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Bracketology 2021: How the bubble looks according to bracketologists on March 2nd

We take projections from the best bracketologists, add some formulas and flair, then see who most likely gets to The Big Dance, and who should be left home Selection Sunday.

Duke Blue Devils forward Jalen Johnson shoots the ball against the Miami Hurricanes during the second half at Watsco Center.  Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Predict who the NCAA Men’s Basketball Selection Committee puts in the Tournament field will be more difficult in 2021. How do you weigh conferences when there’s been so little inter-conference play?

To help find The Chosen 68, we choose the Wisdom of The Crowd to decide which teams are in and which teams are out of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

Similar to Nate Silver’s model of predicting elections, we take the data from five bracketologists and update it each week. All bracket makers shall be counted equally, and we’ll ask expert for their 16 teams on the bubble: The last eight in the NCAA Tournament in their estimation, and the first eight out.

Some list this data automatically with their projections, but for the others we reach directly to directly to get their 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 averages.

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

Our bracketologists:
Joe Lunardi, ESPN.com (from this tweet)
Chris Dobbertean, Blogging The Bracket
Patrick Stevens, Washington Post
Shelby Mast, Bracketwag.com
Kerry Miller, Bleacher Report

Below are the bubble selections for all our tracked bracketologists:

Bracketology March 2nd

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

Here are the averages for the teams on the bubble. Remember an average of 9.0 or better means you should be in the tournament.

Bubble Averages March 2nd

Team Not on bubble brackets Points Average
Team Not on bubble brackets Points Average
UConn 3 Safe 22 11.00
Louisville 2 Safe 32 10.67
North Carolina 2 Safe 45 15.00
Boise State 1 Safe 60 15.00
VCU 63 12.60
Colorado State 62 12.40
Drake 55 11.00
Georgia Tech 55 11.00
Seton Hall 53 10.60
Michigan State 43 8.60
Duke 31 6.20
Saint Louis 22 4.40
Utah State 18 3.60
Syracuse 16 3.20
Indiana 14 2.80
SMU 8 1.60
Memphis 8 1.60
Stanford 7 1.40
St. John's 6 1.20
Minnesota 4 0.80

Our resident gurus of grids each have a few choices of their own that are a bit outside the standard deviations.

  • Patrick Stevens of the WaPo has Ole Miss only needing to leapfrog two teams to make the tournament, yet no one else has the Rebels anywhere on their last eight out.
  • Kerry Miller of Bleacher Report has Minnesota just one line away from being one of the four reserve teams that might be used as a replacement for a team that falls out of the tournament. No one else mentions the Gophers anywhere.
  • Shelby Mast puts St. John’s as a standby team as well. He is the only mention of the Johnnies anywhere.

It shows the breadth of how this field is being analyzed by people that do this every year, and trying to decipher how the committee will prioritize the criteria for establishing the best 68 will be a huge factor this season.

And for teams that still believe a hot run in a conference tournament can help, there’s at least someone out there giving you a shot to make the field without cutting down the nets for a league title.

Of course there are two games tonight (Indiana-Michigan State, Duke-Georgia Tech) that will have massive implications, with the winners probably putting themselves on the good side of the bubble, and making all we’ve written above change.

Just another college basketball day in March.