- After a shocking loss to St. Mary's in the WCC final, Gonzaga's top-seed status will be less of a sure thing on Selection Sunday.
There are just four days remaining until Selection Sunday, and the field of 68 for the 2019 NCAA tournament is coming into sharp focus. We’ll be updating the Bracket Watch every day, and with every automatic bid that is clinched, right up until the Selection Committee releases the real thing and March Madness begins in earnest. Stick with us here on SI.com all week to get our latest take on the bracket. And for an in-depth look at the teams at the back end of the field, and those just barely on the outside, be sure to check out our Bubble Watch.
But first, we’ve got a shakeup on the top line. Gonzaga fell to Saint Mary’s in the WCC championship game, scoring just 47 points while dashing the hopes of a bubble team to be named later. The loss dropped the Zags to a No. 2 seed, with Michigan State jumping up to replace them atop the West Region.
Why do the Bulldogs fall, and why is it the Spartans that now reside on the top line? The first question is much easier to answer than the second. Gonzaga may have gaudy metrics—it’s still ranked second in NET and on kenpom.com—but is just 4–3 in Quadrant 1 games. The Bulldogs played three teams this season that are at-large locks—Duke, Tennessee and North Carolina—and went 1–2 in those games. Their only other wins over potential at-large teams came against Creighton and Washington. Relative to the other potential No. 1 seeds, that just isn’t a strong enough résumé.
See, easy right? But why Michigan State? Why not, say, Duke or Tennessee or LSU? The Spartans get the nod based partially on what they’ve done to this point of the season, and partially on projection for the rest of Championship Week. The ACC is not getting three No. 1 seeds. If Selection Sunday were Selection Tuesday, and the power conferences didn’t play tournaments, then sure, Virginia, North Carolina and Duke could all be worthy of top seeds right now. That, of course, is not the case. One of Duke or North Carolina is not advancing beyond the conference semifinals, and that team is likely to be off the top line. For now, we’re sticking with Virginia and North Carolina.
Michigan State claims the top spot in the West Region ahead of Tennessee and LSU for two main reasons. First, the Spartans have 11 Q1 wins, tied with Virginia for the most in the country. Second, they played their last five games, which included two wins over Michigan, without Nick Ward, and he is expected to return from a hairline fracture in his hand during the Big Ten tournament, likely on Friday. The Selection Committee, then, will be evaluating Michigan State at its full possible strength. If the Spartans win the Big Ten tournament, they will be a No. 1 seed.
Last Four Byes
Last Four In
First Four Out
Next Four Out
Automatic bid recipients in bold below.
(1) Virginia vs. (16) Fairleigh Dickinson/Norfolk State
(8) Oklahoma vs. (9) Washington
(5) Mississippi State vs. (12) Murray State
(4) Wisconsin vs. (13) Yale
(6) Wofford vs. (11) Indiana
(3) Houston vs. (14) Old Dominion
(7) Iowa State vs. (10) Seton Hall
(2) Tennessee vs. (15) Sam Houston State
(1) North Carolina vs. (16) North Dakota State/Prairie View A&M
(8) UCF vs. (9) VCU
(5) Maryland vs. (12) Florida/NC State
(4) Kansas vs. (13) Northeastern
(6) Buffalo vs. (11) St. John’s
(3) Michigan vs. (14) Georgia Southern
(7) Nevada vs. (10) TCU
(2) LSU vs. (15) Colgate
(1) Kentucky vs. (16) Iona
(8) Baylor vs. (9) Iowa
(5) Florida State vs. (12) Ohio State/Arizona State
(4) Kansas State vs. (13) Liberty
(6) Villanova vs. (11) Saint Mary’s
(3) Purdue vs. (14) UC-Irvine
(7) Cincinnati vs. (10) Minnesota
(2) Duke vs. (15) Montana
(1) Michigan State vs. (16) Gardner-Webb
(8) Ole Miss vs. (9) Syracuse
(5) Marquette vs. (12) New Mexico State
(4) Virginia Tech vs. (13) Vermont
(6) Auburn vs. (11) Temple
(3) Texas Tech vs. (14) Northern Kentucky
(7) Louisville vs. (10) Utah State
(2) Gonzaga vs. (15) Bradley