Huge results on the bubble early in the week have changed the complexion of the bracket at the back end of the field of 68, but all is quiet at the opposite side where Virginia, Gonzaga, Duke and Tennessee remain our No. 1 seeds going into the final weekend of the regular season in the power conferences, as well as a handful of mid-major leagues. For all the latest changes on the bubble wrought by the aforementioned results, check out our up-to-the-minute Bubble Watch. In this edition of the Bracket Watch, we’ll focus on teams that are in a bit more comfortable shape.
Last Four Byes
Last Four In
First Four Out
Next Four Out
Think a No. 7 seed is unfair for Nevada? Think again. The Wolf Pack grade well in most metrics, but their two best wins of the season have come against Utah State and Arizona State. At most, they’ll go into the tournament with three wins over at-large teams, and even that modest number would require them to beat Utah State in the Mountain West tournament, and for Arizona State to end up on the right side of the bubble. If disaster befalls both of those teams, the Wolf Pack could have zero wins over at-large teams as it prepares for its first NCAA tournament game. No matter their win-loss résumé, the Wolf Pack are dangerous, but don’t expect to see them seeded any higher than sixth in their region on Selection Sunday.
(1) Virginia vs. (16) Fairleigh Dickinson/Norfolk State
(8) Ole Miss vs. (9) VCU
(5) Kansas State vs. (12) NC State/Alabama
(4) Wisconsin vs. (13) Yale
(6) Villanova vs. (11) TCU
(3) Houston vs. (14) Old Dominion
(7) Nevada vs. (10) Minnesota
(2) Kentucky vs. (15) Radford
Texas Tech has now won eight straight games, with its last loss coming at Kansas more than a month ago. With a regular season finale against Iowa State and the Big 12 tournament still to play, it’s entirely possible the Red Raiders climb up another seed line before Selection Sunday. Let’s consider their best-case scenario. Should they win out, they’d add four more wins, all of which could be in Q1. At least three would be, so the final résumé they’d present to the committee would be an overall record of 29–5, Big 12 regular season and tournament championships, a top-10 NET rating, and an 8–5 or 9–5 record in Q1 games. If that comes to fruition, it would be awfully hard to give them anything lower than a No. 2 seed. No matter where they end up, they will be a legitimate Final Four contender.
(1) Gonzaga vs. (16) Iona/Prairie View A&M
(8) Oklahoma vs. (9) Syracuse
(5) Mississippi State vs. (12) Murray State
(4) Virginia Tech vs. (13) Vermont
(6) Auburn vs. (11) Ohio State
(3) Texas Tech vs. (14) Hofstra
(7) Louisville vs. (10) St. John's
(2) Michigan State vs. (15) Northern Kentucky
LSU is a home win over Vanderbilt away from at least a share of the SEC regular season championship. In other words, LSU is going to, at worst, share the conference’s regular season title. If the Tigers win and Tennessee loses at Auburn this weekend, the banner will belong solely to them. No matter what, LSU will be the No. 1 seed in the SEC tournament with a win over Vanderbilt thanks to its head-to-head win over the Volunteers last month. That’s huge, because it means that the Tigers would only need to beat one of Tennessee and Kentucky to win the SEC tournament, while the other two would have to go through one another just to earn the right to play LSU in the championship game. Should the Tigers win out, they, too, would have an excellent claim for at least a No. 2 seed.
(1) Duke vs. (16) Sam Houston State
(8) UCF vs. (9) Iowa
(5) Maryland vs. (12) Clemson/Arizona State
(4) Kansas vs. (13) South Dakota State
(6) Buffalo vs. (11) Seton Hall
(3) LSU vs. (14) Georgia Southern
(7) Wofford vs. (10) Texas
(2) Michigan vs. (15) Colgate
With Marquette sliding down to a No. 5 seed after losing its third straight game, this one a 73–64 decision at Seton Hall, we needed a new No. 4 in the Midwest Region. Florida State grabbed it by the narrowest of margins over Kansas State. A lot will happen among power conference teams between now and Selection Sunday, but in this scenario the committee would have to figure out how to spread out five ACC teams ranked among the top 16 seeds. As great as Virginia, Duke and North Carolina are, it’s all but impossible for one conference to slot three teams on the top line. One of those teams, likely Duke or North Carolina, will be a No. 2 or No. 3 seed, putting them on the opposite side of their region from the No. 1 seed. That’s where you’ll find the fifth ACC team, should all five earn No. 4 seeds or better. That way, the two ACC powers in the same region would avoid one another until the Elite Eight. If the fifth team was grouped with a top-seeded ACC squad, they’d meet in the Sweet 16, which is less than ideal.
(1) Tennessee vs. (16) Montana
(8) Baylor vs. (9) Washington
(5) Marquette vs. (12) Lipscomb
(4) Florida State vs. (13) New Mexico State
(6) Iowa State vs. (11) Florida
(3) Purdue vs. (14) UC-Irvine
(7) Cincinnati vs. (10) Utah State
(2) North Carolina vs. (15) Loyola-Chicago