Bracket Watch: Can Kansas overtake Villanova for No. 1 overall seed?
It was another crazy week at the top of the polls, with No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 4 Iowa, No. 5 North Carolina and no. 6 Maryland all suffering losses. The country’s No. 1 and No. 2 teams, Villanova and Kansas, were perfect, and remain the top two teams in our Bracket Watch. The jockeying among No. 1 seeds is always interesting, but this year it’ll be just as intriguing on the next few lines. We could see current No. 2 seeds fall as low as the four-seed line by Selection Sunday. The inverse move is also in play for a number of teams. Some teams are safely in the Dance, but no team is safe in its seeding yet, with less than a month to play.
Last Four In
LSU (16–11, 9–5 SEC): The Tigers twin victories over Texas A&M and Kentucky still have them in the Dance, but they’re heading in the wrong direction. They absolutely have to beat both Arkansas and Florida this week to remain in the field.
Butler (18–9, 7–8 Big East): Butler beat Creighton but lost to Villanova last week and is still searching for that one win that would make it safe on Selection Sunday. Their final three games of the regular season are against Georgetown, Seton Hall and Marquette. They need all three wins.
Clemson (16–11, 9–6 ACC): SI.com remains a bit more bullish on the Tigers than most other outlets, but show us another bubble team with a trio of wins that matches up to their list of victories over Louisville, Duke and Miami. With solid complementary wins over Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Florida State, the Tigers are still hanging onto one of the final four slots in the field.
Cincinnati (20–8, 10–5 AAC): The Bearcats got a nice win over Connecticut this weekend and can play their way out of the First Four by beating SMU in its regular season finale on March 6.
First Four Out
Gonzaga (21–7, 13–3 WCC): We very well could have our first NCAA tournament without the Bulldogs since 1998. After losing to Saint Mary’s at home over the weekend, they lack a realistic path to an at-large bid.
Alabama (16–10, 7–7 SEC): The Crimson Tide are right in range for the Dance, but they’re not the sort of team that can just brush off a home loss to Mississippi State, which they suffered on Saturday. They do have a chance to make a big statement at Kentucky on Tuesday.
Tulsa (18–9, 10–5 AAC): The Golden Hurricane have placed themselves into the at-large discussion with wins over SMU and Cincinnati the last few weeks. If they can knock off Temple at home on Tuesday, they could find themselves on the right side of the bubble.
St. Bonaventure (18–7, 10–4 A-10): Don’t lose sight of the Bonnies, who went to Dayton and toppled the Flyers over the weekend. That was, by far, their best win of the season, but they also beat Saint Joseph’s on the road. If they win out in the regular season and don’t lose early in the Atlantic 10 tournament, they could make their first NCAA tournament since 2012.
1. Villanova (24–3, 13–1 Big East): The Wildcats are still the No. 1 overall seed after a couple of wins against Temple and Butler. They haven’t lost for nearly a month and are well on their way to another Big East regular season title.
2. North Carolina (22–5, 11–3 ACC): The Tar Heels had one of the most interesting weeks, losing to Duke by a point at home before pounding Miami by 25 points in the same arena. They could very well be deserving of the final No. 1 seed, but Oklahoma’s handling of West Virginia on the road kept the Sooners on the top line for now. The Tar Heels could be playing for a spot among the No. 1s on Saturday when they visit Virginia.
3. Oregon (21–6, 10–4 Pac-12): The Ducks played just once last week, beating Oregon State by 10 points at home. They may have to sweep the conference’s championships to finish with a better seed after losing to California and Stanford two weeks ago.
4. Iowa State (19–8, 8–6 Big 12): The Cyclones almost got a great win at Baylor last week, ultimately falling to the Bears in overtime. They bounced back with a relatively easy win against TCU over the weekend. Iowa State has earned most of its signature wins at home this season, but the team has two more chances to prove itself on the road in the regular season, starting Monday at West Virginia.
1. Kansas (23–4, 11–3 Big Ten): The Jayhawks have won eight straight games and the wins are aligning to point them toward a 12th straight Big 12 regular season championship. The Jayhawks still have three very tough games left in the regular season—road matchups with Baylor and Texas, and a home game with Iowa State—but if they can win two of those games and also host the conference tournament trophy, they could take the No. 1 overall seed from Villanova, regardless of what the Wildcats do.
2. Michigan State (22–5, 9–5 Big Ten): The Spartans played just once last week, notching a relatively comfortable win over Wisconsin. They are favored to win each game remaining in the regular season, and they still have an outside path to a No. 1 seed. Beating Maryland or Iowa in the Big Ten championship could potentially get them to the top line.
3. Miami (21–5, 10–4 ACC): The Hurricanes had a rough end to the week, getting waxed by North Carolina in Chapel Hill and snapping a five-game conference winning streak. Miami plays Virginia and Louisville this week. With both of those games at home, they Canes will need at least a split to remain this high in the bracket.
4. Duke (20–7, 9–5 ACC): The Blue Devils may have lost to Louisville on Saturday, but the month of February has been a huge boon for Coach K’s squad. They beat the Cardinals on Feb. 8 at home, and followed that with wins over Virginia and at North Carolina. The loss to Louisville isn’t ideal, but Duke is still on the upswing. The Blue Devils host Florida State and visit Pittsburgh this week.
1. Virginia (21–5, 10–4 ACC): The Cavaliers had a week off after beating North Carolina State at home on Feb. 15. So they should be well rested and ready for the rest of their ACC slate, which isn’t easy. They travel to Coral Gables to take on Miami on Monday night and end the week hosting the Tar Heels. They close the regular season at Clemson and at home against Louisville, which should give them plenty of chances to solidify their spot on the top line.
2. Xavier (24–3, 12–3 Big East): The Musketeers still have their sights set on the top line, but they’ll need to add one more big win to the résumé. Namely, they might need to take down Villanova at home on Wednesday. If they lose there, a Big East tournament championship may not be good enough to get them a No. 1 seed.
3. Maryland (23–5, 11–4 Big Ten): The Terrapins lost consecutive games to Wisconsin and lowly Minnesota (Diamong Stone was suspended for the game), and, frankly, are barely deserving of this spot. They may have just five losses on the season, but they do not have one meaningful victory outside College Park. They can change that this week with a game at Purdue on Saturday.
4. Kentucky (20–7, 10–4 SEC): The Wildcats almost added another very good win to their résumé over the weekend at Texas A&M, but ended up falling in overtime. Still, the Wildcats are headed in the right direction and can get a couple of solid wins this week with matchups looming against Alabama and Vanderbilt.
1. Oklahoma (21–5, 9–5 Big 12): The Sooners had been reeling with three losses in four games, but came up with one of their best wins of the season at West Virginia over the weekend. That win kept the Sooners on the top line, though they are the No. 4 overall seed, meaning they’d meet Villanova in the national semifinals in our bracket.
2. Iowa (20–6, 11–3 Big Ten): Michigan State moved in front of Iowa this week, so while the latter remained on the 2-line, the Spartans got to stay in the Midwest, pushing the Hawkeyes out West. Iowa hosts Wisconsin on Wednesday and visits Ohio State on Sunday.
3. West Virginia (20–7, 9–5 Big 12): The Mountaineers had a terrible week, losing to both Texas and Oklahoma. While both are great teams, you can’t lose your way up the bracket. The Mountaineers host Iowa State on Monday and visit Oklahoma State on Saturday.
4. Arizona (22–5, 10–4 Pac-12): The Wildcats have won six straight games and are now tied with Oregon atop the Pac-12. The teams don’t meet again in the regular season, though both will be favored to reach the conference tournament championship. Arizona spends this week on the road, visiting Colorado and Utah.