Bracket Math – February 1

Brackets are coming fast and furious now. And on February 1, at least for the moment, we have consensus between the AP poll, the Bracket Matrix, and Bart Torvik’s predictive bracketology.


Only UCLA, at number three in KenPom, prevents a Top 4 consensus in polls, brackets, and advanced stats. But overall, these four teams represent the top tier of college basketball, in an order of your choosing.

Recent history will continue to show that number one seeds average 4.5 losses on Selection Sunday, two seeds 6.25 losses. Much of the bracket conversation this year will be figuring out what to do with the Big 12, with six teams on the top four lines in yesterday’s Bracket Matrix. That group will continue to cannibalize itself, making it more difficult for any one of them to rise to a number one seed.

Meanwhile, Houston stands alone in the American: the next-best team in KenPom is Memphis, 35 spots behind. It’s a somewhat similar story in the Big Ten, where the second best team is, you guessed it, Rutgers. They’re 17th in KenPom, a dozen spots back of Purdue. And in the SEC, you have to drop 16 spots after the Vols and Tide to get to Arkansas, another 10 to find Auburn after that.

So in simple raw losses, these four teams appear to have a clear advantage. Keep an eye on Virginia too; I’m not used to thinking of the ACC as being bad in basketball, but that league is sixth in KenPom’s conference ratings, and the Hoos (13th) are 16 spots ahead of Duke.

As the plot thickens in the race to the top, here are the Top 16 (+1) teams in contention. The Bracket Matrix and Torvik’s TRank agree on 15 of these teams, with Gonzaga and (especially) UConn being the outliers. We’ll get a closer view when the NCAA releases its own Top 16; that usually comes mid-February. We also learned last year not to put too much stock in that for one’s ultimate fate on Selection Sunday.

But this year, the Vols can make much more of their own fate. Here’s how they currently compare to the rest of the chase in projected losses (via KenPom) on February 1:

TeamCurrent LsProj. LsMatrixTorvik TRank
Kansas State4834
Iowa State61034

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Gavin Driskill
Gavin Driskill
1 month ago

Tonight has trap game written all over it…tough defense, arena they’ve struggled in, sandwiched between two big home games.

Tennessee has gotten a smidgen of space between them and Kansas on the 1 line, but it’s tight. Lunardi (who is ranked 88th of 148 in the Matrix’s “veteran” category, FWIW…) seems to have forgotten that Tennessee beat Kansas by 15 on a neutral court earlier in the season, and he’s probably not the only one.

Go Vols. Win games!