Updated Bracket for 2017 NCAA Tournament After Draft Decisions Finalized
The Duke Blue Devils remain the No. 1 overall seed in Bleacher Report's latest projection of the 2017 NCAA tournament, joined on the top line by the Kansas Jayhawks, the Villanova Wildcats and the Oregon Ducks.
With the NBA draft withdrawal deadline behind us and Marques Bolden and Jarrett Allen finally deciding where they will play as freshmen, rosters for the 2016-17 season are almost set in stone. There will be injuries. There will be transfers. There are still a few 4-star recruits who haven't yet picked a school. But we're a heck of a lot closer to the final product than we were two months ago.
As such, it was time for an overdue refreshing of the projected tournament field.
We'll start with looking at the last five teams in the field and the first eight out. Instead of blathering on about computer profiles, big wins and huge upcoming games, we'll primarily use that space to discuss noteworthy roster changes and key players for those teams.
After that, we'll present each seeded region, including the subregional locations in which each pod would be played and some commentary on teams that moved the most since the last projection. Then we'll provide the ranking of the No. 1 seeds, followed by a summary of the entire field broken up by conference.
Last 5 In
Last Team In: Michigan Wolverines
It has been a rough offseason for the Wolverines with Aubrey Dawkins, Ricky Doyle, Kameron Chatman and Spike Albrecht each transferring out of the program. But that only really affects their bench, as their projected starting five remains intact. Still, losing three of the top four reserves while adding nothing new in their place warranted a drop to the bubble for Michigan.
Second-to-Last: Washington Huskies
Nothing has changed for the Huskies in the past seven weeks. We already knew in mid-April that Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray were leaving for the draft, but this could still be a team that falls onto the right side of the bubble if Markelle Fultz is anywhere near as good as advertised. Like Michigan, there's almost no depth on this roster, but the starting five is strong enough to vie for 20 wins in what should be another strong year for the Pac-12.
Third-to-Last: Iowa Hawkeyes
Iowa did pick up an early-May commitment from former Rutgers signee Maishe Dailey, but there are a ton of holes to fill on this roster with four starters graduating. The Hawkeyes still have Peter Jok and can reasonably expect a big jump in production from Dom Uhl and Nicholas Baer, but Fran McCaffery will need to dig deep into his bag of tricks to get this team to a fourth straight NCAA tournament.
Fourth-to-Last: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Like Washington, it has been a silent summer for Notre Dame, which doesn't have a single transfer into or out of the program. It's hard not to like the primary trio of Steve Vasturia, V.J. Beachem and Bonzie Colson, but the Fighting Irish are going to need a lot more out of Matt Ryan, Matt Ferrell and Rex Pflueger in order to finish in the top half of an absurdly deep ACC.
Fifth-to-Last: Miami Hurricanes
Miami loses five of its seven leading scorers to graduation and has also lost the ninth member of its rotation (James Palmer) to the transfer market. Incoming transfer Rashad Muhammad and incoming freshmen Dewan Huell and Bruce Brown should all be solid, immediate contributors. But that still only leaves the 'Canes with six potentially impactful players. Unless Jim Larranaga is able to snag a quality graduate-transfer, a sizable step backward from last year's No. 3 seed seems inevitable.
First 8 out
First Team Out: USC Trojans
Has any team taken more lumps than USC has this offseason? The Trojans lost Katin Reinhardt, Malik Marquetti, Malik Martin and Darion Clark to the transfer market, while Julian Jacobs and Nikola Jovanovic inexplicably declared for the draft. There wasn't a single senior in their primary 10-man rotation, but the Trojans still managed to lose just a shade under 50 percent of their scoring from last season.
What was once looking like a preseason Top 25 team is now on the wrong side of the bubble. But there's still a good amount of talent for Andy Enfield to manage. In addition to key returnees Jordan McLaughlin, Elijah Stewart, Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu, USC adds Louisville transfer Shaqquan Aaron and 4-star freshman Jonah Mathews.
One thing that could get USC back into the preseason Top 25: Mathews' older brother (Jordan) has announced he will leave California as a graduate-transfer, but has not yet decided where he will spend his final season. CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein reported Gonzaga was the favored landing spot for him, but if he wanted to play with his brother, he'd fit quite well into USC's backcourt situation.
Second Team Out: Florida Gators
There has been a ton of offseason news out of Gainesville. Devin Robinson tentatively declared for the draft, but then pulled out of it after having foot surgery that could take up to six months to rehab. The Gators added graduate-transfer Canyon Barry, but lost transfers DeVon Walker and Brandone Francis-Ramirez.
It's a net gain, but whether it's enough "to dance" will depend upon Robinson's health and whether Kasey Hill is finally going to start living up to his 5-star rating from three years ago.
Third Team Out: Georgia Bulldogs
In Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier, Georgia has two of the best returning players in the SEC. Beyond that duo, though, is an ocean of question marks. Tyree Crump is a nice freshman pickup, as is JUCO transfer Pape Diatta. But the Bulldogs will need some breakout stars in order to replace Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines and make the tournament.
Fourth Team Out: Pittsburgh Panthers
James Robinson and Sterling Smith are tough losses for the Panthers. They still have a great rotation of big men, but they'll need to rely heavily upon Cameron Johnson and Damon Wilson in the backcourt. Until we see how that duo performs in a featured role, it's impossible to project what this team can accomplish.
Fifth Team Out: Syracuse Orange
With Malachi Richardson bolting for the NBA after just one season, Syracuse took a tumble. Colorado State graduate-transfer John Gillon was a nice add. Providence transfer Paschal Chukwu should be a valuable frontcourt reserve.
Tyus Battle and Matthew Moyer will immediately command minutes as freshmen. But let's not forget Syracuse was a controversial tournament inclusion before losing Richardson, Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney. Even the slightest step backward would put the Orange on the wrong side of the bubble.
Sixth Team Out: Vanderbilt Commodores
Vanderbilt was our fourth team out two months ago—when there was still a remote chance Damian Jones would stay for another season. With their primary big man definitely gone, the Commodores will need a bunch of guys to step up in a big way.
Seventh Team Out: Davidson Wildcats
Jack Gibbs might score 30 points per game, and the addition of Boston College transfer Will Magarity should help solve Davidson's rebounding woes. If the Wildcats also get a better junior year out of Oskar Michelsen, they could have enough horses to win the A-10.
Eighth Team Out: Texas Tech Red Raiders
Chris Beard is kicking butt and taking names on the transfer market in his first season with the Red Raiders, adding stud JUCO transfers Niem Stevenson and Shadell Millinghaus, as well as Arkansas State big man Anthony Livingston. They lost a few key pieces to graduation, but their replacements might be even better.
East Region (New York City)
Greensboro, North Carolina
No. 1 Duke vs. No. 16 New Hampshire/South Carolina State
No. 8 Texas A&M vs. No. 9 Cincinnati
No. 4 Xavier vs. No. 13 UNC-Asheville
No. 5 Saint Mary's vs. No. 12 Ohio
No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 14 Lehigh
No. 6 Clemson vs. No. 11 Seton Hall
Salt Lake City, Utah
No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 15 New Mexico State
No. 7 Oklahoma vs. No. 10 Maryland
Stock Up: Clemson Tigers (New to Field)
If it feels weird to see Clemson in a preseason tournament projection, you're not alone. In Brad Brownell's six seasons as the Tigers head coach, they have yet to spend a single week in the AP Top 25 and have only made one NCAA tournament—sneaking into the 2011 field as a member of the First Four in Dayton.
But with Jaron Blossomgame (18.7 PPG and 6.7 RPG) opting to return for his senior season, they're back in business. The Tigers do lose starting point guard Jordan Roper, but they've had a pair of replacement plans waiting in the wings in Robert Morris transfer Marcquise Reed and Vanderbilt transfer Shelton Mitchell. If Sidy Djitte pans out as a full-time center, Clemson should finish in the top third of the ACC standings.
Stock Down: Seton Hall Pirates (Dropped 27 spots)
With Derrick Gordon the only junior or senior among Seton Hall's primary eight-man rotation last year, the Pirates would have been a Top 25 team in 2016-17 and likely a Top 10 team in 2017-18 if they had been able to keep the whole gang together. But when Isaiah Whitehead decided to remain in the NBA draft, their ceiling dropped.
Despite the massive loss, Seton Hall should still be a tournament team.
Kansas State transfer Jevon Thomas will help fill that Whitehead-sized hole—as will incoming freshmen Myles Powell and Eron Gordon. And while they aren't nearly the household name Whitehead was, Seton Hall is in capable hands with Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez leading the way. The Pirates are probably just the fifth- or sixth-best team in the Big East, but that's good enough this year.
Midwest Region (Kansas City)
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson
No. 8 North Carolina State vs. No. 9 California
Buffalo, New York
No. 4 Indiana vs. No. 13 Valparaiso
No. 5 Rhode Island vs. No. 12 Monmouth
No. 3 UCLA vs. No. 14 Long Beach State
No. 6 Dayton vs. No. 11 Notre Dame/Iowa
No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast
No. 7 Creighton vs. No. 10 Iowa State
Stock Up: California Golden Bears (New to Field)
With the possible exception of North Carolina State, no team has made more offseason waves than the Golden Bears.
For starters, both Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb waited until the final days before the NBA draft-declaration deadline to make a decision. To the surprise of absolutely no one, Brown chose to go pro. But Rabb turned down what probably would have been a spot in the top 10 to return for another season.
Shortly thereafter, California landed Columbia graduate-transfer Grant Mullins and signed 4-star point guard Charlie Moore—who had originally committed to Memphis in November before backing out of his national letter of intent in April when Josh Pastner left to become the Georgia Tech head coach.
The Golden Bears did take a lump when Jordan Mathews—who would have been the top returning scorer—elected to transfer out of the program. However, if Mathews was the price to pay to keep Rabb and add Mullins and Moore, Cuonzo Martin would have made that trade 10 out of 10 times.
Along with that trio, the Golden Bears still have Jabari Bird, Sam Singer and a pair of 7-footers (Kingsley Okoroh and Kameron Rooks), so they are much more equipped to compete in the Pac-12 than they were two months ago.
Stock Down: Kentucky Wildcats (Dropped four spots)
As luck would have it, this region was made up almost entirely of teams that either rose or kept the status quo. So even though they merely slipped from a No. 1 seed to a No. 2 seed, the Wildcats fell the farthest in the Midwest.
Though Kentucky was able to retain Isaiah Briscoe's services, Charles Matthews and Marcus Lee made surprising decisions to transfer out of the program. As a result, Briscoe and Derek Willis are the only returning players who scored at least 2.0 points per team game.
The Wildcats do still have a quintet of incoming 5-star freshmen, but they had already signed those guys months ago. You may disagree with the drop to a No. 2 seed, but there's no denying this roster has gotten worse since mid-April.
With so many players leaving, there's at least one more 2016-17 scholarship to hand out. The hope was that it would go to Marques Bolden, but after the big man chose Duke, John Calipari might dip his toe into the graduate-transfer pool. If and when they add a veteran wing with three-point range, the Wildcats will likely jump back onto the No. 1 seed line.
South Region (Memphis)
Buffalo, New York
No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 16 North Dakota/Jackson State
No. 8 Florida State vs. No. 9 Ohio State
No. 4 Texas vs. No. 13 UNC-Wilmington
No. 5 Louisville vs. No. 12 Princeton
No. 3 Wisconsin vs. No. 14 Belmont
No. 6 Butler vs. No. 11 Miami
Greensboro, North Carolina
No. 2 North Carolina vs. No. 15 Stephen F. Austin
No. 7 SMU vs. No. 10 VCU
Stock Up: Texas Longhorns (Climbed nine spots)
Don't look now, but with Jarrett Allen opting to remain close to home, Texas has jumped to No. 6 in the 247Sports ranking of the best 2016 classes. We all wondered while Shaka Smart was at VCU what he might be able to do at a school that is more capable of landing top recruits, and it's going to be a blast to see how well he does with that talent over the next few years.
But the Longhorns didn't exactly skyrocket up the ladder with the addition of the 5-star big man, because they also lost Isaiah Taylor to the NBA draft since our first projected 2017 bracket.
Incoming freshman Andrew Jones is going to be a stud in the backcourt, and Kerwin Roach and Eric Davis are both poised for monster seasons. However, it might be tough to replace Taylor's 15.0 points and 5.0 assists per game while also losing five seniors—Cameron Ridley, Prince Ibeh, Connor Lammert, Javan Felix and Demarcus Holland.
There's a ton of potential on this roster, but veteran leadership is nowhere to be found. Getting Allen was enough to vault Texas up to second-best team in the Big 12, but just barely.
Stock Down: Louisville Cardinals (Dropped eight spots)
While Texas added a big man, Louisville lost one. Chinanu Onuaku's decision to remain in the NBA draft means the Cardinals need to replace their top rebounder, top shot-blocker and all three of their leading scorers—Onuaku, Damion Lee and Trey Lewis.
There are plenty of options to fill the void Onuaku leaves behind. Mangok Mathiang, Raymond Spalding, Jaylen Johnson and Matz Stockman all played well in limited minutes, and Anas Mahmoud flashed a ton of potential late in the season before suffering an ankle injury. A team could do a whole lot worse than riding that five-man carousel in the frontcourt.
However, Onuaku would have been a lock for the preseason All-ACC First Team after averaging 16.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per 40 minutes as a sophomore. The Cardinals have the pieces to get by without him, but they would have thrived if he had stayed. If anything, we're being too generous by only dropping them two seed lines, but that's how good Donovan Mitchell and V.J. King could be together.
West Region (San Jose)
No. 1 Oregon vs. No. 16 North Dakota State
No. 8 Georgetown vs. No. 9 Virginia Tech
No. 4 Purdue vs. No. 13 UAB
No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 12 San Diego State
Salt Lake City, Utah
No. 3 Gonzaga vs. No. 14 Texas-Arlington
No. 6 Connecticut vs. No. 11 Washington/Michigan
No. 2 Virginia vs. No. 15 Mercer
No. 7 West Virginia vs. No. 10 Wichita State
Stock Up: Georgetown Hoyas (Climbed 13 spots)
Despite losing D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera from a painfully disappointing 15-18 season, Georgetown was one of the last five teams into our mid-April field. The Hoyas had a top-10 recruiting class in 2014 and also added Jessie Govan and Marcus Derrickson this past offseason. Throw in JUCO transfer Jonathan Mulmore—who averaged 26.1 points, 5.9 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game last season—and there was already plenty of talent on this roster to do some damage.
But they picked up another massive transfer in mid-April in the form of Rodney Pryor. The shooting guard averaged 18.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game last season with Robert Morris and should start from day one.
Georgetown received more good news less than a week later when Bradley Hayes was granted a fifth year of eligibility. All of a sudden, this sub-.500 team has more studs than it needs. Let's assume a starting five of Pryor, L.J. Peak, Derrickson, Isaac Copeland and Hayes. Well, that still leaves Tre Campbell, Mulmore, Paul White, Reggie Cameron and Govan as excellent bench options.
Buy low while you can. Georgetown could be a legitimate threat to win the Big East, even with Villanova, Xavier, Butler and Creighton as projected Top 25 teams.
Stock Down: West Virginia Mountaineers (Dropped 10 spots)
Nothing has changed for the Mountaineers in the past seven weeks other than our assessment of them. Pardon the minor rant here, but an adequate explanation is in order.
After an undefined number of years of success, coaches are given the benefit of the doubt. The Big Ten has been flooded with examples of this in recent years with Wisconsin (Bo Ryan), Michigan (John Beilein) and Ohio State (Thad Matta) expected to remain more than competitive while losing a bunch of talented players in the same offseason. And more often than not, those coaches figure it out.
This year, Bob Huggins and West Virginia are getting that preferential treatment.
ESPN's Eamonn Brennan had the 'Eers at No. 15 in his updated Top 25, saying, "Two years into the 'Press Virginia' revolution, Bob Huggins' system-driven team feels almost impervious to individual departures."
Similarly, CBS Sports' Gary Parrish has them at No. 19 in his latest poll, rationalizing, "We left West Virginia unranked last preseason—and Bob Huggins made that look foolish. Consider this proof we learned our lesson. Because it's wise to expect WVU to be good again despite the losses of Jaysean Paige and Devin Williams."
Top 25-good without Paige, Williams and Jonathan Holton? Maybe not.
Relentless ball pressure has been West Virginia's calling card for the past two seasons, but offensive rebounding has been equally important to their cause. The Mountaineers ranked in the top seven in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage in six of the past eight years, making the NCAA tournament each time. But they missed the tournament the other two years.
They'll continue to drive opponents batty with the ball pressure Jevon Carter, Tarik Phillip and Daxter Miles Jr. apply, but Williams and Holton both ranked in the top 25 in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage last season. Unless incoming freshmen Sagaba Konate and Maciej Bender are the second coming of Charles Barkley and Kenneth Faried, West Virginia will be considerably less dominant on the glass in 2016-17.
The Mountaineers are still comfortably in our projected tournament field, but this is why they're just outside our updated Top 25.
Ranking the No. 1 Seeds
No. 4 Oregon Ducks (Previous Rank: 8)
Oregon is the only new addition to our top line, and the Ducks got here for three reasons.
First of all, someone had to move up with Kentucky dropping down. Michigan State was previously our top No. 2 seed, but the Spartans also took a bit of a tumble with Deyonta Davis declaring for the draft just hours after our first projected bracket.
Second, Oregon fared well at the draft-withdrawal deadline with both Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey electing for another year of college ball. Coupled with Chris Boucher getting another year of eligibility and Dylan Ennis presumably getting a medical redshirt for a sixth season, this roster is loaded with veteran talent.
Granted, North Carolina and Virginia were also No. 2 seeds that return everyone they could, but the third reason Oregon jumped up to the final No. 1 seed is because of how strong the top third of the Pac-12 should be. Arizona, UCLA and California all made considerable jumps in this bracket update, so Oregon's "reward" as the projected winner of the conference also improved.
But if you don't like Oregon here, just remember that Maryland and Kentucky were projected No. 1 seeds last July, and neither of those teams earned so much as a No. 3 seed when all was said and done.
No. 3 Villanova Wildcats (Previous Rank: 4)
We had already assumed both Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins would return to Villanova, so nothing has changed for the Wildcats. They're still well-equipped to defend their title—arguably much more so than any team since Florida pulled off the repeat in 2007.
Whether they get the job done will depend on the big men.
Per usual, Jay Wright has an incredible backcourt. The combined force of Hart, Jenkins, Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth, Mikal Bridges and Eric Paschall is arguably even better than what he had in 2006 (Kyle Lowry, Randy Foye, Allan Ray and Mike Nardi) or 2010 (Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, Maalik Wayns and Taylor King).
With Daniel Ochefu graduating, though, the onus falls on Darryl Reynolds, Tim Delaney and 5-star freshman Omari Spellman at center. If they can patrol the paint as well as Ochefu did for the past two years, Villanova just might enter the 2017 tournament as the No. 1 overall seed.
No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks (Previous Rank: 3)
It seems like every team in the country has had some sort of roster news since mid-April—be it an incoming or outgoing transfer, a new recruit signing or a player making a decision about the NBA draft. But for the Jayhawks, it has been nothing but the sound of silence.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. Kansas was in good shape before signing Josh Jackson on April 11 and finds itself in great shape with the No. 1 overall recruit in this year's class, according to 247Sports.
Like Villanova, the Jayhawks have a sensational backcourt and the potential to have a great frontcourt if a couple of young guys live up to their full potential. Carlton Bragg and Udoka Azubuike will determine how high this team's ceiling can be.
No. 1 Duke Blue Devils (Previous Rank: 1)
Derryck Thornton had already announced his decision to transfer two days before the last bracket update, so the only change to Duke's roster was the addition of 5-star big man Marques Bolden. Unless something major changes in the next few months, Duke is a stone-cold lock for preseason No. 1 in the nation.
Seeding by Conference
In case seeded regions aren't for you and you want to know where the "top" 68 teams stand in relation to one another, here is a list of each team's overall seed, broken down by conference. ("First Eight Out" in italics.)
American: 23. Connecticut; 26. SMU; 33. Cincinnati
Atlantic 10: 18. Rhode Island; 24. Dayton; 40. VCU; 75. Davidson
ACC: 1. Duke; 5. North Carolina; 8. Virginia; 19. Louisville; 22. Clemson; 30. NC State; 31. Florida State; 36. Virginia Tech; 41. Miami; 43. Notre Dame; 72. Pittsburgh; 73. Syracuse
Big 12: 2. Kansas; 16. Texas; 17. Baylor; 27. Oklahoma; 28. West Virginia; 39. Iowa State; 76. Texas Tech
Big East: 3. Villanova; 15. Xavier; 21. Butler; 25. Creighton; 29. Georgetown; 42. Seton Hall
Big Ten: 10. Wisconsin; 11. Michigan State; 13. Purdue; 14. Indiana; 35. Ohio State; 37. Maryland; 44. Iowa; 46. Michigan
Pac-12: 4. Oregon; 7. Arizona; 9. UCLA; 34. California; 45. Washington; 69. USC
SEC: 6. Kentucky; 32. Texas A&M; 70. Florida; 71. Georgia; 74. Vanderbilt
West Coast: 12. Gonzaga; 20. Saint Mary's
Other: 37. Wichita State; 47. Monmouth; 48. San Diego State; 49. Princeton; 50. Ohio; 51. UNC-Asheville; 52. UNC-Wilmington; 53. UAB; 54. Valparaiso; 55. Lehigh; 56. Texas-Arlington; 57. Long Beach State; 58. Belmont; 59. Florida Gulf Coast; 60. Stephen F. Austin; 61. New Mexico State; 62. Mercer; 63. Fairleigh Dickinson; 64. North Dakota State; 65. North Dakota; 66. Jackson State; 67. New Hampshire; 68. South Carolina State
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at @kerrancejames.