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March Madness Bracket Predictions 3.0: Projecting a Region of 68 for the 2021 NCAA Tournament

The selection is Sunday, well, it’s Sunday. how cool is that?

As always, Sporting News ’68 field of projections is based on how the season should be compared to tomorrow’s season to be resumed. We are not anticipating how this week will be because we do not know how this week will be. For each team, I have included some rankings and records that will be very relevant when the selection meets to make the actual bracket.

MORE: March Madness Replacement Rules, Explained

Automatic bidding teams have double asterisks. Auto bids for conferences that have not completed their tournament are awarded for the highest remaining seed, and are noted in parentheses.

Estimated number 1 seed

Gonzaga (West Coast), Boiler (Big 12), Michigan (Big Ten), Illinois

Gonzaga (24-0): Net / Pom: 1/1. Vs. Q1: 7–0. Vs Q 3/4: 13-0
Baylor (21-1): NET / Pom: 2/2. Vs Q1: 8-1. Vs Q 3/4: 10-0
Michigan (19-3): NET / Pom: 3/3. Vs Q1: 7-2. Vs Q 3/4: 6-0
Illinois (20-6): Net / Pom: 4/5. Vs. Q1: 9-5. Vs Q 3/4: 6-0

Remember how we told you that Gonzaga, Baylor and Michigan all had plenty of room for error on the top seed line? Well, Michigan tested that theory last week, with a blistering loss at home against Illinois and a loss to a Michigan State team that has been making its way back to the bubble over the past few weeks. And the Wolverines are still solid at the 1-seed line.

Estimated 2 seeds

Alabama (SEC), Iowa, Ohio State, Houston

Alabama (21-6): NET / Pom: 7/8. Vs Q1: 7-4. Vs Q 3/4: 6-1
Iowa (20-7): Net / Pom: 6/4. Vs Q1: 7-5. Vs Q 3/4: 8-0
Ohio State (18-8): NET / Pom: 9/7. Vs Q1: 7-6. Vs Q 3/4: 6-0
Houston (20–3): NET / Pom: 5/6. Vs Q1: 2-1. Vs Q 3/4: 13-1

It has been a rough stretch for Ohio State; The Buckeyes have lost four in a row at Michigan State and at home to Michigan, Illinois and Iowa. Four good teams, so they would not have dropped much, but if they had gone 2–2 out of those four, they would have been at the 1 seed line instead of Illinois.

Estimated 3 seeds

Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Virginia (ACC), Texas

Arkansas (21-5): net / pom: 16/18. Vs Q1: 6-4. Vs Q 3/4: 10-0
Oklahoma State (18-7): NET / Pom: 33/37. Vs Q1: 8-5. Vs Q 3/4: 8-1
Virginia (17-6): NET / Pom: 13/12. Vs Q1: 4-4. Vs Q 3/4: 9-1
Texas (17-7): Net / Pom: 24/26. Vs Q1: 6-6. Vs Q 3/4: 8-0

Three weeks ago, I didn’t anticipate that Arkansas would be on the 3-seed line, but college basketball is nothing if not unexpected. The Razorbacks have won eight in a row, including Alabama, Mizzou (on the road), Florida and WSU including LSU. Their non-con slate was not great, but it is worth noting that all five of their losses are to teams that will make the NCAA tournament as solid as the big teams.

4 seeds are estimated

Kansas, West Virginia, Florida State, Texas, Villanova (Big East)

Kansas (18-8): net / pom: 14/22. Vs Q1: 6-8. Vs Q 3/4: 8-0
West Virginia (18-8): Net / Pom: 23/25. Vs Q1: 6-7. Vs Q 3/4: 7-0
Florida State (15-5): NET / Pom: 22/14. Vs Q1: 3-3. Vs Q 3/4: 6-1
Villanova (16-5): Net / Pom: 11/10. Vs Q1: 3-3. Vs Q 3/4: 8-0

West Virginia was home at 16-6 with four games remaining, where the Mountaineers have traditionally been tough. But they lost two games against quality teams (in OT vs. Boiler and by Oklahoma State by five points). With those losses, any Longshot evaporates at the No. 1 seed, and any actual shot at the 2 seed.

Projected 5 seeds

Purdue, USC, Colorado, Tennessee

Purdue (18-8): net / pom: 20/13. Vs Q1: 6-6. Vs Q 3/4: 5-1
USC (21-6): NET / Pom: 15/15. Vs Q1: 4-3. Vs Q 3/4: 12-0
Colorado (20-7): Net / Pom: 12/16. Vs Q1: 3-4. Vs Q 3/4: 10-3
Tennessee (17-7): Net / Pom: 18/23. Vs Q1: 6-5. Vs Q 3/4: 10-0

The seeds are difficult for Pac-12 teams. You see solid computer matrices for USC and Colorado, but both teams are lighter on Q1 victories than other teams with top-16 matrices. And Colorado has those three Q3 losses, which is not great. And then factor in Oregon, which has fewer matrices, but earned the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament. The safe estimate for those three teams is currently in the 5-7 seed range.

6 seeds are estimated

Crayton, Oregon (Pac 12), Texas Tech, Clemson

Creighton (18–7): NET / Pom: 25/17. Vs Q1: 4-3. Vs Q 3/4: 7-3
Oregon (19-5): NET / Pom: 32/35. Vs Q1: 3-3. Vs Q 3/4: 9-2
Texas Tech (17-9): Net / Pom: 17/21. Vs Q1: 4-9. Vs Q 3/4: 12-0
Clemson (16-6): Net / Pom: 36/38. Vs Q1: 3-6. Vs Q 3/4: 6-0

Both Crayton and Texas Tech are higher on other bracket estimates. Crayton’s three Q3 losses are troublesome, and Texas Tech went 0–8 against four of the top five teams in the conference in the Big 12: Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia and Oklahoma State. I don’t think they scrub well when the is gritty.

Projected 7 seeds

Missouri, Oklahoma, LSU, Florida

Missouri (15-8): Net / Pom: 45/48. Vs Q1: 7-5. Vs Q 3/4: 6-0
Oklahoma (14-9): NET / Pom: 30/31. Vs Q1: 5-8. Vs Q 3/4: 8-1
LSU (16-8): Net / Pom: 28/28. Vs Q1: 4-7. Vs Q 3/4: 9-0
Florida (13-8): Net / Pom: 29/30. Vs Q1: 5-4. Vs Q 3/4: 5-1

Too many hit-or-miss SEC schools on this seed line. This was not intentional, I promise.

8 seeds are estimated

Yukon, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, UCLA

UConn (14-6): NET / Pom: 31/24. Vs Q1: 3-3. Vs Q 3/4: 8-0
Virginia Tech (15-5): NET / Pom: 42/47. Vs Q1: 2-2. Vs Q 3/4: 10-0
Wisconsin (16–11): NET / Pom: 26/11. Vs Q1: 4-9. Vs Q 3/4: 7-0
UCLA (17-8): net / pom: 41/42. Vs. Q1: 2–6. Vs Q 3/4: 12-0

Wisconsin has 11 losses and is ranked 11th in the KenPom ratings. This has to be a first, right? The Badgers were 0-8 in Big Ten games against Michigan, Illinois, Ohio State, Iowa and Purdue and their best win of the season is probably against a Missouri Valley team (Loyola Chicago).

9 seeds are estimated

St. Bonventure (Atlantic 10), BYU, Diego State (Mountain West), Loyola Chicago (Missouri Valley)

St. Bonventure (15-4): NET / Pom: 27/27. Vs Q1: 3-2. Vs Q 3/4: 9-1
BYU (18-5): NET / Pom: 19/20. Vs Q1: 3-3. Vs Q 3/4: 11-0
Diego State (19-4): NET / Pom: 21/19. Vs. Q1: 0–3. Vs Q 3/4: 13-0
** Loyola Chicago (22-4): NET / Pom: 10/9. Vs Q1: 2-2. Vs Q 3/4: 16-0

Then, an unintentional grouping. Four teams from outside the “Power” conferences with a sparking record. If I am 1 seed, I would worry about facing any of these four in the second round.

Projected 10 seeds

North Carolina, VCU, Rutgers, Georgia Tech

North Carolina (16-9): Net / Pom: 39/32. Vs Q1: 2-8. Vs Q 3/4: 7-1
VCU (19-6): NET / Pom: 35/43. Vs Q1: 2-4. Vs Q 3/4: 10-2
Rutgers (14–10): NET / Pom: 37/33. Vs Q1: 4-8. Vs Q 3/4: 5-0
Georgia Tech (15-8): NET / Pom: 38/31. Vs. Q1: 2–6. Vs Q 3/4: 7-2

A win over Duke is not what it was in previous years, but the Tar Heels dispelled any kind of doubt about their big position with their 18-point win over the Blue Devils on Saturday. Partly because it was a good resume win, but also because that prospect made Duke bubble.

11 seeds are estimated

Maryland, Michigan State, Louisville, ** Winthrop (Big South)

Maryland (14–12): NET / Pom: 34/29. Vs Q1: 4-9. Vs Q 3/4: 8-0
Michigan State (15–11): NET / Pom: 67/56. Vs Q1: 5-9. Vs Q 3/4: 6-0
Louisville (13-6): NET / Pom: 51/52. Vs Q1: 1-5. Vs Q 3/4: 6-1

What are you doing, Maryland? The Terps dropped the games to Northwestern and Penn State, the team to end their regular season. This season has a combined eight games under .500. They landed the No. 8 seed in the Big Ten tournament and faced a very hot – and motivated – Michigan State team. Yikes.

12 seeds are estimated

Drake, St. Louis, Wichita State (American), Western Kentucky (Conference USA),

* Colorado State (16-5): NET / Pom: 50/61. Vs Q1: 2-3. Vs Q 3/4: 13-0
* Drake (23-4): NET / Pom: 47/55. Vs Q1: 1-2. Vs Q 3/4: 17-2
* Xavier (13-7): NET / Pom: 57/60. Vs Q1: 1-2. Vs Q 3/4: 7-0
* St. Louis (14-6): Net / Pom: 44/49. Vs Q1: 2-2. Vs Q 3/4: 10-2

The good thing for the teams is that the final four of this week have been snacked in the big berths: Seton Hall, Indiana, Minnesota, Duke and Stanford had terrible weeks. So, y’know, the competition for the last few spots was a battle of more attraction from a race to the finish.

13 seeds: Colgate (Patriot), UC Santa Barbara (Big West), UNCG (Southern), Toledo (MAC)
14 seeds: Cleveland State (Horizon), ** Liberty (Atlantic Sun), ** Morehead State (Ohio Valley), Grand Canyon (WAC)
15 Seeds: Siena (MAAC), Hartford (East of America), Southern Utah (Big Sky), Northeast (Col)
Number 16 seeds: Dakota State (Summit), Nicholls State (Southland), * Georgia State (Sun Belt), * Prairie View A&M (SWAC), * Bryant (Northeast), * North Carolina A&T (MEAC)

* First four teams
** automatic bidding teams

Fired Out: Abilene Christian, Belmont, Boise State, Eastern Washington, James Madison, Texas State, Vermont

Newbies: Georgia State, Hartford, Michigan State Morehead State, Nicholas State, Northeast, Southern Utah

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