clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Bracketology 2020: Every NCAA tournament lock with 9 days before Selection Sunday

Time may be running out on the 2019-20 season, but there are still a handful of NCAA tournament spots up grabs — a prospect that should make the week before Selection Sunday even wilder than usual.

NCAA Basketball: Mountain West Conference Tournament- New Mexico vs Utah State
Utah State’s Thursday night win over New Mexico keeps the Aggies on the right side of the cut line heading into tonight’s Mountain West semifinals.
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Selection Sunday is coming at us like an Obi Toppin breakaway dunk.

Since it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been able to look at the bid picture in detail, here’s another reminder of how this process works.

  • For the 2020 NCAA tournament, 23 conferences are likely to earn a single bid, though there’s a shot at that number falling to 20 if this Championship Fortnight becomes truly wacky. For now, I’m sticking with 23.
  • That means 45 of the 68 places in the field are truly up for grabs — the 36 at-large spots and the nine that will go to the tournament winners of the probable multi-bid conferences.
  • In turn, those 45 spots will also largely disappear as teams move into the lock category. By the time Selection Weekend arrives in seven days, those of us in the bracketology-industrial complex will hopefully be left making educated guesses about a handful of spots.

Note: The first number following a team’s name is its NET ranking as of the morning of March 6. Second, is the team’s overall record in games against Division I opposition only as of the same date. The third is its record in both Quad 1 and 2 games, with the fourth indicating its record in Quad 1 games alone. Record information is courtesy’s incredible database. Current auto bid holders are denoted with an asterisk (*).

Locks and protected seeds (16)

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Seton Hall
Three Big East teams, including the Villanova squad that won at Seton Hall, are in the hunt for a two seed, at a minimum.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1s: 1. Kansas* (1/26-3/19-3/11-3), 2. Baylor (5/26-3/16-3/11-1), 3. Gonzaga* (2/29-2/9-2/6-2), 4. San Diego State* (4/28-1/10-0/4-0)
No. 2s: 5. Florida State* (11/25-5/14-5/6-3), 6. Dayton* (3/28-2/12-2/5-2), 7. Villanova (13/23-7/15-7/8-6), 8. Seton Hall* (14/21-8/15-8/10-6)
No. 3s: 9. Creighton (12/22-7/14-7/8-7), 10. Kentucky* (21/24-6/13-5/7-3), 11. Maryland (18/23-7/13-7/6-7), 12. Louisville (8/24-6/10-6/4-5)
No. 4s: 13. Duke (6/24-6/11-5/5-3), 14. Oregon* (16/23-7/12-7/7-5), 15. Michigan State (7/21-9/13-9/7-8), 16. Wisconsin* (26/20-10/12-9/8-8)

The race to get into the field isn’t the only one that’s yet to be settled, as the chase for the final No. 1 seed might still heat up, thanks to San Diego State‘s participation in the Mountain West tournament this weekend and Gonzaga‘s WCC tournament bow on Monday.

Seed lines two through four are very much in flux. Among the No. 2 seeds, Florida State and Dayton, the ACC co-leader and Atlantic 10 regular-season champion, rank ahead of a trio of Big East teams — Villanova, Seton Hall and Creighton — who straddle the two and three lines. On Wednesday night, the Wildcats defeated the Pirates to keep their Big East title hopes alive, while the Bluejays can seize the Big East tournament’s top seed by completing a season sweep of the Hall in Omaha on Saturday. (As for Villanova, it travels to Georgetown, who is shorthanded and has lost five in a row.)

I have the feeling the Big East seeding shakeout won’t be totally resolved until the final buzzer sounds next Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

Kentucky was in position to jump to the two line, until Tuesday’s home collapse against Tennessee.

In Tuesday’s bracket, a pair of Big Ten teams held down the final two spots on the four line. That remains the case today, with Michigan State hanging around and Wisconsin, currently the top seed in the conference tournament due to tiebreakers, replacing Iowa.

Top four seeds by region

Midwest: 1/1. Kansas* (Omaha 1), 2/6. Dayton* (Cleveland 1), 3/9. Creighton (St. Louis 2), 4/16. Wisconsin (Sacramento 2) — Total of Top 4 Seeds = 32

East: 1/4. San Diego State* (Sacramento 1), 2/8. Seton Hall* (Albany 2), 3/10. Kentucky* (Cleveland 2), 4/13. Duke (Tampa 2) — Total of Top 4 Seeds = 35

South: 1/2. Baylor (St. Louis 1), 2/5. Florida State* (Tampa 1), 3/11. Maryland (Greensboro 1), 4/14. Oregon* (Spokane 2) — Total of Top 4 Seeds = 32

West: 1/3. Gonzaga* (Spokane 1), 2/7. Villanova (Albany 1), 3/12. Louisville (Greensboro 1), 4/16. Michigan State (Omaha 2) - Total of Top 4 Seeds = 37

Villanova should have received the East’s No. 2 seed over Seton Hall; however, I ended up shipping the Wildcats out West to better balance out the bracket. Wisconsin received the nod for the Midwest four seed over Michigan State, also sent to Los Angeles, for the same reason.

Other locks (12)

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Miami-Florida
Mamadi Diakite and Virginia have ground out enough wins to be an NCAA lock, despite some unimpressive metrics.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

No. 5s: 17. Penn State (30/21-9/13-9/7-7), 18. Iowa (34/20-10/13-8/9-7), 19. BYU (9/23-7/8-7/4-4), 20. Butler (17/21-9/14-9/9-6)
No. 6s: 21. Colorado (23/21-9/11-7/6-4), 22. Auburn (35/24-6/13-5/4-3), 23. Ohio State (15/21-9/12-9/6-8), 24. Michigan (24/19-11/11-11/6-10)
No. 7s: 25. West Virginia (19/20-10/11-10/5-7), 26. Arizona (10/20-10/8-9/3-7), 27. Virginia (47/22-7/11-6/4-3), 28. Houston (20/22-8/10-8/2-6)

Our lock total has jumped to just 28, and honestly West Virginia, Arizona and Houston are only here because of their top 20 NET rankings. Virginia also finds ranks among this group, despite barely residing in the metric’s top 50. However, the Cavaliers’ score lines are deflating their ranking more than their wins and losses. Since falling at Florida State on Jan. 15, Tony Bennett’s club is 11-2 with wins over the Seminoles and Duke at home, with Louisville visiting Saturday (4 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Of our 45 available spots, 28 are now gone, leaving 17 for the rest of the at-large pool to fight over.

Nearing safety (9)

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Arkansas
On Feb. 5, Javonte Smart and LSU visited Vanderbilt riding a 10-game win streak that pushed them to the top of the SEC. The Tigers are 3-6 since.
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

No. 8s: 29. Marquette (25/18-11/11-11/5-9), 30. LSU (33/20-10/11-9/4-8), 31. Illinois (37/19-10/9-9/5-8), 32. Saint Mary’s (29/23-7/7-5/2-4)
No. 9s: 33. Florida (28/19-11/9-11/3-8), 34. Providence (40/18-12/12-8/7-8), 35. Indiana (52/19-11/9-11/5-9), 36. Oklahoma (46/18-12/10-12/5-9)
No. 10s: 37. USC (41/21-8/10-8/4-7)

This group currently features a few teams that are trending in the wrong direction, like LSU and Marquette (1-5 in its last six), or ones unable to reach true consistency, as in the cases of Illinois (owner of both four-game winning and losing streaks in its last nine), Florida (2-2 since a three-game run that had the Gators finally looking like a possible contender), Indiana (4-3 over its last seven) and Oklahoma (.500 over its last eight games).

But Providence, winner of five in a row, is a bright spot, particularly after their woeful play in non-conference. USC also earned a little breathing room by sweeping the Arizona schools last week, while Saint Mary’s should be okay even with a loss in the WCC quarterfinals on Saturday.

With nine more spots gone, just the eight spots immediately above the cut line remain.

The cut line

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Rutgers
Will Rutgers’ celebrations after Tuesday’s win over Maryland be for naught? It will depend on how the Selection Committee views the Scarlet Knights’ struggles away from the RAC.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

No. 10s (last four byes): 38. Texas Tech (22/18-12/7-12/3-9), 39. Arizona State (53/19-11/9-11/5-8), 40. Xavier (42/19-11/10-11/3-10)

No. 11s (last four byes): 41. Texas (56/19-11/7-11/5-7)

No. 11s (auto bid): 42. ETSU* (39/24-4/3-3/1-2)

No. 11s (last four in): 43. Rutgers (31/18-11/8-10/4-9), 44. Stanford (27/20-10/7-9/4-6), 45. Utah State (38/22-8/4-6/2-4), 46. UCLA (76/18-11/9-9/6-6)

First four out: 69. Cincinnati (49/19-10/10-6/2-6), 70. Wichita State (48/22-8/9-8/2-6), 71. Purdue (32/16-14/9-13/4-11), 72. Richmond (44/23-7/4-6/2-4)
Next four out: 73. Arkansas (43/19-11/7-11/3-5), 74. Tennessee (55/17-13/8-12/3-9), 75. NC State (59/18-12/8-10/4-5), 76. South Carolina (63/18-12/9-10/3-8)

Yes, Rutgers ranks among the final four teams in the field, despite Tuesday’s home win over Maryland. While the Scarlet Knights rank 31st in the NET and own a quartet of Quadrant 1 victories, they’re also 1-10 in games played away from Piscataway. Making matters worse, Rutgers has had its chances to improve that mark, as just one of its Big Ten road losses was by more than eight points. To be truly safe, Steve Pikiell’s team might just need to win at Purdue on Saturday (2 p.m. ET, BTN) or win a couple of games at the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Arizona State
Arizona State dropped its third straight game on Thursday night, a disappointing effort against visiting Washington.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday night was a busy one on the bubble. Starting from the top and moving down ...

  • Arizona State followed up its 0-2 trip to Los Angeles by dropping a third straight game to a Washington team that headed to Tempe with just three Pac-12 wins (and a decent NET ranking of 69, despite a losing record). That defeat dropped the Sun Devils to the “Last Four Byes” group that just avoids a trip to Dayton. Remember that Bobby Hurley’s club has played in each of the last two First Fours.
  • Stanford, 27th in the NET, was swept by Oregon State , dropping the Cardinal to the Dayton quartet.
  • In the third Mountain West quarterfinal, Utah State avoided a second consecutive loss to New Mexico, 75-70. However, the Aggies aren’t out of the woods yet. Even though Craig Smith’s team should reach Saturday’s championship game, a result that would give it some breathing room, tonight’s semifinal is a potential landmine. That’s because Utah State’s opponent is last-place Wyoming, 273rd in the NET. An Aggie loss to the Cowboys would be a terrible late impression to leave the Committee — a Quadrant 4 defeat.
  • Houston lost at UConn, 77-71, a result that gave Tulsa sole possession of first place in the American Athletic, and the auto bid spot that goes with it, heading into the weekend. Meanwhile, Wichita State remains on the wrong side of the cut line after a 68-60 loss at Memphis.
  • Oregon routed California by 34, which pushed the Ducks into a tie for first in the Pac-12 with UCLA. However, Oregon has the edge for the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament, thanks to a home win over the Bruins, so the Ducks take over stewardship of the auto bid. The Bruins remain just in the field at the expense of Cincinnati. (The Bearcats should really blame their conference rivals from Oklahoma more than former coach Mick Cronin, though.)
  • East Tennessee State, currently in as the Southern Conference auto bid holder, plays its conference tournament quarterfinal on Saturday afternoon (12 p.m. ET, ESPN+), so the Buccaneers’ position bears watching as the weekend unfolds.

Also Considered: 77. Mississippi State (51/19-11/7-9/2-6), 78. Memphis (60/21-9/8-6/2-5), 79. Saint Louis (54/21-8/4-7/2-4), 80. Rhode Island (57/20-9/6-8/1-5), 81. UConn (61/18-12/5-11/3-5), 82. Notre Dame (58/18-12/4-11/2-7), 83. Alabama (50/16-14/9-11/0-7), 84. VCU (64/18-12/2-10/0-7), 85. Clemson (81/15-14/8-12/3-7), 86. Oregon State (72/16-13/5-11/5-6), 87. Syracuse (67/17-13/6-11/3-6)

While the also considered group is still crowded, only the top five teams have a real shot at an at-large right now, and for Rhode Island and UConn, those chances are still fanciful.

Likely one-bid conference reps

No. 12s: 47. Northern Iowa* (36/23-5/4-3/1-1), 48. Yale* (66/20-6/2-4/0-2), 49. Tulsa* (75/21-9/6-7/2-3), 50. Liberty* (70/27-4/1-1/0-1)
No. 13s: 51. Akron*, 52. Stephen F. Austin*, 53. Vermont*, 54. North Texas*
No. 14s: 55. Belmont*, 56. New Mexico State*, 57. UC Irvine*, 58. Colgate*,
No. 15s: 59. Hofstra*, 60. Wright State*, 61. North Dakota State*, 62. Eastern Washington*
No. 16s (First Round): 63. Radford*, 64. Little Rock*
No. 16s (First Four): 65. Siena*, 66. Prairie View A&M*, 67. Robert Morris*, 68. NC Central*

This group is likely to see some changes over the next few days, as Northern Iowa, Liberty, Vermont, Belmont, Colgate, Hofstra, North Dakota State, Radford and Robert Morris will all play conference tournament games over the next three days, and Wright State will take the floor in Monday’s Horizon semifinals.

I’ll have bubble updates here as events warrant over the weekend. You can also check out my TV viewing guides and full conference tournament coverage over at Blogging the Bracket.