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STL Bracketology: February 28th

It’s our first bracket of the year. Wait? Virginia’s not a #1 Seed?

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-City Scenes Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Since I’ve been doing Bracketology, only in 2017 were the Virginia Cavaliers not in consideration for a number one seed. It’s uncharted territory, but thanks to winning eight of their last nine, the Hoos are solidly in the tournament and off the bubble. They check in as a nine seed in this bracket, up from a ten when I initially put the teams in order at the beginning of the week. Finish strong and they could feasibly play they way to a six or seven seed. Finish the season 0-3 with a loss in the ACC Tournament and an 11 is about as far as they would fall. Without further ado, here’s the bracket.

Midwest and East Regionals

Midwest Regional East Regional
Midwest Regional East Regional
1. Kansas (1) 1. San Diego St. (4)
16. Norfolk State / Siena 16. Wright State
9. Arizona St. 9. Xavier
8. LSU 8. Saint Mary's
5. Butler 5. Ohio St.
12. Liberty 12. USC / Providence
13. Vermont 13. Northern Colorado
4. Michigan 4. Louisville
3. Seton Hall 3. Penn St.
14. Stephen F. Austin 14. Texas State
11. Rutgers 11. Northern Iowa
6. Colorado 6. BYU
7. Marquette 7. Illinois
10. Oklahoma 10. Wichita St.
15. Hofstra 15. Colgate
2. Florida St. 2. Creighton

South and West Regionals

South Regional West Regional
South Regional West Regional
1. Baylor (2) 1. Gonzaga (3)
16. Winthrop 16. Prairie View A&M / Saint Francis (PA)
9. Virginia 9. Texas Tech
8. Indiana 8. Houston
5. Oregon 5. Iowa
12. Rhode Island / N.C. State 12. Yale
13. Louisiana Tech 13. Akron
4. Michigan St. 4. Kentucky
3. Villanova 3. Duke
14. Belmont 14. UC Irvine
11. East Tennessee St. 11. Utah St.
6. Auburn 6. West Virginia
7. Wisconsin 7. Arizona
10. Stanford 10. Florida
15. South Dakota State 15. New Mexico State
2. Dayton 2. Maryland

Last Four In: Rhode Island, USC, Providence, NC State

First Four Out: Richmond, Arkansas, Georgetown, Cincinnati

Bracket Thoughts:

The Fourth Number One - Kansas, Baylor, Gonzaga. All three are squarely on the one line. However, what to do with that fourth number one. Until they lost, San Diego State was a pretty easy choice, though I still would have had them behind Gonzaga for the coveted number one spot out west. The Aztecs still get the nod, but they have zero margin for error. Any more losses and it won’t matter what other teams do, they just won't have the resume. Close on San Diego State’s heels are any number of teams who can make a case now, and have the ability to improve their standing as the year progresses. Following closely behind are Maryland, Dayton, and upstart Creighton. If Maryland can finish strong in arguably the country’s best conference, they could easily jump the Aztecs. Similarly if Creighton does the same, they could have enough to take a one slot. Dayton on the other hand probably needs help. The Atlantic-10 hasn’t been what we thought it might be, so outside of a good showing in Maui, the Flyers haven’t been able to show how good they may actually be.

The ACC - For so many years the best conference in the country, the ACC may struggle to get five teams into the tournament and a team higher than the three line. Florida State and Duke could ascend with strong finishes and an ACC crown, but the league’s streak of six years with a number one seed looks in jeopardy. Down the bracket, our Hoos look solid as a nine seed at the moment while NC State checks in as my final team in the field. They could be easily in with a couple more solid wins, or they could be nowhere in the mix come Selection Sunday, given the overall strength of the conference, and neither would surprise me.

Big Ten - With ten teams in this bracket, the Big Ten is head and shoulders the best conference in the country. But with only Maryland in the conversation for a number one seed, the conference features more teams in the middle to back end of the at-large field than at the top. Of the 10 teams, six are seeded fifth or worse in this bracket. Then there’s the case of Minnesota and Purdue. Both teams would rank inside my bracket per my model, but given their overall records, they’re not even close to be being considered. Last season I inflated the rankings of Big Ten teams and as I look to build my bracket for Selection Sunday, I’m likely to dock the conference just a little despite most of its teams having strong model rankings.

The Bubble - HOT TAKE ALERT!!! The bubble isn’t all that bad this year. And no, it’s not because Virginia finds themselves on it for the first time since 2013. It’s because the field isn’t very good. In a down year for college basketball on the whole, there isn’t a lot to distinguish between seven and twelve seeds. It will make for a very exciting last few weeks of the season as we could see significant seed swings if teams near the last four in get hot while teams who look securely in, at the moment, go on a losing streak.