Bracketology: Gonzaga ascends to top line ... for now

USA TODAY Sports

The Bulldogs, who thrashed Santa Clara on Wednesday night, replace Florida as a top seed in Chris Dobbertean's Friday bracket projection. However, Gonzaga's fate as a member of the No. 1s is very much up in the air.

Indiana remains in the top position overall, anchoring the Midwest Region, as expected after the Hoosiers won at Michigan State on Tuesday. In the East, Miami anchors the region, while Duke fulfills that role for the South. Gonzaga jumps Florida and barely edges the Spartans for the No. 1 position out West. After today's bracket and rundown, I'll explain why I think the odds are questionable for the Selection Committee announcing the Bulldogs as a top seed when the actual field is revealed in three weeks and two days' time.

(1) MIDWEST
Indianapolis (Fri/Sun)
(2) EAST
Washington (Thu/Sat)
Dayton (Fri/Sun) Lexington (Thu/Sat)
1 Indiana (Big Ten) 1 Miami (ACC)
16 Charleston Southern or Southern 16 Niagara or Norfolk State
8 Saint Louis (A-10) 8 Cincinnati
9 Oklahoma 9 VCU
Austin (Fri/Sun) San Jose (Thu/Sat)
5 Oregon (Pac-12) 5 Ohio State
12 St. Mary's 12 Arizona State or Villanova
4 Marquette 4 Kansas State
13 Louisiana Tech (WAC) 13 Bucknell (Patriot)
Kansas City (Fri/Sun) Salt Lake City (Thu/Sat)
6 Missouri 6 Notre Dame
11 California 11 Virginia
3 Kansas (Big 12) 3 Arizona
14 Valparaiso (Horizon) 14 Davidson (Southern)
Philadelphia (Fri/Sun) Auburn Hills (Thu/Sat)
7 Minnesota 7 UNLV
10 Wichita State (MVC) 10 Creighton
2 Syracuse (Big East) 2 Michigan
15 Stony Brook (AmEast) 15 Long Beach State (Big West)
(4) WEST
Los Angeles (Thu/Sat)
(3) SOUTH
Arlington (Fri/Sun)
Salt Lake City (Thu/Sat) Philadelphia (Fri/Sun)
1 Gonzaga (WCC) 1 Duke
16 Robert Morris (NEC) 16 Northeastern (CAA)
8 San Diego State 8 Memphis (C-USA)
9 North Carolina 9 Colorado
Kansas City (Fri/Sun) San Jose (Thu/Sat)
5 Oklahoma State 5 Butler
12 Belmont (OVC) 12 Middle Tennessee (Sun Belt)
4 Georgetown 4 Wisconsin
13 Akron (MAC) 13 South Dakota State (Summit)
Austin (Fri/Sun) Dayton (Fri/Sun)
6 Pittsburgh 6 Colorado State
11 Iowa State 11 Baylor or Temple
3 New Mexico (MWC) 3 Louisville
14 Northwestern State (Southland) 14 Harvard (Ivy)
Auburn Hills (Thu/Sat) Lexington (Thu/Sat)
7 N.C. State 7 Illinois
10 UCLA 10 La Salle
2 Michigan State 2 Florida (SEC)
15 Montana (Big Sky) 15 Mercer (A-Sun)
FIRST FOUR (Dayton)
Tuesday: To Lexington Tuesday: To San Jose
16 Niagara (MAAC) 12 Arizona State
16 Norfolk State (MEAC) 12 Villanova
Wednesday: To Dayton Wednesday: To Dayton
*16 Charleston Southern (Big South) 11 Baylor
16 Southern (SWAC) *11 Temple

BIDS BY CONFERENCE LAST FOUR BYES ARRIVALS DEPARTURES
Big East: 8 Iowa State Charleston Southern High Point
Big Ten: 7 Virginia Temple Mississippi
Big 12: 6 California

Pac-12: 6 St. Mary's

ACC: 5
LAST FOUR IN

A-10: 5
Villanova

MWC: 4 Temple

MVC: 2 Arizona State

SEC: 2 Baylor PROCEDURAL MOVES
WCC: 2 LAST FOUR OUT Pittsburgh 5 down to 6
1-Bid Conferences: 21 St. John's Oregon 6 up to 5

Kentucky Memphis 7 down to 8

Mississippi Illinois 8 up to 7

Boise State St. Mary's 11 down to 12

NEXT FOUR OUT Arizona State 12 up to 11

Southern Miss. Temple 12 up to 11

Iowa


Alabama


BYU

Also considered (in order): Indiana State, Maryland, Arkansas, Xavier, Charlotte, UMass, Stanford, Air Force, Texas A&M, Tennessee

The biggest factor working against Gonzaga's top seed hopes is its schedule, as the majority of the other contenders for a No. 1 simply have more quality win opportunities coming up between now and Selection Sunday than the Bulldogs will. Making matters worse for Gonzaga, its conference tournament finishes on the Monday of Championship Week, meaning its competitors will have a better chance to make a strong final impression on the Committee.

Here's how the remaining schedules stack up for Gonzaga and its rivals in the race for the last top seed. I've included Duke in this list, as its No. 1 slot is a bit shakier than Indiana's or Miami's, thanks to the continued absence of Ryan Kelly.

Gonzaga: San Diego, at BYU, Portland, WCC Tournament

Duke: Boston College, at Virginia, Miami, Virginia Tech, at North Carolina

Michigan State: at Ohio State, at Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Big Ten Tournament

Florida: Arkansas, at Tennessee, Alabama, Vanderbilt, at Kentucky, SEC Tournament

Michigan: Illinois, at Penn State, Michigan State, at Purdue, Indiana, Big Ten Tournament

Syracuse: Georgetown, at Marquette, Louisville, DePaul, at Georgetown, Big East Tournament

Kansas: TCU, at Iowa State, West Virginia, Texas Tech, at Baylor, Big 12 Tournament

Arizona: Washington State, at USC, at UCLA, Arizona State, Pac-12 Tournament

Louisville: Seton Hall, at DePaul, at Syracuse, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Big East Tournament

Georgetown: at Syracuse, at Connecticut, Rutgers, at Villanova, Syracuse, Big East Tournament

Upon a first glance of those slates, the two Big Ten and three Big East contenders have the most to gain over the final weeks of the season. Of course, those teams' results might very well end up a wash, something that might work to Gonzaga's advantage, and potentially that of Arizona, Florida and Kansas as well. That's because all four have a decent shot at winning a conference title, a feat the Selection Committee seriously respects. Of the 20 teams to earn a No. 1 seed over the past five seasons, 17 of them earned at least a tie for their respective regular season league crowns.

Now, if those schedule-deficient squads can go on and claim the difficult regular season/tournament double, their odds will get even better. Since 2008, 12 teams finished with at least a share of a regular season championship and a league tournament title in a traditional Big Six conference. Ten of those 12 squads went on to earn a No. 1 seed -- the only exceptions were Wisconsin in 2008 (a three seed) and Ohio State in 2010 (a two).

Yes, I know Gonzaga isn't in a power conference, but if you look at the 11th team that earned a No. 1 after claiming a championship double in that 2008-2012 span -- the 2008 Memphis team that ran roughshod through Conference USA -- Bulldog fans have real reason to hope. If Gonzaga sweeps both WCC crowns, it could potentially match Memphis' Top 50 win total (6), provided No. 48 St. Mary's stays in the Top 50 and the archrivals meet for the title. Given the right matchups in Vegas, the Bulldogs could even come within one of the Tigers' Top 100 win total of 15, provided they -- already boasting 11 Top 100 wins -- beat BYU next Thursday and sweep past Santa Clara in the semis and either the Gaels or Cougars in the title game at Orleans Arena. If all that happens and the other contenders stumble, it would be very difficult to keep Gonzaga off the top line.

A word of caution, though. The one recent season where non-championship teams did the best in terms of earning top seeds was 2009, a season where the Big East was particularly strong at the top, grabbing three No. 1s (Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Louisville) and a pair of threes (Syracuse and Villanova). Given the strength of the Big Ten in 2012-13, with Indiana solidly in the top spot overall, Michigan State and Michigan battling to join them on the No. 1 line, and Wisconsin and Ohio State further down in the protected seed race, it's not difficult to see that conference doing something out of the ordinary.

At the other end of the bid picture, Temple is the only new at-large team in the field, replacing Mississippi, who fell at South Carolina on Wednesday, the Rebels' fifth loss in their last seven contests. Baylor just remains in after disappointing home loss to Iowa State on Wednesday night. The Bears are 2-8 against the Top 50 and in dire need of a win at Oklahoma, who beat them on January 30th in Waco, on Saturday. Kentucky (who hosts Missouri) and St. John's (who welcomes Pittsburgh to New York on Sunday) are among the teams who may replace Baylor on Tuesday.

Here's a look at this weekend's other games of importance to the field of 68. Be sure to check out the final edition of BracketBusters to get a look at some teams who may very well create an upset or two ... or more come March.

Friday

Showcase Game
Saint Louis at Butler, 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

Other Games of Bracket Importance
BracketBusters: North Dakota State at Akron, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
BracketBusters: Stephen F. Austin at Long Beach State, 9 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

Saturday

Showcase Games
VCU at Xavier, 2 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
Georgetown at Syracuse, 4 p.m. ET (CBS)
N.C. State at North Carolina, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN)
New Mexico at Colorado State, 4 p.m. ET (NBC Sports Network)
Baylor at Oklahoma, 5 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Marquette at Villanova, 6 p.m. ET (ESPN)
BracketBusters: Creighton at St. Mary's, 6 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Stanford at Oregon, 8 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
Missouri at Kentucky, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Other Games of Bracket Importance
BracketBusters: Iona at Indiana State, 11 a.m. ET (ESPNU)
Clemson at Maryland, 12 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Seton Hall at Louisville, 12 p.m. ET (Big East Network/ESPN3)
BracketBusters: Eastern Kentucky at Valparaiso, 1 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Southern Mississippi at Memphis, 1 p.m. ET (FSN/FCS Atlantic)
Miami at Wake Forest, 1 p.m. ET (FS South/ESPN3)
Alabama at LSU, 1:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network Regional/ESPN3)
Texas Tech at Iowa State, 1:30 p.m. ET (Big 12 Network/ESPN3)
Oklahoma State at West Virginia, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Iowa at Nebraska, 2 p.m. ET (BTN Alternate)
BracketBusters: Montana at Davidson, 3 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Washington State at Arizona, 3 p.m. ET (FSN)
BracketBusters: Detroit at Wichita State, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
TCU at Kansas, 4 p.m. ET (Big 12 Network/ESPN3)
George Washington at St. Joseph's, 4 p.m. ET (Comcast SportsNet)
Auburn at Mississippi, 5 p.m. ET (Select FSN Networks)
Nevada at San Diego State, 6 p.m. ET (NBC Sports Network)
California at Oregon State, 6 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
Arkansas at Florida, 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
San Diego at Gonzaga, 7 p.m. ET (KHQ/ROOT Sports Northwest and Rocky Mountain/CSN Bay Area)
UNLV at Wyoming, 7:30 p.m. ET (Time Warner Cable Sportsnet)
BracketBusters: South Dakota State at Murray State, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Harvard at Yale, 8 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
Kansas State at Texas, 8 p.m. ET (Longhorn Network/FS Kansas City)
BracketBusters: Ohio at Belmont, 10 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Washington at Arizona State, 11 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

Sunday

Showcase Games
Illinois at Michigan, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Michigan State at Ohio State, 4 p.m. ET (CBS)
Pittsburgh at St. John's, 12 p.m. ET (Big East Network/ESPN3)
Cincinnati at Notre Dame, 2 p.m. ET (CBS)

Other Games of Bracket Importance
La Salle at Rhode Island, 2 p.m. ET (Cox Sports)
Georgia Tech at Virginia, 2 p.m. ET (ACC Network Regional/ESPN3)
Boston College at Duke, 2 p.m. ET (ACC Network Regional/ESPN3)
UCLA at USC, 3:30 p.m. ET (FSN)
Temple at Charlotte, 4 p.m. ET (no TV)

Monday

Showcase Games
Syracuse at Marquette, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Kansas at Iowa State, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Other Games of Bracket Importance
Texas Tech at Kansas State, 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Villanova at Seton Hall, 9 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

Enjoy the games between now and my next update, which will be out on Tuesday.

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