With the Super Bowl officially in the rearview mirror, we can now start to gradually shift our collective focus towards college basketball and how the field is shaping up for the NCAA Tournament.
Analysts like ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, CBS’ Jerry Palm, Bleacher Report’s Kerry Miller, and Sports Illustrated’s Kevin Sweeney are regularly updating their projected field of 68 and going over where the top programs will end up come tourney time in mid-March. One thing to note is that they release their respective brackets at different times of the week, so some may not be in line with the most recent happenings within the sport. Still, we’ll regularly comb through what these experts are projecting as tournament season draws near.
No. 1 seeds
Gonzaga and Auburn remain as consensus No. 1 seeds heading into the new week. Both picked up impressive victories on Saturday with Auburn dominating Texas A&M and Gonzaga taking down Saint Mary’s. As of now, they’re both neck and neck for the overall top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
As always, there’s varying opinions on who should grab the other No. 1 seeds. Some experts have Kentucky to No. 1 status and its warranted considering that the team is on a six-game winning streak heading into mid-February. Arizona is also on a six-game winning streak and it bolstered its argument with a pair of recent Quadrant 1 victories over USC and UCLA, respectively, in the past two weeks. Kansas is represented in Sweeney’s latest projection with eight Quad 1 victories this season. Purdue gets some love in Lunardi’s most recent bracket, but that may change after the Boilermakers were beaten down by Michigan on Thursday and barely scraped by Maryland on Sunday.
Other Notable Seeds
Just below that tier are teams like Baylor, Duke, Providence, and Wisconsin that are projected two-seeds but who could very well play themselves in one-seeds with strong finishes. That especially rings true for Baylor, who now leads the nation in Quad 1 victories with nine.
Teams like UCLA, Ohio State, Alabama, Michigan State, Marquette, and others find themselves as a potential victim of the 5/12 upset spot at No. 5 while underdogs like Iona, North Texas, and Chattanooga would be in play for a 12-seed if the season were to end today.
The real tension comes from the bubble and determining who will sneak their way into the tournament and who will be left out.
The likes of Oregon, Creighton, Miami, North Carolina, and Florida, among others, are all squarely on the bubbles. Opinions on their respective fates vary with a team like Florida, for example, in the field of 68 for some experts while others have them on the outside looking in. A bubble team like Michigan certainly helped its cause with the aforementioned beatdown of Purdue last Thursday.
There’s still plenty of time for these teams to improve their standing but they’ll have to move fast.
ACC - 5 (Lunardi, Miller, and Sweeney), 3 (Palm)
Big 12 - 8 (Miller), 7 (Lunardi, Palm, and Sweeney)
Big East - 7 (Lunardi, Miller, and Palm), 6 Sweeney
Big Ten - 8 (Palm and Sweeney), 7 (Lunardi and Miller)
MWC - 4 (Palm), 3 (Lunardi, Miller, and Sweeney)
Pac-12 - 4 (Lunardi, Miller, Palm, and Sweeney)
SEC - 7 (Sweeney and Palm), 6 (Lunardi and Miller)
WCC - 4 (Lunardi, Miller, and Palm), 3 (Sweeney)