2020 NCAA Tournament Bracket: Latest Projection of the Field of 68
Three of the four projected No. 1 seeds for the 2020 men's NCAA tournament suffered losses on Saturday, but the only difference in our top line from one week ago is Kansas moving up one spot and supplanting Baylor as the No. 1 overall seed after a head-to-head victory.
That's right. Despite the losses, Gonzaga and San Diego State hang onto their projected No. 1 seeds. Maybe that would be different if Duke hadn't gotten spanked by NC State on Wednesday or if Maryland hadn't lost to Ohio State on Sunday, but we'll discuss that in more depth shortly.
Well beyond the No. 1 seeds, Indiana and Providence were this week's biggest risers. Neither was even listed among our first five out last week, but the Hoosiers and Friars both vaulted right past the cut line and up to No. 9 and No. 10 seeds, respectively.
However, for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction, right? Georgetown was a No. 9 seed and USC was a No. 10 seven days ago, but the Hoyas and Trojans are both on the outside looking in after tough weeks.
They may swap right back again this week, but this is what the tournament field might look like if today was Selection Sunday.
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
Last Team In: Oklahoma Sooners (16-11, NET: 55, KenPom: 42, SOS: 32)
Oklahoma entering free-fall mode is basically an annual tradition at this point.
During the Trae Young season (2017-18), the Sooners went from 14-2 to 16-11 in a little over a month. The following year, they dropped from 13-3 to 15-10. In both of those seasons, they were still able to sneak into the NCAA tournament with 13 losses.
This year's plummet from 11-3 to 16-11 might also end with a ticket to the Big Dance, but only if they're able to recover in a hurry. Games this week against Texas Tech and West Virginia might knock Oklahoma out of the conversation for good. But win either one, and the Sooners will probably still be in the projected field next week.
Second-to-Last In: North Carolina State Wolfpack (17-10, NET: 53, KenPom: 50, SOS: 53)
Heck of a week for NC State, which pounded Duke and put up a respectable fight in a home loss to Florida State. It looked like the Wolfpack had hammered the final nail into their own coffin with a loss at Boston College last Sunday, but they have surged all the way back into the field.
But now they need to prove that they belong by going 2-0 this week against North Carolina (road) and Pittsburgh (home).
NC State already has seven losses to teams not in our field and only three wins over teams projected to dance (Duke, Virginia and Wisconsin). Picking up an eighth bad loss would only make that ratio worse and would likely mandate that they beat Duke again in Cameron Indoor on Monday to avoid the NIT.
Third-to-Last In: Stanford Cardinal (18-9, NET: 31, KenPom: 34, SOS: 96)
Stanford entered this week having lost seven of its last eight games, but the Cardinal appear to have righted the ship with back-to-back road wins over Washington and Washington State, doubling their count of true road wins from two to four.
I'm still far from sold on this resume, as Stanford has four losses outside of Quadrant 1 and only two wins over projected tournament teams—one of which was a neutral-site game against last-team-in Oklahoma. But how could the Cardinal not be on the rise after two road wins in a week when seemingly every bubble team suffered at least one loss?
They have home games remaining against Utah and Colorado and road games against the Oregon schools. They definitely need to win at least two, and three would be strongly advised.
Fourth-to-Last In: Cincinnati Bearcats (18-9, NET: 54, KenPom: 41, SOS: 11)
The mid-week double-overtime loss to UCF temporarily pushed Cincinnati onto the wrong side of the bubble, but this weekend could not have gone much better for the Bearcats. Not only did they win their game against Wichita State, but Rhode Island, USC, Oklahoma, Richmond, Georgetown, Purdue, Mississippi State and North Carolina State all lost.
The four Quadrant 3 losses (Colgate, UCF, Bowling Green and Tulane) are still quite concerning, but the February wins over Houston, Memphis and Wichita State (twice) have put the Bearcats in a decent spot.
A win at Houston on Sunday would be huge. But if they lose that one and proceed to handle South Florida and Temple, a subsequent decent run in the AAC tournament might do the trick. Either way, I have a feeling we'll be arguing about this team right up until (and probably after) Selection Sunday.
Fifth-to-Last In: Rhode Island Rams (19-7, NET: 37, KenPom: 44, SOS: 54)
The overtime loss to Davidson on Saturday night wasn't the end of the world, but it does put Rhode Island firmly back on the bubble with a huge home game against Dayton coming up in a little over a week.
If the Rams can beat the Flyers, they should be good for a bid. But if they can't, they're going to enter the A-10 tournament with just one Quadrant 1 win—a road game against VCU that doesn't look anywhere near as impressive today as it did five weeks ago—and a terrible loss to Brown.
Assuming neither team suffers another bad regular-season loss, the projected A-10 semifinal between Rhode Island and Richmond is shaping up to be a "Winner Dances; Loser Goes to the NIT" type of game, provided both teams actually get that far in Brooklyn.
First 5 Out
First Team Out: USC Trojans (19-9, NET: 47, KenPom: 61, SOS: 62)
From 17-4 to 19-9, USC has spent most of February shooting itself in the foot. And with Arizona and Arizona State coming to Los Angeles in the final three days of the month, those self-inflicted, second-month-on-the-calendar wounds might not be finished yet.
Most of the losses were understandable. Getting swept by Colorado happens. Losing close road games against Arizona and Arizona State is forgivable. Those are all Quadrant 1 blemishes. But losing at Utah on Sunday night was a bridge too far a team with little more on its resume than a two-point neutral-site victory over LSU and an overtime win at home against Stanford.
USC probably needs to win two of its final three regular-season games and then make sure not to lose its Pac-12 tournament opening-round game.
Second Team Out: Richmond Spiders (20-7, NET: 49, KenPom: 52, SOS: 78)
All Richmond had to do was avoid more bad losses and it would've been fine. But the misstep at St. Bonaventure on Saturday night put the Spiders back in treacherous waters.
Making matters worse, they don't have a great path to redemptive wins. Remaining games against George Washington, Massachusetts, Davidson and Duquesne won't do much to help, and Richmond will need to at least reach the A-10 semifinals to get another crack at either Dayton or Rhode Island.
The Spiders will continue to hang around the bubble as long as they don't lose again, but they probably need some help in the form of many losses by others in this general vicinity on the overall seed list.
Third Team Out: Georgetown Hoyas (15-12, NET: 59, KenPom: 54, SOS: 17)
Quite the unfortunate 180 for Georgetown, which went straight from one of the biggest surges to one of the biggest plummets. Instead of building on the phenomenal road win over Butler, the Hoyas turned around and lost back-to-back games to Providence and DePaul.
It's still a decent overall resume. Georgetown is 4-10 vs. Quadrant 1 and 9-12 against the top two Quadrants. But at this point, the Hoyas need to play their way back into the field against a brutal remaining schedule—at Marquette, vs. Xavier, at Creighton, vs. Villanova. Even a 2-2 finish wouldn't be enough to lock them in.
Fourth Team Out: Purdue Boilermakers (14-14, NET: 36, KenPom: 25, SOS: 57)
Fun fact: If we were still using RPI—where Purdue barely ranks in the top 100—it would be completely dead and buried in this at-large conversation. But thanks to a handful of blowout home wins over Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin and Virginia, we're forced to continue considering the candidacy of the 14-loss Boilermakers.
They were in good shape after the road win over Indiana on Feb. 8, but they have since lost four straight and desperately need another win over the Hoosiers on Thursday. That won't be enough to get Purdue back into the projected field, though. It likely needs to also close out the regular season with wins at Iowa and at home against Rutgers.
Fifth Team Out: UCLA Bruins (17-11, NET: 76, KenPom: 86, SOS: 73)
UCLA is Bizarro Purdue. The predictive metrics are the only thing keeping the Boilermakers in the mix, and those same metrics are the primary thing keeping UCLA out.
Well, that and home losses to Cal State Fullerton and Hofstra.
But on the plus side, the Bruins have been on fire lately, winning nine of their last 11 games, including a season sweep of Colorado and a road win over Arizona. There's still a significant amount of work to do to make up for a terrible nonconference slate, but UCLA is at least in the hunt with three games remaining against teams currently in better shape on our overall seed list (Arizona State, Arizona and USC). A 3-0 finish would make the Bruins impossible to ignore.
East Region (New York City)
No. 1 San Diego State vs. No. 16 Radford
No. 8 Illinois vs. No. 9 Arizona State
No. 4 Auburn vs. No. 13 Akron
No. 5 Iowa vs. No. 12 Stephen F. Austin
Albany, New York
No. 3 Villanova vs. No. 14 Colgate
No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No. 11 Utah State
No. 2 Dayton vs. No. 15 Wright State
No. 7 Colorado vs. No. 10 Xavier
Noteworthy Riser: Arizona State Sun Devils (Up two seed lines)
It's fitting that a squad of Sun Devils is the hottest bubble team in the country.
Arizona State has won seven consecutive games and nine out of its last 10, most of them in nail-biting fashion. The Sun Devils trailed Arizona by 21 in the first half before coming back for a one-point victory over their in-state rivals. They also erased an early 13-point deficit en route to a two-point win over USC. Wins over Washington, Stanford, California, Oregon and Oregon State were all decided by five points or fewer, too.
That scoring margin is the biggest reason the predictive metrics haven't fully invested in this squad. Arizona State ranks 20th in the now-defunct RPI, but it is No. 41 in the NET and No. 55 on KenPom. But the Sun Devils have five Quadrant 1 wins and a 14-2 record against the other three Quadrants. Hard to imagine that team missing the cut unless it crumbles down the stretch.
At this point, though, an outright Pac-12 title seems more likely than a trip to the NIT. ASU is alone in first place with a 10-4 record and it might win out with road games against UCLA and USC and home games against Washington and Washington State.
Noteworthy Slider: Colorado Buffaloes (Down one seed line)
There were no major drops in this region. Colorado only slipped three spots on the overall seed list and would have remained a No. 6 seed were it not for Ohio State's marquee victory over Maryland on Sunday afternoon.
But as something of a Pac-12 counter to Arizona State, it's worth noting that the Buffaloes suffered their worst loss of the season on Saturday (vs. UCLA), blowing a golden opportunity to take over sole possession of first place in the conference standings.
Colorado has now been swept by the Bruins and also had a not-great home loss to Oregon State in early January. And it's nothing but road games the rest of the way, as the Buffaloes will close out the regular season at California, at Stanford and at Utah.
Even if they were to lose out, it's hard to imagine they would slide all the way to the bubble. But the Buffaloes had been a staple on our No. 6 seed line for the past six weeks, and they might now be one more loss away from sliding down to the No. 8 line.
Midwest Region (Indianapolis)
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Saint Peter's/Norfolk State
No. 8 Marquette vs. No. 9 Wichita State
No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 13 Liberty
No. 5 BYU vs. No. 12 East Tennessee State
St. Louis, Missouri
No. 3 Creighton vs. No. 14 Belmont
No. 6 Arizona vs. No. 11 Rhode Island
Greensboro, North Carolina
No. 2 Maryland vs. No. 15 South Dakota State
No. 7 Texas Tech vs. No. 10 Florida
Noteworthy Riser: BYU Cougars (Up two seed lines)
After an eight-game winning streak punctuated by a 91-78 victory over Gonzaga on Saturday night, BYU has climbed comfortably into the top 20 in both NET and KenPom and has vaulted all the way to a projected No. 5 seed.
Those predictive metrics have always been a big fan of this team and its wildly efficient offense, but the Cougars were lacking in quality wins for a long time.
Four weeks ago, we didn't even have them in our projected field because the resume consisted of a one-point road win over Houston and not much else. Since then, though, not only have they won every game and added home wins over Gonzaga and Saint Mary's, but the December neutral-site victory over Utah State looks a lot better with the Aggies climbing 25 spots in the NET rankings in the past month.
Assuming they can close out the regular season with a win over Pepperdine, the Cougars will be the No. 2 seed in the WCC tournament. That means a likely semifinal battle with Saint Mary's for the right to face Gonzaga in the title game. If BYU happens to keep this hot streak going and wins that tournament, it might mess around and match the No. 3 seed it received in Jimmer Fredette's senior season (2010-11).
[Creighton is also a noteworthy riser in this region, climbing from our bottom No. 4 seed to our top No. 3 seed after a great week against Marquette and Butler. If the Bluejays win at St. John's on Sunday, they might be projected for a No. 2 seed next week. And if they win out, a No. 1 seed is still within the realm of possibility.]
Noteworthy Slider: Marquette Golden Eagles (Down two seed lines)
Marquette has lost three straight, each one a little more troubling than the last.
The skid started with a 72-71 loss at Villanova. The Golden Eagles trailed by double digits for most of the night before storming back late to make things interesting. But a one-point road loss to a projected No. 3 seed is no big deal.
They proceeded to lose at home to Creighton (another projected No. 3 seed) by a 73-65 final score. Still not a major problem, but a little less forgivable than the Villanova game. But then they lost by 12 at Providence, despite getting 38 points from Markus Howard.
Even though it was a Quadrant 1 outcome, that one stings a bit, knocking Marquette down to a projected No. 8 seed. The Golden Eagles should finish strong, though. They'll host Georgetown and Seton Hall before road games against DePaul and St. John's. A 3-1 finish would likely get Marquette the No. 5 seed in the Big East tournament, which would likely mean an immediate opportunity to avenge the two losses to Providence.
South Region (Houston)
St. Louis, Missouri
No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 16 St. Francis (PA)/Prairie View A&M
No. 8 Saint Mary's vs. No. 9 Virginia
No. 4 Penn State vs. No. 13 Vermont
No. 5 Michigan vs. No. 12 Northern Iowa
No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 14 Northern Colorado
No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Stanford/NC State
Greensboro, North Carolina
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Hofstra
No. 7 LSU vs. No. 10 Providence
Noteworthy Riser: Providence Friars (New to the Field)
Providence isn't just new to the field; this is the first time it has even been in the conversation since early November.
The Friars had just about the worst first month of the season imaginable, going 4-4 against a slate that does not currently contain a team ranked in the KenPom Top 100. They didn't get their first top-100 win until the weekend before Christmas. Yet, out of nowhere, they have seven Quadrant 1 wins and a 10-8 record against the top two Quadrants.
After scoring wins over Butler, Creighton and Seton Hall in the first half of February, Providence punched its way into the projected field with a 10-point win at Georgetown and a 12-point win over Marquette in the past week. The Friars are now ranked in the top 50 both in NET and KenPom and are the only team outside the NET top 30 with at least six Quadrant 1 victories.
They could still vanish just as quickly as they appeared. They play at Villanova on Saturday and finish with home games against Xavier and DePaul. If they lose all three, they'd drop to 16-15 and would have little case for a bid. But if they win those two games in the Dunkin' Donuts Center, Ed Cooley would likely head to the NCAA tournament for a sixth time in seven years.
Noteworthy Slider: Penn State Nittany Lions (Down one seed line)
Prior to this week, Penn State had won eight straight, moving comfortably onto the No. 3 seed line with seven Quadrant 1 wins and a 12-5 record against the top two Quadrants. The selection committee didn't show the Nittany Lions any love in the Feb. 8 Top 16 reveal, but they won their next three games while pretty much every No. 3 and No. 4 seed suffered at least one loss.
However, after consecutive losses to Illinois and Indiana, Penn State drops back down to our projected third No. 4 seed.
It's not much of a plummet, but it is a significant one for a team that was hoping to get sent to Albany, Cleveland or Greensboro for the first two rounds. Those three pods are each within 400 miles of State College, but Spokane is about 2,000 miles away.
And before anyone comments on it, yes, I'm aware I have a potential second-round pairing between Big Ten teams here, and, yes, it's perfectly permissible under bracketing guidelines since Penn State and Michigan only met once during the regular season. As long as they don't end up running into each other in the conference tournament and as long as the top three teams from the Big Ten are in different regions, it is feasible they could square off in a No. 4 vs. No. 5 game.
West Region (Los Angeles)
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Texas State
No. 8 Houston vs. No. 9 Indiana
No. 4 West Virginia vs. No. 13 Louisiana Tech
No. 5 Oregon vs. No. 12 Yale
Albany, New York
No. 3 Seton Hall vs. No. 14 New Mexico State
No. 6 Michigan State vs. No. 11 Oklahoma/Cincinnati
No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 15 UC Irvine
No. 7 Butler vs. No. 10 Rutgers
Noteworthy Riser: Indiana Hoosiers (New to the Field)
Playing in the Big Ten can be brutal, or it can supply you with three impressive wins in the span of 11 days.
The Hoosiers recently fell out of our projected field following four consecutive losses to Maryland, Penn State, Ohio State and Purdue. But they got revenge on the Nittany Lions on Sunday afternoon. Coupled with 12-point Quadrant 1 wins over Iowa (home) and Minnesota (road) in the past two weeks, Indiana has vaulted back into the projected field in a big way.
Much like Providence, though, this could still go belly up in a hurry.
The good news is they don't have any more regular-season games against the six best teams in the Big Ten (per KenPom). The bad news is there are 12 top 40 teams in the conference, and the rest of Indiana's slate comes against that middle tier. The Hoosiers have road games against Purdue and Illinois this week, followed by home games against Minnesota and Wisconsin—and both Purdue and Minnesota are desperately searching for the necessary wins to get back into the projected field.
A 2-2 finish would likely do the trick for Indiana, but let's see which version of this team decides to show up down the stretch.
Noteworthy Slider: Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Down two seed lines)
There has been no lack of drama in this Rutgers season, and whether the 29-year tournament drought comes to an end is shaping up to be a photo finish.
The Scarlet Knights have had 12 of their last 13 games decided by single digits. Unfortunately, five of the last six close games—including both in the past week against Michigan and Wisconsin—have resulted in losses, and a dreadful road/neutral record (1-9) has become quite the eyesore.
Granted, seven of those 10 games were against the top half of Quadrant 1, which are difficult tasks for anyone. But the 0-7 record in those games does not bode well for the immediate future.
In addition to a tough home game against Maryland on March 3, Rutgers has road tilts remaining against Penn State and Purdue. And while it's still too early to project their potential draw in the Big Ten tournament with any degree of certainty, there's going to be a Quadrant 1 neutral-site affair at some point. (Unless the Scarlet Knights immediately lose to either Nebraska or Northwestern, in which case, ouch.)
If they lose the next three and get bounced from the Big Ten tournament right away, the NCAA tournament drought likely continues.
Ranking the No. 1 Seeds
No. 4 San Diego State Aztecs (26-1, NET: 5, KenPom: 5, SOS: 103)
San Diego State suffered its first loss of the season this weekend, falling at home against UNLV. But that's not yet enough to knock the Aztecs down to the No. 2 seed line, because the gap between the No. 1 and No. 2 lines heading into Saturday was about as wide as the Grand Canyon.
It does open the door for them to possibly get jumped by a strong-finishing ACC, Big Ten or Big East team, though. Just not today. Might have been a different story if Maryland had comfortably won at Ohio State on Sunday, but the Terrapins lost instead.
Most of the Aztecs faithful have already convinced themselves they would be better off as the No. 2 seed in the West Region anyway, so at least there won't be too much heartbreak if and when they take that step down a peg. But they better win the remaining games against Colorado State and Nevada just to make sure they don't plummet all the way to a No. 3, as current No. 3 seeds Creighton and Kentucky are charging hard for a No. 2.
No. 3 Gonzaga Bulldogs (27-2, NET: 3, KenPom: 3, SOS: 131)
Gonzaga also slipped back to the pack a bit with a 13-point loss at BYU on Saturday night, snapping a 40-game regular-season winning streak in the West Coast Conference. The Zags' loss wasn't anywhere near as bad as San Diego State's, though, so they have even more of a cushion over the Aztecs for the No. 1 seed in the West Region than they had one week ago.
But even if Gonzaga wins out from here—home wins over San Diego and Saint Mary's followed by a WCC tournament title—it is also at the mercy of the top teams from the three aforementioned major conferences.
If Duke, Maryland, Seton Hall, Villanova or Creighton wins out, it's going to have a strong case for the No. 2 overall seed behind the Big 12 champ. And if two of those teams can run the table from here, that likely relegates Gonzaga to the No. 2 seed line.
The Bulldogs can't afford to be worrying about that, though. Just win these remaining games and hope for the best while rooting for chaos during the final five days of Championship Week.
No. 2 Baylor Bears (24-2, NET: 2, KenPom: 2, SOS: 63)
No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks (25-3, NET: 1, KenPom: 1, SOS: 1)
Baylor's 23-game winning streak came to an end in a three-point home loss to Kansas, but the Bears are still head and shoulders ahead of everyone except for the Jayhawks.
Kansas is 11-3 vs. Quadrant 1 while Baylor is 10-1 in those opportunities. Aside from those Big 12 powerhouses, the only other team in the country with at least 10 Quadrant 1 victories is Seton Hall. But the Pirates have two more losses (seven) than Baylor and Kansas combined (five), making it impossible to even mention them together in the same breath as far as resume strength goes.
There's still work to be done, though.
They should both go 2-0 this week—Baylor vs. Kansas State and at TCU; Kansas vs. Oklahoma State and at Kansas State—but neither team gets to ease its way into the Big 12 tournament. Baylor finishes with a home game against Texas Tech and a road game against West Virginia, and Kansas' quest to start a new Big 12 regular-season title streak will conclude with a tough road game against the Red Raiders.
But if you think the selection committee is going to have any issue with putting two teams from the same conference in the top two spots, think again. Just last year, the ACC produced the top three teams on the overall seed list in Duke, Virginia and North Carolina. So if Baylor and Kansas are able to set up a Round III in the Big 12 championship, they should hold down these top two spots.
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): 32. Houston; 36. Wichita State; 43. Cincinnati
Atlantic 10 (2): 5. Dayton; 42. Rhode Island; 71. Richmond
Atlantic Coast (5): 7. Duke; 8. Florida State; 13. Louisville; 34. Virginia; 45. NC State
Big 12 (5): 1. Baylor; 2. Kansas; 16. West Virginia; 26. Texas Tech; 46. Oklahoma
Big East (7): 9. Creighton; 10. Villanova; 11. Seton Hall; 28. Butler; 30. Marquette; 37 Xavier; 38. Providence; 70. Georgetown
Big Ten (10): 6. Maryland; 15. Penn State; 18. Iowa; 19. Michigan; 21. Ohio State; 22. Michigan State; 24. Wisconsin; 29. Illinois; 35. Indiana; 39. Rutgers; 72. Purdue
Mountain West (2): 4. San Diego State; 41. Utah State
Pac-12 (5): 17. Oregon; 23. Arizona; 25. Colorado; 33. Arizona State; 44. Stanford; 69. USC; 73. UCLA
Southeastern (4): 12. Kentucky; 14. Auburn; 27. LSU; 40. Florida
West Coast (3): 3. Gonzaga; 20. BYU; 31. Saint Mary's
Other (22): 47. East Tennessee State; 48. Northern Iowa; 49. Stephen F. Austin; 50. Yale; 51. Liberty; 52. Vermont; 53. Akron; 54. Louisiana Tech; 55. Belmont; 56. Northern Colorado; 57. New Mexico State; 58. Colgate; 59. Wright State; 60. South Dakota State; 61. Hofstra; 62. UC Irvine; 63. Texas State; 64. Radford; 65. St. Francis (PA); 66. Prairie View A&M; 67. Saint Peter's; 68. Norfolk State
Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @kerrancejames.