Bracketology: Final Seeding Placement Remains Difficult


As it stands today, Towson could earn the edge and get the No. 8 seed, beating out Penn and Loyola.

Last week, we identified the top seeds with blind résumés. Now, we turn our attention to how the committee will handle the battle for the final seeded slot, and thus hosting duties.

Barring major upsets, the top seven are likely locked in for hosting responsibilities: Maryland, Boston College, Stony Brook, James Madison, North Carolina, Florida and Northwestern. Three teams—Penn, Towson and Loyola—are battling for one spot.

If these teams win out, it’s going to be very difficult for the committee to tell them apart.

As it stands today, the margin is razor thin because all three represent the 8th-10th spots in the RPI, have Top 10 strength of schedule averages between 19-22.5 and carry at least two significant wins in the RPI Top 20, and at least four significant wins in the RPI Top 30. Geographically, they’re all close to one another and likely one of them will be paired with the host as a possible No. 8 vs. No. 9 game in the second round.

There are five primary criteria. If the committee sees the teams deadlocked after the primary criteria, they can use secondary pieces such as the last six games and their records against teams already in the tournament field.

Let’s see the comparison.

Primary Criteria


Team A (11-2)       

Team B (13-2)     

Team C (12-3)     

RPI 8 9 10
Top 10 SOS (Avg. Ranking) 23rd (22.2) 26th (22.5) 15 (19.0)
Significant Wins (RPI Top 25) 3 3 5
Significant Losses None None None
Head-to-Head N/A Lost to Team C Beat Team B
Common Opponents 3-0 with Team B
None with Team C
3-0 with Team A
2-0 with Team C
None with Team A
1-1 with Team B

Primary Criteria Breakdown


Team A (11-2)

Team B (13-2)

Team C (12-3)

RPI 1-10 0-2 1-2 1-1
RPI 11-20 3-0 1-0 3-2
RPI 21-30 2-0 2-0 1-0
Notable Wins (vs. RPI) Nos. 11, 13, 17 Nos. 4, 13, 21 Nos. 9, 15, 16

Secondary Criteria


Team A (11-2)

Team B (13-2)

Team C (12-3)

Last Six Games 4-2 6-0 5-1
Vs. NCAA Teams 3-2 3-2 4-4

We begin with Teams B and C for comparison.

RPI edge is nearly identical, and will likely go down as a tie. Team C takes the Top 10 strength of schedule category. In pure numbers, Team C has more significant wins (5) than Team B (3), but Team B’s best win is the RPI No. 4. It’s conceivable the committee will value quantity, but in the past, it has valued quality. So C gets the breaker there. Plus, that win over No. 4 gives the common opponents category to Team B because Team C lost to No. 4. Lastly, Team B won the lone head-to-head matchup, which leaves us with an essentially tied ballot, 2-2, with a possible edge to Team B because of RPI ranking.

In secondary criteria, Team B is a perfect 6-0 in its last six games, while Team C is 5-1. Team C also has a winning record against teams projected into the NCAA field (3-2), while Team B is 4-4. Team B is ranked ahead of Team C.

Now, let’s compare Teams A and B.

This is arguably murkier because again we have a one-spot RPI difference, but the Top 10 SOS category is determined by an average of just 0.3. Both teams have three Top 25 wins, but Team B’s win at No. 4 will likely let it carry that category. Both teams went 3-0 against common opponents and they didn’t play each other.

How will the committee handle this? Will the committee give Team A the No. 8 seed because of slight margins in RPI and SOS, or will they move on to secondary criteria because the profiles match so closely?

If they go to secondary criteria, both teams are projected 3-2 against the NCAA field. Team B is 6-0 in the last six, while Team A is 4-2. All things considered, this is an agonizingly tough call, which we project will be given to Team B.

Résumé Reveal

Team A: Penn
Team B: Towson (projected No. 8 seed)
Team C: Loyola

It would not be surprising to see either of these three teams grab the No. 8 seed on May 7. Fortunately for the committee, it will not greatly alter the bracket since all three teams would be hosting geographically friendly teams.

Other Notes About This Week’s Bracket

The bubble expanded this week after Duke lost to North Carolina, dropping the Blue Devils out of at-large consideration with a 7-8 record. Duke has to beat Virginia Tech on Thursday to keep its hopes alive and can afford a loss in the ACC Semifinals, provided it beats first-year program East Carolina on May 6. 

Additionally, with Richmond losing to UMass, and subsequently UMass falling at VCU a few days later, there is no bid thief scenario from the Atlantic 10. That’s now a one-bid league.

Lastly, Notre Dame losing to Albany leaves the Irish with the most significant loss of any bubble contenders and would likely need a pair of wins in the ACC Tournament to hop back into consideration.

This is good news for teams like Stanford, USC, Johns Hopkins, Navy, Dartmouth, Princeton and Denver, who run the gamut from being considered likely in to possibly out. They’re all are one major win away from locking up an at-large berth, and some may get in even without an extra win. 

Notes: Records against the Top 10, Top 11-20, Top 21-30 and losses to teams outside the Top 30 are based on performance against the current RPI rankings (as of April 22), not human polls. First place teams are listed as automatic qualifiers. Ties go to the highest rated team in the RPI.

Automatic Qualifiers (14)







31+ L

Boston College 1 12 1-0 5-0 4-0
Maryland 2 8 3-1 5-0 1-0
Florida 4 1 1-2 4-1 1-0
James Madison 5 19 1-1 2-0 3-0
Stony Brook 6 37 2-0 2-0 3-0
Penn 8 41 2-0 2-0 4-0
Loyola 10 26 1-1 3-2 1-0
Colorado  12 22 0-2 3-0 1-2
Massachusetts 24 32 0-1 1-0 2-1 Yale (32), VCU (71)
High Point  26 58 0-2 0-0 2-0
Marist 46 61 0-0 0-0 0-2 Yale (32), Canisius (53), La Salle (75), Iona (80)
Jacksonville 50 103 0-1 0-1 0-1
Wagner  66 96 0-0 0-0 0-1 Hofstra (61), Iona (80), UMass Lowell (93)
Central Michigan 85 115 0-0 0-0 0-0 Marquette (34), Michigan (40), Cincinnati (61), La Salle (75), Kennesaw State (95)

Boston College got by Syracuse and has closed the gap with Maryland for the top seed. An ACC tournament championship might accomplish that goal. … Maryland’s win over Penn State sets up the chance for a fourth straight Big Ten regular season title on Thursday against Northwestern. …

Florida plays last place Butler before hosting the Big East Tournament next week. …

James Madison can close out the CAA regular season title with a win against fellow CAA unbeaten Towson on Saturday. … Stony Brook will once again host the America East tournament, but it must first avoid a stumble against America East’s only other undefeated squad, Albany, on Saturday. … Penn can wrap up its Ivy League regular season title tonight against Princeton before traveling to Yale on Saturday. …

Loyola can add another RPI Top 15 win against Georgetown tonight before finishing the regular season against Holy Cross. … Colorado hosts the inaugural Pac-12 tournament this week and will play the winner of USC and Arizona State. … UMass’ 61-game conference winning streak is over. A win over Duquesne sews up the top seed for the A-10 tournament, which is hosted by A-10 co-leader Richmond next week. …

High Point plays Hofstra, while it is idle this week with a bye in the Big South tournament. … Marist has the highest RPI of the five-way tie atop the MAAC. … Jacksonville hosts Stetson to close out A-Sun play on Sunday. … Central Michigan can wrap up an undefeated conference season and the inaugural Southern Conference title, with a win over fellow Michigan squad, Detroit Mercy.


Virginia Tech finally got a Top 20 win by defeating Virginia for the No. 3 seed in the ACC Tournament.

At-Large Bids (19 Teams/13 Spots)







31+ L

North Carolina 3 2 2-3 3-0 3-0
Northwestern 7 13 1-2 3-0 3-1
Towson 9 30 1-2 1-0 2-0
Dartmouth 11 18 0-2 1-0 1-1
Georgetown 13 20 0-4 1-0 2-0
Virginia Tech 14 27 0-3 2-1 3-1
Navy 15 35 0-3 1-0 1-0
Virginia 16 3 0-5 2-2 3-1
Johns Hopkins 17 7 1-4 0-1 0-1
Stanford 18 33 0-1 0-2 3-1
Princeton 19 15 0-2 0-3 2-0
Syracuse 20 4 2-4 1-2 1-2
Penn State 21 11 0-5 2-1 1-0
Denver 22 17 0-2 2-2 0-0 Temple (43)
USC 23 5 0-3 2-3 1-0 Oregon (36)
Richmond 25 43 0-1 0-1 1-1
Cornell 28 10 0-2 0-3 1-1 Temple (43)
Notre Dame 29 23 0-3 1-2 1-2 Albany (55)
Saint Joseph's 30 31 0-1 0-2 0-1 Villanova (44)

North Carolina will arguably face the toughest No. 7 seed the ACC tournament has ever produced when it meets Syracuse on Thursday. … Northwestern looks for its first win over Maryland since 2012 on Thursday night with the Big Ten regular season title on the line. … Towson puts its eight-game win streak on the line against Johns Hopkins tonight with a CAA title match against JMU on Saturday looming. …

Dartmouth qualified for its first Ivy League tournament since 2013 with a win over Yale. … Georgetown’s six-game winning streak will be on the line tonight against Loyola. … Georgetown rides a four-game winning streak into its conference games against UConn and Marquette. … Virginia Tech finally got its Top 20 win by defeating Virginia and secured the No. 3 seed in the ACC Tournament. …

A win for Navy over BU on Saturday will lock up the No. 2 seed in the Patriot League tournament. … Virginia has lost six of its last seven games entering tomorrow’s ACC quarterfinal vs. Notre Dame. … Johns Hopkins has a chance tonight to cement its place in the NCAA tournament with a win over Towson. …

Stanford might need a third win over USC, presuming the Trojans beat Arizona State in the Pac-12 tournament opener, to feel secure about its NCAA at-large chances. … Princeton is our projected first team out, and a win over Penn tonight would make at-large prospects all the more likely. …

Syracuse will be at least .500 even if it falls to UNC on Thursday. The Orange are one of just eight teams with three wins over RPI Top 20 teams. … Penn State has Michigan at home on Saturday as the Lions look to break a three-game skid. … Denver missed a season-defining win against Florida. While a win against Vanderbilt isn’t necessary for inclusion in the Big East tournament, it would continue the team’s at-large hopes. …

Richmond was unable to end the UMass hex in the A-10 and now will have to rely on the conference tournament next week for an automatic bid. … Cornell’s chances are waning. A win against Harvard is necessary to keep the season alive, while needing help from others in the league for a conference tournament berth. … Notre Dame needs two wins in the ACC tournament to get back into the at-large discussion. … Saint Joseph’s rising to 30th in the RPI is impressive, but with no quality wins, the Hawks will need to run the table in the A-10 tournament next week.


Bracketing Procedures:

  • The committee seeds the Top 8 teams to host first- and second-round games. All other teams are unseeded and will be placed geographically, while keeping bracket integrity when possible.

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

  • This year, there are 14 automatic qualifiers, which means the two weakest resumes are assigned to a play-in game on Tuesday, May 8, or Wednesday, May 9, on the campus of the stronger team. No at-large teams will be selected for the play-in games. That play-in winner will travel to the No. 7 seed.

  • It’s possible a seeded team may not host due to factors such as facility availability. We anticipate each seed hosting and bracket them accordingly, but the committee may not have that option.

  • The seven and eight seeds host two games in the first round leading to a second-round game at its home site, while the top six seeds get byes into the second round.

College Park, Md.

Virginia vs. Navy
Winner plays at (1) Maryland (BIG TEN)

Towson, Md.

Penn (IVY) vs. Johns Hopkins
Marist (MAAC) at (8) Towson

Harrisonburg, Va.

Virginia Tech vs. Georgetown
Winner plays at (4) James Madison (CAA)

Gainesville, Fla.

Colorado (PAC-12) vs. Jacksonville (ATLANTIC SUN)
Winner plays at (5) Florida (BIG EAST)

Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Dartmouth vs. Massachusetts (ATLANTIC 10)
Winner plays at (2) Boston College (ACC)

Evanston, Ill.

Syracuse vs. Stanford
Central Michigan (SOUTHERN)/Wagner (NEC) at (7) Northwestern

Stony Brook, N.Y.

Penn State vs. USC
Winner play at (3) Stony Brook (AMERICA EAST)

Chapel Hill, N.C.

Loyola (PATRIOT) vs. High Point (BIG SOUTH)
Winner plays at (6) North Carolina

Last Four In: USC, Johns Hopkins, Navy, Dartmouth
First Four Out: Princeton, Denver, Notre Dame, Richmond

Moving In: Dartmouth, Marist
Moving Out: Duke, Canisius

Multi-bid Conferences: ACC (5), Big Ten (4), Pac-12 (3), Big East (2), CAA (2), Patriot League (2)

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