Bracket Watch: North Carolina snags No. 1 seed from Baylor
With two weeks left before Championship Week, the top of the field is starting to come into focus. Villanova, Kansas and Gonzaga have yet to lock in a top seed, but all are comfortably headed in that direction. Baylor’s losses last week, meanwhile, opened the door for an ACC team to move to the top line, as well. Plenty can still change, but the Wildcats, Jayhawks and Bulldogs, along with the top team in the ACC, are on their way to leading the four regions in this year’s NCAA tournament.
Last Four In
First Four Out
Next Four Out
Villanova has received little attention from the Bracket Watch, but it’s time we give the No. 1 overall seed its due. The Wildcats have dominated the Big East this season, going 13–2 in conference play. Add that to nonconference wins over Purdue and Notre Dame, and you get the most consistent team of the season. The Wildcats have earned their way to the very top of the bracket.
After a pair of victories last week, Louisville remains in position for a No. 1 seed. The Cardinals are still behind North Carolina for poll position in the ACC, but that could change when they take a trip to Chapel Hill on Wednesday. The winner of that game will have the inside track to the fourth overall No. 1 seed, joining Villanova, Kansas and Gonzaga on the top line.
The Jayhawks may not be the top overall seed, but they’re on track to go into the Big Dance as the country’s best team. After Saturday’s win over Baylor, the Jayhawks have all but locked up at least a share of their 13th consecutive Big 12 regular season championship. With a backcourt of Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham, and a dynamic scorer like Josh Jackson, Kansas will be one of this year’s national championship favorites. Barring some sort of out-of-character collapse, the Jayhawks will earn a No. 1 seed.
Florida State and Virginia slotted into the Midwest Region thanks to Duke jumping back into the ACC’s top four teams. North Carolina remains the conference’s top-seeded team, followed comfortably by Louisville. Florida State, Virginia and Duke are bunched up in the ACC’s second tier, and the Cavaliers have lost their way out of the conference’s top four. They’ve lost three straight games, falling to Virginia Tech, Duke and North Carolina. The Cavaliers have a relatively soft remaining regular season schedule, and they still have a home date with the Tar Heels. They’re out of the running for a No. 1 seed, but still have time to earn one of the highest rankings for an ACC team this season.
With two weeks left in the regular season, Oregon remains on track for the No. 2 seed in the West Region. It’s going to be hard for any team to push Gonzaga off the top line here. The Bulldogs are likely to head into the NCAA tournament undefeated, and they’ve likely done enough to this point to hold onto a top seed even if they lose in the West Coast Conference tournament. That will leave one spot for a Pac-12 team at the top of the West Region, and the Ducks will go into the final two weeks of the regular season with a bead on that coveted No. 2 seed.
The Ducks took care of business against Utah and Colorado last week to move to 13–2 in the Pac-12. They’re done with Arizona and UCLA until possible meetings in the conference tournament, but still need some help for a regular season title. The Ducks are a game behind Arizona, making an outright regular season championship unlikely. Still, the Ducks could find their way to the No. 2 line in the West Region without winning the Pac-12. The conference’s tournament will likely serve as the tiebreaker, with the most successful among Oregon, Arizona and UCLA in line for a spot in San Jose.
This region features the first major shakeup from last week’s bracket reveal. Baylor lost twice last week, falling to Texas Tech on the road and Kansas at home. That knocked the Bears down a line, with North Carolina moving up to the top of the region. The selection committee revealed the Tar Heels as its top ACC team last weekend, just in front of Louisville and Florida State. Since then, the Tar Heels have wins over NC State and Virginia. Florida State lost twice last week, while Louisville took care of business in wins against Syracuse and Virginia Tech. That has the Tar Heels and Cardinals at least a half step in front of the rest of the league.
What makes this season’s ACC so much fun is that a lot can change between now and Selection Sunday, even though that latter date is less than three weeks away. North Carolina still has matchups left with Louisville, Virginia and Duke in the regular season, and that comes before what’s going to be this season’s best conference tournament. North Carolina may be atop the South Region now, but the ACC champion, assuming it’s one of the conference’s top four teams, should find its way to a No. 1 seed, likely in the south.
The Field of 68
2017 NCAA Tournament
|1 Villanova||Kansas 1|
|16 New Orleans/NC-Central||UC-Irvine/Mount St. Mary's 16|
|8 Miami||Dayton 8|
|9 Oklahoma St.||Virginia Tech 9|
|5 Purdue||Notre Dame 5|
|12 Seton Hall/Georgia tech||Valparaiso12|
|13 Nevada||East Tennessee St. 13|
|6 Maryland||South Carolina 6|
|11 UNCW||Michigan St.11|
|3 Kentucky||Florida St. 3|
|14 Monmouth||Belmont 14|
|7 USC||Saint Mary's 7|
|10 Kansas St.||Marquette 10|
|2 Louisville||Arizona 2|
|15 UNC-Asheville||North Dakota St. 15|
|1 North Carolina||Gonzaga1|
|16 North Dakota||Texas Southern 16|
|8 Virginia Commonwealth||Iowa State8|
|9 Minnesota||Wichita State 9|
|5 Cincinnati||Wisconsin 5|
|12 California/TCU||Vermont 12|
|4 Butler||Duke 4|
|13 Princeton||Akron 13|
|6 Southern Methodist||Creighton 6|
|11 Middle Tennessee||Syracuse 11|
|3 Florida||West Virginia3|
|14 Bucknell||UT Arlington 14|
|7 Xavier||Northwestern 7|
|10 Michigan||Arkansas 10|
|2 Baylor||Oregon 2|
|15 Cal State Bakersfield||Florida Gulf Coast 15|