Bracket Preview Day Bracketology: Projecting the Committee’s Top 16 plus more

Today at 12:30 PM, the March Madness Bracket Preview special airs on CBS. The selection committee will reveal their current top 16 teams and divide them by region. I have predicted their top 16 and built a bracketology around it. Just like last time, the conference winners are based off who I feel would win a conference tournament based on what we’ve seen so far. The top 16 is as close to an S-curve as possible, but a perfect S-curve would not allow for top 4 B1G or Big 12 teams to be placed in different regions. Keep reading to see which teams made it, which teams didn’t, and which teams are on the bubble. As always, feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Top 16 Teams

  1. Baylor Bears (#1 overall)
  2. Villanova Wildcats (#6 overall)
  3. Ohio State Buckeyes (#12 overall)
  4. Alabama Crimson Tide (#15 overall)

Baylor remains the #1 overall after dominating several strong opponents in the Big 12 and remaining undefeated. Villanova fell to St. John’s, but I still have them as a 2 seed after an impressive season overall. Besides, St. John’s might be better than we thought, as they’ve also taken down UConn.

I’m not fully bought into the Buckeye hype quite yet. They had a very shaky start that included losses to Northwestern and Purdue. If they can beat Michigan this season I’ll be sold, but I just don’t think they have the star power of a #1 seed. Alabama is normally a #1 seed for football, but this is the best they’ve been for basketball in a long time. ‘Bama is dominating in the SEC, and that alone warrants a top 16 resume. However, they’ve struggled outside the conference, falling to teams including Stanford and Western Kentucky, preventing them from the top 10 in my book.

The Rest of the Region

The Jayhawks are normally part of this top 16, but in a year when most of the typical top teams have struggled mightily, even Kansas has been affected. They have still been alright this year, but they haven’t really stood out from the rest of the Big 12 like Baylor and some other teams have. Led by Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State is also a middle of the pack team in a strong Big 12. Their resume gets weighed down by TCU sweeping them. Purdue has had a solid season in the B1G with Eric Hunter Jr. back in the lineup after missing time early. However, the Boilermakers haven’t done anything too mind blowing, and their best wins by far are the ones over Ohio State.

I have Clemson and Colorado in the 8-9 game. Aamir Simms and the Tigers have been inconsistent but they are worthy of a spot on the bracket. Advanced metrics project the Buffaloes as a legitimate contender, but they have a loss to Washington, arguably the worst team in a weak Pac-12. They have some other questionable losses on their resume as well. The Rams, also a Colorado team, have really impressed this year. They began to get on people’s radars when they split with other top Mountain West teams like San Diego State and Utah State. More recently, they also split with Boise State, proving that they’ll be in the mix for the conference title here.

LSU is in an interesting situation. They have been more consistent than pretty much any other team in the league, but their only somewhat notable wins have been against bubble teams like Arkansas and Ole Miss. They’ll need to beat at least one top 25 team to have a solidified tournament resume. I have two New Jersey teams, Rutgers and Seton Hall grabbing two of the final at large bids. I’m lower on Rutgers than most because of their inconsistency and road struggles.

Rounding out the region is projected conference winners in Winthrop, Cleveland State, UMBC, and HBCUs Prairie View and Norfolk State.

Top 16 Teams

  1. Texas Tech Red Raiders (#4 overall)
  2. Illinois Fighting Illini (#7 overall)
  3. Tennessee Volunteers (#10 overall)
  4. Virginia Cavaliers (#13 overall)

Texas Tech has posted a rather strong season in the Big 12 with Mac McClung in the mix. In this competitive of a conference, I think the Red Raiders are deserving of the 1 line. Illinois started off slow, but they have proven themselves as a title contender. Ayo Dosunmu led them past Iowa, and their only notable bad loss has come against Maryland, a team that has been wildly inconsistent and upset top teams despite losing to lower tier ones.

The Vols have had some rough moments, but they’ve been among the top teams in the SEC and I think they have the depth of a championship contender as well. Virginia has been conducting business as usual ever since the San Francisco loss. They did fall to Virginia Tech on the road, but they’ve had a strong season overall. They’ll have their biggest test yet when they face Florida State.

The Rest of the Region

West Virginia has been a middle of the pack Big 12 team, and I don’t know how well they’ll be able to do in the tourney without Oscar Tshiebwe. UConn had a rough patch without James Bouknight, but Bouknight is back so the Huskies should show people how capable they truly are soon enough. It’s become clear that USC is the best team in the Pac-12, so they round out the Top 25 and grab a 7 seed here. Led by the Mobley brothers, they recently took down UCLA. In the 8-9 game, I have MW contender San Diego State against A10 contender Saint Bonaventure. Both these teams have posted strong seasons in conferences that aren’t quite Power Six, but should still be able to send multiple teams to Indianapolis.

Louisville hasn’t been overly impressive in the ACC, but they have a good enough record in the conference for a tourney spot. Both the Cardinals and Terps have been somewhat inconsistent this year, resulting in lower seeds. Xavier is 11-2, but they don’t have many big wins. They’ve performed at an average level in the Big East and their biggest win came against Oklahoma during their strong start to the season. I don’t see them as a surefire tourney team like many people do. Projected conference winners take up the rest of the bracket here.

Top 16 Teams

  1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (#2 overall)
  2. Houston Cougars (#8 overall)
  3. Iowa Hawkeyes (#11 overall)
  4. Wisconsin Badgers (#14 overall)

Gonzaga is clearly a top 2 team in the nation, but I think Baylor edges them out for #1 right now. Houston may have lost to East Carolina, but that loss doesn’t ruin their strong resume that includes a win over Texas Tech and wins over most other AAC teams. Iowa’s had a rough stretch that includes a second loss to Indiana, but you can never count out Luka Garza. Garza has been the best player in the country this season and could take Iowa on a deep run with enough help. I’d say Iowa outmatches B1G rival Wisconsin, who has had some big wins but also several questionable losses.

The Rest of the Region

Oklahoma, like Kansas and WVU, is a middle of the pack Big 12 team that I have on the 5 line. I have the Gators as a 6 seed still. I’m still impressed by the fact that they’ve kept up with the SEC’s best without Keyontae Johnson. They’ll be extra motivated to make a deep run in Keyontae’s honor. Virginia Tech has wins over Villanova and Virginia, but also losses to Pittsburgh and Penn State. That inconsistent resume places them just outside the top 25 in my eyes. I have St. John’s, the other team who beat Villanova, in the 8-9 game. They’ll take on Drake, who I’m still a believer in despite the loss to Valparaiso. Unless the Bulldogs get swept by Loyola Chicago, they should still be a tourney team.

The Ducks are down to a 10 seed as they fall behind USC and Colorado in the Pac-12. I still have Western Kentucky as an 11 seed, as their resume towers over the resumes of most mid-major teams. WKU gets a higher seed than two of the final at large teams, Syracuse and Ole Miss. Jim Boeheim and the Orange definitely have a bubble team after a respectable, but unimpressive season in the ACC. Ole Miss is a bubble team right now but should only move up the bracket from here. I feel that their upset of Tennessee is only the beginning of a strong SEC resume. The rest of the bracket is just projected conference winners. Liberty is the clear cut Atlantic Sun favorite, while Sam Houston State, Colgate, and CSU Bakersfield have a tougher road to an autobid.

Top 16 Teams

  1. Michigan Wolverines (#3 overall)
  2. Texas Longhorns (#5 overall)
  3. Florida State Seminoles (#10 overall)
  4. Missouri Tigers (#16 overall)

I think Michigan is pretty clearly the #3 overall team after a dominant season in the B1G. Texas is among the top teams in a strong Big 12, so I have them just behind Texas Tech and on the 2 line. I’m higher on Florida State than most, but they’ve had several big wins in the ACC and I think they can make it a very close game against Virginia. Missouri has had a lot of big wins, including one over Illinois, but they are too inconsistent to be much higher. Half the time they play like a 1 seed, and the other half of the time they play like a bubble team. They have a strong veteran core led by Xavier Pinson, but I can’t put them top 10 considering their losses to teams like Mississippi State. They also had a very close call against TCU.

The Rest of the Region

Without Ty-Shon Alexander, Creighton hasn’t been the dominant force they were a year ago. Marcus Zegarowski has played well but Creighton has let almost every game get way too close, leading to some ugly losses including Georgetown and Butler. Most see Indiana as a bubble team, but the fact that they swept the Hawkeyes makes me think they are capable of big things. Minnesota should be a tourney lock after handing Michigan their only loss, but their road struggles are weighing down their resume. Saint Louis and North Carolina have both posted respectable, but unimpressive seasons. I think both are good enough for the 8-9 game, but no more than that unless they add some more big wins to their resumes.

UCLA, like Oregon, has fallen behind in the Pac-12. They’ve struggled without Chris Smith, and my expectations for the rest of UCLA’s season are very low. Loyola Chicago should be able to make the tourney alongside Drake, but a lot depends on how the games between those two teams go. Belmont is one of only a few mid-major conference winners that I have above the 13 line. Their one-loss season is very impressive. I also have Wofford, Toledo, Siena, and Eastern Washington earning autobids.

Bubble Watch

The Razorbacks have advanced metrics on their side, but I’m not impressed by any of their wins this year. BYU did lose to Pepperdine, but they still have a borderline tourney resume. The Aggies (also from Utah), would be on the bracket if it weren’t for their South Dakota State loss. That loss isn’t a deal breaker but they’ll need some more impressive wins to make up for it. Michigan State is struggling in a competitive B1G and lacks significant wins. They’ll need Tom Izzo to lead them past some stronger B1G opponents if they want a spot in the tourney.

TCU has wins over Oklahoma State already, so if they can win one more significant Big 12 game I’d say they deserve a spot. Stanford has been decent, but it will be hard to build a tournament resume unless they dominate the Pac-12 the rest of the way. Memphis and Wichita State would likely need to beat Houston to make the tourney at this point.


That’s all for today’s bracketology. Selection Sunday is in just 4 weeks, and the Bracket Preview today will build even more hype for that event.

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