It’s officially championship week for men’s power conference teams. That means there’s still a week of work to be done to bolster seeding ahead of Selection Sunday in six days.
At the top seed line, Auburn vaults ahead of Kansas in the latest bracket. The Jayhawks, winners this weekend against Texas to claim a share of the Big 12 title, have an impressive NCAA Tournament résumé (10 Quadrant 1 wins, second-best strength of schedule). But the Tigers have more overall wins and all four of their losses were against Quad 1 opponents.
The selection committee will have a tough call, but right now No. 1 seeds Baylor and Auburn are slightly ahead, with Kansas and Kentucky neck-and-neck. Both the Jayhawks and Wildcats have the potential to vault ahead to the No. 1 seed line should they win the Big 12 and SEC tournaments, respectively, this week.
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Right behind blue-bloods Kansas and Kentucky at the No. 2 line is Duke, which suffered a critical setback at home against North Carolina on Saturday in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game. That outcome likely means that even if the Blue Devils win the ACC Tournament this week, they’re unlikely to steal a top seed away from the other six contenders. Much of that has to do with a weaker ACC this year, ranking sixth in the NET rankings among power conferences. The league’s next best seeds behind Duke are No. 9 seed North Carolina and No. 10 Notre Dame.
Near the bubble line, Memphis (victory vs. Houston) and Michigan (victory vs. Ohio State) used big weekends to likely seal their inclusion in the field of 68. They won’t want to risk it, though, by losing early in their respective conference tournaments. Meanwhile, teams like Xavier and SMU need to get to their conference tourney title games if they want to avoid Selection Sunday sweating.
Gonzaga, Arizona, Baylor, Auburn.
Wyoming, Xavier, Wake Forest, SMU.
Dayton, VCU, BYU, Saint Louis.
Indiana, Florida, Saint Bonaventure, Colorado.
Others considered for at-large bids: St. John’s, South Carolina, Oklahoma.
On life support: Richmond, Mississippi State, Virginia, Virginia Tech.
Multi-bid conferences: Big Ten (8), Big East (7), Big 12 (6), SEC (6), ACC (5), Mountain West (4), American Athletic (3), Pac-12 (3), West Coast (3).
Leaders or highest NET from projected one-bid conferences – (22 total): A10 – Davidson; America East – Vermont; Atlantic Sun – Jacksonville; Big Sky – Montana State; Big South – Longwood; Big West – Long Beach State; CAA – Towson; C-USA – North Texas; Horizon – Cleveland State; Ivy League – Princeton; MAAC – Iona; MAC – Toledo; MEAC – Norfolk State; Missouri Valley – Loyola-Chicago; Northeast – Wagner; Ohio Valley – Murray State; Patriot – Colgate; Southern – Chattanooga; Southland – Nicholls State; SWAC – Alcorn State; Summit – South Dakota State; Sun Belt – Georgia State; WAC – New Mexico State.
NCAA Tournament language explainer:
Note: Most statistical data is used from WarrenNolan.com. The NET rankings (NCAA Evaluation Tool) also are a reference point.
About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 on his website, Bracket W.A.G. He joined USA TODAY in 2014. In his ninth season as our national bracketologist, Mast has finished as one of the top three bracketologists in the past eight March Madnesses. He’s also predicted for The Indianapolis Star, collegeinsider.com and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.
About our college basketball reporter: Scott Gleeson has covered men’s college basketball for USA TODAY since 2012, contributing to bracketology and running Bubble Tracker before tackling everything March Madness following Selection Sunday. He correctly forecasted Virginia would win the national championship in 2019 before the season began and also picked Loyola-Chicago as a Cinderella mid-major in 2018. Follow him on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.
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