2022 Men's NCAA Tournament Bracket: March 1 Projection of the Field of 68

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystMarch 1, 2022

2022 Men's NCAA Tournament Bracket: March 1 Projection of the Field of 68

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    Gonzaga's Rasir Bolton and Saint Mary's Logan Johnson
    Gonzaga's Rasir Bolton and Saint Mary's Logan JohnsonJeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Though March did not officially begin until this morning, the Madness was out in full force on Saturday with seven of the AP top 10 teams losing in a single day for the first time in men's college basketball history.

    The funny thing, though, is the complete chaos didn't change much from a bracketology point of view. As two of the only top teams to survive the weekend, Baylor and Duke each climbed up a seed line. Aside from that, it's almost as if everyone gets a mulligan for losing on the road.

    Not much has changed along the bubble in the past week, either. There has been a fair amount of musical chairs with teams moving to and fro a few spots, but Indiana, North Carolina, Memphis and Rutgers are still holding down the final few spots in the field.

    Even with Selection Sunday less than two weeks away, a lot can and will still change as we embark upon Championship Week. But if the NCAA tournament started today, here's what the bracket might look like.

    For each of the four regions, we will discuss one team in better shape than it was one week ago and another that—though still in position to dance—perhaps isn't as safe as we thought.

    Before that, we will start with the bubble. After the region-by-region breakdowns, 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 seeds by conference as a handy reference guide.

    One quick "glossary" note: When we take deeper looks at specific teams' resumes, you'll see NET, RES and QUAL. NET is the NCAA Evaluation Tool, which is the primary sorting metric used by the selection committee and the metric from which quadrant records are derived. RES is the average of the team's resume metrics (Kevin Pauga Index and Strength of Record). QUAL is the average of the quality metrics (ESPN's BPI, KenPom.com and Sagarin).

    NET rankings are updated daily here. The others are masterfully aggregated by Bart Torvik.

Last Five In

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    Rutgers' Ron Harper Jr.
    Rutgers' Ron Harper Jr.Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    One quick note before we address the bubble: Even though Northern Iowa is the No. 1 seed in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, we are still projecting Loyola-Chicago as the MVC's auto bid. The Ramblers would be among our First Five Out at the moment, though, so the MVC is probably a one-bid league regardless of how Arch Madness plays out.


    Last Team In: Indiana Hoosiers
    18-10, NET: 44, RES: 51.0, QUAL: 37.3

    Indiana finally got back on track this week with wins over Maryland and Minnesota. Those games did nothing to actually improve the Hoosiers' resume, but it did keep them right on the bubble heading into the final week of the regular season. Indiana must go at least 1-1 this week against Rutgers (home) and Purdue (road), or else it is going to need multiple victories in the Big Ten tournament to salvage a bid.


    Second-to-Last In: Memphis Tigers
    17-9, NET: 42, RES: 49.5, QUAL: 30.3

    As our projection currently stands, Memphis has two wins against tournament teams (Houston and Alabama) and seven losses to non-tournament teams, several of which aren't even sniffing the NIT bubble. That's not great, but the bird's eye view of this resume is still solid. A second win over Houston on Sunday would be massive, but the Tigers might still go dancing as long as they avoid acquiring yet another bad loss.


    Third-to-Last In: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
    16-12, NET: 83, RES: 60.0, QUAL: 72.0

    Losses at Michigan and vs. Wisconsin weren't resume killers for the Scarlet Knights, but they were major missed opportunities. Because of that 0-2 record last week (and the still hideous metrics), Rutgers needs to go 2-0 this week against Indiana (road) and Penn State (home) in order to enter the Big Ten tournament in good shape for the NCAA tournament. Either way, Rutgers' seven wins against the NET top 35 will be quite the talking point throughout Championship Week.


    Fourth-to-Last In: North Carolina Tar Heels
    22-8, NET: 40, RES: 37.5, QUAL: 34.0

    One week removed from picking up its first Q1 win (at Virginia Tech) and first bad loss (vs. Pitt) of the season, it was more of a ho-hum week for the Tar Heels with victories over NC State and Syracuse. Only one game left, and it's a biggie. Win at Duke on Saturday and UNC very likely locks up an at-large bid. But if the Heels lose, they'll have some work to do in the ACC tournament.


    Fifth-to-Last In: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
    21-8, NET: 46, RES: 42.0, QUAL: 48.3

    Even though it was a Quadrant 4 game, Notre Dame capitalized on its "opportunity" at home against Georgia Tech, destroying the Yellow Jackets by 34 points and vaulting from No. 56 to No. 47 in the NET on Sunday morning. They also won their home game against Syracuse by double digits this week, sliding up from "last team in" to last team avoiding Dayton. For now, of course. A loss at Florida State on Wednesday or especially a home loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday could bump the Irish out of the field.

First Five Out

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    BYU's Te'Jon Lucas
    BYU's Te'Jon LucasYoung Kwak/Associated Press

    First Team Out: VCU Rams
    20-7, NET: 53, RES: 34.0, QUAL: 59.3

    VCU is out for now, but it would certainly jump into the field if it wins its remaining regular-season games against St. Bonaventure (home) and Saint Louis (road). Even a split of those games would keep the Rams in the mix, as they have excellent resume metrics, and some of their losses can be explained away by needing to play a few games without either Vince Williams or Ace Baldwin. If they do sneak in at full health, they have the defensive prowess to flirt with another First Four to Final Four run.


    Second Team Out: BYU Cougars
    21-9, NET: 50, RES: 52.5, QUAL: 60.3

    BYU did exactly what we requested three weeks ago: sweep Loyola Marymount, sweep Pepperdine and don't get embarrassed at Saint Mary's. Now, the Cougarsassuming they beat the LMU-Pacific winner on Fridaywill have a gigantic game against San Francisco in the WCC quarterfinal on Saturday. They already have a road win over the Dons, and adding a Quadrant 1 neutral-site victory would push them back into the field. (A subsequent semifinal win over Gonzaga on Monday would seal the deal.) 


    Third Team Out: SMU Mustangs
    20-7, NET: 47, RES: 44.0, QUAL: 49.0

    SMU swept Memphis and scored a key victory over Houston, but is a two-point home win over a No. 5-ish seed and two wins over a bubble team enough to counter-balance a Q4 loss, a Q3 loss and four other losses to teams not projected to dance? There has been a lot of "SMU has to be ahead of Memphis" banter because of the head-to-head sweep, but I don't agree. Assuming they both reach the AAC semifinals, that third head-to-head battle may well determine who gets in and who goes home.


    Fourth Team Out: Florida Gators
    18-11, NET: 51, RES: 56.5, QUAL: 44.7

    We had said after the big win over Auburn that a 3-1 finish would do the trick for the Gators. Unfortunately, they immediately lost to Arkansas and must now beat Vanderbilt and Kentucky in order to re-join the projected field. The two Quadrant 1 wins (Auburn and Ohio State) look nice, but that doesn't make up for 11 losses.


    Fifth Team Out: St. Bonaventure Bonnies
    19-7, NET: 79, RES: 47.5, QUAL: 73.7

    The predictive metrics are still weighing the Bonnies down, but they have won seven straight to re-enter the chat. They have an overall record of 7-7 against the NET top 115 with no bad losses outside that group. Neutral-site wins over Marquette and Boise State still look great, and they have a massive opportunity at VCU on Tuesday night. Win these final two regular-season games (also vs. Richmond on Friday) and it's hard to not like their chances of dancing.


    Also Monitoring: Colorado Buffaloes
    19-10, NET: 77, RES: 65.5, QUAL: 83.0

    Colorado is still likely auto bid or bust, as a laughably weak nonconference schedule did this resume no favors. But a 16-point win over Arizona on Saturday night was massive. It's looking like the Buffaloes will be either the No. 4 or No. 5 seed in the Pac-12 tournament, which means a quarterfinal against Oregon and a potential semifinal against Arizona. If they win those before losing to UCLA or USC in the championship, maybe it'll make things interesting.

East Region (Philadelphia)

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    Providence's Justin Minaya (15), Nat Horchler (14) and Nate Watson (0)
    Providence's Justin Minaya (15), Nat Horchler (14) and Nate Watson (0)Stew Milne/Associated Press

    San Diego, California

    No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 16 Nicholls State / Norfolk State
    No. 8 Colorado State vs. No. 9 Xavier

    San Diego, California

    No. 4 Houston vs. No. 13 Vermont
    No. 5 Alabama vs. No. 12 North Texas

    Buffalo, New York

    No. 3 Providence vs. No. 14 Toledo
    No. 6 Texas vs. No. 11 Notre Dame

    Indianapolis, Indiana

    No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 15 Montana State
    No. 7 Iowa vs. No. 10 San Francisco


    On the Rise: Providence Friars (Up One Seed Line)
    24-3, NET: 25, RES: 6.0, QUAL: 35.0

    Conference record isn't supposed to matter, but Providence winning a Big East regular season title for the first time in program history has to matter, right?

    The Friars clinched that No. 1 seed in the Big East tourney with home wins over Xavier and Creighton this week. The former came in a triple-overtime affair under a leaky roof, but the latter was a rare blowout victory for Providence, capitalizing on Creighton's inability to run offense sans point guard Ryan Nembhard.

    The predictive metrics still aren't great, which is the main reason why Providence was a No. 4 seed at No. 15 overall in the top-16 reveal on Feb. 19.

    But what are we doing here if a 24-3 major-conference champion can't even lock down a No. 3 seed? If Providence manages to win at Villanova on Tuesday night and wins the Big East tournamentat which point it would have an estimated eight Quadrant 1 wins and 18 wins against the top two Quadrantsare we seriously not giving that team a No. 1 seed because of margins of victory?

    We'll see how things play out the rest of the way, but that regular-season title gives Providence the edge over the likes of Wisconsin, Tennessee and Ohio State for now.


    Fading Fast: Xavier Musketeers (Down Two Seed Lines)
    17-11, NET: 36, RES: 41.0, QUAL: 41.3

    Xavier put up one heck of a fight in that triple-overtime loss at Providence, but that's the only time in the past two weeks the Musketeers looked like a tournament team. They are currently mired in a four-game losing streak in which they lost by 13 to St. John's (at home), lost at Connecticut by 11 and most recently suffered a 16-point home loss to Seton Hall.

    The resume still looks fine. They have five Quadrant 1 wins, no bad losses outside of the home games against DePaul and St. John's and they're still top-50 in all six metrics. They're stumbling to the finish line, but they should be OK if they take care of business against St. John's and Georgetown this week.

    If Xavier loses either of those games, though, and subsequently drops the No. 8 vs. No. 9 game of the Big East tournament, that might be enough to kick it to the NIT.

Midwest Region (Chicago)

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    Saint Mary's Logan Johnson
    Saint Mary's Logan JohnsonJeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Fort Worth, Texas

    No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Longwood
    No. 8 Murray State vs. No. 9 Davidson

    Portland, Oregon

    No. 4 Illinois vs. No. 13 South Dakota State
    No. 5 Arkansas vs. No. 12 Memphis/Indiana

    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    No. 3 Villanova vs. No. 14 Towson
    No. 6 Saint Mary's vs. No. 11 North Carolina/Rutgers

    Greenville, South Carolina

    No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 15 Texas State
    No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 10 Creighton


    On the Rise: Saint Mary's Gaels (Up One Seed Line)
    24-6, NET: 19, RES: 23.0, QUAL: 21.3

    Saint Mary's didn't just beat Gonzaga. The Gaels were in complete control for the entire 40 minutes, holding the normally efficient Zags offense to just four assists and 37.8 percent shooting inside the arc.

    Frankly, I'm disappointed I was unable to move them up even higher for that remarkable win. But as we'll get to momentarily in discussing UCLA's seed movement, it seems like everyone in this general seed range had a strong week. The Gaels did climb four spots on the overall seed list, but it's hard to justify them also leapfrogging the likes of Alabama, Arkansas or Houston to climb to a No. 5 seed.

    Could they knock off Gonzaga a second time in the WCC championship, though? Saint Mary's should at least get to that game, as it will likely face Santa Clara in the semifinals. And if they do beat Gonzaga in the finals, it would move the Gaels to 6-6 vs. Quadrant 1 with no losses outside that group. That feels like no worse than a No. 4 seed, right? 


    Fading Fast: Illinois Fighting Illini (Down One Seed Line)
    20-8, NET: 14, RES: 20.0, QUAL: 15.0

    Illinois didn't fall far. In fact, with the exception of Xavier, there wasn't a single team that tumbled more than five spots on the overall seed list in the past seven days. This late in the season, each result is less than four percent of your overall resume, so it either takes two iffy losses or one really bad loss for a team to go down multiple seed lines.

    And that's not what happened to Illinois, which got a Quadrant 1 win at Michigan and a Quadrant 1 loss against Ohio State this past week.

    Still, it was the Illini's third consecutive 1-1 week, and this one happened while teams previously not far behind them did the following: Wisconsin moved into first place in the Big Ten with road wins over Rutgers and Minnesota, Tennessee stomped Missouri and knocked off Auburn, and Providence clinched the Big East regular-season title.

    So, yes, down a seed line, but everything is fine in Champaign. If Alfonso Plummer keeps shooting like he has lately (14-of-19 from three-point range over the past two games), if Andre Curbelo continues to improve (back-to-back 100+ O-rating games for the first time all season) and if Kofi Cockburn stays out of foul trouble, this team just might be hitting its stride at the right time.

South Region (San Antonio)

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    Duke's A.J. Griffin
    Duke's A.J. GriffinGerry Broome/Associated Press

    Fort Worth, Texas

    No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 16 Bryant / Texas Southern
    No. 8 Seton Hall vs. No. 9 San Diego State

    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    No. 4 Tennessee vs. No. 13 Chattanooga
    No. 5 UCLA vs. No. 12 Loyola-Chicago

    Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    No. 3 Wisconsin vs. No. 14 UC Irvine
    No. 6 LSU vs. No. 11 Miami (FL)

    Greenville, South Carolina

    No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Liberty
    No. 7 Iowa State vs. No. 10 Wyoming


    On the Rise: Duke Blue Devils (Up One Seed Line)
    25-4, NET: 9, RES: 9.0, QUAL: 6.3

    When we promoted Texas Tech to a No. 2 seed one week ago, it meant sliding Duke down one spot to No. 9 overall. But on a day when Duke went out and pummeled Syracuse by 25 points in the Carrier Dome, seven of our previous top-eight teams suffered a loss.

    Now the Blue Devils are knocking on the door of a No. 1 seed in advance of Coach K's regular-season finale against North Carolina—a ticket that's breaking the secondary market.

    The losses to Miami, Florida State and Virginia are still an issue, considering Duke only has two wins against projected single-digit seeds. (They're phenomenal wins on neutral courts against Gonzaga and Kentucky, but still, just two wins.) By comparison, Arizona has four such wins and just one bad loss, while Auburn and Kentucky each have five such wins and no losses outside of Quadrant 1.

    If Duke wins out, though, the No. 1 seed in Philadelphia is still very much within reach, particularly if Arizona and/or Gonzaga slips up one more time.


    Fading Fast: UCLA Bruins (Down One Seed Line)
    21-6, NET: 13, RES: 19.0, QUAL: 11.0

    Though certainly not a terrible loss, UCLA picked a rough week to lose at Oregon.

    Between Connecticut beating Villanova, Tennessee toppling Auburn, Arkansas knocking off Kentucky and Saint Mary's dethroning Gonzaga, there were a ton of teams previously in the Nos. 4-6 seed range that substantially improved their resumes in the past seven days.

    The Bruins did at least annihilate Oregon State 94-55 two days after the loss to Oregon to keep the predictive metrics on their side. However, we are still talking about a team that is just 3-3 against projected tournament teams, plus a bad loss to Arizona State and a season sweep at the hands of the Ducks.

    I know they were No. 14 overall in the top-16 reveal 10 days ago, but the Bruins need to finish strong if they want to avoid slipping to a No. 6 or even a No. 7 seed by Selection Sunday.

West Region (San Francisco)

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    Connecticut's R.J. Cole (2) and Tyrese Martin (4)
    Connecticut's R.J. Cole (2) and Tyrese Martin (4)Jessica Hill/Associated Press

    Portland, Oregon

    No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Wright State
    No. 8 Boise State vs. No. 9 TCU

    Buffalo, New York

    No. 4 Connecticut vs. No. 13 New Mexico State
    No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 12 Iona

    Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 14 Princeton
    No. 6 USC vs. No. 11 Michigan

    Indianapolis, Indiana

    No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 15 Colgate
    No. 7 Marquette vs. No. 10 Wake Forest


    On the Rise: Connecticut Huskies (Up One Seed Line)
    21-7, NET: 17, RES: 21.0, QUAL: 17.7

    Connecticut pulled off a minor miracle to beat Villanova last Tuesday. The Huskies were down by four with 30 seconds remaining and didn't have the ball, but Caleb Daniels missed the front end of a one-and-one and Collin Gillespie turned it over twice down the stretch as UConn pulled off the comeback.

    It was a huge one for a Huskies team that had solid metrics but only one win over a team in the NET top 30 (Auburn in double overtime in Bahamas). They had been hovering in the Nos. 5-6 seed range since early January, but consecutive home wins over Seton Hall, Xavier and Villanova finally pushed them over the hump to a No. 4.

    If Connecticut wins its remaining games against Creighton and DePaul, it will lock up no worse than the No. 3 seed in the Big East tournament, setting up a clash with No. 2 seed Villanova in the semifinals. Knock off the Wildcats again, and the Huskies might even end up on the No. 3 line for the dance.


    Fading Fast: Wake Forest Demon Deacons (Down One Seed Line)
    22-8, NET: 43, RES: 44.5, QUAL: 38.7

    Wake Forest's resume seems to get a little bit uglier with each passing week.

    The Demon Deacons have just one Quadrant 1 win in five tries, and even that came against a non-tournament team (at Virginia Tech). Their only victories over projected dancers were home games against North Carolina and Notre Dame. In the past five weeks, they have acquired questionable losses to Syracuse, Miami and Clemson.

    The Clemson loss was the most recent one, and it surely did more damage than the good that came from Wake's subsequent 22-point win over Louisville. The only game left on the regular-season schedule (vs. North Carolina State on Wednesday) isn't going to do much to move the needle, either—unless the Deacs lose, in which case they could end up in the NIT.

    Beating the Wolfpack would assure Wake Forest of either the No. 4 or No. 5 seed in the ACC tournament, most likely the No. 5. That would mean an opener against a team like Boston College or Pittsburgh to set up a quarterfinal matchup with Miami. The Demon Deacons probably need to win all three in order to feel safe.

Ranking the No. 1 Seeds

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    Baylor's Flo Thamba and Kansas' Ochai Agbaji
    Baylor's Flo Thamba and Kansas' Ochai AgbajiRay Carlin/Associated Press

    No. 4: Arizona Wildcats
    25-3, NET: 2, RES: 8.5, QUAL: 4.7

    Of the seven AP Top 10 losses suffered on Saturday, Arizona's was the worst by far. Not only was it the ugliest final margin (16 points), but the Wildcats were the only ones to lose to a team not projected for the NCAA tournament. But with Auburn, Kentucky, Purdue and Texas Tech all losing, too, it wasn't quite enough to bump the Wildcats from the top line.

    They need to bounce back for a road win over USC on Tuesday night, though. Arizona is currently just 6-3 against the top 1.5 Quadrants, whereas most of the teams in the hunt for a No. 1 seed have at least seven Quadrant 1 victories. That was fine until the blowout loss to Colorado chopped the Wildcats down a bit.


    No. 3: Kansas Jayhawks
    23-5, NET: 6, RES: 1.0, QUAL: 7.0

    It's a tough call between Kansas and Baylor at No. 2 and No. 3 overall, as they have now exchanged home wins by double digits. A road win over Texas on Monday was a nice little tiebreaker in the Bears' favor, but they are still likely headed for a photo finish, which would ideally be decided by a rubber match in the Big 12 title game.

    If the Jayhawks sweep TCU this week before closing out the regular season with a home win over Texas, they would secure an outright Big 12 regular-season title and would maybe move up to No. 1 overall before the conference tournaments even begin.


    No. 2: Baylor Bears
    25-5, NET: 5, RES: 2.0, QUAL: 3.0

    Baylor was No. 5 overall in the top-16 reveal, since which time the Bears are 4-0 with high-quality victories over Kansas and Texas, as well as respectable wins over TCU and Oklahoma State. It was certainly tempting to vault them all the way up to No. 1 overall now that they have a staggering 12 Quadrant 1 victories.

    But what's the rush? The Big 12 tournament will do a lot to help sort out the top line, and it's not like the Bears want Gonzaga's spot as the No. 1 seed in the West Region. No. 2 overall would still bring them their coveted path of going from Fort Worth to San Antonio to New Orleans.


    No. 1: Gonzaga Bulldogs
    24-3, NET: 1, RES: 10.5, QUAL: 1.0

    When everybody loses, nobody loses. Saturday was complete carnage, capped off by Gonzaga losing at Saint Mary's. But considering Baylor was the only team previously on our No. 1 or No. 2 seed lines that didn't lose during that 12-hour window, a road loss to a top-25 team wasn't enough to knock the Zags from their perch.

    What that loss did do, though, is open the door for either Baylor or Kansas to leapfrog Gonzaga regardless of what happens in the WCC tournament, as well as the door for Gonzaga to drop off the No. 1 seed line altogether if it fails to win the WCC tournament.

    Because that conference tournament happens prior to any of the other major ones (the WCC championship game is next Tuesday), Gonzaga would at least temporarily remain a No. 1 seed even with a loss to Saint Mary's, San Francisco or BYU. But the Big 12, Big Ten and SEC champions could all move ahead of Gonzaga, as could Duke and/or Arizona.

Seeding by Conference

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    Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe and LSU's Xavier Pinson
    Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe and LSU's Xavier PinsonMichael Hickey/Getty Images

    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. First five out teams are included in italics.

    ACC (5): 6. Duke; 39. Wake Forest; 42. Miami (FL); 43. Notre Dame; 44. North Carolina

    American (2): 15. Houston; 46. Memphis; 71. SMU

    Big 12 (6): 2. Baylor; 3. Kansas; 9. Texas Tech; 22. Texas; 28. Iowa State; 33. TCU

    Big East (7): 10. Providence; 11. Villanova; 16. Connecticut; 27. Marquette; 31. Seton Hall; 36. Xavier; 38. Creighton

    Big Ten (9): 8. Purdue; 12. Wisconsin; 14. Illinois; 20. Ohio State; 25. Michigan State; 26. Iowa; 41. Michigan; 45. Rutgers; 48. Indiana

    Mountain West (4): 30. Colorado State; 32. Boise State; 34. San Diego State; 37. Wyoming 

    Pac-12 (3): 4. Arizona; 16. UCLA; 23. USC

    SEC (6): 5. Auburn; 7. Kentucky; 13. Tennessee; 17. Arkansas; 19. Alabama; 24. LSU; 72. Florida

    West Coast (3): 1. Gonzaga; 21. Saint Mary's; 40. San Francisco; 70. BYU

    Other (23): 29. Murray State; 35. Davidson; 48. Loyola-Chicago; 49. North Texas; 50. Iona; 51. South Dakota State; 52. Chattanooga; 53. Vermont; 54. New Mexico State; 55. Toledo; 56. Towson; 57. UC Irvine; 58. Princeton; 59. Liberty; 60. Texas State; 61. Montana State; 62. Colgate; 63. Longwood; 64. Wright State; 65. Bryant; 66. Norfolk State; 67. Texas Southern; 68. Nicholls State; 69. VCU; 73. St. Bonaventure


    Statistics courtesy of Sports ReferenceKenPom and BartTorvik.com and are current through the start of play on Monday. Records are current through the start of play on Tuesday.

    Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @kerrancejames.