Remember how just last week I wrote that the 2020 NCAA tournament’s seed line had become stable and, dare I say, boring?
That changed on Saturday when all four No. 1 seeds took the floor, with the Kansas Jayhawks handling the Baylor Bears in Waco in an early tip, then the San Diego State Aztecs losing at home to the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels — a team ranked outside of the NET top 100 — with the BYU Cougars dominant home victory over the Gonzaga Bulldogs closing out a wild 12 hours of basketball.
Yet despite those losses, the quartet on the top line of this projection remains the same. Sure, Kansas and Baylor swapped places, with the Jayhawks now No. 1 overall. But Gonzaga continues to sit third and San Diego State fourth. Sunday offered an opportunity for the Maryland Terrapins to rise up and knock the Aztecs down to seed line No. 2, but the Big Ten leader saw its nine-game win streak end at Ohio State.
What about elevating the Dayton Flyers, the current top No. 2 seed, to the top line? Their dramatic overtime losses to Kansas and Colorado in non-conference play mean their profile doesn’t include a marquee victory. In fact, the Flyers’ two best wins, over Saint Mary’s and Rhode Island, are over teams seeded ninth and 11th in this projection. Conversely, San Diego State has three top-30 victories, all away from home. And with body of work being more important to the Selection Committee than a single, ill-timed loss, the Mountain West leaders remain a No. 1.
Two current ACC squads, the Duke Blue Devils and Florida State Seminoles, and a former one, Maryland, sit behind Dayton on seed line No. 2. On Monday night, the Seminoles took control of the race for the No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament by completing a handy season sweep of the Louisville Cardinals, and Leonard Hamilton’s team must be considered a real threat to jump to the top line when all is said and done. But that might not happen until Greensboro. Sure, Florida State still has two Quad 1 road opportunities left on its schedule, at Clemson and Notre Dame, but neither of those teams is what you’d call a marquee opponent.
With the loss, Louisville drops to the three line, trailing a trio of teams from its former conference, the Big East. The Creighton Bluejays, one of the hottest teams in the country, ranks just above the Seton Hall Pirates — currently leading the Jays by one game — and the Villanova Wildcats, who are a game and a half out of first.
The concept of “body of work” again becomes relevant as we reach the four line, as three of the four teams present lost in the past week. The exception: the top No. 4, the Kentucky Wildcats, who sit two games up in the SEC race after six consecutive wins. However, the Oregon Ducks lost at Arizona State, the new Pac-12 leader, before winning a second consecutive overtime decision over the Arizona Wildcats; the Penn State Nittany Lions fell twice; and Colorado followed up a Thursday victory over USC by being swept by a UCLA squad that’s inexplicably back in the at-large race.
Penn State is probably the most controversial choice here, but the Nittany Lions’ 7-5 record in Quad 1 games and five top-30 victories give them the edge when compared to the teams on seed line No. 5. By the way, that group includes a former three seed, the West Virginia Mountaineers, whose Big Monday loss at Texas was their fifth in their last six outings. Note that Shaka Smart’s team is also back in the bubble picture, even though the Longhorns don’t yet appear among today’s “first eight out” group.
But Texas could find itself in that group on Friday, as the margins near the cut line are still remarkably narrow, as I’ll discuss after today’s full bracket and rundown.
1. Midwest Region (Indianapolis)
Omaha, Nebraska (Fri./Sun.)
Sacramento, California (Fri./Sun.)
St. Louis, Missouri (Thu./Sat.)
Greensboro, North Carolina (Fri./Sun.)
4. East Region (New York)
Albany, New York (Thu./Sat.)
Cleveland, Ohio (Fri./Sun.)
2. South Region (Houston)
St. Louis (Thu./Sat.)
Tampa, Florida (Thu./Sat.)
3. West Region (Los Angeles)
Spokane, Washington (Thu./Sat.)
Bids by conference: 10 Big Ten, 7 Big East, 5 Pac-12, 5 ACC, 5 Big 12, 5 SEC, 3 AAC, 3 WCC, 2 A 10, 2 MW, 22 one-bid conferences
Last four byes: Virginia, Utah State, Providence, Rhode Island
Last four in: Wichita State, Stanford, NC State, Arkansas
First four out: Alabama, Oklahoma, UCLA, Richmond
Next four out: Mississippi State, USC, Memphis, Georgetown
Lowest-ranked NET at-large: NC State (53)
Highest-ranked NET exclusion: Purdue (36)
New today (11/68): Akron, Arkansas, Indiana, Liberty, NC State, North Carolina A&T, Providence, Radford, St. Francis (Pa.), Stanford, Utah State
Leaving today: Bowling Green, Furman, Georgetown, Norfolk State, North Florida, Oklahoma, Purdue, Richmond, Robert Morris, USC, Winthrop
Bubble, bubble toil and trouble
This Tuesday’s projection features a whopping six new at-large teams, which is a remarkable amount of churn this late in the season.
- The Providence Friars completed a season sweep of the Georgetown Hoyas Wednesday, then took care of the Marquette Golden Eagles Saturday. Despite four sub-100 losses, Ed Cooley’s team is still safely into the field as a 10 seed, thanks in no small part to seven Quad 1 victories. As for the Hoyas, they followed the Providence loss by becoming the DePaul Blue Demons‘ first victim in over a month. So, they’re now the eighth team out.
- The Indiana Hoosiers, victorious over Minnesota and Penn State in the last week, and Utah State Aggies, winners of five in a row, also sit on seed line No. 10. The Hoosiers replace their in-state rivals, the Purdue Boilermakers, who now sit at .500 and are therefore not eligible for consideration, while the Aggies take over for the sliding Oklahoma Sooners, losers of three straight.
- The three remaining newcomers are all in First Four range. The Stanford Cardinal’s road sweep of the Washington teams puts them in, with the USC squad that was swept out of the Rockies sliding out. Meanwhile, the NC State Wolfpack enter thanks to their midweek home win over Duke, with Saturday’s loss to Florida State only costing them some seed positioning. They replace a Richmond club that lost to the St. Bonaventure Bonnies on Saturday. Finally, the Arkansas Razorbacks got Isaiah Joe back Saturday and they promptly knocked off Missouri after going 0-5 without him. That pushes the Hogs in at the expense of the first team out, an Alabama Crimson Tide squad Arkansas defeated in Tuscaloosa.
- The Razorbacks were able to enter the field because the Furman Paladins fell to the East Tennessee State Buccaneers on Wednesday. That result gave the Bucs the Southern Conference’s auto bid, opening up an at-large spot.
While seven of the eight names in the “first four out” and “next four out” groups have been around for most of the season, UCLA is making its first appearance of the season, another testament to how close the margins are in the bubble picture and how quickly things can change. While the Bruins’ NET ranking of 76 is a little low for selection and their other advanced metrics also lag — ranging from 60th in Sagarin to 100th in ESPN’s BPI — they’re racking up an impressive collection of quality wins in an improved Pac-12. Mick Cronin’s squad is currently 5-5 in Quad 1 games, with a season sweep of Colorado and road win at Arizona. Three sub-100 losses hurt, as does a defeat to 96th-ranked North Carolina, but the Bruins close with three games in Los Angeles against at-large candidates. Those contests mean UCLA will have a lot to say when it comes to determining the Pac-12 tournament’s top seed.
I’ll be back on Friday with a big bubble update for the penultimate weekend of the regular season. In the meantime, you can check out my nightly TV previews on Blogging the Bracket and listen to my bracketology interviews on the College Basketball Coast to Coast podcast and SB Nation Radio’s Pushing the Odds with Matt Perrault.