Bracket Watch: Kansas Takes Over No. 1 Overall Seed

After Baylor, Gonzaga and San Diego State all lost over the weekend, did any lose their grip on a No. 1 seed?
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Just a couple weeks separates us from conference tournament season, where teams put the finishing touches on their résumés, sharpening their swords after a long year in the forge. As is the case after every weekend of 150-plus games, we have a few shifts in our brackets from Friday’s update. Indiana made its case to be safely above the cutline, and Providence is pulling a “Cooley” by once again sneaking into the field after a poor non-conference showing.

The seed lines are a true Rorschach test right now with only the top three teams on the S-curve seemingly locks for their current positions. What will the committee value most when Selection Sunday comes around? Quality wins? Record? Strength of schedule? Jim and I make our best (educated) guess as of Feb. 24. –KM

Kansas basketball March Madness bracket 2020

Bubble

It was the kind of weekend where NC State lost at home to Florida State...and rose out of the Last Four In for both of us. Similarly, Providence’s home win over Marquette vaulted it up the S-Curve into both of our fields...and even avoided the First Four for me. Oklahoma, Rhode Island, USC, Xavier, Richmond, Georgetown, Wichita State, and Purdue all lost this weekend, and while some of those defeats were more damaging than others, it left the bubble scene looking like a desolate wasteland. That allowed teams like Memphis and UCLA to ascend back into the picture with each registering a key Quad 1 win. The important note here: the gap between a Last Four Bye team and a First Eight Out team is quite narrow, so every team needs to keep accumulating wins. –JR

Last Four Byes

KYJIM

Wichita State

Xavier

USC

Providence

Rhode Island

NC State

NC State

Wichita State

Last Four In

KYJIM

Stanford

Rhode Island

Oklahoma

Georgetown

Cincinnati

Oklahoma

Providence

Cincinnati

First Eight Out

KYJIM

Georgetown

Stanford

Utah State

Richmond

Richmond

Utah State

Purdue

Memphis

Arkansas

Purdue

Alabama

UCLA

Memphis

Alabama

Minnesota

Arkansas

Next Four Out

KYJIM

Mississippi State

Mississippi State

South Carolina

UNC Greensboro

VCU

South Carolina

UNC Greensboro

Oklahoma State

Midwest Region

KYJIM

(1) Kansas vs. (16) St. Francis (PA) / North Carolina A&T

(1) Kansas vs. (16) St. Francis (PA) / North Carolina A&T

(8) Illinois vs. (9) Saint Mary’s

(8) Arizona State vs. (9) Virginia

(5) Auburn vs. (12) Northern Iowa

(5) BYU vs. (12) Oklahoma / Cincinnati

(4) Colorado vs. (13) Akron

(4) Michigan vs. (13) Liberty

(6) Michigan vs. (11) Stanford / Oklahoma

(6) Colorado vs. (11) Providence

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

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

(7) Ohio State vs. (10) Wichita State

(7) Iowa vs. (10) USC

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

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

The Midwest ascends to the top region as Kansas edges past Baylor for both of us. The two are tied atop the Big 12, but KU has one more Q1 win and two more Q2 wins, and its computer rankings paint a not-so-subtle picture of a No. 1 team: the No. 1 NET ranking, No. 1 on KenPom, No. 1 strength of schedule, No. 1 non-conference SOS. We get it!

I finally joined Ky at the “Creighton is a 2-seed” party, and the music is bumping after the Bluejays ripped Butler limb-from-limb on Sunday. Creighton trails Seton Hall by one game in the Big East standings, but we agree that the Jays are incrementally higher than the Pirates when it comes to NCAA seeding.

I continue to be higher on Michigan than the consensus, as the Isaiah Livers injury has led to the Wolverines being better than their résumé would initially indicate; it remains to be seen if I’m prophetic or idiotic in that opinion. –JR

South Region

KYJIM

(1) Baylor vs. (16) St. Peter’s / Prairie View A&M

(1) Baylor vs. (16) St. Peter’s / Prairie View A&M

(8) Arizona State vs. (9) Florida

(8) Florida vs. (9) Illinois

(5) Penn State vs. (12) Cincinnati / Providence

(5) Michigan State vs. (12) Rhode Island / Georgetown

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

(4) Kentucky vs. (13) Akron

(6) Iowa vs. (11) NC State

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

(3) Villanova vs. (14) Belmont

(3) Seton Hall vs. (14) UC Irvine

(7) Wisconsin vs. (10) USC

(7) Texas Tech vs. (10) NC State

(2) Duke vs. (15) Radford

(2) Maryland vs. (15) Hofstra

The three constants in this region between our brackets are Baylor on the 1-line, Kentucky as the No. 4 and a 12-seed play-in game. We’ve said for weeks now that Kentucky’s final destination likely won’t be on that 4-line, with the Cats holding a commanding lead in the SEC and continuing to shoot up the NET rankings. Jim has UK facing a good Akron team out of the MAC while I have it going up against the Stephen F. Austin Duke Killers, a matchup that would undoubtedly garner some of the most attention of the first round.

Since Jim and I both have a Big East team here in the play-in 12-seed game, let’s take a quick look at their résumés. Providence has seven wins against Q1 competition—a very good number—but four bad losses. Georgetown has four Q1 wins (nine Q1/Q2) with zero bad losses. The Friars have the better NET (48 to 59) and currently sit at 9-6 in the Big East compared to Georgetown’s 5-9 mark. Neither team is safe at the moment, but Providence should feel slightly better than the Hoyas as of today. –KM

West Region

KYJIM

(1) Gonzaga vs. (16) Montana

(1) Gonzaga vs. (16) Montana

(8) Houston vs. (9) Xavier

(8) LSU vs. (9) Indiana

(5) Michigan State vs. (12) Yale

(5) West Virginia vs. (12) Yale

(4) Oregon vs. (13) North Texas

(4) Oregon vs. (13) North Texas

(6) Arizona vs. (11) Rhode Island

(6) Auburn vs. (11) Northern Iowa

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

(3) Villanova vs. (14) Wright State

(7) BYU vs. (10) Rutgers

(7) Wisconsin vs. (10) Xavier

(2) Creighton vs. (15) UC Irvine

(2) Duke vs. (15) Colgate

The Zags hold the line at No. 3 overall for a few reasons: San Diego State lost as well, there is absolutely no shame in losing at BYU and they still possess a better résumé than Dayton, Maryland and Duke. Another loss at the WCC tourney would at least throw things into question, and the Terrapins and Blue Devils can both rattle off some huge wins in their respective conference tournaments, but that likely bumps San Diego State down before the Bulldogs.

I’m sure Wisconsin and Xavier are thrilled to see a potential rematch here after squaring off three times recently, while Ky has the Musketeers asking beloved rival Cincinnati for scouting tips against American foe Houston. His bracket is especially fun because those same Bearcats are taking on a Big East squad (Providence) in a play-in game in the South Region; I’m imagining a tense UC/Xavier exchange of scouting film like a prisoner exchange across a bridge in the Queen City.

Last note: if Michigan State and Oregon end up with Gonzaga, Creighton and Florida State as the top three seeds in their region, the college hoops masses will step all over themselves to make their Final Four “upset pick” come out of this region. And I will at least consider joining them! –JR

East Region

KYJIM

(1) San Diego State vs. (16) Little Rock

(1) San Diego State vs. (16) Radford

(8) Texas Tech vs. (9) Indiana

(8) St. Mary’s vs. (9) Houston

(5) Butler vs. (12) Liberty

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

(4) West Virginia vs. (13) Vermont

(4) Penn State vs. (13) Vermont

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

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

(3) Louisville vs. (14) Colgate

(3) Florida State vs. (14) Belmont

(7) LSU vs. (10) Virginia

(7) Butler vs. (10) Rutgers

(2) Maryland vs. (15) Hofstra

(2) Dayton vs. (15) Little Rock

San Diego State remains a No. 1 seed for both of us despite its loss to UNLV over the weekend. While Dayton holds the slightly better NET (4 to 5), the Aztecs’ wins are far superior. SDSU has wins on a neutral floor against Creighton and Iowa, a win at BYU (the only team in the country who can say that), and a victory at Utah State (a member of our First Four Out group). Dayton’s Q1 wins include a neutral win over Saint Mary’s and away victories over conference foes Saint Louis, Richmond and VCU. The Flyers have a spectacular résumé, but those wins don’t come close to the Aztecs’.

Elsewhere in the region, you’ll see that Jim has dropped the Butler Bulldogs all the way down to the 7-line after three straight losses. Butler sits at 7-8 in the Big East currently, a mark the committee might consider when seeding the bracket. But for me, it’s hard to throw out Butler’s body of work in favor of its recent skid. The Bulldogs are still No. 23 in the NET, have zero bad losses, are 8-7 against Q1 competition and are 5-2 against Q2 competition. However, Jim might be more correct in “getting into the head” of the committee, as it’s hard to ignore teams who struggle in late February/early March in this “what have you done for me lately” exercise. –KM

Ky's full projected NCAA tournament bracket as of Feb. 24:

2020-bracket-watch-ky-feb-24

Jim's full projected NCAA tournament bracket as of Feb. 24:

2020-bracket-watch-jim-feb-24