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2019 NCAA Tournament Bracketology — Non-Conference Edition

While conference season kicks off, it’s never too early to project a bracket

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Purdue Boilermakers vs Butler Bulldogs Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Non-conference play is behind us and conference play commenced in full this past weekend. There’s still a long way to go, but here’s a first look at this year’s bracket.

East / West Regionals

East Regional West Regional
East Regional West Regional
1. Duke 1. Michigan St.
16. Norfolk State / Abilene Christian 16. Lehigh
9. Mississippi 9. LSU
8. Maryland 8. TCU
5. Buffalo 5. Marquette
12. Lipscomb 12. VCU
13. Loyola-Chicago 13. Hofstra
4. Florida St. 4. North Carolina
3. Houston 3. Gonzaga
14. UC Irvine 14. Old Dominion
11. UCF 11. Clemson / Utah St.
6. St. John's 6. Kentucky
7. Louisville 7. Auburn
10. Cincinnati 10. Creighton
15. Georgia State 15. Radford
2. Texas Tech 2. Kansas

Midwest / South Regionals

Midwest Regional South Regional
Midwest Regional South Regional
1. Michigan 1. Virginia
16. Rider 16. Wagner / Texas Southern
9. Texas 9. Villanova
8. Seton Hall 8. Iowa
5. Nevada 5. Ohio St.
12. Florida / Syracuse 12. Wofford
13. New Mexico State 13. South Dakota State
4. Virginia Tech 4. Oklahoma
3. Wisconsin 3. North Carolina St.
14. Vermont 14. Yale
11. San Francisco 11. Murray St.
6. Iowa St. 6. Indiana
7. Minnesota 7. Nebraska
10. Purdue 10. Arizona St.
15. Northern Kentucky 15. Montana
2. Mississippi St. 2. Tennessee

Last Four In: Utah State, Clemson, Syracuse, Florida

First Four Out: Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas State, Washington

Bracket Thoughts

Tiers at the Top: Among the top eight teams in this ranking, there are three distinct tiers. The first tier is Duke, Michigan, and Virginia. You could give me any combination of those three teams and I wouldn’t argue. The next tier is the battle for the last number one seed between Michigan State and Kansas. Both those teams are bolstered by elite wins at the top despite both being two loss teams. Then finally, there is Tennessee, Mississippi State, and Texas Tech. Mississippi State is the surprise team among this group, but four KenPom A game wins have the Bulldogs with a sneaky good resume.

ACC Surprises: I’m surprised by the second tier of ACC teams. In my mind, Virginia Tech has a two/three seed resume and UNC is the number six team in KenPom but each come in a number four seeds. To add to the confusion is that NC State is actually a three seed. NC State is good, but they haven’t played anybody of note. Expect those seeds to flip flop quite a bit as the three get into their ACC schedules.

Mid-Majors in the Bracket: Gonzaga, Buffalo, Nevada, San Francisco, Murrary State. Through non-conference play, these teams built resumes strong enough to contend for at-large berths in this initial ranking. As long as the keep winning, I wouldn’t expect their seed lines to change that much. However any losses (hey Nevada) and their seed line can plummet. They also won’t have much opportunity to rise in the ranks. Though San Francisco and Gonzaga do play each other and one team sweeping the other (especially if it’s the Dons) could have a seeding. Honestly, I’ll be rooting for these guys as I’d much rather see them in March than a middle of the pack Power Five team with a .500 conference record.

The Pac-12: There is nothing groundbreaking about this statement, but this conference is TERRIBLE. Arizona State is the only Pac-12 school with a resume good enough for inclusion in these initial ranks. And what’s worse is they won’t have many chances to get quality wins to improve their seedings. Washington and Arizona are on the cusp, but will have to dominate the conference slate to move above where they are now. My prediction is the conference gets two teams into the tournament, but I wouldn’t be shocked if only their conference champion gets a bid.

What do you think? Who’s too high, who’s too low?