2021 Men's NCAA Tournament Bracket: Latest Projection of the Field of 68

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National Analyst

2021 Men's NCAA Tournament Bracket: Latest Projection of the Field of 68

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    Gonzaga's Jalen Suggs
    Gonzaga's Jalen SuggsYoung Kwak/Associated Press

    Selection Sunday for the 2021 men's NCAA tournament is somehow less than two weeks from today, and the Gonzaga Bulldogs still have not suffered a loss. They are, naturally, our projected No. 1 overall seed, followed by Michigan, Baylor and Illinois. (Ohio State slipped off the No. 1 line with its loss to Iowa on Sunday, but the Buckeyes are still close.)

    The No. 1 seed race has been a bit uneventful this year, but bubble drama never disappoints. That's more true than ever this year with big-name programs like Duke, Michigan State and Indiana still trying to play their way into the field before time runs out.

    Will those brand-name programs sneak in at the eleventh hour, or will the Nos. 11 and 12 seed lines be overrun with teams from the Atlantic 10, Missouri Valley and Mountain West Conferences this year?

    It's too early to say with any degree of certainty, but if the tournament started today, this is what we believe 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 this year. 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 thatthough still in position to danceisn'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 March 1.

Last Five In

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    Georgia Tech's Michael Devoe (0) and Moses Wright (5)
    Georgia Tech's Michael Devoe (0) and Moses Wright (5)Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Last Team In: Wichita State Shockers
    13-4, NET: 66, KenPom: 74

    Wichita State sneaking into the field with these metrics would almost feel like redemption for all those years that the NCAA tournament selection committee put the Shockers in the Nos. 7-11 seed range in spite of their remarkable ratings in the various predictive analytics. That would have no bearing whatsoever on whether this year's Wichita State receives a bid. It's just a fun observation.

    As far as this resume is concerned, that home win over NET No. 4 Houston on Feb. 18 was massive for the Shockers. And though they have not played since then, they have benefited from recent losses by other bubble teams like Seton Hall, Indiana, Duke, Minnesota, Saint Louis and Stanford.

    It should go without saying for the last team in the projected field, but Wichita State cannot afford a slip-up this week in road games against Temple and Tulane. Those are both Quadrant 3 games. A loss to either one would be the Shockers' worst loss of the season, by far, and would leave them in "Auto Bid or Bust" territory.

    Even if they're able to win both of those games, they're probably still going to be in the "Last Five In" range at the start of the AAC tournament.


    Second-to-Last In: Drake Bulldogs
    24-3, NET: 42, KenPom: 56

    The loss at Bradley in the regular-season finale on Saturday leaves Drake in a precarious situation.

    All season long, there have been major questions about the Bulldogs' lack of quality wins. They did finally get a Quadrant 1 winby one point, at home, in overtimeagainst Loyola-Chicago a couple of weeks ago, but they also now have a pair of Quadrant 3 losses weighing them down.

    Worse yet, there's the question of roster strength. Roman Penn and Tank Hemphill were indispensable during Drake's 18-0 start to the season. The former is now out for the year, and the latter might be able to return for the NCAA tournament after missing the past seven games with a broken foot.

    Fans love to argue that losses suffered without key players shouldn't count against the team as much as a full-strength loss would. I'll be curious to find out how the committee handles this inverse situation of a team that was almost unbeatable at full strength, but that would be sending a considerably less-than-full-strength team to the dance.

    The Bulldogs had better at least make it to the MVC championship game, and they might need to win it.


    Third-to-Last In: St. Bonaventure Bonnies
    13-4, NET: 28, KenPom: 34

    All St. Bonaventure had to do was not lose to Dayton on Monday night and it would have been just about a lock to reach the NCAA tournament. Maybe an immediate, bad loss in the A-10 tournament would have made the Bonnies sweat out Selection Sunday, but they probably would have been fine.

    Instead, they did lose to the Flyers, adding an unpleasant Quadrant 3 misstep to their resume right at the end of the regular season. Their metrics are still great, but can a team whose four best wins were at Richmond, at Davidson, vs. VCU and vs. Davidson rest easy now that it has a bad loss for the committee to consider?

    At this moment, I'm not quite sure how much work the Bonnies need to do in the A-10 tournament, but it's definitely some work. Anything short of reaching the A-10 semifinals would probably be a fatal mistake.


    Fourth-to-Last In: Michigan State Spartans
    13-10, NET: 77, KenPom: 62

    The 18-point loss to Maryland on Sunday afternoon was, obviously, less than ideal. But with home wins over Illinois and Ohio State earlier in the week, Michigan State still did enough in the past seven days to jump into the projected field.

    Prior to that, the Spartans' best wins of the season were at Duke, at Indiana and vs. Rutgers, so adding that pair of wins against teams in the hunt for No. 1 seeds was nothing short of massive.

    They're only halfway through their season-ending six-game gauntlet, though. They'll host Indiana on Tuesday before back-to-back games against Michigan. Winning at least one of those games is mandatory. Two would be preferable, though if the one win comes against Michigan, that's probably sufficient.


    Fifth-to-Last In: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
    13-8, NET: 40, KenPom: 32

    For the first time all season, let's welcome Georgia Tech to the projected field.

    The Yellow Jackets got out to a disastrous start to the year, losing back-to-back home games to Georgia State and Mercer. Those Quadrant 3 results have been hurting the resume all year. But they are 13-6 (with no additional bad losses) since then, including an 11-point home win over Florida State in late January and a 16-point road win over Virginia Tech last week. They also have home wins over Clemson, North Carolina and Kentucky.

    If they can add one more blue-blood victory against Duke at home on Tuesday night, they'll be in fantastic shape. After all, they're already top-40 in both NET and KenPom with a few quality wins. But even if the Yellow Jackets let that one slip away, a subsequent win at Wake Forest would keep them buzzing right around the projected cut line.

First Five Out

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    Duke's Matthew Hurt
    Duke's Matthew HurtAndrew Dye/Associated Press

    First Team Out: Seton Hall Pirates
    13-10, NET: 53, KenPom: 42

    Seton Hall went from "in good shape" to "better not suffer another bad loss" to "needs to play its way back into the field" in the span of less than 100 hours. The loss at Georgetown last Saturday put the Pirates on the bubble, and then the Wednesday night loss at Butler knocked them out of the field.

    The good news is they had a strong road/neutral record prior to that rough patch. Seton Hall won at Connecticut, at Xavier, at Penn State, at Marquette, at Providence and at DePaul, and it darn near won the road games against Villanova and Louisville. That type of proven ability to play away from home always sits well with the selection committee.

    However, the Pirates already had bad losses to Rhode Island and Providence and now have four losses to teams outside the projected fieldcompared to just two wins against likely tournament teams. They'll close at home against Connecticut before a road game against St. John's. They probably need to win them both.


    Second Team Out: Duke Blue Devils
    11-9, NET: 59, KenPom: 35

    Duke would have moved into the field with a win over Louisville on Saturday night, but losing in overtime (despite 37 points from Matthew Hurt) leaves the Blue Devils on the outside looking in as we enter the home stretch.

    They'll close out the regular season with a massive bubble game at Georgia Tech on Tuesday night and an equally large road game against North Carolina on Saturday. Win either game and they'll still have an at-large pulse but would likely enter the ACC tournament on the wrong side of the projected cut line. Win both games, though, and I'd put Duke's dancing odds at somewhere around 90 percent.


    Third Team Out: Syracuse Orange
    14-8, NET: 56, KenPom: 59

    If Syracuse had lost to North Carolina on Monday night, the Orange would have been all but officially removed from the at-large conversation. After all, they have no Quadrant 1 wins and were swept by Pittsburgha team nowhere close to the at-large mix.

    But if bracketologists around the globe have learned one thing in the past five years, it's that you can't bury Syracuse until it is definitely dead. Naturally, the Orange clipped the Tar Heels by a deuce to live to see another day in "First Five Out" land.

    All they have left before the ACC tournament is a home game against Clemson on Wednesday. If they win that one, there's a good chance they would at least temporarily move into the projected field. But even with a loss, they could still play their way in with a big upset of Florida State or Virginia in next week's tourney.


    Fourth Team Out: Indiana Hoosiers
    12-12, NET: 58, KenPom: 37

    Up until this week, Indiana had spent the entire season one to three games above .500 overall. After three consecutive losses to Michigan State, Rutgers and Michigan, though, the Hoosiers have plummeted into the danger zone.

    If they were to win their remaining games at Michigan State and Purdue, they might be OK. They already have a season sweep of Iowa and only have two losses to teams outside the NET Top 35 (vs. Michigan State; vs. Northwestern). A 14-12 overall record isn't pretty, but going 4-9 against Quadrant 1 and 10-11 against the top two Quadrants makes that record a little easier to stomach.

    Lose either of the remaining regular-season games, though, and they would need a deep run in the Big Ten tournament to have any realistic hope for a bid.


    Fifth Team Out: Minnesota Golden Gophers
    13-12, NET: 69, KenPom: 58

    Minnesota was already on thin ice, and now the Golden Gophers are flailing in frigid water following bad losses to both Nebraska and Northwestern. They are 0-9 away from home and have lost 10 of their last 13 overall.

    We have to at least keep the Gophers in the conversation because of their quality wins over Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa and Purdue. If they were to close out the regular season with victories over Penn State (road) and Rutgers (home), then they would be right back in the mix for a bid. Given how poorly they played this past week, though, we probably don't need to worry about that happening.

Still in the Conversation

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    Stanford's Ziaire Williams
    Stanford's Ziaire WilliamsTed S. Warren/Associated Press

    The list of teams with realistic aspirations of making the tournament is shrinking by the day, but there are a handful of teams beyond the First Five Out who could still sneak in with a strong finish. These are those teams in alphabetical order.

    Memphis Tigers: Memphis took care of business against Tulane and Cincinnati this week to improve to 14-6. The big one is still to come, though, when the Tigers finish the regular season at Houston. They aren't a strong candidate right now, but a win over the Cougars would change that in a huge way.

    North Texas Mean Green: The loss at Marshall on Saturday probably eliminated what little hope the Mean Green had for an at-large bid, but the metrics are still respectable (top-65 in both NET and KenPom). If the committee decides to omit all the major-conference teams with at least 10 losses, maybe North Texas still has a prayer.

    Ole Miss Rebels: Like North Texas, Ole Miss probably put the final nail in its own coffin with a Saturday loss to Vanderbilt. The Rebels do have a season sweep of Missouri, though, plus a home win over Tennessee. If they beat both Kentucky and Vanderbilt this week and go on a decent run in the SEC tournament, maybe there's still a chance here.

    Richmond Spiders: Richmond was going to be our "Second Team Out" right up until the bad home loss to Saint Joseph's on Monday night. Between the neutral-site win over Loyola-Chicago and the road wins over Kentucky and Davidson, it's hard to rule this team out of the at-large conversation. But that Quadrant 4 loss (Richmond's second of the season) was probably the final straw.

    Saint Louis Billikens: Saint Louis had a tough-luck, last-second loss at VCU before getting a badly needed home win over Richmond to remain in the mix. Of the A-10's four at-large candidates, the Billikens might have the most work to do in the conference tournament. Making it to the championship game is probably mandatory.

    SMU Mustangs: SMU last played on Feb. 8, has only played 15 games and doesn't have anything close to a Quadrant 1 win. Yet the Mustangs are in the top 60 on both NET and KenPom and could score a huge win over Houston in the AAC tournament.

    St. John's Red Storm: The home loss to DePaul two weekends ago was a huge blow to St. John's at-large case. The Johnnies do still have a great home win over Villanova and a solid road win over Connecticut, though. If they can get to 16-10 with home wins over Providence and Seton Hall this week, they'll have a chance.

    Stanford Cardinal: Stanford's case for a bid was already questionable prior to the home losses to Oregon and Oregon State in the past week. But the Cardinal do have a fantastic 18-point win over Alabama already on their resume and will get a shot at redemption Wednesday night at USC. A win over the Trojans would be their fifth against Quadrant 1 and would bring them back into the conversation. Lose that one, though, and they would drop to 5-11 against the top two quadrantsAKA auto bid-or-bust territory.

    Utah State Aggies: Getting swept by Boise State two weeks ago pushed the Aggies to the brink of elimination, but they bounced back with a sweep of Nevada to keep hope alive. Beat Wyoming and Fresno State this week and at least make it to the semifinals of the MWC tournament and they've got a shot.

Region 1

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    Florida's Tre Mann
    Florida's Tre MannMichael Woods/Associated Press

    No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Norfolk State / Prairie View A&M
    No. 8 Missouri vs. No. 9 UCLA

    No. 4 Oklahoma State vs. No. 13 Colgate
    No. 5 Purdue vs. No. 12 Toledo

    No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 14 Abilene Christian
    No. 6 Clemson vs. No. 11 Boise State

    No. 2 Iowa vs. No. 15 South Dakota State
    No. 7 Florida vs. No. 10 Xavier


    Stock Up: Florida Gators (Up One Seed Line)
    13-6, NET: 26, KenPom: 28

    Florida's resume looks a lot better following road wins over Auburn and Kentucky in the past seven days.

    Neither team is in the NET Top 60, nor will it be in the NCAA tournament field (Auburn is ineligible; Kentucky is six games below .500). Still, those were each Quadrant 1 results, bringing the Gators to 4-3 against that group and 8-5 against the top two Quadrants.

    The early February home loss to South Carolina is still an eyesore, but the Gators have done much more good than bad over the past six weeks. If that continues this coming week against Missouri (home) and Tennessee (road), then they could jump another seed line or two.


    Stock Down: Missouri Tigers (Down Two Seed Lines)
    14-7, NET: 47, KenPom: 48

    In 2018, Oklahoma just barely made it into the selection committee's early Top 16 reveal, and then the Sooners collapsed all the way down to a No. 10 seed.

    Missouri seems to be following that same script this year.

    A few hours after the Top 16 reveal, the Tigers lost at home to Arkansas. Three days later, they suffered a bad road loss to Georgia. And then this past week's home loss to Ole Miss was arguably their biggest misstep of the season thus far.

    The six Quadrant 1 winsmost notably the home games against Illinois and Alabama—should keep the Tigers from sliding into any serious bubble trouble. But if they were to lose their remaining games (at Florida, vs. LSU), they would likely be looking at a double-digit seed.


    Dream First-Round Matchup: Missouri vs. UCLA

    Three cheers for nostalgia. UCLA's Tyus Edney going the length of the court for a game-winner against Missouri in the second round of the 1995 NCAA tournament isn't quite Christian Laettner vs. Kentucky in 1992 or Lorenzo Charles vs. Houston in 1983, but it's easily one of the 10 most memorable moments in the history of the Big Dance.

Region 2

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    Louisville's Carlik Jones
    Louisville's Carlik JonesGerry Broome/Associated Press

    No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 16 Bryant / James Madison
    No. 8 BYU vs. No. 9 Louisville

    No. 4 Texas Tech vs. No. 13 Winthrop
    No. 5 Virginia vs. No. 12 Drake / Wichita State

    No. 3 Villanova vs. No. 14 Furman
    No. 6 Tennessee vs. No. 11 Colorado State

    No. 2 West Virginia vs. No. 15 Weber State
    No. 7 USC vs. No. 10 North Carolina


    Stock Up: Louisville Cardinals (Up Two Seed Lines)
    13-5, NET: 46, KenPom: 44

    It took more than three months and an overtime period to boot, but Louisville finally got its first Quadrant 1 win of the season at Duke on Saturday. The Cardinals now boast a season sweep of the Blue Devils in addition to home wins over Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Seton Hall and Kentucky. There's not a particularly fantastic win in that bunch, but that's an impressive collection of victories for a team on this year's bubble.

    The metrics are still not enamored with this team, though it's easy to see why. Louisville lost by 37 to Wisconsin and by 45 to North Carolina. In the former, it was their first game in 18 days, and they were playing without star guard Carlik Jones. In the latter, it was their first game in 19 days, and things got out of hand in a hurry. But those two blowouts have left the Cardinals with an average margin of victory of just 3.0 points this season.

    While the win at Duke definitely helped, the Cardinals are still in a bit of bubble peril. They're outside the top 40 in both NET and KenPom, and they close out the regular season with two difficult games (at Virginia Tech; vs. Virginia). A win in either one would lock them into the field. But losing both games would drop them to 1-6 vs. Quadrant 1 with a bad loss at Miami also on the resume. A subsequent immediate exit from the ACC tournament would be a problem.


    Stock Down: USC Trojans (Down Two Seed Lines)
    19-6, NET: 25, KenPom: 21

    Barely 10 days ago, USC looked like a team that could play its way into a No. 2 seed—maybe even the No. 1 line if things got wild in the Big Ten and Big 12. The Trojans were 18-3 overall and had a remaining schedule loaded with Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2 opportunities.

    As they've discovered, though, the problem with Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2 opportunities is you can lose a lot of them if you're not careful.

    The Trojans scored a nice home win over Oregon last Monday, but then they suffered back-to-back losses at Colorado and Utaheach by double digits. They were at full strength in both games, but they just got crushed from three-point range, shooting 7-of-29 (24.1 percent) while allowing 21-of-37 (56.8 percent).

    USC also didn't get much out of its freshman phenom, Evan Mobley, in either game. He has now had three consecutive games with 13 or fewer points and either zero or one blocks. That's quite the drop-off from the previous 13 games, in which he averaged 18.2 points and 3.5 blocks. Maybe it's just a brief lull, but if he's out of gas here at the finish line, more questionable losses could be coming USC's way.


    Dream First-Round Pairing: Virginia vs. Drake / Wichita State

    Could the reigning national champions lose in the first round to one of the last two teams into the field? In the past few weeks, Drake eked out a 51-50 win over Loyola-Chicago, and Wichita State beat Houston in a 59-possession game. That means they've each proven at least once that they can beat a quality team at Virginia's preferred tempo.

Region 3

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    Arkansas' JD Notae
    Arkansas' JD NotaeMichael Woods/Associated Press

    No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 16 Siena
    No. 8 Oregon vs. No. 9 Maryland

    No. 4 Arkansas vs. No. 13 Belmont
    No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 12 Western Kentucky

    No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 14 UC Santa Barbara
    No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No. 11 VCU

    No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 UMBC
    No. 7 San Diego State vs. No. 10 LSU


    Stock Up: Arkansas Razorbacks (Up One Seed Line)
    19-5, NET: 19, KenPom: 18

    You're not going to find many teams hotter than the Razorbacks right now.

    They went 6-0 in February, which includes impressive road wins over Missouri and Kentucky, as well as home wins over Florida, Alabama and LSU. Those latter two games came within the past week, and the 15-point victory over the SEC regular-season champion Crimson Tide was especially noteworthy. (Alabama fans would kindly ask you to take note of the free-throw discrepancy, though, since Arkansas was awarded 43 shots to Alabama's eight.)

    The Razorbacks now have six Quadrant 1 wins and only one loss that currently sits outside the top half of Quadrant 1 (vs. Missouri on Jan. 2). Not only did they climb from a No. 5 to a No. 4, but they are also knocking on the door of a No. 3 seed, which would be their first time on the top three seed lines since reaching the 1995 national championship as a No. 2 seed.

    They should easily take care of business this coming week against South Carolina and Texas A&M to lock up the No. 2 seed in the SEC tournament with a 21-5 overall record. A No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament is probably out of reach, but the Razorbacks could land on the No. 2 line if they win the SEC tourney.


    Stock Down: LSU Tigers (Down Two Seed Lines)
    14-8, NET: 31, KenPom: 30

    As just mentioned, Arkansas beat LSU over the weekend. That wasn't the result that hurt the Tigers, though. The 13-point loss at Georgia was predominantly responsible for this damage.

    Surprisingly, it barely did anything to LSU's metrics. After their worst loss of the season, the Tigers merely dropped one spot in the NET and two spots on KenPom. All the same, it raised some concerns about a team with just two wins (both at home) against projected tournament teams. And one of those two wins came against Arkansas at a point in the season when it was playing without starting power forward Justin Smith and losing games left and right.

    LSU is still in good shape to dance, but that loss to Georgia erased most of its bubble cushion. If the Tigers were to lose the home game against Vanderbilt on Tuesday night, that would probably knock them out of the projected field.


    Dream First-Round Pairing: Oregon vs. Maryland

    Nothing in this region jumps off the page, but Oregon-Maryland would be a good battle between middling seeds who seem to have finally hit their stride over the past few weeks. It would also be the first meeting between these two programs in at least seven decades.

Region 4

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    Colorado's McKinley Wright IV
    Colorado's McKinley Wright IVDavid Zalubowski/Associated Press

    No. 1 Illinois vs. No. 16 Texas State
    No. 8 Virginia Tech vs. No. 9 Connecticut

    No. 4 Texas vs. No. 13 Wright State
    No. 5 Creighton vs. No. 12 St. Bonaventure / Michigan State

    No. 3 Houston vs. No. 14 Liberty
    No. 6 Colorado vs. No. 11 Georgia Tech

    No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 15 Grand Canyon
    No. 7 Loyola-Chicago vs. No. 10 Rutgers


    Stock Up: Colorado Buffaloes (Up Two Seed Lines)
    19-7, NET: 13, KenPom: 16

    Heading into the Thursday and Saturday home games against USC and UCLA, Colorado wasn't quite a lock to reach the NCAA tournament.

    At the time, the Buffaloes had an impressive road win over USC and solid NET/KenPom metrics but not much else. And with Quadrant 3 losses to Utah, California and Washington already on their resume, closing out the season with home losses to USC, UCLA and Arizona State would have left them in bubble peril.

    But they swept those Southern California schools by a combined 27 points, both cementing their spot in the field and climbing a few rungs up the overall seed list.

    Senior leader McKinley Wright IV racked up 15 points and 14 assists in the win over the Trojans, and then he went for 26 and six against the Bruins. With Evan Mobley sputtering a bit for USC and Oscar da Silva missing the past couple of games while Stanford dropped out of the tournament conversation, Wright might be the new favorite for Pac-12 POY.


    Stock Down: Virginia Tech Hokies (Down One Seed Line)
    15-5, NET: 45, KenPom: 45

    It's not easy to drop a seed line following a week in which you win a game by 38 points, but Virginia Tech found a way.

    That's how mercilessly the Hokies pounded Wake Forest over the weekend, but that did little to make up for the 16-point home loss to bubble-residing Georgia Tech earlier in the week. Virginia Tech now has five losses on the season, none of which came against teams currently projected for a single-digit seed.

    It also didn't help VT's case that its two marquee wins (vs. Virginia; Villanova on a neutral floor) lost a bit of luster with each of those teams going 4-3 in February.

    The Hokies are still somewhat comfortably in the field for now. However, if they were to lose their remaining regular-season games (vs. Louisville; at NC State), this could turn into a photo finish.


    Dream First-Round Pairing: Loyola-Chicago vs. Rutgers

    Loyola-Chicago boasts the most efficient defense in the country, but it lost by 14 at Wisconsin in its only game of the year against a definite tournament team. Rutgers, on the other hand, is one of the most battle-tested teams in the country with 12 Quadrant 1 games, six of which were against the NET Top 8. That's an intriguing contrast in records and strengths of schedule, though both teams are more than comfortable playing a game in the low 60s.

Ranking the No. 1 Seeds

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    Michigan's Isaiah Livers
    Michigan's Isaiah LiversCarlos Osorio/Associated Press

    No. 4 Illinois Fighting Illini
    18-6, NET: 6, KenPom: 6

    At this point, Gonzaga, Michigan and Baylor are pretty much locked in as No. 1 seeds, and it feels like just Illinois and Ohio State are jostling for the final No. 1 seed.

    That could change, of course. If West Virginia wins out, it would be in fantastic shape. The same goes for Iowa, Alabama and, to a lesser extent, Florida State. But as things currently stand, the Illinois at Ohio State game scheduled for Saturday is a de facto play-in game for a No. 1 seed.

    For now, though, I've got the Illini slightly ahead of the Buckeyes, the latter of whom is mired in a three-game losing skid.

    With an 8-5 record in Quadrant 1 games, Illinois is tied with Michigan for the most Q1 wins in the nation. Granted, three of those wins (at Penn State, at Indiana, at Minnesota) came against teams not currently projected to make the tournament, and only one of the eight wins came against the NET Top 20 (vs. Iowa), but it's still an impressive accomplishment.


    No. 3 Baylor Bears
    18-1, NET: 3, KenPom: 3

    Baylor suffered its first loss of the season this past Saturday at Kansas, slipping one spot on the overall seed list as a result. The Bears also had a tough time winning a home game against Iowa State earlier in the week. That close call against an 0-14 Big 12 team was much more concerning than the loss to a title contender.

    This was their first action in three weeks, though, and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua's absence was painfully obvious. Baylor's primary big man didn't play at all against Iowa State and only managed two points in 11 minutes against Kansas. NPOY candidate Jared Butler also got out to a slow start against the Cyclones and had a brutal night against the Jayhawks, scoring a season-worst five points against a defense he torched for 30 in mid-January.

    The Bears have three more regular-season games before the Big 12 tournament, so there's still time for them to rediscover that dominant form they had prior to the COVID-19 pause. Keep a close eye on JTT and Butler to see if that happens. If and when those guys bounce back, Baylor should once again be regarded as a heavy favorite to reach the Final Four.


    No. 2 Michigan Wolverines
    18-1, NET: 2, KenPom: 2

    Last Sunday's road win over Ohio State cemented Michigan as one of the three best teams in the country. Subsequent blowouts of Iowa and Indiana have propelled the Wolverines past Baylor and onto something of a 1A/1B tier with Gonzaga.

    Unless Gonzaga loses in the WCC tournament, I don't imagine Michigan will be able to leapfrog the undefeated Bulldogs. However, if the Wolverines were to close out the regular season with wins over Illinois and Michigan State (twice) and then proceed to win the Big Ten tournament, they would surely have enough quality wins to warrant earning the No. 1 overall seed.

    First things first, though: Hunter Dickinson vs. Kofi Cockburn on Tuesday night is going to be an amazing battle.


    No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs
    24-0, NET: 1, KenPom: 1

    Gonzaga got out to slow starts in its games against Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount this past week but eventually cruised to another two wins by double digits.


    The Zags have now put the finishing touches on their first undefeated regular season in program history and have just two games left to likely lock up the No. 1 overall seed. They will probably face either Saint Mary's or Loyola Marymount in the WCC semifinals on March 8 before presumably drawing BYU in the championship game the following night.

    Even if they were to lose in that tournament, a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance is all but guaranteed.

Seeding by Conference

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    Oregon's Eugene Omoruyi
    Oregon's Eugene OmoruyiAshley Landis/Associated Press

    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): 9. Houston; 48. Wichita State

    Atlantic 10 (2): 43. VCU; 46. St. Bonaventure

    Atlantic Coast (7): 12. Florida State; 17. Virginia; 24. Clemson; 31. Virginia Tech; 36. Louisville; 39. North Carolina; 44. Georgia Tech; 70. Duke; 71. Syracuse

    Big 12 (7): 3. Baylor; 8. West Virginia; 11. Kansas; 13. Texas; 15. Texas Tech; 16. Oklahoma State*; 18. Oklahoma

    Big East (4): 10. Villanova; 19. Creighton; 35. Connecticut; 37. Xavier; 69. Seton Hall

    Big Ten (9): 2. Michigan; 4. Illinois; 5. Ohio State; 7. Iowa; 20. Purdue; 21. Wisconsin; 33. Maryland; 38. Rutgers; 45. Michigan State; 72. Indiana; 73. Minnesota

    Missouri Valley (2): 26. Loyola-Chicago; 47. Drake

    Mountain West (3): 28. San Diego State; 41. Boise State; 42. Colorado State

    Pac-12 (4): 22. Colorado; 25. USC; 32. Oregon; 34. UCLA

    Southeastern (6): 6. Alabama; 14. Arkansas; 23. Tennessee; 27. Florida; 29. Missouri; 40. LSU

    West Coast (2): 1. Gonzaga; 30. BYU

    Other (20): 49. Toledo; 50. Western Kentucky; 51. Colgate; 52. Winthrop; 53. Belmont; 54. Wright State; 55. UC Santa Barbara; 56. Furman; 57. Liberty; 58. Abilene Christian; 59. South Dakota State; 60. Weber State; 61. Grand Canyon; 62. UMBC; 63. Texas State; 64. Siena; 65. James Madison; 66. Bryant; 67. Prairie View A&M; 68. Norfolk 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.