark, Del.

(3) Notre Dame vs. IVY/Yale

(6) Ohio State vs. Duke

Hempstead, N.Y.

(7) Johns Hopkins vs. AMERICA EAST/Albany

(2) BIG EAST/Denver vs. SOUTHERN/Richmond

Last three in: Rutgers, Duke, Princeton

First three out: North Carolina, Towson, Villanova

Multi-bid conferences: Big Ten (5), ACC (3), Ivy League (2)

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