2020 NCAA Tournament Bracket: Latest Projected Field of 68 with 1 Month to Go
Baylor, Kansas, Gonzaga and San Diego State just keep on winning and now enter their fifth consecutive week as the projected No. 1 seeds for the 2020 men's NCAA tournament.
The six teams that were at the top of the Top 16 reveal on Feb. 8—the above four plus Duke and Dayton—have held serve wonderfully, compiling a combined record of 17-0 over the past 10 days.
The rest of that 16 has been much more of a mixed bag.
No. 8 West Virginia has lost three straight. No. 7 Louisville, No. 11 Seton Hall, No. 15 Butler and No. 16 Michigan State have each lost two of their last three. And Maryland (No. 9 in the reveal) is the only team in the No. 7-16 range that hasn't lost at least once.
So if you're expecting things to look similar to what the committee said less than two weeks ago, you're going to be sorely disappointed beyond the top two seed lines. Neither Penn State nor Kentucky was in the committee's top 16, but they are both projected for a No. 3 seed now. And Michigan State is on the verge of falling to a No. 7 seed—though that didn't stop the Spartans from reaching the Final Four in 2015.
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
Utah State kept hope alive with road wins over Colorado State and Fresno State, and moved into the projected field thanks to (among many others) Indiana's loss to Michigan on Sunday afternoon.
It seems like a safe bet that the Aggies will win their next two at home against Wyoming and San Jose State, but those Quadrant 4 results won't do anything to help their case. Rather, those games may well hurt Utah State's resume if it doesn't win them both by at least 20. But barring a disastrous loss, it will likely remain in the projected field in advance of the regular-season finale at New Mexico on Feb. 29.
If the Aggies win that one and at least make it to the semifinals of the MWC tournament, they should be in good shape. In that scenario, whether they get in would likely depend on the number of bid thieves in the other conference tournaments—the fewer, the better.
Second-to-Last In: Cincinnati Bearcats (16-8, NET: 51, KenPom: 39, SOS: 24)
Cincinnati sure does love playing overtime games against subpar opponents. This season, the Bearcats have gone an extra five minutes against Bowling Green, Valparaiso, UNLV, Connecticut, Memphis and East Carolina, winning four of those six contests. And the wins against Memphis and East Carolina came in the past week, nudging Cincinnati into the field for now.
After a home game against UCF on Wednesday, the Bearcats will host Wichita State on Sunday and play at Houston the following Sunday.
It's just about mandatory that they win one of those two games against the top teams in the AAC, considering their resume currently consists of just two wins against the top 1.5 Quadrants and three losses against Quadrant 3. Cincinnati is in no position to try to skate by with "quality losses."
Third-to-Last In: Purdue Boilermakers (14-12, NET: 33, KenPom: 26, SOS: 63)
Despite great rankings in the predictive analytics, it's right back to the bubble with Purdue after losses to Penn State and Ohio State this week.
Doesn't help matters that the home loss to Texas in early November has now fallen to a Quadrant 3 outcome, or that the wins over VCU (neutral), Minnesota (home) and Indiana (road) no longer register as victories over tournament-bound teams.
The biggest problem, of course, is that the Boilermakers have too many losses. That's not likely to end well, given the difficulty of the remaining schedule—at Wisconsin, vs. Michigan, vs. Indiana, at Iowa, vs. Rutgers. Even if they go 3-2 to finish 17-14, they'll probably also need at least one win in the Big Ten tournament to feel safe. And three wins against that slate is anything but guaranteed.
Fourth-to-Last In: Florida Gators (16-9, NET: 35, KenPom: 38, SOS: 41)
It was a rare uneventful week for Florida, comfortably beating up on Texas A&M and Vanderbilt, as it should. That didn't do anything to improve the Gators resume, but at least it didn't get worse. That's basically a big win in any given week on the bubble this year.
It's time for the rubber to meet the road, though.
The Gators host Arkansas on Tuesday and then on Saturday will play the first of their two remaining games against Kentucky. After that trip to Rupp Arena, it's back to Gainesville for a big showdown with LSU. Go two out of three, and Florida will be sitting pretty. Anything less, and it will need to enter desperation mode for the remainder of the season.
Fifth-to-Last In: Arizona State Sun Devils (17-8, NET: 50, KenPom: 58, SOS: 26)
The road win over Stanford was big. The subsequent road win over California was critical just for the sake of avoiding an awful loss.
Arizona State has now won five straight and seven of its last eight. The Sun Devils are on the short list of bubble teams actually playing their way into the field.
But that journey isn't over yet. They have six regular-season games remaining, and they probably need to win four of them. That means if they are unable to win the home game against Oregon on Thursday, they could only afford one more slip-up the rest of the way.
Given how well Bobby Hurley has his guys playing as of late, though, that shouldn't be a problem.
First 5 Out
First Team Out: Arkansas Razorbacks (16-9, NET: 48, KenPom: 44, SOS: 18)
It has been heartbreak city for Arkansas for the past few weeks. The Razorbacks lost by two to South Carolina at the end of the January, lost back-to-back overtime games to Auburn and Missouri and then came back from a 17-point second-half deficit only to lose by one to Mississippi State on a last-second tip-in.
There was also a 21-point loss to Tennessee peppered in there for a team that has lost seven of its last nine games while dropping out of the projected field. Worse yet, with Indiana and Alabama out of the picture, too, Arkansas doesn't have a single win over a projected at-large team.
If the Hogs don't win at Florida on Tuesday night, they're probably toast.
Second Team Out: Stanford Cardinal (16-9, NET: 37, KenPom: 45, SOS: 91)
Remember when Stanford was 15-2?
The Cardinal have gone 1-7 in the past month, including home losses to Arizona and Arizona State this past week. At least the one win during that cold spell came against Oregon, but it seems this team caught the "close loss" bug from Washington. All seven losses were by single digits, two of which were decided in overtime. (Can't wait to see how both teams manage to lose on Thursday when Stanford plays at Washington.)
The NET was Stanford's saving grace for the longest time, but it has slipped back to the pack, revealing a resume relatively devoid of quality wins. A 5-1 record the rest of the way should be enough to push the Cardinal back into the field, but that seems highly unlikely, given the way the last few weeks have gone.
Third Team Out: Alabama Crimson Tide (14-11, NET: 36, KenPom: 46, SOS: 5)
Three days after a road loss in overtime at Auburn, Alabama returned to Tuscaloosa for a pivotal win over LSU.
The 14-11 record doesn't look great, but 20-11 is well within the realm of possibility, as the Crimson Tide's six remaining games are against opponents not currently projected to make the NCAA tournament.
Anything short of a 6-0 finish likely won't be enough, though. Alabama has two Quadrant 1 wins at home against Auburn and LSU, but neither is that great. And that season-opening home loss to Penn is the white elephant gift that keeps on giving.
Fourth Team Out: VCU Rams (17-8, NET: 52, KenPom: 53, SOS: 68)
When you're clinging for dear life to a spot in the projected field in mid-February, the last thing you want to do is suffer a Quadrant 4 loss. VCU did just that, though, and followed up its home loss to George Mason with a 77-59 stinker at Richmond.
It was somewhat OK that they only had one Quadrant 1 win and one Quadrant 2 win when there were no bad losses, but now the Rams are in major bubble trouble. If they don't win the home game against Dayton on Tuesday night, even a 5-0 finish to the regular season might not be enough to save VCU from the NIT.
Fifth Team Out: UNC Greensboro Spartans (21-6, NET: 56, KenPom: 65, SOS: 133)
Maybe we should actually have Indiana, Minnesota or Mississippi State in this spot, but let's instead show some love to a team that didn't lose in the past week and has a 9-1 record since mid-January.
UNCG's resume more or less boils down to five games: road wins over Georgetown, Vermont and Furman, a double-overtime road loss to Wofford and a heartbreaking, last-second, resume-killing home loss to Montana State in mid-November. But if the Spartans win their last four games—vs. Wofford, at VMI, vs. Furman, at Chattanooga—they'll have a case for a bid.
They'll almost certainly need help to gain ground, but there's a good chance they'll finish top 50 in the NET. They've also climbed 25 spots on KenPom in the past five weeks and might continue that climb with a few more blowout wins.
East Region (New York City)
No. 1 San Diego State vs. No. 16 Little Rock
No. 8 Texas Tech vs. No. 9 Saint Mary's
No. 4 Auburn vs. No. 13 Akron
No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 12 Yale
Albany, New York
No. 3 Villanova vs. No. 14 Colgate
No. 6 Colorado vs. No. 11 Purdue/Florida
Greensboro, North Carolina
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Wright State
No. 7 Wisconsin vs. No. 10 Wichita State
Noteworthy Riser: Ohio State Buckeyes (Up three seed lines)
The Buckeyes sputtered for a while last month, losing six games in the span of seven. But their metrics remained in great shape throughout, enabling them to vault back up to the No. 5 seed line by winning five of their last six games.
This past week, Ohio State took care of both Rutgers and Purdue at home to improve to 17-8 overall and to get back to .500 (7-7) in Big Ten play. The latter isn't supposed to matter to the selection committee, but it's going to be a lot easier to believe the predictive analytics (No. 9 on KenPom; No. 18 in the NET) if the Buckeyes finish in the top half of the league standings.
In the win over Purdue, Kyle Young finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, each of which is his highest mark since missing the first two games of January following an appendectomy. There's no question that playing without him—or with a less-than-100-percent version of him—lowered Ohio State's ceiling for a few weeks, but this team is looking like a contender again with Young returning to form.
The Buckeyes will need to bring their A game just to work a 1-1 split this week, though. They play at Iowa on Thursday followed by a home game against first-place Maryland on Sunday.
Noteworthy Slider: Wisconsin Badgers (Down one seed line)
Kind of silly to drop the Badgers following a week in which they won their only game (at Nebraska) by a 17-point margin, but this is a slight recalibration after a slight overreaction to Wisconsin's win over Ohio State last Sunday.
That said, this is one of the toughest teams to try to seed right now.
Wisconsin has 10 losses, is 4-9 away from home and is ranked just inside the top 30 by both NET and KenPom. Those factoids have "No. 9 seed at best" written all over them. But the Badgers have seven Quadrant 1 wins, including a season sweep of Ohio State, a road win at Penn State and home wins over Maryland, Michigan State and Marquette. And six wins over teams currently seeded No. 6 or better is damn impressive.
If the Badgers are able to do this week what Ohio State did last week—home wins over Rutgers and Purdue—there's a good chance they'll follow the Buckeyes' lead and jump up to a No. 5 seed.
Midwest Region (Indianapolis)
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Saint Peter's/St. Francis (PA)
No. 8 Houston vs. No. 9 Georgetown
No. 4 Seton Hall vs. No. 13 North Texas
No. 5 Oregon vs. No. 12 Liberty
No. 3 Penn State vs. No. 14 New Mexico State
No. 6 Marquette vs. No. 11 Cincinnati/Utah State
No. 2 Dayton vs. No. 15 UC Irvine
No. 7 Michigan vs. No. 10 Xavier
Noteworthy Riser: Georgetown Hoyas (Up two seed lines)
There have been a lot of surprising upsets this season, but Georgetown going on the road and beating Butler without Mac McClung and Omer Yurtseven certainly ranks near the top of the list.
Thanks to a couple of dismissals/transfers early in the season, the Hoyas have been playing short-handed for a while now. Through 12 conference games, only seven players have averaged more than 3.1 minutes per contest, and two of those seven—arguably the two best, in fact—were unavailable against Butler.
You would think they'd be running on empty, struggling to shoot from distance, committing more turnovers and fouls, grabbing fewer rebounds, etc. Instead, they have evidently tapped into some kind of backs-against-the-wall hyper focus, shooting 10-of-15 from three-point range and only committing seven turnovers against the Bulldogs.
It was Georgetown's fifth Quadrant 1 victory of the season, and the most impressive by far. The Hoyas also have four Quadrant 2 wins and no losses outside the top two quadrants. They have 10 losses, but against one of the toughest schedules in the country, that's forgivable.
However, 14 losses would likely be a bridge too far, so they need to go at least 3-3 (plus whatever happens in the Big East tournament) the rest of the way. Considering they still have road games against Marquette and Creighton and a home game against Villanova, the easiest path to three wins includes victories over Providence (home) and DePaul (away) this week.
Noteworthy Slider: Seton Hall Pirates (Down two seed lines)
Fun with NET: Seton Hall went 0-2 this week, but actually increased from eight Quadrant 1 wins to nine thanks to Saint Louis ascending to No. 74.
Speaking of Quadrant 1, both of its losses (vs. Creighton; at Providence) were of that variety and were decided by a combined margin of eight points, so the Hall didn't fall too hard—only five spots on the overall seed list. Still, the Pirates went from being on the verge of securing a No. 2 seed to flirting with a No. 5 seed in a hurry.
And the schedule isn't softening up much from here. They do get a home game against St. John's on Sunday, which they absolutely should win, but aside from that, the remaining slate consists of home games against Butler and Villanova and road games against Marquette and Creighton.
If they continue their recent trend of occasionally opting not to show up until midway through the first half, they might collapse like a dying star. Seton Hall infamously trailed Xavier 30-6 a little over 12 minutes into that Feb. 1 loss. It had a similar disastrous start against Providence on Saturday before almost rallying all the way back from a 28-5 deficit. Back in December, it also staked Rutgers to an early 20-3 lead and never even threatened to come back.
This team is going to get into the tournament and has the talent to beat anyone, but pick the Pirates to make a deep run at your own risk. You never know when they're going to spot their opponent 20 points in the first 10 minutes.
South Region (Houston)
St. Louis, Missouri
No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 16 North Carolina Central/Prairie View A&M
No. 8 Rutgers vs. No. 9 Rhode Island
No. 4 Creighton vs. No. 13 Stephen F. Austin
No. 5 Arizona vs. No. 12 East Tennessee State
St. Louis, Missouri
No. 3 Louisville vs. No. 14 Belmont
No. 6 Michigan State vs. No. 11 Arizona State
Greensboro, North Carolina
No. 2 Maryland vs. No. 15 Winthrop
No. 7 LSU vs. No. 10 Virginia
Noteworthy Riser: Virginia Cavaliers (Up one seed line)
Neither win was pretty nor a Quadrant 1 result.
Virginia needed overtime to win at home against Notre Dame, making just one field goal in the final 11 minutes of a 50-49 rock fight. The Cavaliers also needed a last-second three-pointer from Tomas Woldetensae to win 64-62 at North Carolina.
But two ugly wins is better than what most bubble teams managed in the past week, so the reigning national champions are quietly sneaking more comfortably into the field. The Cavaliers are now 17-7 overall after winning five of their last six, and the one loss during that stretch (80-73 at Louisville) was far from reprehensible.
This offense is still a mess and there aren't many wins worth mentioning, but they should go dancing if they can win the remaining games against Boston College, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech and Miami. If they happen to pick up a home win over Duke or Louisville, too, even better. But a 4-2 finish should do the trick.
Noteworthy Slider: Louisville Cardinals (Down one seed line)
A sobering reminder that a team's full resume—and the recent successes and failures of teams seeded around them—matters so much more than what has happened in just the past couple of games, Louisville had a disastrous week and merely dropped from No. 7 to No. 12 on the overall seed list.
The Cardinals lost at Georgia Tech and at Clemson, neither of which is in the at-large conversation. (Even if the Yellow Jackets were eligible for postseason play, they wouldn't be in the mix for a bid.) And in both games, Louisville was atypically awful from the field, shooting a combined 9-of-51 from three-point range.
In particular, Jordan Nwora was off his game. One week after putting up 21 against Wake Forest and 22 against Virginia, he had seven total points and committed eight turnovers. Louisville had better hope he bounces back in a hurry or this brief losing streak will turn into a full-fledged nosedive.
But while the Cardinals struggled, so did West Virginia, Seton Hall, Butler, Michigan State, Auburn, Iowa and LSU. It feels like the Cardinals deserve a harsher punishment for those bad losses, but there simply weren't many teams in the No. 3-5 seed range who won their games and deserved to bypass them.
That said, Louisville has put itself on the chopping block, if you will. The Cards are treading water for now, but with only four Quadrant 1 wins and now two Quadrant 2 losses, they need to make sure to take care of business in their remaining home games against Syracuse, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. A loss in any of those games is liable to bump them down to a No. 4 or No. 5 seed.
West Region (Los Angeles)
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Hofstra
No. 8 Illinois vs. No. 9 Oklahoma
Albany, New York
No. 4 West Virginia vs. No. 13 Vermont
No. 5 Butler vs. No. 12 Northern Iowa
No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 14 Northern Colorado
No. 6 Iowa vs. No. 11 Richmond
No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 15 North Dakota State
No. 7 BYU* vs. No. 10 USC
*The top three teams from a conference are supposed to be placed in different regions, which would normally preclude BYU from sharing a region with Gonzaga. However, because BYU is not allowed to play on Sundays for religious reasons, that rule is being overlooked to keep the Cougars close to their deserved seed line.
Noteworthy Riser: Richmond Spiders (New to the Field)
A 19-point loss to VCU on Jan. 28 temporarily bumped Richmond off the immediate radar for an at-large bid, but an 18-point win over those same Rams this weekend—plus losses by the likes of bubble-y Indiana, Arkansas, Stanford, etc.—has put the Spiders right back into the projected field. Richmond capitalized on its opportunity against a VCU team playing without one of its best players (Marcus Evans).
Richmond is 4-0 in February. The first three wins (vs. George Washington, at Fordham, at La Salle) were more self-preservation than resume-builder, as none of those teams ranks in the NET Top 150.
The Spiders have four more games outside the NET Top 100 (vs. George Mason, at St. Bonaventure, at GW, vs. Massachusetts) coming up between now and Leap Day. As things currently sit in the NET rankings, both home games are Quadrant 4, the GW game is firmly in the Quadrant 3 range and the St. Bonaventure game will be on the border between Q2 and Q3. But it's almost mandatory that they win all four to remain in the projected at-large field.
Noteworthy Slider: Northern Iowa Panthers (Down two seed lines)
UNI's case for an at-large bid was always going to be a bit of a tightrope walk, and losing at Loyola-Chicago this weekend might have pushed the Panthers into "auto bid or bust" territory.
It's not that it was a bad loss, but rather that it was a missed opportunity for a Quadrant 2 win, which have been few and far between in Missouri Valley Conference play.
The Panthers do have a great road win over Colorado in nonconference play and put forth an impressive effort in a 60-55 loss to West Virginia on a neutral floor. But they now have three losses in a conference that otherwise has no team anywhere close to the at-large conversation. And if we're still talking about a possible at-large scenario three weeks from now, that would mean yet another UNI loss in the MVC tournament.
If the Panthers win out, maybe they climb back up to a No. 10 or No. 11 seed and bump one of the at-large "play-in" games down to the 12-line. For now, though, they're simply a terrifying No. 12 seed.
Ranking the No. 1 Seeds
No. 4 San Diego State Aztecs (26-0, NET: 1, KenPom: 4, SOS: 104)
Twenty-six games down, six to go.
San Diego State should easily win its upcoming home games against UNLV and Colorado State, but things could get a little dicey from there. The Aztecs will wrap up their regular season with a road game against Nevada, which is the second-toughest game they have played since November. And after that it'll be (up to) three games in three days in the Mountain West Conference tournament.
SDSU should be favored by multiple buckets in every game, and it probably needs to win all of them to remain on the No. 1 seed line. Both Duke and Dayton are champing at the bit for one of these top four teams to falter, and Maryland isn't far behind, either.
No. 3 Gonzaga Bulldogs (26-1, NET: 3, KenPom: 3, SOS: 164)
The Gonzaga freight train just keeps rolling. The Bulldogs were tested by Pepperdine for the second time this season, but it eventually ended how most Gonzaga games do: a victory with more than 80 points and a margin of double digits.
There's only so much Gonzaga can do to impress against West Coast Conference competition, but sitting at 12-0 with a 22.7 average scoring margin does the trick. If the Zags keep that going with a convincing road win over BYU this Saturday, they might move up to the No. 2 overall seed, supplanting the loser of the colossal Kansas at Baylor showdown.
Of course, No. 2 or No. 3 doesn't matter in the slightest. As long as Gonzaga remains in front of San Diego State, it's going to get the No. 1 seed in its preferred West Region. But it would be a cool bragging right if the Bulldogs could land at No. 1 or No. 2 overall. They have earned three No. 1 seeds (2013, 2017, 2019), but they were No. 4 overall in all three years.
No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks (22-3, NET: 4, KenPom: 1, SOS: 1)
Kansas improved its winning streak to 11 games this week in finishing off season sweeps of West Virginia, Oklahoma and Iowa State.
In the process, it proved why it is arguably the most dangerous team in the country.
The Jayhawks held West Virginia to 49 points in a 67-possession game and dropped 87 on Oklahoma in a 73-possession game. The defensive effort has been a staple throughout the season while the offensive display was a reminder of how quickly they can run away with a game when getting solid contributions from someone other than Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike—in this case, Marcus Garrett.
Up next is the rematch of its only Big 12 loss. A win at Baylor would be more than enough to vault Kansas up to the No. 1 overall seed.
No. 1 Baylor Bears (23-1, NET: 2, KenPom: 5, SOS: 81)
Baylor sees Kansas' 11-game winning streak and raises the Jayhawks another 11. The Bears still have not lost since Nov. 8, reeling off 22 consecutive victories.
I thought they would get a stiff challenge from West Virginia on Saturday, but they instead asserted their dominance, jumping out to a 22-7 lead and eventually pulling ahead by a 53-25 margin before cruising to victory.
There's still too much season left to be played to say that anyone is a lock for a No. 1 seed, but Baylor is getting close. If the Bears can win at Oklahoma and beat Kansas for a second time, it would give them 11 Quadrant 1 wins and a stranglehold on the No. 1 overall seed.
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 (3): 30. Houston; 39. Wichita State; 45. Cincinnati
Atlantic 10 (3): 6. Dayton; 34. Rhode Island; 41. Richmond; 72. VCU
Atlantic Coast (4): 5. Duke; 8. Florida State; 12. Louisville; 38. Virginia
Big 12 (5): 1. Baylor; 2. Kansas; 13. West Virginia; 32. Texas Tech; 33. Oklahoma
Big East (7): 9. Villanova; 14. Seton Hall; 16. Creighton; 19. Butler; 24. Marquette; 36. Georgetown; 37. Xavier
Big Ten (10): 7. Maryland; 10. Penn State; 20. Ohio State; 21. Iowa; 23. Michigan State; 25. Michigan; 27. Wisconsin; 29. Rutgers; 31. Illinois; 44. Purdue
Mountain West (2): 4. San Diego State; 46. Utah State
Pac-12 (5): 17. Oregon; 18. Arizona; 22. Colorado; 40. USC; 42. Arizona State; 70. Stanford
Southeastern (4): 11. Kentucky; 15. Auburn; 26. LSU; 43. Florida; 69. Arkansas; 71. Alabama
West Coast (3): 3. Gonzaga; 28. BYU; 35. Saint Mary's
Other (22): 47. East Tennessee State; 48. Northern Iowa; 49. Yale; 50. Liberty; 51. Stephen F. Austin; 52. Vermont; 53. Akron; 54. North Texas; 55. Belmont; 56. Northern Colorado; 57. Colgate; 58. New Mexico State; 59. UC Irvine; 60. Wright State; 61. North Dakota State; 62. Winthrop; 63. Hofstra; 64. Little Rock; 65. St. Francis (PA); 66. Saint Peter's; 67. Prairie View A&M; 68. North Carolina Central; 73. UNC Greensboro
Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @kerrancejames.