Tonight, the top line of the NCAA tournament field can be locked if Gonzaga beats Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference finals. At 31-1 with neutral court wins over Florida, Arizona, and Iowa State, plus three wins against St. Mary’s – at home, away, and neutral – I don’t see the Committee leaving Gonzaga off the 1 line.
As we move up the line, it’s also very hard to imagine North Carolina falling off the 1 line, even if they lose their opening game in the ACC tournament. The Tar Heels are the regular season champions of one of the toughest conferences in recent memory and boast wins over Louisville, Florida State, Duke, Virginia, Notre Dame, and Wisconsin. Finally, I believe Kansas and Villanova are also locked in to 1 seeds at this point.
Plenty of drama will remain, as auto-bids and seeds throughout the rest of the field are decided. On that note, we had one major move on the bubble today. Kansas State joins the field as the last team in, and Rhode Island falls to the first team out. Kansas State broke into the field on the strength of their wins at Baylor and at home against West Virginia. Rhode Island has a very good win against Cincinnati on a neutral court, but a loss to Fordham (#212 in the RPI) is dragging them down. Realistically, K-State and Rhode Island are so close right now that how each performs in their conference tournament will determine if either or both make the field.
We’ll get into more bubble analysis over the next couple of days as the major conference tournaments get underway. For today, four more auto-bids are up for grabs. Northern Kentucky faces Milwaukee for the Horizon League title, Saint Francis-PA goes up against Mount Saint Mary’s in the Northeast Conference final, South Dakota State faces Omaha in the Summit League final (yet another league where the #1 seed, South Dakota, lost last night), and Gonzaga plays St. Mary’s in the West Coast Conference.
With that said, here’s today’s projection. As always, moves up or down since yesterday are in parentheses after the team’s name, projected auto qualifiers are in bold, and teams who have clinched a bid are bold and underlined.
In since yesterday’s update: East Tennessee State, Nebraska-Omaha, Iona, Kansas State
Out since yesterday’s update: UNC-Greensboro, South Dakota, Siena, Rhode Island
New auto-bids: East Tennessee State, UNC-Wilmington
1s: Kansas, Villanova, North Carolina, Gonzaga
2s: Baylor, Oregon, Louisville, Kentucky (+1)
3s: UCLA (-1), Florida State, Arizona, Butler
4s: Florida, Duke, Purdue, Virginia
5s: West Virginia, Cincinnati, SMU, Notre Dame
6s: Saint Mary’s, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa State
7s: Maryland, Creighton, South Carolina, Oklahoma State (+1)
8s: Wichita State (-1), Miami, Dayton, Michigan
9s: Northwestern, Virginia Tech, Seton Hall, Arkansas (+1)
10s: Providence (-1), Marquette, VCU, Michigan State
11s: Wake Forest, Xavier, Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee, Southern California
12s: Syracuse, Kansas State (new), UNC-Wilmington, Nevada, Texas-Arlington
13s: Vermont, Princeton, East Tennessee State (new), Bucknell (+1)
14s: Winthrop (-1), Florida Gulf Coast (-1), Akron, Cal-Bakersfield
15s: Northern Kentucky, Iona (new), Nebraska Omaha (new), North Dakota
16s: Texas Southern (-1), UC-Irvine, Jacksonville State, Mount Saint Mary’s, New Orleans, North Carolina Central
Last Four In: Vanderbilt, Southern California, Syracuse, Kansas State
UNC-Greensboro and South Dakota, as regular season conference champions who lost in their conference tournaments last night, join the field. UNC-Greensboro replaces East Tennessee State, whom they lost to, as ETSU gets the Southern Conference’s auto bid to the NCAA tournament. South Dakota replaces Colorado.
1s (First Four Out): Rhode Island, Illinois State, Iowa, Illinois (+1)
2s (Next Four Out): Ole Miss, California, Utah (-1), Houston
3s: Indiana, Georgia, Ohio State, Georgia Tech
4s: Texas Tech, Alabama, Clemson (+1), Charleston
5s: BYU (-1), Monmouth, Tennessee, TCU
6s: Richmond, Boise State, Colorado State, Valparaiso
7s: Fresno State, New Mexico, Central Florida, Texas A & M
8s: UNC-Greensboro, South Dakota, Belmont, Oakland
Thanks for reading, and look for another projection tomorrow. Check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!