Bracketology Projections, February 9th: Louisville's Absence Exposes Flat Top of Bracket, Soft Bubble

By Jason Lisk

Here are your March Madness bracket projections for the week of February 8th. In all future weeks, these will be released on Sunday evening (this thing called the Super Bowl delayed this week’s offering).

Since the last bracket projection, we of course had the news that Louisville will not be eligible for this postseason as they self-imposed sanctions. Louisville joins SMU as teams that would likely be top 4 seeds in March, but will not be participating. That moves everyone up a couple of slots, and in a year where the top was already much flatter than the past, also means some bubble teams that would not ordinarily get in are now going to have a better chance (I’m looking at you, LSU, in what may be your make-or-break week).

The top tier is pretty big right now. You might see more movement at the top in terms of projections than you have in past years, after mid-February. One hot streak that includes a couple of big wins could easily shoot a team in the 4-5-6 range near the top line.

As always, my projections don’t just look at the current resumé. They try to project forward with knowledge of the upcoming schedule, and then using tools like RPI Forecast, try to project how the committee would view that. As a current example, my projection for Texas already included a likely loss at Oklahoma. Now, had they won that game last night, that would have altered the projection by adding a top win that was hard to come by and not likely.

The biggest jumpers in my projections were teams that pulled good results that were unexpected. Kansas State jumps in over a weak bubble by adding the Oklahoma home win last week. Seton Hall has lurched forward while on a winning streak, in several games that weren’t locks. St. Bonaventure moves toward the bubble with the win at St. Joseph’s. I’m honestly having a hard time finding teams with even a competent bubble profile to add to consideration. Of course, we have a month to go. That means teams can add big wins and make big jumps and prove that wrong. We’ve seen already that the top tier is beatable in 2016.