Predicting The Top 16 Seeds In The 2021 NCAA Tournament

In an interview with Matt Norlander of CBS Sports, NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt confirmed the annual reveal of the Top 16 seeds in the NCAA Tournament during the weekend of February 13. This provides college basketball fans with a glimpse into the mind of the NCAA seeding committee, and gives the top teams a chance to project their potential seeding in the upcoming 2021 NCAA Tournament.

Here is my projection at how the seeding committee will place the Top 4 seeds in each region.

(All statistics from


Predicting The Top 16 Seeds In The 2021 NCAA Tournament

The No. 1 Seeds

Team: Gonzaga
Record:  18-0
SOS:  127
NC SOS:  147
Q1 Record: 6-0
Q1 & Q2 Record:  9-0

Gonzaga has dominated throughout the season, with a 23-point scoring margin over their 18 wins. The only miniscule blemish on their resume is lack of Q1/Q2 quality road wins. They won at Saint Mary’s 73-59 and at Pacific 76-58. The Bulldogs rank second in offensive efficiency and eighth in defensive efficiency per KenPom, and are first overall in BartTorvik. They get the nod over Baylor due to dominant wins over Kansas (12 points), Iowa (11 points), and Virginia (17 points). Mark Few’s Zags are talented, experienced, and one of the top threats to win the 2021 NCAA Tournament.


Team: Baylor
Record:  17-0
SOS:  162
NC SOS:  238
Q1 Record: 6-0
Q1 & Q2 Record:  8-0

Baylor has been every bit as dominant as Gonzaga with the same amount of Q1 and Q2 wins.  The Bears play in a much tougher conference (Big 12) but have a much worse non-conference strength of schedule than Gonzaga. The Bears have the highest scoring margin (24 points) in college basketball, and have won six true road games. The committee will give Baylor the second overall seed as a result of a 13-point neutral-court win over the No. 4 team in the NET (Illinois), and three true road Q1 wins over Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and Texas by a remarkable average of 12.3 points. There is a strong argument to be made for the Bears as the No. 1 overall seed, but it is irrelevant with Gonzaga on the other side of the bracket.


Team: Michigan
Record:  13-1
SOS:  101
NC SOS:  156
Q1 Record: 4-1
Q1 & Q2 Record:  7-1

Michigan is the clear choice for the third No. 1 overall seed. Their overall strength of schedule is better than both Gonzaga and Baylor, with a reasonable loss at Minnesota as the only stumble on their resume.  Two true double-digit road wins at Purdue and Maryland are solid Q1 wins, and their third overall ranking in both KenPom and BartTorvik solidify this seed. They are scheduled to return off their long COVID break next week against Illinois, another chance for a massive Q1 win.


Team: Ohio State
Record:  15-4
SOS:  47
NC SOS:  80
Q1 Record: 8-3
Q1 & Q2 Record: 8-4

The fourth spot is debatable, but it appears likely to be Ohio State. The Buckeyes have the most Q1 wins (eight) of any team in the country. Five of those eight wins are true road victories, including at Illinois and Iowa. Ohio State is flying up the metric rankings, sitting eight in KenPom and seventh in BartTorvik. The committee has shown a strong emphasis on those elite wins, and no team has more than the Buckeyes.



The No. 2 Seeds

Team: Alabama
Record:  15-5
SOS:  16
NC SOS:  54
Q1 Record: 5-3
Q1 & Q2 Record: 10-4

Despite their recent stumbles, the Crimson Tide is clearly a No. 2 seed. They have dominated SEC competition, with a 10-1 conference record that includes true road wins at Tennessee, Auburn, and LSU. Their 65-65 loss at Missouri on Saturday is their second in the past three games, but both without forward Jordan Bruner (knee surgery). This is still the same Alabama team that won ten consecutive games in dominant fashion, and the committee has always taken injuries into account with their seeding. The Crimson Tide are still deserving of a No. 2 seed, and have the second-best overall defense per KenPom.


Team: Villanova
Record:  11-2
SOS:  166
NC SOS:  193
Q1 Record: 2-2
Q1 & Q2 Record: 5-2

Villanova was viewed as one of the best teams in the country prior to their COVID break after their 85-68 win at Marquette on December 23. They earned three solid wins upon their return (Seton Hall twice, at Providence) before a shocking 70-59 loss at St. John’s. They are only 10th in KenPom and 17th in BartTorvik, but have the fifth-most efficient offense in the country. The Wildcats get a 2-seed based on the confusing resumes of the other teams and an impressive 68-64 true road win at Texas on December 6. Jay Wrights squad has a tenuous hold on this spot, but another team needs to earn a statement win before the ‘Cats are knocked down a seed line.


Team: Illinois
Record:  13-5
SOS:  26
NC SOS:  83
Q1 Record: 7-4
Q1 & Q2 Record: 10-5

Illinois has the best resume of any No. 2 seed, but they will not be placed in a bracket with Ohio State or Michigan, dropping them to the seventh overall spot in Baylor’s bracket. They are only one of four teams with six Q1 wins (Gonzaga, Baylor, Ohio State) and stayed close with Baylor despite Kofi Cockburns foul trouble. With solid strength of schedule numbers and NBA talent in Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu, the Illini are clearly one of the Top 8 teams in the country.


Team: Virginia
Record:  13-3
SOS:  84
NC SOS:  123
Q1 Record: 2-2
Q1 & Q2 Record: 7-3

Tony Bennett‘s Cavaliers are back at it again, leading the ACC with a 9-1 record. Virginia is a full 2.5 games ahead of Florida State and one of their three losses was to No. 1 Gonzaga. The Cavaliers are atop the ACC in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and rank second in the nation with a team 81.5% free throw percentage. Virginia can solidify their overall resume with a challenging upcoming three-game stretch with a home game against North Carolina followed by two road games at Florida State and Duke.



The No. 3 Seeds

Team: Houston
Record:  15-2
SOS:  85
NC SOS: 150
Q1 Record: 2-0
Q1 & Q2 Record: 5-1

Houston is the quintessential 3-seed team. They have a solid conference record at 10-2, with two Q1 wins. They have a very impressive neutral court win over Texas Tech, and lead the nation with the best offensive rebounding percentage per KenPom. The Cougars actually rank fourth in BartTorvik, but their recent 82-73 loss to East Carolina prevented consideration for a 2-seed.


Team: Missouri
Record:  13-3
SOS:  8
NC SOS: 24
Q1 Record: 4-3
Q1 & Q2 Record: 7-3

No team has raised their stock more in recent weeks than the Missouri Tigers. Head coach Cuonzo Martins team has won six of the past seven games, and has a huge 81-78 home win over Illinois on December 12. The Tigers metric rankings are a notch below the other teams, ranking 29th in KenPom and 20th in BartTorvik. However, their wins over two No. 2 seeds (Illinois and Alabama) as part of their five overall Q1 wins are enough to earn a 3-seed.


Team: Texas Tech
Record:  14-5
SOS: 59
NC SOS: 154
Q1 Record: 4-4
Q1 & Q2 Record: 5-5

The Red Raiders have a strong overall strength of schedule (59th) and have won four of their eight Q1 games. Texas Tech has won five of their six true road games, with their only loss being a last-second 88-87 defeat at West Virginia.  Chris Beard’s squad ranks 13th-best in defensive efficiency, with solid rankings in both KenPom (15th overall) and BartTorvik (17th). Their offense is overly reliant on junior guard Mac McClung (17.2 ppg), but he’s proved up to the task with 22 or more point in five of the past six games.


Team: Oklahoma
Record:  12-5
SOS: 41
NC SOS: 176
Q1 Record: 4-5
Q1 & Q2 Record: 5-5

Oklahoma sits behind Texas Tech as a result of a pair of losses by an average of 3.5 points.  The Sooners have perfect metric symmetry, ranking 28th in both offensive and defensive efficiency per KenPom. As with Alabama, the committee will certainly take into account the absence of both Austin Reaves (15.8 ppg) and Alondes Williams (7.7 ppg) due to the COVID protocol. Few teams have played nine Q1 games, and the 66-61 home victory of Alabama without Reaves and Williams looms large. Lon Krugers Sooners are fundamentally sound and rarely bear themselves. The will a tough out for any of the above teams.



The No. 4 Seeds

Team: West Virginia
Record:  13-5
SOS:  13
Q1 Record: 4-4
Q1 & Q2 Record: 7-5

After losing two of the first three games following the departure of forward Oscar Tshiebwe, the Mountaineers reinvented themselves and have fought their way to four wins in the past five games. West Virginia is 6-3 in Big 12 play, including four straight wins. Bob Huggins‘ team is surprisingly good on offense, ranking 13th overall including 10th-best in offensive rebounding. The Mountaineers will have a tremendous chance to move up to the 3-line with upcoming home games against Baylor and Oklahoma. Also worthy of note, their 87-82 loss to Gonzaga was the Bulldogs closest all season.


Team: Texas
Record:  14-6
SOS:  13
Q1 Record: 4-5
Q1 & Q2 Record: 7-5

The Longhorns carry elite strength of schedule metrics, in and out of conference play. Their opponents’ average NET ranking (16) is one of the lowest in the nation.  Shaka Smart preaches defense, and his Longhorns have responded with an overall ranking of 16th-best in the nation. They project to this seeding spot in both KenPom (16th) and BartTorvik (13th), and true road wins over West Virginia and Kansas justify their seeding.


Team: Wisconsin
Record:  11-5
SOS:  90
NC SOS: 182
Q1 Record: 4-4
Q1 & Q2 Record: 8-6

The Badgers have endured a roller-coaster season, but have a legitimate resume for a Top 16 seed. Wisconsin has 14 Q1/Q2 games, tied for the most of anyone on this list.  They have six Q1 wins including true road victories at Rutgers and Maryland. Metric rankings love the Badgers, who sit 11th in both KenPom and BartTorvik. Wisconsin’s last four losses have all been by double-digits, but their overall body of work still ensures them a Top 16 seed this weekend.


Team: Purdue
Record:  13-7
SOS:  31
NC SOS: 174
Q1 Record: 4-6
Q1 & Q2 Record: 5-0

The Boilermakers round out the Top 16 seeds, giving us the fifth Big 10 teams among this group. Purdue gets credit for managing a four-game winning streak in the midst of a difficult stretch that included four straight road games. The Boilermakers 15 Q1/Q2 games are the most in the country, highlighting a challenging schedule. Purdue has weathered the absence of sharpshooter Sasha Stefanovic (10.6 ppg, 44.1% 3P), and have received elite interior play from 6-foot-10 forward Trevion Williams (15.4 ppg, 9.6 rpg). Matt Painters team can tally a huge Q1 victory on Thursday, when they travel to Minnesota.