2020 NCAA Tournament Bracket: Latest Projection of the Field of 68
With just over a month to go until the 2020 men's NCAA tournament, Baylor, Kansas, Gonzaga and San Diego State are the projected No. 1 seeds.
That probably sounds like a broken record at this point. In a season that once seemed like it was going to set a new high-water mark for most losses by Associated Press No. 1 teams, those four squads have had the top line on lockdown for the past four weeks.
However, the schedule is about to get much more difficult for both Baylor and Kansas. It's also fair to wonder whether the mounting pressure of trying to go undefeated might catch up to San Diego State. And while it seems like Gonzaga can't be touched in the WCC, it does still have a tough game remaining at BYU. Things could still change drastically.
And that's only the No. 1 seeds. Work your way down to the bubble and things are as clear as mud. One loss can cost just about anyone a seed line. An 0-2 week is a recipe for disaster. And then there's Indiana, which has lost four straight during its ill-advised nosedive.
But if the season ended today, here's what the tournament bracket might look like.
For each of the four regions, we'll discuss one team in much better shape than it was one week ago and another that—though still in position to dance—isn't as good as we once thought.
Before that, we'll start with the bubble, like we always do. And after the region-by-region breakdown, there will be an explanation of why the No. 1 seeds are ranked in the order that they are. At the end is a list of overall seeds by conference as a handy reference guide.
Last 5 In
It's painful to project Arizona State as the sixth team in from the Pac-12, because at no point this season has anyone looked at that conference and thought, "Yeah, that's a six-bid league." But the AAC is a hot mess, the Big Ten is finally on a trajectory for 10 bids instead of 12 and, well, we have to get to 68 teams somehow.
The Sun Devils have won five of their last six games and have only one loss against a team not currently projected to make the tournament (Washington State). The Jan. 25 comeback win against Arizona put Arizona State in the mix, and the current three-game winning streak against Washington, UCLA and USC was a further step in the right direction.
Thursday's road game against Stanford will probably knock ASU back onto the wrong side of the bubble. Either that, or it's going to send the Cardinal free-falling toward the cut line.
Second-to-Last In: Florida Gators (14-9, NET: 45, KenPom: 47, SOS: 36)
Florida picked a bad time to have its worst offensive performance of the season, managing only 51 points in a 17-point loss at Ole Miss on Saturday. The home win over Georgia on Tuesday wasn't much better, either, as the Gators had to erase a 22-point second-half deficit to avoid that disastrous loss.
They now have four losses to teams outside the projected field—Mississippi, Mississippi State, Utah State and Connecticut—and only one win (69-47 vs. Auburn) worth boasting about. But they barely hang onto a spot in the field because Memphis and Indiana had worse weeks and no one on the outside is making much of a push for a bid.
Third-to-Last In: Virginia Cavaliers (15-7, NET: 52, KenPom: 51, SOS: 50)
Building on an impressive home win over Florida State two weeks ago, Virginia won a home game against Clemson and almost upset Louisville on the road.
While the Cavaliers were unable to get the win over the Cardinals, it was encouraging to see the offense show up for once. Virginia had been held to 65 points or fewer in each of its first 21 games and was one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country. It canned 11 triples against Louisville, but it wasn't quite enough to thwart Chris Mack's red-hot, nine-pronged attack.
If the reigning national champs can keep scoring, they should have a five-game winning streak coming up with Notre Dame, North Carolina, Boston College, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech on deck before the Feb. 29 home game against Duke.
Fourth-to-Last In: Georgetown Hoyas (14-10, NET: 53, KenPom: 52, SOS: 11)
Playing without Mac McClung (foot injury) for the past three games, Georgetown won at St. John's, won a home game against DePaul and almost erased a 16-0 deficit against Seton Hall in between. It's inexplicable that the Hoyas are treading water in the treacherous Big East with what is currently a six-man rotation, but here they are.
Can they stay, though? They play at Butler on Saturday, still have road games against DePaul, Marquette and Creighton and finish the season at home against Villanova. Even if they win the home games against Providence and Xavier, they'll need to pull off at least one unexpected upset to still have a good case for a bid at the start of the Big East tournament.
Fifth-to-Last In: USC Trojans (17-7, NET: 47, KenPom: 58, SOS: 59)
Arizona State's aforementioned win over USC was both a big positive for the Sun Devils and a rough misstep for the Trojans. It was their third consecutive loss, which eliminates their margin for error the rest of the way.
The home games against Washington and Washington State this week? Have to win them both.
The road trip to Colorado and Utah the following week? Better at least get a split.
And anything less than two out of three in the season-ending home games against Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA would be ill-advised to say the least.
First 5 Out
First Team Out: Utah State Aggies (17-7, NET: 48, KenPom: 44, SOS: 99)
When Utah State lost to Air Force in early January, it felt like the quest for an at-large bid was over. The same goes for the loss at Boise State 11 days later, and the loss at San Diego State on Feb. 1. But the Aggies somehow just keep hanging around, even though they have only one win against the top two Quadrants since Thanksgiving.
A road win over Colorado State on Tuesday would be nice, and it's hard to see how they could remain in the hunt for a spot in the field without winning that game. However, it's time to stop trying to write this team's obituary until it is definitely dead.
Second Team Out: Mississippi State Bulldogs (15-8, NET: 41, KenPom: 38, SOS: 44)
Mississippi State whiffed on a big opportunity at Kentucky, but at least it didn't lose the subsequent home game to Vanderbilt. That keeps the Bulldogs in roughly the same spot as they were one week ago. A similar split this week—win at Ole Miss; lose at Arkansas—would probably yield the same result.
But that game against Arkansas feels like a do-or-die affair since there aren't any other opportunities for big wins until the SEC tournament. Every other game left on the Bulldogs' schedule is either Quadrant 2 or Quadrant 3, and they are currently 1-6 vs. Quadrant 1. Worse yet, that lone win came at Florida, which is barely in the projected field.
Back in 2015, Georgia was able to sneak into the tournament as a No. 10 seed out of the SEC with a similar "Where the heck are the quality wins?" resume, so Mississippi State might be able to get there without the Arkansas game as long as it wins all of the other ones. But the Bulldogs could make this a lot easier by finishing off the season sweep of the Razorbacks.
Third Team Out: Minnesota Golden Gophers (12-11, NET: 40, KenPom: 31, SOS: 21)
There's no official rule that an at-large team has to be a certain number of games above .500 to be included, but 12-11 with nary a nonconference win over a projected tournament team isn't great.
The Golden Gophers had a solid week, beating Wisconsin by 18 before losing a close one at Penn State. But they've passed the point of trying to tread water with 1-1 weeks.
They likely need to go at least 5-2 the rest of the way, which is feasible. They have two games left against Indiana, one each against Nebraska and Northwestern, home games against Iowa and Maryland and a road game against Wisconsin. By 2019-20 Big Ten standards, that's hardly a murderer's row.
Fourth Team Out: Indiana Hoosiers (15-8, NET: 61, KenPom: 45, SOS: 47)
There are three Big Ten teams comfortably in the field with at least nine losses, and Minnesota is close with 11. How the heck is Indiana all the way back here during an eight-loss campaign?
We covered this a bit last week, but the long-story-short answer is that predictive analytics don't care for this team. Even when Indiana was 15-4 with quality home wins over Florida State, Michigan State and Ohio State, the Hoosiers were around No. 40 in both NET and KenPom. Now that they have lost four straight—including a 12-point home loss to Purdue on Saturday—things have taken a sharp turn for the worse.
And it isn't like the schedule gets any easier. Indiana is currently five games into a 13-game stretch against teams in the KenPom Top 35. The Hoosiers have plenty of opportunities to improve their resume, but they also legitimately might not win another game.
Fifth Team Out: Cincinnati Bearcats (15-8, NET: 46, KenPom: 39, SOS: 17)
Cincinnati probably would have been our last team in the field instead of Arizona State...if it hadn't lost at Connecticut on Sunday afternoon.
It wasn't a particularly horrible loss. It wasn't nearly as bad as the Bearcats' previous losses to Colgate, Bowling Green and Tulane. And taken in conjunction with the road win over Wichita State on Thursday, it wasn't a bad week. But "not bad" weeks aren't going to cut it for Cincinnati any more than they are for Minnesota. This team needs to win just about every game left on the schedule because of its bad losses and lack of quality wins.
East Region (New York City)
No. 1 San Diego State vs. No. 16 UC Irvine
No. 8 Rutgers vs. No. 9 Wichita State
No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 13 Akron
No. 5 Oregon vs. No. 12 Liberty
Albany, New York
No. 3 Seton Hall vs. No. 14 Colgate
No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No. 11 VCU
Greensboro, North Carolina
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Winthrop
No. 7 Creighton vs. No. 10 Northern Iowa
Noteworthy Riser: Kentucky Wildcats (Up two seed lines)
Resume: 18-5, NET: 22, KenPom: 29, SOS: 76
A mediocre nonconference strength of schedule, a lackluster road/neutral record and losses to Evansville, Utah and South Carolina kept Kentucky's tournament resume from matching up with its perceived championship potential for the first two-plus months of the season.
But things have been rapidly trending in the right direction for the past few weeks.
Since the Gamecocks mishap, the Wildcats are 6-1 with Quadrant 1 road wins over Arkansas, Texas Tech and Tennessee. The lone loss during that stretch was a road game against Auburn, which was a no-harm, no-foul outcome. They are now tied with Auburn and LSU atop the SEC standings and are the best team in the conference as far as KenPom is concerned.
Kentucky has two games remaining against bubble-y Florida, a road game against LSU, a home game against Auburn and four games it should win against the bottom half of the league. A 6-2 finish plus a respectable showing in the SEC tournament should be enough for the Wildcats to land in the top four seed lines, despite that Quadrant 4 loss to Evansville that looks more unforgivable by the day.
Noteworthy Slider: Creighton Bluejays (Down three seed lines)
Resume: 17-6, NET: 24, KenPom: 26, SOS: 38
Creighton should be our bottom No. 6 seed instead of the top No. 7 seed. But as we'll discuss shortly, finding a spot for BYU in the Nos. 7-10 seed range is impossible right now due its inability to play on Sundays for religious reasons. Thus, we had to bump the Cougars up and knock the Bluejays down a bit.
Still, Creighton took quite the tumble following a 73-56 loss at Providence on Wednesday. The Bluejays took all the good mojo from their 15-point road win over Villanova on Feb. 1 and threw it out the window four days later in a second-half meltdown at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. Normally one of the most efficient offenses in the nation, Creighton had a stretch of more than 15 minutes in which it only scored nine points against the Friars zone.
Not only was it an ugly-looking loss, but it was the Bluejays' worst of the season as far as the NET is concerned. Their other five losses all came against teams we currently have projected to make the NCAA tournament, but 11-loss Providence isn't anywhere close to that conversation.
However, Creighton is still in great shape and has plenty of opportunities remaining to bolster its resume, starting with the road game against Seton Hall on Wednesday.
Midwest Region (Indianapolis)
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Monmouth/Sacred Heart
No. 8 Ohio State vs. No. 9 Arkansas
No. 4 Penn State vs. No. 13 North Texas
No. 5 LSU vs. No. 12 Yale
No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 14 Belmont
No. 6 BYU vs. No. 11 USC
No. 2 Dayton vs. No. 15 Wright State
No. 7 Michigan vs. No. 10 Stanford
Noteworthy Riser: BYU Cougars (Up four seed lines)
Resume: 18-7, NET: 23, KenPom: 16, SOS: 32
BYU climbed only five spots on the overall seed list (from No. 33 to No. 28), but we've gone from underseeding the Cougars to overseeding them in the near-impossible quest to find a spot that works.
They're only eligible for the Midwest or West regions because they can't play on Sundays, but even the West doesn't work with WCC-mate Gonzaga as the No. 1 seed there. Moreover, they currently can't play in the Nos. 7-10 seed range in this region since both Omaha and Cleveland are Friday/Sunday pods. Thus, it was No. 6 or No. 11 seed in the Midwest or bust, and the bottom No. 7 seed is much closer to No. 6 than No. 11. We hope you've enjoyed this trip into the mindset of a bracketologist.
Still, it's worth noting that BYU's ascension continued this week with a 31-point blowout win at Portland and a subsequent 14-point home win over San Francisco. The predictive analytics already adored this team, and those types of convincing victories only make the Cougars that much more attractive.
They should also easily win the next three games (at Loyola Marymount, at San Diego, vs. Santa Clara) before the big home rematch with Gonzaga on Feb. 22. If BYU wins that one, it may open up the possibility of them to be slotted into the West Region, as it would presumably knock Gonzaga behind San Diego State in the pecking order for No. 1 seeds.
Noteworthy Slider: Stanford Cardinal (Down one seed line)
Resume: 16-7, NET: 30, KenPom: 40, SOS: 102
After landing at No. 9 in the initial NET rankings and holding steady at 14th as recently as three weeks ago, Stanford's resume is beginning to fall apart.
Losses to California and Oregon State at the end of January were problematic, but the Cardinal responded with a 70-60 home win over Oregon on Feb. 1. However, they gave away road games against Utah and Colorado this week in the process of sliding closer to the bubble.
Against the Utes, Stanford led 50-49 when it committed a foul with three seconds remaining. Timmy Allen hit one of two free throws to send the game to overtime, where Utah's offense sprang back to life for an eight-point victory. Against the Buffaloes, a 16-point lead turned into an 11-point deficit in the span of 17 minutes.
The Cardinal have home games against Arizona State and Arizona this week, and winning at least one of those games is borderline mandatory.
South Region (Houston)
St. Louis, Missouri
No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 16 Norfolk State/Prairie View A&M
No. 8 Illinois vs. No. 9 Rhode Island
Albany, New York
No. 4 Villanova vs. No. 13 Vermont
No. 5 Iowa vs. No. 12 Florida/Arizona State
No. 3 Auburn vs. No. 14 Northern Colorado
No. 6 Arizona vs. No. 11 Xavier
St. Louis, Missouri
No. 2 Louisville vs. No. 15 North Dakota State
No. 7 Marquette vs. No. 10 Saint Mary's
Noteworthy Riser: Rhode Island Rams (Up two seed lines)
Resume: 18-5, NET: 36, KenPom: 42, SOS: 40
Each of the seven teams ranked immediately ahead of Rhode Island in last week's projection lost at least one game in the past seven days. Meanwhile, the Rams extended their winning streak to 10 games, punctuated by a 31-point shellacking of George Washington on Saturday.
Next up is the big one: at Dayton on Tuesday night.
Even if Rhode Island goes 0-for-3 against the Flyers—losing the road game this week, the home game on March 4 and the projected A-10 championship game in Brooklyn—it should remain in solid shape for an at-large bid, provided it doesn't slip up anywhere else along the way. If that's the case, it would finish 24-8 with one bad loss (at Brown), one Quadrant 1 win (at VCU) and a few more victories over bubble teams. It's far too early to say with certainty, but that's probably enough this year.
The road game against Davidson on Feb. 22 is the most likely culprit to turn Selection Sunday into a sweat-fest for Rhode Island. If the Rams lose that one, they'll need to beat Dayton at some point.
Noteworthy Slider: Illinois Fighting Illini (Down two seed lines)
Resume: 15-7, NET: 34, KenPom: 27, SOS: 61
Because of a nonconference slate in which Illinois went 0-3 against the NET Top 150, it has a more volatile resume than most.
Back-to-back losses to Iowa (road) and Maryland (home) would have a nearly imperceptible negative impact for most teams at this point in the season. But when your resume is built entirely on what you've done in conference play, two league losses—even Quadrant 1 games—are liable to knock you down a few pegs.
The shame of the matter is that the Illini were in great shape to win both games. They led at multiple second-half junctures against the Hawkeyes before Luka Garza and Co. went on a 17-3 run late in that one, and they were up 14 in the first half against Maryland before going ice cold after halftime.
Such is the state of affairs for Illinois, which has no time to lick its wounds. The Illini will host Michigan State on Tuesday night—a team in dire need of a bounce-back win in its own right—before consecutive road games against Rutgers and Penn State. This minor two-game setback could turn into a five-game free fall if they aren't careful.
West Region (Los Angeles)
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Little Rock
No. 8 Texas Tech vs. No. 9 Purdue
No. 4 Butler vs. No. 13 Stephen F. Austin
No. 5 Michigan State vs. No. 12 East Tennessee State
No. 3 West Virginia vs. No. 14 New Mexico State
No. 6 Colorado vs. No. 11 Georgetown/Virginia
Greensboro, North Carolina
No. 2 Maryland vs. No. 15 Hofstra
No. 7 Houston vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
Noteworthy Riser: Purdue Boilermakers (New to the Field)
Resume: 14-10, NET: 26, KenPom: 13, SOS: 49
It's hard to ask for a better week than the one Purdue just delivered. Not only did the Boilermakers string together consecutive games without a loss for the first time since New Year's, but they annihilated Iowa 104-68 prior to an even more important 12-point road win over Indiana.
By now, everyone knows Purdue can smoke anyone at home. It defeated both Virginia and Michigan State by 29-point margins and beat Wisconsin by 19 a few weeks ago. Dismantling the Hawkeyes was impressive, but continuing to win at Mackey Arena probably wasn't going to be enough for a bid no matter how big the blowouts were.
Picking up another Quadrant 1 win at Indiana, though, was huge. Prior to that one, Purdue's only wins away from home were Quadrant 3 games at Northwestern and Ohio and a neutral-site nail-biter against VCU in November.
At this point, winning the remaining home games (Penn State, Michigan, Indiana and Rutgers) should be enough. Even if they lose the three road games (Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa), that would put the Boilermakers at 18-13 overall at the start of the Big Ten tournament with at least 11 wins against the top two Quadrants. Complain about the number of losses if you want, but good luck finding 36 better at-large resumes than that this year.
Noteworthy Slider: Michigan State Spartans (Down one seed line)
Resume: 16-8, NET: 11, KenPom: 10, SOS: 55
What a long, strange journey it has been for the preseason No. 1 team in the nation.
The tournament selection committee still has a soft spot for the Spartans. Thanks to a strong NET ranking, a true road win over Seton Hall and only one particularly bad loss (Virginia Tech in the Maui Invitational), Michigan State was the final team in Saturday's Top 16 reveal.
But that was before (well, during) a 77-68 loss to Michigan which dropped the Spartans to 3-5 over their last eight games. They also lost a home game to Penn State earlier in the week, which led many to believe that the Nittany Lions would land on the No. 4 seed line instead of the Spartans. Considering Penn State beat Minnesota shortly after Michigan State's loss to the Wolverines, it seems safe to make that swap now.
The scary thing for Michigan State is that this wasn't even the roughest stretch of the schedule. The Spartans still have to play Maryland twice, have road games against Illinois, Penn State and Nebraska and home games against Iowa and Ohio State.
They should beat the Cornhuskers, but there aren't any other gimmes on that slate. It isn't much of a stretch to think they might go 3-4 the rest of the way, plummeting all the way to a No. 8 or No. 9 seed.
Ranking the No. 1 Seeds
No. 4 San Diego State Aztecs (23-0, NET: 1, KenPom: 4, SOS: 128)
No. 3 Gonzaga Bulldogs (25-1, NET: 2, KenPom: 2, SOS: 176)
It was a little surprising to see Gonzaga slotted ahead of undefeated San Diego State during the Top 16 reveal.
Sure, Gonzaga's four-point road win over Arizona was more impressive than anything SDSU has managed this season, but it isn't like the Aztecs tiptoed their way through nonconference play. They won at BYU. They beat Creighton, Iowa and Utah on neutral courts, each by a double-digit margin. Combine that with the zero in the loss column, the No. 1 ranking in the NET and similar records against each Quadrant, and it seemed like the Aztecs should've been in the lead in the race for the No. 1 seed in the West Region.
But they weren't. And the Zags padded their lead with a 90-60 Quadrant 1 laugher at Saint Mary's on Saturday night.
Gonzaga still has to play a road game against BYU, a home game against Saint Mary's and will presumably draw one of those two in the WCC championship. However, it doesn't feel like this team is going to lose at least until the NCAA tournament. Thus, it's unlikely that San Diego State will be able to jump ahead of Gonzaga to claim the top spot in the West Region.
That doesn't mean the Aztecs are doomed to the East Region, though. Kansas still has road games against West Virginia, Baylor and Texas Tech, so perhaps the Jayhawks will drop enough games to open up the Midwest Region for San Diego State. Or maybe Duke, Louisville or Seton Hall will win out, snagging the No. 1 seed in the East and bumping San Diego State to the No. 2 seed in the West.
Not giving a No. 1 seed to an undefeated team might seem like a slap in the face, but if you're the Aztecs, wouldn't you rather have a projected Elite Eight game 115 miles from home against Gonzaga than face the ACC or Big East champion in New York City?
No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks (20-3, NET: 4, KenPom: 1, SOS: 1)
Kansas has admirably handled its business for the past four weeks, winning the majority of those eight games comfortably. But it has been a while since the Jayhawks faced a real challenger.
Yes, four of the eight wins were Quadrant 1 games—adding to KU's nation-leading mark of 10 such victories—but they were all Quadrant "1B" games, otherwise known as games against the bottom half of the top quadrant. They're good resume boosters, but we expect a projected No. 1 seed to be able to win a home game against Texas Tech and road games against Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State.
The road game against West Virginia this Wednesday, though? Now that's a real challenger. Arguably the toughest task they've faced thus far this season, in fact.
A win in Morgantown might be enough to temporarily push the Jayhawks ahead of Baylor for the No. 1 overall seed, even though they lost at home to the Bears in mid-January. And when they play the Bears in Waco on Feb. 22, buckle up.
No. 1 Baylor Bears (21-1, NET: 3, KenPom: 5, SOS: 98)
Like Kansas, Baylor has reached the end of what has been a favorable prolonged stretch of competition.
Since winning at Kansas on Jan. 11, the Bears played two games each against Iowa State and Oklahoma State, hosted TCU and Oklahoma and played at Florida, Kansas State and Texas. The Sooners are a projected No. 10 seed and the Gators are barely clinging to a spot in the projected field, but that's hardly proper competition for a No. 1 seed (from a major conference).
In the Bears' final seven regular-season games, though, they'll face West Virginia twice, host Kansas and Texas Tech and play a road game against Oklahoma—which is sandwiched between the home games against WVU and KU, no less.
Is Baylor for real? In the next four weeks, the Bears will answer that question one way or another.
Seeding by Conference
In case seeded regions aren't enough 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. The first five out are italicized.
American Athletic (2): 27. Houston; 36. Wichita State; 73. Cincinnati
Atlantic 10 (3): 6. Dayton; 34. Rhode Island; 41. VCU
Atlantic Coast (4): 5. Duke; 7. Louisville; 11. Florida State; 45. Virginia
Big 12 (5): 1. Baylor; 2. Kansas; 10. West Virginia; 31. Texas Tech; 37. Oklahoma
Big East (7): 9. Seton Hall; 13. Villanova; 16. Butler; 24. Creighton; 25. Marquette; 42. Xavier; 44. Georgetown
Big Ten (10): 8. Maryland; 14. Penn State; 17. Iowa; 19. Michigan State; 23. Wisconsin; 26. Michigan; 29. Illinois; 30. Ohio State; 32. Rutgers; 35. Purdue; 71. Minnesota; 72. Indiana
Pac-12 (6): 18. Oregon; 21. Colorado; 22. Arizona; 39. Stanford; 43. USC; 47. Arizona State
Southeastern (5): 12. Auburn; 15. Kentucky; 20. LSU; 33. Arkansas; 46. Florida; 70. Mississippi State
West Coast (3): 3. Gonzaga; 28. BYU; 40. Saint Mary's
Other (23): 4. San Diego State; 38. Northern Iowa; 48. East Tennessee State; 49. Yale; 50. Liberty; 51. Stephen F. Austin; 52. Vermont; 53. Akron; 54. North Texas; 55. New Mexico State; 56. Belmont; 57. Northern Colorado; 58. Colgate; 59. Winthrop; 60. Wright State; 61. Hofstra; 62. North Dakota State; 63. Little Rock; 64. UC Irvine; 65. St. Francis (PA); 66. Monmouth; 67. Prairie View A&M; 68. Norfolk State; 69. Utah State
Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @kerrancejames.