Now that we are in mid-February, bracket projections actually start to mean something. A number of teams have essentially solidified their spot somewhere in the NCAA tournament, and a bunch of others are close to joining them in the field of 68. Still there are many teams fighting for the final at-large selections, and every game starts to mean much more.
Here is an update on how the bracket is shaping up, and you can click here if you want to see the complete, projected NCAA tournament field.
Indiana has reemerged as the overall No. 1 seed with about a month left in the season. The Hoosiers are in first place in the Big Ten and have defeated Georgetown, Minnesota, Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State. Their three losses are by two points in overtime to Butler, by five points to Wisconsin, and by two points at Illinois.
Miami (FL) and Duke are fighting for the second No. 1 seed while Duke sits as the fourth No. 1 seed. The Blue Devils picked up a bunch of good wins in November, but they are still yet to beat a good team on the road. Michigan and Miami do not have as many wins over nationally ranked teams, but they have been able to win on the road and have been playing better basketball lately.
The Hurricanes have a non-conference win over Michigan State, and in the ACC they dominated Duke and also won at North Carolina State. If they continue to run the table in the ACC, they will be a No. 1 seed in March.
The Wolverines have lost two of their last three, but the losses are at Indiana and Wisconsin, both tough teams to beat on the road. Plus, the win during that stretch was over No. 10 Ohio State, which helps balance out those losses.
Other teams still in strong contention for a No. 1 seed are Florida and Michigan State, and Kansas, Syracuse and Arizona could all wind up on the top line if they play well down the stretch.
Now for some bubble talk.
The last four teams in are: Indiana State, Temple, St. John’s and St. Mary’s.
Indiana State has a puzzling resume, with wins over Ole Miss, Miami, Wichita State and Creighton and losses to Morehead State, Southern Illinois, Illinois State and Drake. Despite being picked No. 7 in the Missouri Valley in the preseason poll, the Sycamores would be the No. 1 seed in the MVC tournament if it started today.
Temple is still clinging to its win over then-No. 3 Syracuse as its highlight win. The Owls have another good win over Saint Louis, but they also have losses to Canisius and Saint Bonaventure at home. The Owls’ margin for error will be very slim over the second half of February.
St. John’s had some very bad losses early in the season, but the Red Storm has been playing quite well in the Big East. Their only bad loss at home to Rutgers, but they have put that in the past with wins over Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Connecticut. The Johnnies are two games out of first place in the Big East, and they will remain in bubble conversation as long as they avoid losses to South Florida and Providence. Their other four remaining games are all against Top 25 teams, and wins in two of those should be enough to put them in the field of 68.
St. Mary’s’ resume still leaves something to be desired. The Gaels’ best wins are Utah State, Harvard and Brigham Young, but they have avoided bad losses in the West Coast Conference. They will have two opportunities for key wins with Gonzaga on Thursday night and then a BracketBuster matchup with Creighton next weekend. A win in one of those would put St. Mary’s in pretty good shape. If they win both, and a ticket to the Big Dance should be guaranteed.
To see how the entire bracket is shaping up, click here.