With Election Sunday less than a week away, the men’s college basketball teams are battling it out in the NCAA bubble for entry into the 68 field. Meanwhile, the teams that are already comfortably in the field are trying to fill in their résumés to compete to achieve a strong sowing.
On the way to conference championship week, both bubble and seeding lines will be most fascinating at the Big Ten conference.
It seemed inevitable that there would be three bans on the number 1 in the NCAAs a week ago – with the undefeated Gonzaga, the Big 12 champion Baylor, and the Big Ten champion Michigan. While the first two could lose in their ligature tournaments and still secure a top seed, things get more complicated when the # 1 seed two are from the Big Ten while Illinois (20-6) is the other # 1.
Michigan (19-3, 14-3) beat Michigan State by 19 points on Thursday but then lost to the Spartans on Sunday in a game that likely secured MSU’s inclusion as a bubble team. This is the challenge with makeup games planned for COVID-19 reasons. It is never easy to beat a team twice in a row. The Wolverines have lost two of their last three, and their stranglehold on a top seed has loosened enough that the fourth # 1 seed, Illinois, could skip the Wolverines on Selection Sunday.
In addition, there is still space for one of the hunting seeds # 2 to reach line # 1. Alabama (21-6) would have to win the SEC championship to prevail, but it’s doable if Michigan or Illinois stumble. Houston (21-3) also has an outside chance, although this is unlikely.
Where it can get interesting is the Big Ten tournament for the planned No. 2 seed Iowa and Ohio State. The Hawkeyes (20-7) won seven out of eight while the Buckeyes (18-8) lost four in a row. Still, both have profiles that could be worthy of a number 1 with a Big Ten tournament title.
It’s hard to imagine the # 1 seeds changing given how strong the four that hold these spots have been all season. But the last week before March Madness will be the ultimate determinant.
The NCAA tournament ends on March 18th.
Seed No. 1
Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan, Illinois.
The last four in
Drake, Colorado State, Boise State, Xavier.
The first four out
St. John’s, State of Utah, Syracuse, Saint Louis.
The next four out
SMU, Memphis, Seton Hall, Duke.
Others considered for general commandments: Stanford, Belmont.
To support life: State of North Carolina, Pittsburgh.
Multi-Command Conferences: Big Ten (9), Big 12 (7), ACC (7), SEC (6), Big East (4), Pac-12 (4), Mountain West (3), Atlantic 10 (2), American Athletic ( 2), Missouri Valley (2), West Coast (2).
Executives or highest NET from scheduled conferences with a bid – (20 total): America East – Hartford, Atlantic Sun – Freedom, Big Sky – Weber Street, Big South – Winthrop, Big West – UCSB, CAA – Northeast, C-USA – West Kentucky, Horizon – Cleveland State, MAAC – Siena, MAC – Toledo, MEAC – Norfolk St., Northeast – Bryant, OVC – Morehead St, Patriot – Navy, South – UNCG, Southland – Abilene Christian, SWAC – Prairie View A&M, Summit – South Dakota St, Sun Belt – Georgia State, WAC – Grand Canyon .
- Excluded from participation: State of Alabama, Alabama A&M, State of Delaware, Auburn, Arizona.
- Transitional schools not admitted to the tournament: Cal Baptist, Northern Alabama, Merrimack, Dixie State, Tarleton State, Bellarmine, UC San Diego.
- COVID-19: Ivy League, Bethune-Cookman, Maryland East Coast, Howard, Maine.
Explanation of the language of the NCAA tournament:
- NET stands for the NCAA Evaluation Tool, which is the barometer for the selection committee. It includes the game results, the strength of the schedule, the venue, the profit margin (maximum 10 points per game) and the offensive and defensive efficiency.
- Quadrant 1 wins: home games against 1-30 NET teams; Games with neutral side against 1-50 NET; Away games against 1-75 NET
- Quadrant 2 wins: home games against 31-75 NET; Games with neutral side against 51-100 NET; Away games against 76-135 NET
- Quadrant 3 wins: home games against 76-160 NET; Games with neutral side against 101-200 NET; Away games against 136-240 NET
- Quadrant 4 wins: home games against 161-plus NET; Play with a neutral side against NET over 201; Away games against NET 241 plus
Note: Most of the statistical data is used by WarrenNolan.com. The NET ranking (NCAA Evaluation Tool) are also a point of reference.
Via our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field on its website since 2005, Bracket WAG He came to USA TODAY in 2014. In his eighth season as our national bracketologist, Mast has graduated as one of the top three bracketologists in the past seven March Madnesses. He is also predicted for The Indianapolis Star, collegeinsider.com, and is a founding member of the Super 10 selection committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ ScottMGleeson