This is the time of year we’d usually start diving into NCAA Tournament projections. With a month and change and the SEC Tournament to go, each game can have major implications on seeding and first round locations.
Except, Auburn’s on the war path this year. With the best record in basketball at 21-1, your Tigers are a clear #1 seed who has even built in some room for error. So, instead of just showing you where Auburn falls in seeding, I’ll try and add a little more context to it.
REGULAR SEASON WIN PROJECTIONS
First, let’s take a look at what we can expect Auburn to do the rest of the regular season. Josh Dub has done some great data visualization for this, so I’ll reference it here.
If it seems intimidating at first, let me explain. Win expectancies are provided on the left side for each game. What you see on the right is the likelihood of each possible number of total wins after each game. For example, after the Georgia game tomorrow, there’s an 8% chance Auburn still has 21 wins and 92% chance Auburn has 22 wins. These numbers are cumulative after each future game, so it allows us to see how likely it is Auburn has a specific number of wins after the South Carolina game (aka the end of the regular season).
As you can see, there is a 34% chance Auburn has exactly 28 wins at the end of the season, and a 68% chance they have at least 28 wins. At 28-3 in one of the three best leagues in the country, Auburn would likely be a shoo-in for a #1 seed regardless of how the SEC Tournament turns out.
SEC TOURNAMENT PROJECTIONS
Using those same methods for every team that Josh Dub used for Auburn’s regular season outcomes, we can make a guess at what the SEC Tournament bracket would look like. Dub has built out a table projecting how many wins each SEC team will have, which determines the seeding in the SEC Tournament.
The cells in blue are the most likely outcome for each team. Auburn currently carries a two game lead over Kentucky, and projects to maintain that over the rest of the season. In fact, as Auburn has the tiebreaker of Kentucky with the regular season win, a 16-2 or better record would mean Auburn wins the SEC regardless of what Kentucky does. There’s a 68% chance of that occurring, and if Kentucky were to drop another game, there’s a 90% chance Auburn would win the SEC just by going 15-3 or better.
You can also see a cluster of teams between the #3 and #8 seed, most of who are on the bubble in the NCAA Tournament as well. That’s where the real drama is the rest of the regular season. Here’s the projected SEC Tournament bracket based on the above results.
NCAA TOURNAMENT PROJECTIONS
Bracketology is an art, first and foremost. While there’s a portion of teams that will get an Automatic Qualifier (AQ) bid by winning their conference, and another chunk of teams that will be mostly unanimous at-large contenders, there’s also usually a good chunk of teams on the bubble all arguing whatever point paints them in the best light.
Luckily, as discussed before, Auburn is above most of the drama right now. We could use this space to go through bracket projections from various experts, such as ESPN’s Joe Lunardi or CBS’s Jerry Palm. But the fact is, Auburn’s as unanimous as a #1 seed as it gets.
Bracket Matrix, which uses a compilation of over 100 different projected brackets to show seed lines, has Auburn as the #1 overall seed as of today. In fact, of the 110 brackets currently being tracked, Auburn is on average a 1.01 seed. Only one bracketologist has Auburn as a 2-seed.
Auburn joins Gonzaga, Baylor, and Purdue as the most likely 1-seeds, with Kansas and Arizona next up on the 2-line.
The SEC is well represented, with 6 teams projected in the dance (1 - Auburn, 2 - Kentucky, 4 - LSU, 5 - Tennessee, 5 - Alabama, 11 - Arkansas) and three teams just on the outside of the bubble (Florida, Mississippi State, and Texas A&M).
As far as locations go, the first round site is almost a lock to be in Greenville, South Carolina. Higher rated seeds get priority, and Greenville is the only 1st round site in the southeast. If Duke can hold on to a 2 (or even 3 seed), it’s quite likely they’d be the other national seed in Greenville, as well. If any of you Auburn fans want a chance to see Coach K before he retires, this would likely be it.