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STL Bracketology: Conference Tournament Edition

Conference Tournaments are here, so let’s just sit back and watch the madness

NCAA Men’s Final Four - Previews Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

While the first bids of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament were handed out over the weekend, conference tournaments and the beginning of the madness start in earnest this week. Over the next seven days, bids will be secured and tournament hopes will be dashed. Here’s how I see things to start the week.

West and East Regionals

West Regional East Regional
West Regional East Regional
1. Gonzaga (1) 1. Illinois (4)
16. Morgan State / James Madison 16. Appalachian State
9. VCU 9. Virginia Tech
8. Rutgers 8. San Diego St.
5. Creighton 5. Tennessee
12. Wright State 12. Syracuse / SMU
13. UC Santa Barbara 13. Winthrop
4. Kansas 4. Oklahoma St.
3. Houston 3. Virginia
14. South Dakota State 14. Colgate
11. Louisville 11. UCLA
6. Colorado 6. BYU
7. Connecticut 7. St. Bonaventure
10. Florida 10. Oklahoma
15. Weber State 15. Grand Canyon
2. Ohio St. 2. Alabama

South and Midwest Regionals

South Regional West Regional
South Regional West Regional
1. Baylor (2) 1. Michigan (3)
16. Prairie View A&M / Siena 16. Bryant
9. North Carolina 9. Texas Tech
8. Wisconsin 8. LSU
5. West Virginia 5. Texas
12. Toledo 12. Wichita St. / Boise St.
13. Liberty 13. North Texas
4. USC 4. Florida St.
3. Villanova 3. Purdue
14. UNC Greensboro 14. Abilene Christian
11. Maryland 11. Drake
6. Loyola Chicago 6. Oregon
7. Missouri 7. Clemson
10. Georgia Tech 10. Michigan St.
15. Vermont 15. Morehead State
2. Iowa 2. Arkansas

Last Four Byes: Louisville, Drake, Maryland, UCLA
Last Four In: Wichita State, Syracuse, SMU, Boise State
First Four Out: Colorado State, Saint Louis, Xavier, Mississippi
Next Four Out: Penn State, Utah State, Memphis, Indiana

Bracket Thoughts:

Four Number Ones: There isn’t a year I can remember where the four number one seeds have been so entrenched. Normally there are 5-6 teams that have a legitimate shot at earning one of the four coveted spots headed into the week and bracketologists still differ on who they are come Sunday afternoon. This year, Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan, and Illinois look to be the four. The only outside chances I see are if Iowa or Alabama run the table and win their respective conference tournaments. But even in that case, Illinois or Michigan would probably have to be one and done.

UVA and the ACC: While UVA is the highest seeded ACC team in this bracket at #3, there are still eight teams from the conference featured this year. The ACC wasn’t as strong as it normally is, but eight teams is still pretty solid. That being said, there isn’t a lot of room for error as five of those eight teams are on the nine line or worse.

The Bubble: Speaking of ACC teams and the bubble, Louisville and Syracuse find themselves squarely on it. Louisville is probably good since their opener in the ACC tournament will be against Duke and would fall in the “not bad” loss category. Syracuse though faces a must win against N.C. State. Lose that game and they’re going to have to hope other bubble teams around them don’t notch some quality wins. Joining the Orange in the current “First Four” are two teams out of the American Athletic Conference. If SMU can get past Cincinnati (where a win only means they avoid a bad loss) they’ll set up showdown with the Wichita State Shockers which could be a play-in game for the Big Dance.

Another fun set of potential bubble matchups will be happening out in Las Vegas at the Mountain West Conference Tournament. There Boise State needs a win over Nevada to feel good about their chances while on the other side of the bracket Colorado State and Utah are set for a semi-final matchup. Either one faltering before that game will mean they’ll be on the outside looking in.

Blue Bloods: I take great pleasure in projecting that, barring a miracle, Duke and Kentucky will miss this year’s NCAA Tournament. Duke needs to make it all the way to Saturday’s ACC Tournament Final to even have a chance. And still, they’d need other current bubble teams to fall flat in their conference tournaments. Michigan State on the other hand has played its way into a tournament lock. Rest easy Wahoo faithful, both the Hoos and Spartans have done enough over the last week such that they’ll avoid a 5/12 matchup. But if I’m the top seed, the last team I want in a potential round of 32 game is the Michigan State Spartans.

Check back over the weekend for updates and the final preview before the Committee unveils the field for the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.