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Bracketology 2020: What the NCAA tournament looks like as we flip to March

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Two weeks from right now we will have a real bracket. There’s still much to be decided in that time.

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NCAA Basketball: Arizona State at UCLA
UCLA was 9-9 on January 19th. Today, the Bruins are 19-11 and the Pac-12’s auto bid holder in this projection.
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to further (and hopefully forgotten, knock on wood) technological challenges, it’s been nearly a week since I updated the 2020 NCAA Tournament’s projected field of 68. But now that the month of madness has finally arrived, it’s time to pick up the pace. And considering the number of changes in this Monday bracket compared to last Tuesday’s and what’s still to come between now and March 15th, we are in for a wild two weeks.

While the four No. 1 seeds are the same as they seemingly ever were — Kansas (Midwest), Baylor (South), Gonzaga (West) and San Diego State (East) — seed lines two through four saw significant movement, with two new four seeds and a trio of other moves. At the bottom of the at-large pool, there are two new at-larges and a new Pac-12 leader, surging UCLA, whose case I discussed last week.

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at Marquette
Seton Hall has 10 Quadrant 1 wins, which is just one fewer than No. 1 overall seed Kansas.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

This week’s two seed line is composed solely of conference leaders — Dayton (Atlantic 10, East), Florida State (ACC, Midwest), Seton Hall (Big East, South) and Maryland (Big Ten, West). The Pirates, winners of their last three to sit at 21-7 overall and already guaranteed a share of the Big East title, replace Duke, who fell all the way down to seed line No. 4 after losing a 113-101 double-overtime shootout at Wake Forest and a 52-50 rock fight at Virginia.

Creighton, who still has a shot at stealing the Big East Tournament’s No. 1 seed from Seton Hall, remains stuck on the third seed line nationally following Sunday’s surprising blowout loss at St. John’s. The Bluejays are slotted in the Midwest with Villanova (East), Louisville (South) and SEC champion Kentucky (West) rounding out the No. 3s. Aforementioned Duke (East) leads off the four line, joined by holdover Oregon (West) and newcomers Michigan State (South) and Iowa (Midwest). The Spartans and Hawkeyes replace a Penn State squad that has dropped three of its last four, including a Saturday loss in Iowa City, and a Colorado outfit that lost to both California and Stanford this week.

After today’s full bracket and rundown, I’ll take a look at the bubble picture and a couple of other teams that suddenly joined UCLA in making a late push toward a bid.

Today’s full seed list

1. Midwest Region (Indianapolis, Indiana)

Omaha, Nebraska (Fri./Sun.)

1. Kansas (Big 12) vs. *16. Robert Morris (NEC)/North Carolina A&T (MEAC)
↑8. Virginia vs. 9. Saint Mary’s

Sacramento, California (Fri./Sun.)

↑5. Butler vs. *12. UCLA (Pac-12)
↑4. Iowa vs. 13. Stephen F. Austin (Southland)

St. Louis, Missouri (Thu./Sat.)

6. BYU vs. 11. Stanford
3. Creighton vs. 14. UC Irvine (Big West)

Tampa, Florida (Thu./Sat.)

7. Marquette vs. *10. Oklahoma
↑2. Florida State (ACC) vs. 15. Montana (Big Sky)

4. East Region (New York, New York)

Sacramento (Fri./Sun.)

1. San Diego State (MW) vs. ↓16. Little Rock (Sun Belt)
↓8. Arizona vs. 9. Florida

Tampa (Thu./Sat.)

↑5. Ohio State vs. 12. Yale (Ivy)
↓4. Duke vs. 13. Vermont (Amer. East)

Albany, New York (Thu./Sat.)

↑6. Wisconsin vs. ↓11. Utah State/Wichita State
3. Villanova vs. 14. Hofstra (CAA)

Cleveland, Ohio (Fri./Sun.)

↓7. West Virginia vs. *10. USC
2. Dayton (A 10) vs. 15. Wright State (Horizon)

2. South Region (Houston, Texas)

St. Louis (Thu./Sat.)

1. Baylor vs. *16. Siena (MAAC)/Prairie View A&M (SWAC)
8. Illinois vs. ↓9. Arizona State

Omaha (Fri./Sun.)

↑5. Auburn vs. 12. Northern Iowa (MVC)
↑4. Michigan State vs. 13. Akron (MAC)

Cleveland (Fri./Sun.)

6. Michigan vs. 11. ETSU (SoCon)
3. Louisville vs. 14. New Mexico State (WAC)

Albany (Thu./Sat.)

↑7. LSU vs. 10. Indiana
↑2. Seton Hall (Big East) vs. 15. Colgate (Patriot)

3. West Region (Los Angeles, California)

Spokane, Washington (Thu./Sat.)

1. Gonzaga (WCC) vs. 16. Radford (Big South)
↓8. Texas Tech vs. 9. Xavier

Spokane (Thu./Sat.)

↓5. Penn State vs. 12. Liberty (ASUN)
4. Oregon vs. 13. North Texas (C-USA)

Greensboro, North Carolina (Fri./Sun.)

↓6. Colorado vs. ↓↑11. Rutgers/Cincinnati
↑3. Kentucky (SEC) vs. *14. Belmont (OVC)

Greensboro (Fri./Sun.)

↑7. Houston (American) vs. 10. Providence
2. Maryland (Big Ten) vs. *15. North Dakota State (Summit)

Rundown

Bids by Conference: 10 Big Ten, 7 Big East, 7 Pac-12, 5 Big 12, 4 ACC, 4 SEC, 3 AAC, 3 WCC, 2 MW, 23 one-bid conferences

Last Four Byes: Oklahoma, USC, Indiana, Stanford
Last Four IN: Rutgers, Utah State, Cincinnati, Wichita State
First Four OUT: NC State, Texas, Richmond, Mississippi State
Next Four OUT: Rhode Island, Arkansas, Purdue, Clemson

Lowest-Ranked NET At-Large: Indiana (54)
Highest-Ranked NET Exclusion: Purdue (35)

New Today (7/68): Belmont, North Dakota State, Oklahoma, Robert Morris, Siena, UCLA, USC
Leaving Today: Arkansas, Austin Peay, NC State, Rhode Island, St. Francis (Pa.), Saint Peter’s, South Dakota State

Bracket Notes

  • BYU is a true No. 5 in the seed list; however, it was difficult to place the Cougars in the bracket while following bracketing rules and keeping them in Thursday/Saturday sites. So, I swapped them with the top No. 6, Butler, a result that would allow the Bulldogs to play in the Midwest regional mere miles from their Indianapolis campus.
  • With conference tournaments beginning tomorrow with the Atlantic Sun quarterfinals, determining each league’s automatic bid holder has become a simpler task. For now, the holder of the No. 1 seed for each conference gets the nod. If these teams are eliminated over the next two weeks, the highest-remaining seed receives the bid until an actual trophy is awarded.
  • The top-two Elite Eight matchups would start with Gonzaga-Maryland in Los Angeles, with Kansas-Florida State wrapping Saturday up in Indianapolis. Sunday would likely begin with San Diego State-Dayton in New York and conclude with Baylor-Seton Hall in Houston. (Isn’t that an unusual group of regional finals?)

Texas and Clemson are not quite back yet

On Monday, Texas won its third consecutive game, knocking off a West Virginia club that’s slid from a top four seed to a seven today. That result got me to put the Longhorns back on my radar. On Saturday, Shaka Smart’s squad won its fourth straight, impressively winning at Texas Tech, 68-58. Ranked 59th in the NET on Monday morning and sitting at 18-11 overall with a 4-7 record in Quadrant 1 games, Texas is knocking on the door of a bid — the second team out as of this morning. Their most important remaining game before the Big 12 Tournament is set for tomorrow night at Oklahoma, who is back in the field following wins over ... Texas Tech and West Virginia. (USC is the other new at-large entrant, thanks to a sweep of Arizona and Arizona State.) If the Longhorns win that one, they could very well be on the right side of the bubble in my Wednesday update, particularly as the two teams ahead of them, Cincinnati and Wichita State from the American Athletic, are both on thin ice at the moment.

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Clemson
Clemson has been great against quality teams at home, but the Tigers’ inconsistency might cost them.
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson is another team that earned a fresh look for today, thanks to a controversial 70-69 home win over Florida State on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers are now 15-13 overall with three wins against the NET’s top 15, as they’ve defeated the Seminoles, Louisville and Duke — all at Littlejohn Coliseum. However, Brad Brownell’s club has been maddeningly inconsistent, even at home, where Clemson has lost to Notre Dame, Yale, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and Miami. Add in road losses to Georgia Tech and Wake Forest and it’s no surprise the Tigers are 73rd in the NET at the moment. With a trip to Blacksburg and home game against the Yellow Jackets remaining, it’s possible Clemson heads to the ACC Tournament with a 17-13 record. However, the Tigers are going to have to beat at least one of the conference’s four likely NCAA squads (the top three plus Virginia) to earn a bid.

Finally, it was a rough weekend for mid-major at-large contenders. While it’s still highly likely the West Coast Conference will place three teams in the field, the Mountain West is barely a two-bid league at the moment and the Atlantic 10 is down to just Dayton.

Starting out West, Utah State is currently the third-to-last team in following 66-64 loss at New Mexico on Saturday night. And guess what? If the Lobos defeat San Jose State in the first round of the Mountain West Tournament on Wednesday, they’ll meet the Aggies in Thursday’s quarterfinals. Utah State’s early neutral-court victories over LSU and Florida might not mean much if the final impression the Aggies leave for the Selection Committee is consecutive losses to a seventh-place New Mexico squad.

Meanwhile, Rhode Island fell out of the field following Sunday’s 72-62 home loss to Saint Louis. The Rams have dropped three of their last five, though they’ll have an opportunity to get back on the right side of the bubble when Dayton visits Kingston on Wednesday night. While Rhode Island’s earlier home victories over Alabama and Providence are helpful, neither matches a potential win over the Flyers, particularly with Dayton still perfect in conference play.

This week, I’ll have morning bubble updates on Wednesday and Thursday, recapping the previous nights’ action, and a full look at the lock and bubble picture on Friday. In the meantime, you can check out TV previews and conference tournament coverage 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.