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Bracket Watch: Gonzaga’s No. 1 Overall Seed Could Be in Jeopardy

And one team has a better chance than others of usurping the Bulldogs. Plus, will the ACC end up on the right side of the bubble?

Welcome to March! Last weekend may not have been in the month of March, but there was still plenty of madness with the top six teams in the men’s AP poll all losing Saturday. That means some shakeups toward the top of our men’s NCAA tournament bracket projection, with a new team ascending to the No. 1 line and a fixture near the top dropping a seed.

Plus, a look at where the bubble stands with less than two weeks until Selection Sunday.

On the Bubble

Last Four Byes:

Notre Dame
Wake Forest

Last Four In:

Loyola Chicago
North Carolina

First Four Out:


Next Four Out:

Virginia Tech
St. Bonaventure

It’s an ACC-heavy bubble, with four of the final eight teams in the field coming from the conference. That includes North Carolina, which rejoins our projected field by taking care of business against Syracuse and NC State while others around it lost. The Tar Heels can lock themselves into the field with a win over Duke this weekend, but even without one they’ll be in good shape—barring a very early ACC tournament exit.

Perhaps the most important bubble game of the week is Rutgers vs. Indiana on Wednesday, which strikes me as something of a play-in game for selection. Playing in the Big Ten gives both teams opportunities in the conference tournament, but both these teams desperately need this game. Rutgers would be a Quad 3 loss for an Indiana team that’s currently our last team in, but the Scarlet Knights getting a big road win to go with an impressive slate of home victories would put Rutgers right back in the conversation.

*Indicates team is projected to win its conference’s automatic bid

West Region

No. 1 Gonzaga* vs. No. 16 New Orleans*/Alcorn State*
No. 8 TCU vs. No. 9 Seton Hall
No. 5 Texas vs. No. 12 Michigan/Loyola Chicago
No. 4 Arkansas vs. No. 13 Towson*
No. 6 USC vs. No. 11 Wake Forest
No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 14 Jacksonville State*
No. 7. Colorado State vs. No. 10 San Francisco
No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 15 Texas State* 

As anticipated in the immediate aftermath of the Zags’ loss to Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga stays as the No. 1 overall seed. The margin of error has shrunk, though. Should the Zags lose in the WCC tournament, there’s a real chance Gonzaga won’t be the overall No. 1. Even if that happens, the Bulldogs would have a great chance to stay out west after Arizona’s loss to Colorado on Saturday.

This region also features two of the biggest winners of the weekend—Tennessee and Arkansas. The Vols’ win over Auburn jumped Rick Barnes’s team to the No. 2 line, just edging out Purdue for the last No. 2 spot. Meanwhile, Arkansas grabbed its third huge win of the month by beating Kentucky, climbing to the final No. 4 seed in the process.

South Region

No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 16 Bryant*/Norfolk State*
No. 8 Boise State vs. No. 9 Davidson*
No. 5 Alabama vs. No. 12 North Carolina/Indiana
No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 13 Iona*
No. 6 Michigan State vs. No. 11 Miami
No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 14 Princeton*
No. 7 LSU vs. No. 10 San Diego State
No. 2 Duke* vs. No. 15 Longwood* 

The team that may have benefited most from the weekend’s chaos is Baylor, which added a pair of huge wins over Kansas and Texas to climb to the No. 2 overall spot on the seed list. The Bears now have a nation-leading 12 Quad 1 wins, which Bleacher Report’s Kerry Miller notes is more than the number of Q1, Q2 and Q3 wins Gonzaga has combined. I’m not quite ready to make the Bears the No. 1 overall seed, but if there’s any team with a case to top Gonzaga, it’s the Bears.

One program bubble teams will be watching come conference tournament week is Davidson, which has steadily risen up to a No. 9 seed and sits comfortably in the field as of today. A win over George Mason on Wednesday would essentially lock the Wildcats into the field. That means bubble teams should be rooting for Davidson to win the A-10 tournament—and potentially keep a team like VCU, Dayton or St. Bonaventure from locking in an otherwise-unsecured bid. 

Midwest Region

No. 1 Arizona* vs. No. 16 Cleveland State*
No. 8 Murray State* vs. No. 9 Creighton
No. 5 Saint Mary's vs. No. 12 Chattanooga*
No. 4 Providence* vs. No. 13 Northern Iowa*
No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Memphis
No. 3 Wisconsin* vs. No. 14 New Mexico State*
No. 7 Iowa vs. No. 10 Xavier
No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 15 Montana State*

After going 2–2 in four straight Q1 games, Kentucky’s résumé-defining stretch can be defined as solid, but perhaps not enough for a No. 1 seed. Kentucky has eight Q1 wins and no losses outside that quadrant, but its six losses are more than any other team in the race for the top line. To make a real push, the Wildcats need to win out in the regular season and likely make the SEC championship game (beating Arkansas, Tennessee or Auburn in the process).

Is Wisconsin’s ceiling a No. 3 seed? The Badgers have a tremendous résumé, ranking fourth in strength of record and third in KPI, two metrics on NCAA team sheets. But quality metrics like KenPom have the Badgers in the 20s, and history says teams in the 20s in KenPom don’t get top-two seeds. Using T-Rank’s “similar résumés” tool, nine of the 10 most comparable teams to Wisconsin earned a No. 3 or No. 4 seed. A win Tuesday against Purdue would help make the Badgers’ case, but at this point I’d be very surprised if they can ascend to a top-two seed. 

East Region

No. 1 Kansas* vs. No. 16 Long Beach State*
No. 8 Marquette vs. No. 9 Wyoming
No. 5 UConn vs. No. 12 South Dakota State*
No. 4 Illinois vs. No. 13 Vermont*
No. 6 Houston* vs. No. 11 North Texas*
No. 3 Villanova vs. No. 14 Toledo*
No. 7 Iowa State vs. No. 10 Notre Dame
No. 2 Auburn* vs. No. 15 Colgate*

For the first time this season, Auburn drops from the No. 1 line to a No. 2, checking in as the fifth overall seed in our first March update. There’s still a strong path for the Tigers to get back to a No. 1, particularly if they can make some noise in the SEC tournament. Winning a league as strong as the SEC should matter, and the Tigers have a terrific résumé.

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Finally, Houston continues its slow drop down to the No. 6 line despite an impressive victory over the weekend against SMU. With no Q1 wins, it’s just hard to keep the Cougars above teams that are adding to their résumés the way teams like Arkansas and Saint Mary’s have in recent days. And since the committee kept Houston out of its initial top 16, dropping them a few more spots doesn’t feel that uncomfortable at this point. The Cougars have one of the more unique bodies of work in recent years though, so it’s hard to get a feel for how they’ll be seeded.

SI’s full bracket projection (as of March 1):

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