Sunday puts us one month away from Selection Sunday. That means the pressure is on for teams sitting on the bubble. Regardless of all the scheduling issues this season, time is running out to make a statement. A win here or a loss there could mean ending up on the right or wrong side of tournament inclusion. That’s the beauty of the bubble: it’s fluid right up until the bracket gets revealed in March. One thing that’s seeming more and more certain is that Duke, Michigan State, and Kentucky are all likely to miss March Madness this season. Meanwhile, countless mid-major teams from the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West are fighting it out for at-large bids. This is what makes college basketball bracketology so great.
With all that being said, here is our fourth bracket and seed list for the season.
The Big Ten holds firm with nine teams represented in this bracket. Eight of them seem fairly safe, while Indiana still has work to do. The league could still see potentially 11 teams make it, but time will tell. The Big 12 and ACC each follow with seven teams. However, there’s a vast difference between the two leagues. The Big 12 has 70 percent of their teams in, with five of them earning spots in the top 16 overall. Meanwhile, the ACC has more teams sitting just inside the bubble for the time being. The SEC is next with six teams, followed by the Big East with five. The Pac 12 sees just four teams in this bracket, with no team higher than a five seed.
Mid-major leagues have seen themselves flood the most recent bracket. The Mountain West has the most with three teams, in large part because Utah State would take the automatic bid at the moment. The Atlantic 10, WCC, and Missouri Valley each have two teams in, but each could still end up being one-bid leagues if the cards don’t fall their way.
Gonzaga finds itself once again at the top of the bracket. The most excitement the Bulldogs have had recently was the potential for a big non-conference clash when their WCC games were postponed last week. However, all of the hype fell through, with nothing coming to fruition. The biggest thing Gonzaga needs to watch is Baylor, as they would most likely jump them for the top seed if both win out.
Iowa, once a challenger for a top seed, has fallen down to a three seed. That fall is due to the Hawkeyes losing four of their last six games. The Big Ten is a tough league, so it’s not unheard of for teams to drop a few in a pattern like this. However, it does raise doubts about whether Iowa is a title contender as first thought in the beginning of the season. For now, a regular season league title seems less likely.
Oklahoma continues to rise in bracket projections, jumping to a four seed in this edition. The Sooners have won six of their last seven games, including a stretch of three straight top 10 wins. That puts Oklahoma easily in the conversation for a top 16 position, and their ceiling still may not be fully realized.
The Drake Bulldogs check in as a ten seed in this region. Drake dropped from the ranks of the unbeatens with a loss to Valparaiso last Sunday. This is a tough team to place, as their unbeaten record was a big reason for their jump in seeding. However, now that they have lost, their profile leaves a lot to be desired for an at-large berth. Drake can’t lose many more games.
Baylor holds firm in their spot as the second overall seed. The Bears are in the middle of a COVID pause, which has wiped away a lot of big match-ups with fellow ranked Big 12 foes. It’ll be interesting to see how many of those games will be made up before the Big 12 Tournament. If many of them do, Baylor may find itself playing a lot of games in a small window, making them vulnerable to an upset or two.
Houston checks in as the two seed in this region. The Cougars seemed like they were going to make a run for a one seed, but they dropped a head-scratcher to East Carolina last week. Perhaps the window is still open given how much movement has occurred behind Baylor and Gonzaga this season. However, that loss will stand out on their profile as they get compared to other top teams for seeding.
That is not a misprint. The Kansas Jayhawks are currently listed as a six seed. This has not been the season for blue bloods, and Kansas is not immune. The Jayhawks just aren’t winning big games like we’re used to, and it’s put them well on the outside of the Big 12 title race. If that holds true, their last three games against Texas Tech, Texas, and Baylor could be rough.
LWOS now recognizes that Oklahoma State’s appeal of their postseason ban makes them eligible for the tournament for the time being. The Cowboys have quietly built up a tournament-worthy profile for now. It would be really exciting to see Cade Cunningham get a chance to play in March, but that will be decided by the NCAA infractions committee.
Michigan remains as the third overall seed, though the Wolverines are stagnant due to their COVID pause. They are slated to return on Sunday against Wisconsin, however. All of their remaining scheduled games are against teams that could make the tournament, so the road won’t be easy. However, if they finish as the Big Ten champion, it’ll be hard not to see them staying as a one seed.
Villanova checks in as the two seed here. The Wildcats were pushed out of the top line due to their loss to St. John’s as well as the ascension of another team we’ll touch on later. There’s still plenty of time for them to work their way back to that line, but the Big East is down overall, meaning their wins may not be weighted as heavily.
Remember when everyone thought West Virginia would be worse without Oscar Tshiebwe? Weren’t we foolish? All the Mountaineers have done since then is rise to second place in one of the toughest leagues in the nation. That puts them as a three seed. They recently earned a sweep of Texas Tech and took down Kansas convincingly. Due to Baylor’s pause, we don’t know if they’ll get a shot at the Bears. However, if they do, those should be great match-ups.
Another team that is on the rise is USC. The Trojans vaulted into first place in the Pac 12 after taking down rival UCLA in convincing fashion last week. They have quietly won 16 games this season, and have shiny metrics to go with them. If they can keep this up, they may be the league’s best hope to crack the top 16.
Welcome Ohio State to the top line of this college basketball bracketology. The Buckeyes have ripped off five straight wins, including over Wisconsin and Iowa. That streak is what has them here for now. If they can get by Indiana and Penn State, that sets up for a monumental game with Michigan on February 21. Ohio State needs more Wolverine losses to have a realistic shot at a Big Ten title. However, they are playing like a national title contender right now.
Speaking of hot Big Ten teams, Illinois would like to throw its hat into the ring. The Illini have a four-game winning streak of their own, also including victories over Wisconsin and Iowa. It feels like a safe bet at this point that the Big Ten will have at least three teams included as top-eight seeds. The question is which ones they will be.
Loyola-Chicago rises up to a seven seed in this region. The Ramblers have a profile full of wonderful metrics, and they haven’t lost since January 10. They have just five games left before the Missouri Valley Tournament, but two of those are against Drake this weekend. The best thing for the MVC would be for the teams to split. However, Loyola could rise further if they earn a sweep. This Ramblers group could be better than the Final Four team from a few seasons ago, and that’s a scary thought.
St. Bonaventure finds its way into the bracket as an 11 seed. The Bonnies are in by virtue of the auto-bid from the Atlantic 10. However, they are certainly good enough to make it in with an at-large berth. They’ve played mostly conference games this season, and recently missed an opportunity against Saint Louis. However, if they win out and make a deep run in the A-10 Tournament, SBU could find themselves in the field.
The last four teams into our latest college basketball bracketology are Oregon, Seton Hall, Syracuse, and Saint Louis. Oregon’s loss to Washington State earlier this month really hurt them. However, they are a team that can find a groove and play their way back to safety. Seton Hall continues to do just enough, though they went 0-4 against Creighton and Villanova this season. The Pirates may have to just pile up wins to stay safe. Metrics love Syracuse, but they only have one big win on their profile. The Orange need a few more eye-popping victories before they can get somewhat comfortable. A few weeks ago, Saint Louis seemed like a sure thing. The Billikens are still a good team, but their profile suffered at the hands of La Salle. For now, they are in by a thread.
The first four teams out of our college basketball bracketology are Colorado State, Stanford, Maryland, and VCU. Colorado State is the victim of a projected bid stealer from their own league. Utah State would most likely not be in right now, but their auto-bid projection pushes out the Rams. Every time it seems like Stanford is ready to solidify themselves into the field, they take a step back. The schedule is favorable down the stretch, so the Cardinal could still find their way in. Maryland continues to play up and down. The Terps are here by virtue of three big road wins. However, their inconsistency puts them at 10-10 and on the outside looking in for the moment. VCU continues to be a team to watch out of the Atlantic 10. The Rams are in the hunt for the A-10 title, and have a big game against St. Bonaventure tonight.