It is March. This week’s 68 NCAA tournament projections have as much intro as you need? Cold. let’s go.
As always, Sporting News ’68 field of guesses is based on how teams should be prioritized based on how the season compares to tomorrow’s season. For each team, I have included some rankings and records that will be very relevant when met by the selection committee to make the actual bracket.
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Automatic bids (mentioned in parentheses) go to the team with the best conference record. In the case of a tie, the team is bid with the best net rating.
Estimated number 1 seed
Gonzaga (West Coast), Michigan (Big Ten), Boiler (Big 12), Illinois
Gonzaga (24-0): Net / Pom: 1/1. Vs. Q1: 7–0. Vs Q 3/4: 12-0
Michigan (18-1): NET / Pom: 2/2. Vs Q1: 8-1. Vs Q 3/4: 5-0
Boiler (18-1): Net / Pom: 3/3. Vs. Q1: 6-1. Vs Q 3/4: 10-0
Illinois (18-6): Net / Pom: 5/6. Vs Q1: 8-5. Vs Q 3/4: 5-0
Beiler suffered his first loss of the season, but there is little risk of Beers dropping from the top seed line. The only way would be if they lose their last three regular-season games and the Big 12 tournament opener. Nevertheless, they will still be a qualified candidate. Ohio State was shut down this week and Illinois reached that fourth spot on the No. 1 seed line. The Illini dropped a game a week ago against the Michigan State team on the road, but retaliated with a working win over Nebraska and a win at Wisconsin, which was always impressive.
Estimated 2 seeds
Ohio State, Alabama (SEC), Iowa, Houston
Ohio State (18-7): NET / Pom: 8/7. Vs Q1: 7-5. Vs Q 3/4: 7-0
Alabama (19-6): NET / Pom: 7/8. Vs Q1: 7-4. Vs Q 3/4: 6-1
Iowa (18-7): Net / Pom: 6/5. Vs Q1: 5-6. Vs Q 3/4: 5-0
Houston (19-3): Net / Pom: 4/4. Vs Q1: 2-1. Vs Q 3/4: 13-1
The Big Ten schedule is brutal, and the Buckeyes are fighting a bit right now. They have lost three in a row – at home to Michigan and Iowa, and to Michigan State. Saturday is his final regular tilt at home against Illinois, against the team taking the No. 1 seed from him this week. Iowa had a good win at Ohio State, but after a 22-point loss to Michigan. The Hawkeyes got off to a good start and then stayed out of the gym for the final 30 minutes or so.
Estimated 3 seeds
West Virginia, Villanova (Big East), Kansas, Florida State (ACC)
West Virginia (17-6): NET / Pom: 13/19. Vs Q1: 6-6. Vs Q 3/4: 6-0
Villanova (15-4): Net / Pom: 11/10. Vs Q1: 2-3. Vs Q 3/4: 8-0
Kansas (17-8): net / pom: 10/18. Vs Q1: 6-8. Vs Q 3/4: 8-0
Florida State (14-4): NET / Pom: 14/9. Vs Q1: 3-3. Vs Q 3/4: 5-1
A very good case can be made for West Virginia ahead of Houston on the 2-seed line, and the Mountaineers have a greater chance to shorten the stretch. Their final three games are at home against Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State; Win all three and they will almost certainly be a 2 seed – and a deep horse for that final 1-seed spot. It is telling that, in a year when the Jayhawks will lose their grip on the Big 12 title (Baylor will run away with that), Kansas will still air as a top-4 seed.
4 seeds are estimated
Arkansas, Virginia, Oklahoma State, Texas
Arkansas (19–5): net / pom: 18/17. Vs Q1: 6-4. Vs Q 3/4: 9-0
Virginia (16-6): NET / Pom: 20/15. Vs Q1: 3-4. Vs Q 3/4: 9-1
Oklahoma State (17-6): NET / Pom: 31/35. Vs Q1: 8-4. Vs Q 3/4: 8-1
Texas (14-7): NET / Pom: 27/25. Vs Q1: 4-7. Vs Q 3/4: 7-0
Arkansas has done wonders for its final NCAA Tournament Seeds in recent weeks, beating four tournament-bound teams in a row: Missouri, Florida, Alabama and LSU. The Razorbacks moved from the 8/9/10 seed category to a possible top five position. Impressive. And speaking of influential, how about Oklahoma State? Cade Cunningham and the Cowboys have four OT wins this year against all teams that make big bids with ease. That sweep of Oklahoma (one on Saturday, one on Monday) was particularly impressive.
Estimated 5 seeds
Oklahoma, Purdue, Texas Tech, Florida
Oklahoma (14-8): NET / Pom: 30/31. Vs Q1: 5-6. Vs Q 3/4: 8-1
Purdue (16-8): net / pom: 22/13. Vs Q1: 5-7. Vs Q 3/4: 5-1
Texas Tech (15-8): Net / Pom: 15/23. Vs Q1: 5-7. Vs Q 3/4: 10-0
Florida (13-6): Net / Pom: 26/27. Vs. Q1: 5–3. Vs Q 3/4: 5-1
Obviously the Sunnis would have liked to at least split with Oklahoma State, and it could happen; One game went to OT and the other was decided by four points. But the thing that actually starts again? The earlier game, a loss on the road to a K-State team, was defeated by the Sunnis earlier this season by 26 points. The Wildcats are ranked 200 in the NET – even after beating OU – and have not beaten a team in the NET Top 100 all season. Yikes.
6 seeds are estimated
Crayton, Colorado, Clemson, Tennessee
Creighton (17-6): NET / Pom: 25/15. Vs Q1: 4-2. Vs Q 3/4: 6-3
Colorado (19-7): net / pom: 12/16. Vs Q1: 3-4. Vs Q 3/4: 9-3
Clemson (15-5): NET / Pom: 33/38. Vs Q1: 4-5. Vs Q 3/4: 5-0
Tennessee (16-7): Net / Pom: 21/24. Vs Q1: 5-5. Vs Q 3/4: 10-0
Colorado had a big week, winning home games against USC and UCLA The Buffers have solid computer numbers, as you see, but when the committee scrubs their seed, a three Quad 3 deficit doesn’t help. They will need as many quality wins as possible. Clemson continues to play side-by-side, winning five in a row in ACC play, and suddenly resumes with only five defeats – and neutral-court non-conference wins against Alabama and Purdue – sounding great. Seems like.
Projected 7 seeds
Missouri, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, USC
Missouri (14-7): Net / Pom: 46/48. Vs Q1: 6-4. Vs Q 3/4: 6-0
Wisconsin (16-9): Net / Pom: 24/11. Vs Q1: 3-8. Vs Q 3/4: 6-0
Virginia Tech (15-5): NET / Pom: 44/46. Vs Q1: 2-2. Vs Q 3/4: 10-0
USC (19-6): NET / Pom: 25/21. Vs Q1: 3-3. Vs Q 3/4: 12-0
Wisconsin’s computer metrics are as solid as ever, and they have a large share of solid wins, but the Badgers lack a “signature” win in a conference with plenty of signature-win chances – They are 0-6 combined against Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois and Iowa.
8 seeds are estimated
UCLA (Pac 12), Oregon, BYU, San Diego State (Mountain West)
UCLA (17-6): NET / Pom: 39/41. Vs Q1: 2-4. Vs Q 3/4: 12-0
Oregon (17-5): Net / Pom: 42/37. Vs Q1: 3-3. Vs Q 3/4: 9-2
BYU (18-5): NET / Pom: 19/22. Vs Q1: 3-3. Vs Q 3/4: 10-0
San Diego State (18-4): NET / Pom: 17/20. Vs. Q1: 0–3. Vs Q 3/4: 12-0
San Diego State was tied with the Mountain West in Los Column with Boise State and Colorado State with three columns each. But the Aztec left one of those teams – the Broncos – out of conversation with the sweep at home last week. Both games were close (one in OT, one decided by four points) but San Diego State came away with the win both times and went a long way towards strengthening that big bid.
9 seeds are estimated
Louisville, LSU, Maryland, Loyola Chicago (Missouri Valley)
Louisville (13-5): NET / Pom: 47/44. Vs. Q1: 1–4. Vs Q 3/4: 6-1
LSU (14-8): NET / Pom: 29/29. Vs Q1: 3-8. Vs Q 3/4: 8-0
Maryland (15–10): NET / Pom: 28/26. Vs Q1: 5-9. Vs Q 3/4: 8-0
Loyola Chicago (19–4): NET / Pom: 16/12. Vs Q1: 1-2. Vs Q 3/4: 14-0
Louisville received a much-needed Quad 1 win on Saturday, thwarting Duke in Durham. This is not an elite victory as it will be the most of the year, but it was still too big for Louisville to resume, with a big ol ‘zero in the victory column of Q1. On the other hand, LSU lost back-to-back road games. There was none so bad in Arkansas; One was more painful in Georgia.
10 seeds are estimated
Rutgers, North Carolina, UCON, St. Bonventure (Atlantic 10)
Rutgers (13-10): Net / Pom: 38/32. Vs Q1: 4-8. Vs Q 3/4: 5-0
North Carolina (15-9): Net / Pom: 45/33. Vs Q1: 2-8. Vs Q 3/4: 7-1
UConn (12-6): NET / Pom: 35/28. Vs Q1: 2-3. Vs Q 3/4: 7-0
St. Bonventure (13-4): NET / Pom: 32/34. Vs Q1: 2-2. Vs Q 3/4: 9-1
Star James Baunkaite came out of the lineup this year with four of six defeats to UConn. In the games they played, the Huskies’ only blow was in the OT against Creighton and by single digits on the road in Wilkova. Which matters for the committee. They registered easy wins against Marquette and Georgetown last week, scoring a total of 44 points.
11 seeds are estimated
Xavier, Colorado State, VCU, Drake, Boise State
Xavier (13-5): NET / Pom: 50/55. Vs Q1: 2-2. Vs Q 3/4: 7-0
Colorado State (15-4): NET / Pom: 40/61. Vs Q1: 2-3. Vs Q 3/4: 12-0
VCU (17-6): NET / Pom: 37/50. Vs. Q1: 1–4. Vs Q 3/4: 9-2
* Drake (22-3): net / pom: 42/56. Vs Q1: 1-1. Vs Q 3/4: 17-2
* Boise State (17-6): NET / Pom: 34/52. Vs Q1: 2-4. Vs Q 3/4: 13-0
We talked about Boise’s close call at San Diego State last week as winning one of the two allowed the Broncos to go with WS at BYU and Colorado State, and two in Nevada to reduce road losses. Another quality road to help will win. Drake has that glittering record, but the loss against Bradley last week is not helpful.
12 seeds are estimated
Georgia Tech, St. Louis, Wichita State (American), Western Kentucky (Conference USA), Colgate (Patriot)
* Georgia Tech (13-8): Net / Pom: 41/30. Vs. Q1: 2–6. Vs Q 3/4: 6-2
* St. Louis (13-5): NET / Pom: 43/42. Vs Q1: 1-2. Vs Q 3/4: 9-2
Georgia Tech made its season debut with defeats at home to Georgia State and Mercer, but the Jackets now have wins against Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Syracuse, and have enough to get into this week . St. Louis finished last, but mostly because Seton Hall, Indiana and Stanford had terrible weeks.
13 no seeds: Belmont (Ohio Valley), UC Santa Barbara (Big West), Winthrop (Big South), Toledo (MAC)
14 seeds: UNCG (Southern), Cleveland State (Horizon), Abilene Christian (Southland), Liberty (Atlantic Sun)
15 no seeds: Vermont (East of America), Eastern Washington (Big Sky), James Madison (Colonial), Grand Canyon (WAC)
No. 16 seeds: Siena (MAAC), South Dakota State (Summit), * Texas State (Sun Belt), * Prairie View A&M (SWAC), * Bryant (Northeast), * North Carolina A&T (MEAC)
* First four teams
dropped out: Indiana, North Texas, Seton Hall, South Dakota State, Stanford, Wagner, Wright State
Newbies: Bryant, Cleveland State, Georgia Tech, St. Louis, South Dakota, Ucino, Western Kentucky
First four out
Michigan State (13-10): NET / Pom: 77/63. Vs Q1: 4-9. Vs Q 3/4: 6-0
Seton Hall (13–10): NET / Pom: 53/43. Vs. Q1: 3-6. Vs Q 3/4: 7-1
Duke (11-9): NET / Pom: 58/36. Vs Q1: 2-3. Vs Q 3/4: 5-3
Indiana (12–12): NET / Pom: 57/37. Vs Q1: 3-9. Vs Q 3/4: 3-2
Other Bubble Teams (Alphabet)
Memphis (14-6): NET / Pom: 59/47. Vs Q1: 0-2. Vs Q 3/4: 10-1
Minnesota (13–12): NET / Pom: 70/57. Vs Q1: 4-10. Vs Q 3/4: 8-1
Mississippi (13–10): NET / Pom: 60/58. Vs Q1: 3-4. Vs Q 3/4: 6-2
SMU (11-4): NET / Pom: 54/51. Vs. Q1: 0–3. Vs Q 3/4: 7-1
Stanford (14–11): NET / Pom: 63/70. Vs Q1: 4-5. Vs Q 3/4: 9-1
Syracuse (14-8): NET / Pom: 55/59. Vs. Q1: 1-6. Vs Q 3/4: 10-1
Utah State (14-7): net / pom: 48/45. Vs Q1: 2-4. Vs Q 3/4: 12-2