Bracket Watch: SI's First Look at the Projected Field of 68

The first Bracket Watch of 2020 breaks down where things stand one month before Selection Sunday.
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With a little over one month away from the best Sunday of the year (apologies to the Super Bowl and certain holidays), bracket season is in full swing. We at Three Man Weave are delighted to kick off SI’s inaugural bracket watch for the 2020 NCAA tournament. As Jim and I are both bracketologists, we thought it unfair to deprive the readers of one of our fields of 68. So, for the next 30-odd days, we will be bringing you not one but TWO brackets on a biweekly basis—it’s a little exercise we’ve lovingly dubbed “Dueling Bracketology”. Think “dueling piano bar,” but with (hopefully) less embarrassing dancing.

The NCAA selection committee revealed its Top 16 last weekend in an event meant to increase transparency in the bracket process (and also, you know, make money). Not much has changed since that reveal, but you will find a few teams jockeying up and down a seed line based on this past week’s results. Jim and Ky both elected to keep Gonzaga ahead of San Diego State on the overall S-curve despite the Aztecs having the clear better résumé, but Michigan State has dropped out of the Top 16 in favor of conference rival Penn State. Auburn’s enormous week also helped its cause in the overall rankings, moving from a No. 4 seed to a No. 3 seed.

Without further ado, let’s break down the current bracket as we see it. —KM

march-madness-bracket-watch-baylor-feb-14

Bubble

The two teams that Ky and I differed most on in the Land of Bubble were Arkansas and Indiana. We each have one of them comfortably in (Ky = Arkansas, Jim = Indiana), while the other has the opposite team outside of the bracket altogether or barely sneaking in. Neither team has any bad losses to speak of, and Arkansas has a clear edge in NET (43 v. 58). However, I’m concerned Arkansas may run into trouble with its quality wins: the only at-large-caliber tournament team the Razorbacks have beaten is—you guessed it—Indiana, while the Hoosiers own key wins over Michigan State and Florida State (plus Iowa and Ohio State). Ultimately, there probably shouldn’t be this wide of a gap between the two for either of us, but the margins are razor thin in Bubbledom. –JR

Last Four Byes

KYJIM

Saint Mary's

USC

Stanford

Rhode Island

Xavier

Stanford

Wichita State

Arizona State

Last Four In

KYJIM

Arizona State

NC State

Indiana

Wichita State

Cincinnati

Virginia

Virginia

Cincinnati

First Eight Out

KYJIM

NC State

Arkansas

Minnesota

Georgetown

Georgetown

Alabama

VCU

Minnesota

Memphis

Utah State

Utah State

VCU

Richmond

Mississippi State

Alabama

Richmond

Next Four Out

Tennessee

Tennessee

Mississippi State

Memphis

Providence

Notre Dame

Syracuse

South Carolina

South Region

A quick nod to Ky, who followed the unwritten bracketing rule that mandates Arizona State must play in the First Four and remind everyone what sloppy college basketball looks like on a national stage. This would be the third year in a row of the Sun Devils playing in Dayton; Bobby Hurley’s surely racking up some serious reward points at the University Marriott at this point.

Baylor is entrenched as the top seed here, although Kansas and its 16 Q1+Q2 wins plus No. 1 SOS are lurking closely behind should the Bears finally stumble for the first time since the season’s first Friday. -JR

KYJIM

(1) Baylor vs. (16) Little Rock

(1) Baylor vs. (16) Robert Morris / North Carolina Central

(8) Michigan vs. (9) Florida

(8) Rutgers vs. (9) Saint Mary’s

(5) Michigan State vs. (12) Arizona State / Cincinnati

(5) LSU vs. (12) Virginia / Cincinnati

(4) Butler vs. (13) Stephen F. Austin

(4) Villanova vs. (13) Vermont

(6) Iowa vs. (11) Xavier

(6) Marquette vs. (11) East Tennessee State

(3) Auburn vs. (14) Winthrop

(3) Florida State vs. (14) Hofstra

(7) Illinois vs. (10) Arkansas

(7) Texas Tech vs. (10) Xavier

(2) Louisville vs. (15) Murray State

(2) Maryland vs. (15) Little Rock

Midwest Region

Folks, I won’t bore you with the details, but trust me when I say that bracketing BYU is challenge (cannot play at any Friday/Sunday sites in any round), and it’s not made any easier by so many Big Ten teams bathing in the river of bracket mediocrity (seed lines 6-9). Instead, let’s just enjoy the results of such a shuffling—a Miller Brothers Battle Royale in Round 1 for the right to get slapped around by the Dayton Flyers, where Archie started his head coaching career! I'm not someone that craves narratives, but when they saunter in unannounced, I will happily sit back and enjoy the show.

We are in agreement on the top two teams here (Kansas and Dayton), and if you aren’t on board with a rematch of the instant classic Maui Invitational championship for a berth in the Final Four, then I suggest you take a long look in the mirror and re-examine your priorities in life. —JR

KYJIM

(1) Kansas vs. (16) Montana

(1) Kansas vs. (16) Rider / Prairie View A&M

(8) BYU vs. (9) Purdue

(8) Illinois vs. (9) Florida

(5) Colorado vs. (12) Liberty

(5) Kentucky vs. (12) NC State / Wichita State

(4) Penn State vs. (13) Akron

(4) Butler vs. (13) Wright State

(6) LSU vs. (11) Northern Iowa

(6) BYU vs. (11) Stanford

(3) Seton Hall vs. (14) Wright State

(3) Auburn vs. (14) Winthrop

(7) Ohio State vs. (10) Stanford

(7) Arizona vs. (10) Indiana

(2) Dayton vs. (15) North Dakota State

(2) Dayton vs. (15) South Dakota State

West Region

By far my “weakest” region by S-curve standards, the West region features Gonzaga, a perennial national championship threat. But don’t let that notion fool you, this grouping is full of potential land mines. Texas Tech would be one of the best 8-seeds ever if they were slotted in this position, and Jim’s No. 7-seeded Michigan squad was a top-five team once upon a time before Isaiah Livers went down with injury.

As is customary with the West, you’ll see plenty of Pac-12 teams scattered throughout, one of which will almost certainly be Oregon, which used a dominant second-half run last night to pull off a crucial win at home against Colorado. The Ducks have been inconsistent this season, but they’ve also struggled with injuries. If Dana Altman’s Sweet Sixteen run as a No. 12 seed last year is any indication, Oregon should be considered a bona fide Final Four contender. -KM

KYJIM

(1) Gonzaga vs. (16) Rider / Prairie View A&M

(1) Gonzaga vs. (16) North Florida

(8) Texas Tech vs. (9) USC

(8) Wisconsin vs. (9) Oklahoma

(5) Creighton vs. (12) Indiana / Virginia

(5) Michigan State vs. (12) Yale

(4) Oregon vs. (13) Louisiana Tech

(4) Oregon vs. (13) New Mexico State

(6) Arizona vs. (11) Wichita State

(6) Colorado vs. (11) Rhode Island

(3) Florida State vs. (14) New Mexico State

(3) Louisville vs. (14) Bowling Green

(7) Houston vs. (10) Saint Mary’s

(7) Michigan vs. (10) USC

(2) Maryland vs. (15) UC Irvine

(2) West Virginia vs. (15) UC Irvine

East Region

Every year there seems to be a No. 1 seed the public sees as the most vulnerable to not escape its region or even lose the fabled 1 v. 16 matchup. San Diego State, right or wrong, will be that team this season despite the Aztecs possibly entering the Dance with an unblemished record. With the committee apparently dead-set on keeping the Zags ahead of SDSU and Baylor and Kansas having vice grips on the remaining No. 1 seed slots, the Aztecs will end up in the East region where they will almost certainly be paired with Duke.

Ninety-percent of your office pool will pick Coach K and the Blue Devils to march to Atlanta, but don’t overlook those dangerous No. 3 seeds. Both West Virginia and Seton Hall have the firepower to make a run at a national title. One interesting matchup I ended up with below is Kentucky vs. Yale in the always-enticing 5 v. 12 game. Yale is a team nobody wants to see in the first round. In 2016, the Bulldogs took down Baylor as a 12-seed and nearly upset LSU as a 14-seed last year. However, I do not expect the Wildcats to stick around on the 5-line too long. —KM

KYJIM

(1) San Diego State vs. (16) Robert Morris / NC Central

(1) San Diego State vs. (16) Austin Peay

(8) Rutgers vs. (9) Oklahoma

(8) Houston vs. (9) Purdue

(5) Kentucky vs. (12) Yale

(5) Creighton vs. (12) Stephen F. Austin

(4) Villanova vs. (13) Vermont

(4) Penn State vs. (13) North Texas

(6) Marquette vs. (11) East Tennessee State

(6) Ohio State vs. (11) Arizona State

(3) West Virginia vs. (14) Colgate

(3) Seton Hall vs. (14) Colgate

(7) Wisconsin vs. (10) Rhode Island

(7) Iowa vs. (10) Northern Iowa

(2) Duke vs. (15) Hofstra

(2) Duke vs. (15) Montana

Ky's full NCAA tournament projection as of Feb. 14:

2020-bracket-watch-ky-feb-14

Jim's full NCAA tournament projection as of Feb. 14:

2020-bracket-watch-jim-feb-14