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Bracketology 2021: Who’s in and who’s out according to bracketologists

We took the projected field from the best bracketologists in America, and came up with a formula to see who will dance and who will be left home on Selection Sunday.

Loyola Ramblers center Cameron Krutwig works the ball past Wisconsin Badgers forward Nate Reuvers during the first half at the Kohl Center. Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

There will probably never be another year where it’s more challenging to predict the NCAA Tournament field. A lack of non-conference games, combined with huge differences in the number of data points due to pauses and cancellations by teams, means the bracketologists are flying almost as blind here as the rest of us come Selection Sunday.

It does help that we can see the Top 16 from the NCAA Selection Committee looks to be leaning towards major conference schools with difficult schedules. Houston is ahead of the bottom of the two-line by the advanced stats, but they’re being penalized for a soft American Conference schedule so far. Meanwhile Michigan took a 23-day long COVID pause, but is still on the first line thanks to their 14-1 record in the challenging Big Ten.

But the teams on the bubble will have no such pre-looking, and thus we choose the Wisdom of The Crowd to decide which teams are in and which teams are out of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

Much like the Nate Silver/FiveThirtyEight.com model of predicting elections, we’ll take the data from bracketologists and update it frequently. There will be no weight given for previous accuracy, as all bracket makers shall be counted equally. We’ll be asking each bracketologist for 16 teams in each sample: The last eight in the NCAA Tournament in their estimation, and the first eight out.

Some of these folks list this data automatically with their brackets, but others we’ll reach out to directly to get the most accurate picture. Our “model” is pretty simple: 16 points for being the eighth-from-last team in the NCAA tournament, to one point for having seven teams between you and even making the First Four. If a team has an average of 9.0 points or higher, they should reach the NCAA field according to the predictors in full.

Because some teams will avoid the last-eight-in all-together, while others will have that same team closer to the bubble, we’ll mark teams “Safe” that are ahead of the 16 points available on the top “next four in” line.

Our bracketologist:
Joe Lunardi, ESPN.com
Chris Dobbertean, Blogging The Bracket
Patrick Stevens, Washington Post
Shelby Mast, Bracketwag.com
Kerry Miller, Bleacher Report

Bracketology Bubble Teams

Points ESPN Blogging the Bracket Washington Post Bracket Wag Bleacher Report
Points ESPN Blogging the Bracket Washington Post Bracket Wag Bleacher Report
16 Minnesota Minnesota Oregon Oregon Saint Louis
15 Indiana North Carolina San Diego State St. Bonaventure Seton Hall
14 North Carolina San Diego State Stanford Colorado State Drake
13 Drake Colorado State Indiana Minnesota VCU
Last Four In
12 St. Bonaventure Saint Louis UConn Utah State Maryland
11 Boise State Stanford Colorado State Saint Louis Drake
10 Colorado State UConn Minnesota Seton Hall Colorado State
9 Stanford St. Bonaventure North Carolina Indiana St. Bonaventure
First Four Out
8 Maryland Drake Drake UConn Richmond
7 Saint Louis St. John's St. Bonaventure Stanford Stanford
6 UConn Richmond Richmond Ole Miss Ole Miss
5 Richmond Ole Miss Maryland St. Johns Boise State
Next Four Out
4 Ole Miss Maryland Mississippi Richmond Utah State
3 St. John's Boise State Syracuse Syracuse St. John's
2 Syracuse Western Kentucky Western Kentucky Georgia Tech Georgia Tech
1 SMU Syracuse St. John's Georgia Wichita State

So here’s how that breaks down for the teams on the bubble: Remember an average of 9.0 or better means you should be in the tournament.

Bubble Team Averages 2/18

Team Points Safe Average
Team Points Safe Average
San Diego State 29 3 Safe 14.50
North Carolina 38 2 Safe 12.67
Boise State 19 2 Safe 6.33
Minnesota 55 1 Safe 13.75
Indiana 51 1 Safe 12.75
Saint Louis 46 1 Safe 11.50
Drake 40 1 Safe 10.00
UConn 36 1 Safe 9.00
Colorado State 58 N/A 11.60
St. Bonaventure 52 N/A 10.40
Stanford 48 N/A 9.60
Maryland 29 N/A 5.80
Richmond 29 N/A 5.80
Ole Miss 25 N/A 5.00
St. John's 19 N/A 3.80
Syracuse 9 N/A 1.80
Western Kentucky 4 N/A 0.80
Georgia Tech 4 N/A 0.80
SMU 1 N/A 0.20

Perhaps the most interesting case is that of Boise State, with two bracketologists having the Broncos safely in The Dance, but the other three combining to leave them out of the field. It shows the wide variation of how teams from non-power conferences are being assessed in this unusual season.

Otherwise all the teams that at least one bracketologist has above the bottom eight in have to feel pretty good, with maybe UConn biting their fingernails as of now.

As for everyone else, the major conference schools adding some Quad 1 wins on the road will be very helpful between now and March. But for teams in mid-major leagues such as St. Bonaventure or Richmond that might not have too many games to improve their resume left... it’s probably best to win your conference tournament to remove all doubt.