The teams in the ACC, Big 12 and SEC could all trigger a bracketing principle that could shake up the NCAA tournament bracket this season

By Michael Beller
February 01, 2018

SI.com's first Bracket Watch of the week is released on Monday. On Thursday, we go back to the bracket drawing board after the week's early results to reassess the field. See the updated bracket below.

It has been a relatively quiet start to the week, especially at the top of the field of 68, where most teams have taken care of their business. The changes you’ll see in this week’s mid-week Bracket Watch update mostly concern teams at the bottom of the field and bracketing principles. One of those could largely shape the bracket this season.

There is a bracketing principle that states if the top four teams in one conference are all No. 4 seeds or better, they must be in different regions. Three conferences—the ACC, Big 12 and SEC—could all trigger that principle this season. It’s unlikely that all three will achieve the feat—that would mean 12 of the top-16 teams would come from from three conferences, and we know Villanova, Purdue and Xavier are likely top-16 teams, with Arizona and Cincinnati both approaching that status, as well. Still, two of those conferences will likely place four teams apiece into the top of the bracket, as they have done in this edition of the Bracket Watch.

The ACC has No. 1 Virginia, No. 1 Duke, No. 3 Clemson and No. 4 North Carolina. The Big 12, meanwhile, has No. 2 Kansas, No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 4 Texas Tech and No. 4 West Virginia. The Mountaineers’ latest stumble, a 93-77 loss at Iowa State on Wednesday, sent them down a seed line. The No. 4 seed in their region previously was North Carolina and, as we know, North Carolina couldn’t simply move to another region, because all three already had an ACC team among its top four. That meant moving West Virginia to the East Region, which forced Texas Tech and Oklahoma to also find new homes.

If that sounds convoluted, it’s only because it is. But that’s how the bracket sausage is made.

Last Four In

SMU
Virginia Tech
Missouri
South Carolina

First Four Out

Houston
Western Kentucky
Washington
Syracuse

Next Four Out

Georgia
Notre Dame
Boise State
UCLA

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)