March Madness predictions: Full NCAA tournament bracket - Sports Illustrated

Bracket Watch: Who's Winning the Battle for a High NCAA Tournament Seed?

Our look at the field of 68 heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
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It was a completely normal Thursday in the college hoops world, save for San Diego State trailing at halftime to Air Force, Wyoming advancing to the MWC semifinals, Washington actually winning a Pac-12 game, North Florida crashing out of the ASUN Tournament before the championship game, UConn and Oregon State showing the mildest signs of bubble life...okay, nevermind, perhaps it was a completely bizarre day.

The week had plenty of surprises, as well, like Kentucky taking one on the chin to Tennessee inside Rupp Arena, Auburn losing at home to Texas A&M, Road Purdue winning and Home Iowa losing in the same stinking game, and West Virginia actually getting a Big 12 win (1-0 in March!). That led to plenty of shuffling up and down the bracket, most notably in the land of the bubble. –JR

Bubble

Only a few days have passed since our bracket update on Monday, but boy oh boy have there been some shifts. The Texas Longhorns enter the field for both of us for the first time all season. Shaka’s squad picked up another Quadrant 1 victory this week in the Red River rivalry over Oklahoma, giving the Longhorns a respectable five on the year.

Rhode Island was booted from the bracket bar Roadhouse style (Rhode-house, if you prefer). The Rams sit with just one Quad 1 victory on the season and their once sparkling NET is now a dusty 57. URI is going to have to do some throat rips and punch a few teams in the mouth in the A-10 tournament to snag a bid—as Dalton famously said, “Be nice… until it’s time to not be nice.”

Elsewhere, Cincinnati and Richmond both climbed into Jim’s latest bracket, replacing Wichita State and NC State. I’m still holding onto the latter schools, but the Bearcats and Spiders are breathing down their neck. –KM

Last Four Byes

KYJIM

USC

Arizona State

Xavier

Texas Tech

Oklahoma

Rutgers

Stanford

Xavier

Last Four In

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Rutgers

Texas

Wichita State

Stanford

NC State

Richmond

Texas

Cincinnati

First Eight Out

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Cincinnati

Wichita State

Richmond

NC State

Utah State

Utah State

Rhode Island

Purdue

Purdue

South Carolina

Arkansas

Arkansas

Mississippi State

Tennessee

Memphis

Mississippi State

Next Four Out

KYJIM

Tennessee

Rhode Island

South Carolina

Memphis

Saint Louis

Saint Louis

Syracuse

Clemson

Midwest Region

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

(1) Kansas vs. (16) Robert Morris / NC Central

(8) Marquette vs. (9) Saint Mary’s

(8) Houston vs. (9) Providence

(5) Ohio State vs. (12) Northern Iowa

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

(4) Auburn vs. (13) Akron

(4) Maryland vs. (13) Liberty

(6) West Virginia vs. (11) Stanford

(6) Auburn vs. (11) Texas Tech

(3) Louisville vs. (14) Wright State

(3) Louisville vs. (14) Wright State

(7) Virginia vs. (10) Indiana

(7) Virginia vs. (10) USC

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

(2) Seton Hall vs. (15) Colgate

Kansas maintains its vice grip on the Midwest region. The Jayhawks are all but a certainty to wind up in this spot on Selection Sunday, boasting the country’s best NET, strength of schedule, non-conference strength of schedule and most quality wins.

Our No. 8 seeds have a similar story in that both were No. 8 seeds in our previous respective brackets. Marquette has tumbled down the S-curve, losing five of its last six games. A recent loss to DePaul now has the Golden Eagles at 8-9 in Big East play. Jim bumped Houston down a seed line after its loss to UConn yesterday, but I kept the Cougars on the 7-line. The two Q1 wins are weak to be sure, but the computers still love Houston and its eight Q2 victories.

Maryland is now a No. 4 seed in both of our brackets, which is a stark change from Monday. Jim and I discussed offline how impossible seeding the 3 and 4 lines are right now, with a multitude of teams having a worthy case to earn one of the coveted No. 3 seed slots. Ultimately, we went with Maryland due to its slipping NET (now 18th), slightly lower number of Q1 wins, slightly worse SOS, and 5-6 road record. If the Terps win the Big Ten outright, however, it will be hard to justify putting three Big East teams on a seed line ahead of them (or in Jim’s case, the Spartans). –KM

South Region

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(1) Baylor vs. (16) Siena / Prairie View A&M

(1) Baylor vs. (16) Siena / Prairie View A&M

(8) LSU vs. (9) Providence

(8) LSU vs. (9) St. Mary’s

(5) Butler vs. (12) NC State / Texas

(5) Wisconsin vs. (12) Yale

(4) Michigan State vs. (13) Stephen F. Austin

(4) Oregon vs. (13) Akron

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

(6) Colorado vs. (11) Rutgers

(3) Villanova vs. (14) Belmont

(3) Villanova vs. (14) Hofstra

(7) Michigan vs. (10) USC

(7) Arizona vs. (10) Northern Iowa

(2) Florida State vs. (15) Little Rock

(2) Duke vs. (15) Belmont

Baylor atop the bracket, an ACC team on the 2-seed line, Villanova as the No. 3 seed—we are in lock-step on the South Region. I’d be extremely curious to see the distribution of Final Four selections out of Ky’s South region specifically: I have to believe Michigan State would be a chic pick among the masses (myself probably included).

Meanwhile, the Bears have started to fray around the edges, showing the signs of mortality in a loss at TCU and an overtime win against Texas Tech that many expected to surface at some point this year. Still, it’s remarkable that the Bears have made it this far before cracking even slightly, and the absence of Mark Vital certainly had an effect on the Texas Tech game. Baylor likely would retain a No. 1 seed even if it lost at West Virginia this weekend and in the Big 12 quarterfinals. – JR

West Region

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(1) Gonzaga vs. (16) Eastern Washington

(1) Gonzaga vs. (16) Eastern Washington

(8) Illinois vs. (9) Arizona State

(8) Indiana vs. (9) Florida

(5) Wisconsin vs. (12) Yale

(5) Penn State vs. (12) Stephen F. Austin

(4) Oregon vs. (13) North Texas

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

(6) Colorado vs. (11) Rutgers / Wichita State

(6) West Virginia vs. (11) Xavier

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

(3) Michigan State vs. (14) UC Irvine

(7) Arizona vs. (10) Oklahoma

(7) Illinois vs. (10) East Tennessee State

(2) Seton Hall vs. (15) UC Irvine

(2) Florida State vs. (15) Little Rock

Hold onto your booty, the Seton Hall Pirates are movin’ on up to the 2-seed line. Hall’s 10 Q1 wins and current one-game lead in the Big East qualify it for a spot on this line, despite eight overall losses and a No. 14 NET ranking. I threw them in the West, Jim put them in the Midwest. Tomato, tomahto.

I finally moved Arizona down to the 7-seed line despite the 'Cats actually winning a game since Monday. Sean Miller’s team has just three Q1 wins on the year but somehow sits pretty with the 10th best NET in the land. At 10-7 in the Pac-12 currently, Arizona could wind up with the No. 6 seed in its own conference tournament. It seems impossible to give them an equivalent seed in the Big Dance.

Now that Jim has Wichita State out of the field, I feel like I must defend my Shocker inclusion. At 22-8 with a No. 48 NET ranking, Wichita is already above several bubble teams. Its two Q1 wins are a résumé eyesore, but it makes that up with seven wins against Q2 competition. To boot, the Shockers have zero bad losses on the season. When comparing their résumé with conference foe Cincy, the Shockers have the higher NET and a better record, but fall behind the Bearcats in SOS. Cincy, too, has two Q1 wins, but one more Q2 win than Wichita. The deciding factor, though, is the bad losses—Cincinnati has four of those this season, much too much for me to give them the edge. I can’t put Cincy in over Wichita right now, but I do admit the optics are strange when you consider the Bearcats have a two-game conference lead on the Shockers. –KM

East Region

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

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

(8) Florida vs. (9) Texas Tech

(8) Marquette vs. (9) Oklahoma

(5) BYU vs. (12) Liberty

(5) Ohio State vs. (12) Texas / Stanford

(4) Maryland vs. (13) Vermont

(4) Kentucky vs. (13) Vermont

(6) Penn State vs. (11) UCLA

(6) Iowa vs. (11) UCLA

(3) Creighton vs. (14) Colgate

(3) Creighton vs. (14) North Texas

(7) Houston vs. (10) Xavier

(7) Michigan vs. (10) Arizona State

(2) Duke vs. (15) Hofstra

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

I was mildly critical of Ky’s choice to leave Duke on the 2-line on Monday, but I will fight that battle no longer. I elevated the Blue Devils to match him (see South Region), as I’m warming up to the NET/KenPom/SOS/Duke AD arguments overtaking the Q1 win quantity advantage for Creighton, Villanova, etc. 

San Diego State survived a mild scare against Air Force on Thursday, trailing at halftime before rolling through the second half en route to a double-digit win. The Aztecs now have Boise State (a Q2 game) and likely Utah State (a Q1 game) on the slate; it’s a coin flip at this point on whether they’d remain ahead of Dayton should they drop one. Winning out might give them a shot at the No. 1 seed in the West, though, if Gonzaga is the one to stumble in Vegas. –JR

Ky's full projected NCAA tournament bracket as of March 6:

2020-bracket-watch-ky-march-6

Jim's full projected NCAA tournament bracket as of March 6:

2020-bracket-watch-jim-march-6