2021 NCAA Tournament Bracket: Latest Projection of the Field of 68
Gonzaga and Baylor remain the projected top two overall seeds for the 2021 men's NCAA tournament, though Michigan and Ohio State announced their mutual presence on the other half of the No. 1 seed line with a sensational head-to-head battle on Sunday afternoon.
Those are clearly the four best teams in the country as things stand, but don't go locking them in just yet. There are less than three weeks remaining until Selection Sunday, but teams like Illinois, Alabama and Iowa could still make a run at a No. 1 seed.
And is that...could it be...Kansas we see lurking on the outer fringe of the No. 1 seed conversation? The Jayhawks aren't quite in that mix yet, but they are back up to a No. 4 seed after a couple of weeks languishing down on the No. 6 line. If they were to win games against Texas and Baylor this week and subsequently make a deep run in the Big 12 tournament, let's just say it could get interesting.
But if the season ended today, this is our best guess at what the bracket would look like.
With the 2021 NCAA tournament to be held entirely in Indiana, regional and sub-regional locations aren't a bracketology consideration. During the top-16 reveal, the regions were boringly named Region 1, Region 2, Region 3 and Region 4. Until they announce something better, that's the nomenclature we'll use.
For each of those four regions, we'll discuss one team in better shape than it was in last week's projection and another that—though still in position to dance—isn't sitting so pretty anymore. We'll also discuss which first-round matchup in each region would be most entertaining.
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 they are. At the end is a list of overall seeds by conference as a handy reference guide.
All NET and KenPom data current through the morning of Feb. 22.
Last Five In
Last Team In: Seton Hall Pirates
13-9, NET: 49, KenPom: 38
This past week was a "Must Go 2-0" slate for Seton Hall against sub-.500 DePaul and Georgetown.
Instead, the Pirates barely won the home game against DePaul and then lost at Georgetown in the process of dropping down to the tournament cut line. They now have three losses outside of Quadrant 1, nine losses overall and a supply of best wins (at Penn State, at Xavier, at Connecticut) that doesn't do much to remove warts.
Seton Hall likely needs to go 3-0 the rest of the way in games at Butler and St. John's and at home against Connecticut. This resume simply cannot handle another Quadrant 2 or Quadrant 3 loss.
Second-to-Last In: St. Bonaventure Bonnies
11-3, NET: 37, KenPom: 42
The A-10 is eating itself alive. Saint Louis got blown out by Dayton on Friday. Three days after VCU knocked Richmond further out of the at-large conversation, the Rams lost to George Mason.
But at least St. Bonaventure survived the week, winning at home against Davidson to move into a tie with VCU for first place in the conference standings. The Bonnies were uncharacteristically hot from three-point range in that one, making a season-best 11 three-pointers in a much-needed 69-58 victory.
Up next is a rematch with the Wildcats in North Carolina, followed by home games against George Washington and Dayton before the end of the month. As with Seton Hall, St. Bonaventure might need to win all three.
Third-to-Last In: Indiana Hoosiers
12-10, NET: 52, KenPom: 33
Indiana started the week strong with a 10-point home win over Minnesota, but following it up with a Quadrant 3 loss to Michigan State leaves the Hoosiers in serious bubble trouble.
Glass half full: The season sweep of Iowa and the win over Maryland look better by the day with both of those teams surging up the projected seed list. Could be a situation similar to 2017, when Vanderbilt went 19-15 overall but got into the tournament as a No. 9 seed because of a 3-0 record against what was otherwise a very good Florida team.
Glass half empty: The Hoosiers now have 10 losses with several arduous tests remaining. They'll be at Rutgers on Wednesday, they'll host Michigan on Saturday and then they wrap up the regular season with back-to-back road games against Michigan State and Purdue. They could lose all four of those games, but they probably need to win at least two of them to dance.
Fourth-to-Last In: VCU Rams
16-5, NET: 35, KenPom: 46
VCU is technically the A-10's projected automatic bid, so while the Rams are our fourth-to-last team in, they are not projected to participate in the "First Four" games. Hopefully that clears up any potential confusion on that front.
The Rams have slipped to this range on the overall seed list because of a home loss to George Mason over the weekend—their second Quadrant 3 loss of the year, which does not pair well with an 0-3 record in Quadrant 1 games.
Adding injury to insult, star player and leading scorer Nah'Shon "Bones" Hyland suffered a sprained foot late in that loss to George Mason. His availability for upcoming games is not yet known. If he's unable to play against Saint Louis or at Davidson in the next week, there's a much greater chance VCU will lose those games and drop out of the tournament picture.
Fifth-to-Last In: Colorado State Rams
14-4, NET: 46, KenPom: 66
While all those other bubble teams were sputtering through bad losses on Saturday, Colorado State moved up the seed list by standing still. The Rams haven't played since Feb. 6, but that means they haven't lost in more than two weeks. In most years, bubble teams have to play their way into the field. With the way things are going this year—and especially within the past seven days—any week without losses is a positive.
Keep that in mind when Colorado State plays a pair of Quadrant 4 home games against Air Force in the coming week. Those games won't do anything to help the Rams' resume. As long as they don't lose either game, though, they're going to enter the home stretch in great shape.
The big question is: Which postponed series will get rescheduled for next week? Colorado State missed out on a home series against 1-13 (in MWC play) New Mexico and a road series against 9-5 (in MWC play) Nevada, and the Mountain West has intentionally left an open week before its conference tournament in hopes of making up at least some of the games that were lost during the regular season. If the Rams have to play those games at Nevada, that's a brutal, possibly bubble-popping way to end the year.
First Five Out
First Team Out: Duke Blue Devils
11-8, NET: 56, KenPom: 31
One week ago, I was frantically working on a "Duke might be better off without Jalen Johnson" column. Three wins later, the Blue Devils are right back in the thick of the at-large conversation.
The home win over Virginia on Saturday was the big one. Beating up on NC State, Wake Forest and Syracuse helped improve Duke's metrics, but that was the much-needed Quadrant 1 win over a then-AP Top 10 opponent that could help negate the bad losses to Miami and Notre Dame.
Thus far, though, Duke is just back in the conversation; not quite back in the projected field. The Blue Devils still have a home game against Louisville and road games against Georgia Tech and North Carolina ahead, and they must win at least two of those games to have a reasonable shot at getting in.
As NET rankings currently stand, if they were to beat the Cardinals and Yellow Jackets and lose to the Tar Heels, they would be 13-9 overall with a 3-4 Quadrant 1 record and an 8-7 record against the top two Quadrants. As long as they don't immediately lose in the ACC tournament, that might do the trick.
Second Team Out: Saint Louis Billikens
11-4, NET: 48, KenPom: 51
Losing at Dayton wasn't that bad, but losing by 23 was inexcusable. That loss cost the Billikens nearly 20 spots in both the NET and KenPom rankings, and those metrics were previously the saving grace for a team that had only played three games against the top two quadrants.
Granted, in those three games, they had nice home wins over LSU and St. Bonaventure. But now that they have suffered a season sweep at the hands of Dayton in addition to a bad loss to La Salle, we had to drop them out for now.
Big game at VCU coming up on Tuesday night. Win that one and they'll be right back in the field. If the Billikens are unable to get that W, though, they must win remaining home games against Richmond and Massachusetts and probably make a deep run in the A-10 tournament to have a case for a bid.
Third Team Out: Wichita State Shockers
11-4, NET: 68, KenPom: 73
Wichita State launched itself into the conversation with a 68-63 home win over Houston on Thursday. The Shockers previously had a respectable road win over Ole Miss and no particularly bad losses, so it's no surprise that one big win could make such a big impact on an otherwise nondescript resume.
Can they now back that up with back-to-back wins over a pretty good SMU team (top 60 in both NET and KenPom)? If they do, the Shockers would almost certainly jump into next week's projected field.
Fourth Team Out: Michigan State Spartans
11-9, NET: 81, KenPom: 65
Because of the 30-point loss to Iowa, the 30-point loss to Rutgers and the 25-point loss to Minnesota, Michigan State's metrics are some kind of ugly. But they have three decent wins (vs. Rutgers, at Indiana, at Duke) and have only suffered two losses to teams outside the NET top 35 (at Minnesota, at Northwestern).
More importantly, they have massive opportunities ahead. The Spartans host Illinois Tuesday night and Ohio State Thursday night before a Sunday road trip to Maryland. After that, it's a home game against Indiana and back-to-back battles with Michigan. Shoving all of those games into a 12-day window is a grind-and-a-half, but if they can win three of those six, they'll have an at-large pulse.
Fifth Team Out: Syracuse Orange
13-7, NET: 47, KenPom: 53
The Monday night loss to Duke was never even close, but the Orange would have had a strong case to move into the projected field if they had won that game. They're not going to suddenly disappear from the conversation because of that outcome.
They're clearly in a lot of bubble trouble, though, with an 0-5 record against Quadrant 1 plus a season sweep at the hands of Pittsburgh. Even if they win the two remaining games currently on their schedule (at Georgia Tech, vs. North Carolina), that would probably just get the Orange into their all-too-familiar position of probably needing a win or two in the ACC tournament to feel somewhat safe.
Others Under Consideration
Without fail, some of you yell at me every week for not including a team you think is at least worthy of "First Five Out" status. So, this time, we're including some quick thoughts on a few teams who almost made it into the "almost in the field" group. These teams are presented in alphabetical order, and any team who couldn't even make it onto this list has a LOT of work to do and not enough time left in which to do it.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: If only we could disregard the season-opening home losses to Georgia State and Mercer. Since that awful start, the Yellow Jackets are 11-6 overall with wins over Florida State, Clemson, North Carolina and Kentucky. Even with those terrible losses, the metrics are keeping GT afloat. A win at Virginia Tech on Tuesday night would be massive.
Kentucky Wildcats: It's a pipe dream at 8-13 overall, but the Wildcats have won three straight, including Saturday's blowout road win over Tennessee. It's very likely auto bid or bust at this point. If they were to win every remaining game except for the SEC championship, though, maybe there would be a case.
Marshall Thundering Herd OR North Texas Mean Green: A two-bid Conference USA is a bit unlikely and hasn't happened since 2012. But there are five teams in the league in the NET top 100. These are the two highest-ranked of those teams, and they square off at Marshall twice this coming weekend. If either team gets a sweep, it could sneak into the at-large mix.
Memphis Tigers: Getting swept by Tulsa does not help Memphis' case, but the Tigers have a few decent wins (SMU, Wichita State, Saint Mary's) and—similar to where Wichita State was one week ago—could make a big jump by adding a win over Houston. Memphis has yet to face the Cougars this season, but it is slated to host them on March 7. Stay tuned.
Ole Miss Rebels: After a four-game winning streak that included victories over Tennessee and Missouri, Ole Miss was sitting in the on-deck circle in last week's bracket projection. But after a 10-point home loss to Mississippi State on Saturday, the Rebels have been called back to the dugout. Much like Georgia Tech's game at Virginia Tech, an Ole Miss win at Missouri on Tuesday night would be huge.
Penn State Nittany Lions: If we're mentioning 8-13 Kentucky, we've got to mention 7-12 Penn State, which ranks top 50 in both metrics and has several quality wins. When the Nittany Lions were 7-8, it felt like they had a decent chance at dancing. But after four consecutive close losses, it would take a miracle now.
Richmond Spiders: The neutral-site win over Loyola-Chicago still looks excellent, and the road win over Kentucky has gained some value over the past couple of weeks. But the Quadrant 4 loss to La Salle and the near-the-bottom-of-Quadrant 3 loss to Hofstra effectively nullifies those wins. The blown opportunity at VCU this past week may have been the final straw for the Spiders, but a win at Saint Louis this coming Friday would give them new life.
SMU Mustangs: Much like Memphis, SMU has no Quadrant 1 wins and one Quadrant 3 loss. But unlike Memphis, SMU already blew both of its chances against Houston (by a combined 36 points). If the four-loss Mustangs were to sweep Wichita State this week, though, that would be a huge shot in the arm.
St. John's Red Storm: For a brief window on Saturday evening, the Johnnies were in beautiful position to move into the field. All they had to do was avoid suffering a bad home loss to DePaul. Whoops. St. John's is at Villanova on Tuesday night for an opportunity to undo that bad loss and then some.
Stanford Cardinal: If we officially recognized a Sixth Team Out, it would be Stanford. But the Cardinal would be in the field right now were it not for that triple-overtime loss to Washington State over the weekend. The 82-64 neutral-site win over Alabama keeps us from ever removing Stanford from the at-large conversation. But the four Quadrant 2 losses and nine total losses aren't helping. A home win over Oregon this coming Thursday is a must.
Utah State Aggies: Since storming into the projected field in mid-January, Utah State has lost four of its last six games, including getting swept at Boise State this past week. The Aggies must win both home games against Nevada this week if they want to have any hope of an at-large bid.
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Prairie View A&M / Morgan State
No. 8 San Diego State vs. No. 9 Oregon
No. 4 Texas vs. No. 13 Winthrop
No. 5 Arkansas vs. No. 12 Western Kentucky
No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 14 Liberty
No. 6 Missouri vs. No. 11 Minnesota
No. 2 Iowa vs. No. 15 Vermont
No. 7 Clemson vs. No. 10 Connecticut
Stock Up: Oregon Ducks (Up One Seed Line)
14-5, NET: 42, KenPom: 37
Even as a rising No. 9 seed, Oregon still feels egregiously underrated.
From a full resume perspective, it's what the Ducks deserve. They have two bad home losses to Oregon State and Washington State, and their three best wins—vs. Colorado, at Arizona, Seton Hall on a neutral court—are just OK.
But they entered Monday night's road loss to USC on a five-game winning streak and are finally rounding into shape now that they're getting healthy.
Even with Eugene Omoruyi fouling out in 28 minutes and Chris Duarte struggling through a rare off night, Oregon still had enough depth to eke out a win over Utah over the weekend. That wouldn't have been the case a couple weeks ago when they were routinely playing games without multiple of their best players.
If they can stay healthy the rest of the way, the Ducks should be able to win the road games against Stanford, Cal and Oregon State. Couple that with a good showing in the Pac-12 tournament and they would likely climb up to a No. 7 seed to at least avoid drawing a No. 1 seed in the second round.
Stock Down: Minnesota Golden Gophers (Down Two Seed Lines)
13-10, NET: 60, KenPom: 49
Much has been made this season about Minnesota's inability to win on the road, and with good reason. The 82-72 loss at Indiana dropped the Golden Gophers to 0-8 away from home.
Because all eight of those games were Quadrant 1 and because they did have quality wins at home over Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa and Purdue, it felt like the Gophers would still get in with room to spare so long as they continued to protect home court.
That went out the window with a 94-63 loss to Illinois on Saturday. Minnesota now has 10 losses, nine of which were by double digits.
At this point, they might need to go 4-0 the rest of the way. At the very least, they need to win both of this week's battles against Northwestern (home) and Nebraska (road). Letting either of those slip away would be Minnesota's worst loss of the season, by far. After that, they close the season at Penn State and vs. Rutgers. A 1-1 split of those games might be enough depending on what else transpires on the bubble, but the Gophers are not making this easy on themselves.
Dream First-Round Pairing: Arkansas vs. Western Kentucky
It wouldn't exactly be a head-to-head clash since one plays small forward and the other is a center, but sign me up for Moses Moody vs. Charles Bassey. The former is a likely lottery pick and the latter should be a first-rounder. NBA scouts would have a close eye on this one.
No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 16 Texas State / Bryant
No. 8 Colorado vs. No. 9 North Carolina
No. 4 Tennessee vs. No. 13 Colgate
No. 5 Creighton vs. No. 12 Belmont
No. 3 Houston vs. No. 14 Wright State
No. 6 Purdue vs. No. 11 Drake
No. 2 Illinois vs. No. 15 South Dakota State
No. 7 Virginia Tech vs. No. 10 Xavier
Stock Up: North Carolina Tar Heels (Up One Seed Line)
14-7, NET: 34, KenPom: 29
Recognizing how badly it needed a "pick me up" game after an ugly loss at Virginia and in advance of a difficult final few weeks of the regular season, North Carolina sent out an open call for someone to come play them during the Tuesday-Thursday timeframe this past week. Northeastern answered the call, lost by 20 and gave the Tar Heels the confidence to absolutely blitz Louisville on Saturday.
Led by a combined 40 points from freshmen Day'Ron Sharpe and Kerwin Walton, North Carolina destroyed the Cardinals 99-54 and launched back into great shape in the predictive analytics. (Louisville suffered an equal but opposite reaction, as we'll get into shortly.)
The Tar Heels still only have one Quadrant 1 win this season, and that road victory over Duke isn't worth anywhere near what it normally is. But they'll have three more opportunities at quality wins when they host Florida State and Duke and play at Syracuse.
Given how much that win over Louisville helped their resume, the Heels probably only need to win one of those three games to remain in the field. And given how well they've played for the bulk of the past month, they'll probably win at least two of the three.
Stock Down: Xavier Musketeers (Down Two Seed Lines)
12-4, NET: 50, KenPom: 58
Xavier was also a "Stock Down" team last week, as things are getting dire in a hurry for the Musketeers.
Last week, it was a home loss to Connecticut that hurt them. It wasn't a terrible loss by any means, but it was an ill-advised misstep for a team whose two best wins of the season were at home against Oklahoma (impressive) and Toledo (not so much).
This week, it was a 93-84 loss at St. John's, which is much more concerning. The X-Men now have three questionable losses, and that doesn't look good in juxtaposition with the aforementioned minimal supply of quality wins.
Because of mutual COVID-19 pauses, Xavier has not played Villanova at all, and at this point, it's hard to imagine they'll be able to find space to schedule a game. It's also unlikely that Xavier will end up playing its previously postponed road games against Seton Hall or Connecticut. Those should have been four of the six toughest games on Xavier's schedule (the other two being the series with Creighton), and it's becoming a problem for the at-large case that those weren't played.
Add it all up and Xavier is currently 0-3 against the Big East's other projected tournament teams with a home game against Creighton as the only game of that ilk left on the schedule. If the Musketeers are unable to knock off the Bluejays, the selection committee might be unable to find a spot for them in the field.
Dream First-Round Pairing: Tennessee vs. Colgate
I'm starting to buy in on Colgate as a team that—though nowhere near as good as its lofty NET ranking—could knock off a scuffling No. 4 or No. 5 seed in the first round. With a 5-5 record in its last 10 games and just one win against a projected NCAA tournament team since early January, Tennessee fits that description. And when these two teams met in the first round of the 2019 tournament, Colgate led midway through the second half and it was a three-point game in the final two minutes.
No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 16 James Madison
No. 8 LSU vs. No. 9 BYU
No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 13 UC Santa Barbara
No. 5 USC vs. No. 12 Indiana / Colorado State
No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 14 Abilene Christian
No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No. 11 VCU
No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 15 Eastern Washington
No. 7 Oklahoma State vs. No. 10 Maryland
Stock Up: Kansas Jayhawks (Up Two Seed Lines)
17-7, NET: 16, KenPom: 23
It has been a well-documented difficult season for the blue-blood programs, but after losing five of its first 11 Big 12 games, Kansas is starting to emerge as a title contender with five consecutive victories.
Granted, three of those games were against Iowa State (two) and Kansas State, who now have a combined record of 1-25 against the rest of the conference. Those results didn't do anything to help Kansas' tournament resume, but they did serve as evidence that the Jayhawks' defense and big men have become a major strength.
That was driven home in Saturday's 67-61 win over Texas Tech, in which Jalen Wilson and David McCormack combined for 28 points and 19 rebounds. When that duo is doing its thing, Kansas is the second-best team in the Big 12 and one of the 10 best teams in the country.
The Jayhawks can further demonstrate that this week, as they will close out their regular season at Texas and vs. Baylor. Winning either of those games would likely keep them on the No. 4 seed line. Win them both and you might see Kansas vault to a No. 2 seed in advance of the Big 12 tournament.
Stock Down: Wisconsin Badgers (Down One Seed Line)
16-8, NET: 20, KenPom: 13
The Badgers stopped the bleeding a bit with a road win over Northwestern on Sunday night, but games against the Big Ten's top tier have proved that Wisconsin does not belong in that group.
The Badgers entered the week with an 0-4 record against that club. They were swept by Michigan and lost to both Ohio State and Illinois. Those four games were decided by an average margin of 14.5 points. Keeping that unfortunate trend going, they lost at home to Iowa by 15 on Thursday night in what was their fifth loss in eight games.
They still have one game each against Illinois and Iowa to potentially change that narrative. Alternatively, the Badgers may well lose both of those games and the road test against Purdue in between to slip all the way down to a No. 8 / No. 9 first-round game.
Dream First-Round Pairing: Florida State vs. Abilene Christian
Florida State is the tallest team in the country, and arguably the deepest and most athletic. Leonard Hamilton's Seminoles get after you in relentless, gigantic waves. Abilene Christian is also ridiculously deep and forces turnovers better than anyone else, but the Wildcats are one of the shortest teams in the country. Could David topple Goliath in a battle of teams who don't have anyone averaging 30 minutes per game?
No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 16 Siena
No. 8 Florida vs. No. 9 UCLA
No. 4 Virginia vs. No. 13 Toledo
No. 5 Texas Tech vs. No. 12 Seton Hall / St. Bonaventure
No. 3 West Virginia vs. No. 14 Furman
No. 6 Loyola-Chicago vs. No. 11 Louisville
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 15 Grand Canyon
No. 7 Rutgers vs. No. 10 Boise State
Stock Up: Boise State Broncos (From Fourth Team Out to No. 10 seed)
18-4, NET: 32, KenPom: 55
While most of the teams that were on the bubble one week ago suffered at least one bad loss in the past seven days, Boise State picked up a pair of quality home wins over Utah State to surge into first place in the Mountain West Conference standings.
The Broncos previously had road wins over BYU and Colorado State, but little else. That's why back-to-back early February losses to Nevada knocked them out of the projected field for a few weeks. They are back with a vengeance, though, in advance of a massive series at San Diego State.
Both teams are somewhat comfortably in the field at the moment, and a split of that two-game set would keep the status quo. Even if Boise State gets swept, though, there's a good chance it would get in—provided it doesn't also suffer a bad loss in the early rounds of the MWC tournament.
Stock Down: Louisville Cardinals (Down Three Seed Lines)
11-5, NET: 53, KenPom: 52
Heading into Saturday night's game against North Carolina, Louisville was coming off a COVID-19 pause of nearly three weeks, and head coach Chris Mack didn't even know who would be available to play. As it turned out, all eight of Louisville's leading scorers played, as did big man Malik Williams, who was making his 2020-21 season debut.
But between the time off, the roster uncertainty and the fact that North Carolina has hit its stride offensively over the past few weeks, things got ugly. Really ugly. The Cardinals lost by 45, resulting in a major plummet in the metrics. They started Saturday at No. 32 in both NET and KenPom. They're now outside the top 50 in both.
Losing by that much is, of course, never a good idea. But for a team that is 0-4 against Quadrant 1, that type of beatdown can be catastrophic.
Louisville is 6-0 against Quadrant 2 and has some impressive wins over the likes of Virginia Tech, Seton Hall and Duke, but the Cardinals will need to do some serious work down the stretch. After a home game against Notre Dame on Tuesday, they are scheduled to finish the regular season at Duke, at Virginia Tech and vs. Virginia. They must go at least 2-2 in those games and may even need to win three of them.
Dream First-Round Pairing: Florida vs. UCLA
These programs have met four times in the past seven decades. All four games came in the last 15 years in the NCAA tournament, and all four resulted in convincing wins for Florida. Included in that series were the 2006 national championship and a 2007 Final Four game. Intriguing that the winner would get to draw Ohio State in the next round, as that was also the case in 2007.
Ranking the No. 1 Seeds
No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes (18-5, NET: 7, KenPom: 7)
No. 3 Michigan Wolverines (16-1, NET: 3, KenPom: 3)
Even if Sunday's Michigan at Ohio State game had been a blowout in either direction, both teams were likely going to remain on the projected No. 1 seed line. They were merely battling to determine in which No. 3 / No. 4 order they enter the final three weeks before Selection Sunday.
It wasn't a blowout, though. Far from it. It was perhaps the best game of the season to date, reinforcing the notion that these are the two best teams outside of Gonzaga and Baylor.
Ohio State scoring 87 points on Michigan's defense was sensational. The Buckeyes have scored nearly at will for much of the season, but that was the surest sign that Duane Washington Jr. and E.J. Liddell could carry this mediocre defense to the Final Four.
On the opposite side, winning at Ohio State was, by far, Michigan's best result of the season. The Wolverines have now won three consecutive Quadrant 1 games since coming out of their COVID-19 pause with three more (vs. Iowa, at Indiana, vs. Illinois) on tap in the next eight days. They cooled off considerably in the second half, but that 10-of-13 three-point performance in the first half was championship-caliber stuff.
No. 2 Baylor Bears (17-0, NET: 2, KenPom: 2)
If you're the type of person who doesn't start getting into college basketball until after the Super Bowl, you're still waiting to see this Baylor team everyone keeps talking about.
The Bears last played on Feb. 2 because of a lengthy COVID-19 pause, but they are finally returning to action Tuesday night at home against Iowa State. That game against the winless-in-the-Big 12 Cyclones is as favorable a return to action as Baylor could ask for, though playing West Virginia two nights later and then at Kansas two nights after that is going to put the Bears to the test in a hurry.
Even if they're a little bit rusty, though, they're more than good enough to win all three of those games. Baylor has not yet played in a game decided by fewer than eight points, and it has held all but three opponents below 70 points. (And two of the exceptions were a 112-82 win over Louisiana and a 105-76 win over Alcorn State, in which the opposing team did most of its scoring in the "fourth quarter" of a blowout.)
No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs (22-0, NET: 1, KenPom: 1)
On a Saturday full of bubble chaos and losses by five AP Top 25 teams, Gonzaga casually decimated San Diego 106-69 to remain the projected No. 1 overall seed.
This latest blowout came two days after a 22-point win over the third-best team in the West Coast Conference (Saint Mary's) and one week after a 39-point road win over the league's fourth-best team (San Francisco).
Granted, the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC all saw one of their better teams lose by double digits to Gonzaga earlier this season, so we can't pretend it's just a WCC problem. This Zags team is encroaching on historic levels of dominance.
If they run the table and you want to put an asterisk on it because they didn't play 40 games, you might as well start calling into question some of John Wooden's greatest teams as well, since they "only" went 30-0 during their reigns of terror.
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 (1): 12. Houston; 71. Wichita State
Atlantic 10 (2): 45. VCU; 47. St. Bonaventure; 70. Saint Louis
Atlantic Coast (6): 11. Florida State; 13. Virginia; 26. Virginia Tech; 27. Clemson; 33. North Carolina; 41. Louisville; 69. Duke; 73. Syracuse
Big 12 (7): 2. Baylor; 9. Oklahoma; 10. West Virginia; 14. Kansas; 16. Texas; 17. Texas Tech; 25. Oklahoma State*
Big East (5): 7. Villanova; 18. Creighton; 39. Connecticut; 40. Xavier; 48. Seton Hall
Big Ten (10): 3. Michigan; 4. Ohio State; 5. Illinois; 8. Iowa; 21. Wisconsin; 22. Purdue; 28. Rutgers; 37. Maryland; 43. Minnesota; 46. Indiana; 72. Michigan State
Missouri Valley (2): 24. Loyola-Chicago; 42. Drake
Mountain West (3): 31. San Diego State; 38. Boise State; 44. Colorado State
Pac-12 (4): 19. USC; 29. Colorado; 34. Oregon; 36. UCLA
Southeastern (6): 6. Alabama; 15. Tennessee; 20. Arkansas; 23. Missouri; 30. LSU; 32. Florida
West Coast (2): 1. Gonzaga; 35. BYU
Other (20): 49. Western Kentucky; 50. Belmont; 51. Winthrop; 52. Colgate; 53. UC Santa Barbara; 54. Toledo; 55. Wright State; 56. Abilene Christian; 57. Furman; 58. Liberty; 59. Vermont; 60. Eastern Washington; 61. Grand Canyon; 62. South Dakota State; 63. Siena; 64. James Madison; 65. Texas State; 66. Bryant; 67. Prairie View A&M; 68. Morgan State
*Oklahoma State is appealing a postseason ban. Until/unless that appeal is heard, the Cowboys are presumed to be eligible.
Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @kerrancejames.