One week before Selection Sunday, a pair of conference races ended with three-way ties at the top, both of which affected this bracket’s composition. In the Big Ten, Maryland, Michigan State and Wisconsin all finished at 14-6 in league play. While the Badgers (21-10) secured the top seed in the Big Ten tournament, they sit on this projections fourth seed line — behind a pair of threes in the Spartans and Terrapins. Over in the American Athletic, Houston defeated Memphis and Wichita State knocked off Tulsa. Those results pushed the Cougars and Golden Hurricane into a title trio with Cincinnati. As the No. 1 seed in the American tournament, the Bearcats get the conference’s automatic bid for now, while the Golden Hurricane drop out of the bracket. They join Wichita State and resurgent UConn as the three AAC teams in the “First Eight Out” — Memphis dropped just outside of that group with its loss in Houston.
With previous at-large Cincinnati replacing Tulsa as an auto bid holder, one spot in the bracket opened up. That goes to Texas, last seen getting blown out by Oklahoma State in Austin. But bracketology is about a team’s body of work, and the Longhorns’ 5-8 record in Quadrant 1 games and lack of Quadrant 2 or 3 losses gave them the edge for the moment over UCLA, Wichita State, NC State and Northern Iowa.
Today’s projection reflects one housekeeping note. Brian Bennett’s Friday bracket projection over at the Athletic (subscription required) brought my attention to a Kansas City Star story by Jesse Newell which notes that Bill Self would seriously consider having the Selection Committee place Kansas in the South regional in Houston, not the Midwest regional in Indianapolis, even though it’s closer. This is a relatively new aspect of the selection process first implemented in 2017. Thanks to this nugget of info, I’m placing Kansas in the South until the Jayhawks further update their stance.
After today’s full bracket and rundown, I’ll discuss how tonight’s conference tournament action could impact the bubble.
Seed line movement is indicated by arrows and is relative to Sunday’s bracket. Asterisks (*) indicate new entries. Teams in all caps (except for those that go by their initials) have clinched auto bids (five so far).
1. South Region (Houston)
Omaha, Nebraska (Fri./Sun.)
Sacramento, California (Fri./Sun.)
Albany, New York (Thu./Sat.)
Tampa, Florida (Thu./Sat.)
2. West Region (Los Angeles)
Spokane, Washington (Thu./Sat.)
Greensboro, North Carolina (Fri./Sun.)
St. Louis, Missouri (Thu./Sat.)
3. Midwest Region (Indianapolis)
St. Louis (Thu./Sat.)
4. East Region (New York)
Cleveland, Ohio (Fri./Sun.)
Bids by conference: 10 Big Ten, 7 Big East, 6 Big 12, 5 Pac-12, 4 ACC, 4 SEC, 3 WCC, 2 AAC, 2 A 10, 2 MW, 22 one-bid conferences
Last four byes: Oklahoma, Rutgers, Marquette, Texas Tech
Last four in: Stanford, Xavier, Richmond, Texas
First four out: UCLA, Wichita State, NC State, Northern Iowa
Next four out Mississippi State, UConn, Saint Louis, Tulsa
Lowest-ranked NET at-large: Texas (69)
Highest-ranked NET exclusion: Purdue (33, 16-15 overall)
New today (1/68): Texas
Leaving today: Tulsa
On Sunday, the Winthrop Eagles (Big South), Bradley Braves (Missouri Valley) and Liberty Flames (Atlantic Sun) all secured their March Madness tickets. Tonight, just one team will join them — and it’s a consequential matchup for the bubble as the East Tennessee State Buccaneers could join the at-large pool with a loss to the Wofford Terriers in the Southern Conference championship game (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). While the Bucs swept the Terriers in the regular season, ETSU only won by a 49-48 score at home on New Year’s Day and a 60-54 count on Feb. 26. Making matters worse for Steve Forbes’ club, Wofford is the No. 7 seed. A loss to the Terriers, ranked 152nd in the NET, would be a second Quadrant 3 loss. Combine those with an earlier Quadrant 4 loss to the Mercer Bears, and the Bucs would definitely find themselves in bubble trouble, even with a road win over LSU.
The West Coast Conference tournament semifinals are Monday night’s other games with bracket impact. In the first semifinal, the top-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs face the San Francisco Dons with an NCAA tournament No. 1 seed on the line (9 p.m. ET, ESPN), while the Dons could make the WCC a four-bid league by winning both tonight and in tomorrow’s championship game. The second semifinal features the BYU Cougars, a potential top-four seed with a WCC tournament title, and the Saint Mary’s Gaels, who should be in win or lose (approx. 11:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
I’ll be back Tuesday with another bracket update. In the meantime, you can check out my TV viewing guides and full conference tournament coverage over at Blogging the Bracket and and listen to my bracketology interviews on the College Basketball Coast to Coast podcast.