After a disastrous showing in 2020-21this season has seen a resurgence of the blue bloods in men’s college basketball with Kentucky, Kansas and Duke all having emerged this March as national title contenders.
Problem is, there are three teams – Gonzaga, Baylor and Arizona – with impressive NCAA Tournament resumes likely to secure No. 1 seeds in front of them.
Hypothetically, if either Kentucky wins the SEC tournament, Kansas wins the Big 12 tournament or Duke wins the ACC tournament, then currently projected No. 1 Auburn could lose its top seed and drop to the No. 2 line right ahead of Selection Sunday.
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It’s more likely for the Wildcats (4 NET, nine Quadrant 1 wins) and Jayhawks (7 NET, nine Q1 wins) to vault up a spot to the No. 1 line. And if it’s close, the selection committee may zero in on UK’s 18-point road win over KU on Jan. 29. Duke, meanwhile, is the long shot of the No. 2s, but if both Auburn and Kentucky lose in the SEC tournament , it would open the door for the Blue Devils.
It’s championship week and the power teams are poised to tip off with their pathways to the Final Four on the line.
No. 1 seeds
Gonzaga, Baylor, Arizona, Auburn.
Last four in
Wyoming, SMU, Dayton, Xavier.
First four out
VCU, Wake Forest, BYU, Ind.
Next four out
Saint Louis, Florida, Virginia Tech, Saint Bonaventure.
Others considered for at-large bids: St John’s, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Colorado, Santa Clara.
On life support: Richmond, Mississippi State, Virginia.
Multi-bid conferences: Big Ten (8), Big East (7), Big 12 (6), SEC (6), ACC (4), Mountain West (4), American Athletic (3), Pac-12 (3), West Coast (3), Atlantic 10 (2).
Leaders or highest NET from projected one-bid conferences – (22 total): America East -Vermont; Atlantic Sun -Jacksonville State; big sky -Montana State; Big South -Longwood; Big West -Long Beach State; CAA -Delaware; C-USA -North Texas; Horizon – Wright State; Ivy League – Princeton; MAAC – St. Peter’s; MAC – Toledo; MEAC -Norfolk State; Missouri Valley – Loyola-Chicago; northeast -Bryant; Ohio Valley -Murray State; Patriot – Colgate; Southern – Chattanooga; Southlands – Nicholls State; SWAC -Alcorn State; Summit -South Dakota State; Sun Belt -Georgia State; WAC – New Mexico State.
- Ineligible schools: Oklahoma State (banned), Cal Baptist, North Alabama, Merrimack, Dixie State, Tarleton State, Bellarmine, UC San Diego, St. Thomas.
NCAA Tournament language explainer:
- NET stands for the NCAA Evaluation Tool, which is the barometer for the selection committee. It includes game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin (capping at 10 points per game), and net offensive and defensive efficiency.
- Quadrant 1 wins: Home games vs. 1-30 NET teams; Neutral site games vs. 1-50 NET; away games vs. 1-75 NET
- Quadrant 2 wins: Home games vs. 31-75 NET; Neutral site games vs. 51-100 NET; away games vs. 76-135 NET
- Quadrant 3 wins: Home games vs. 76-160 NET; Neutral site games vs. 101-200 NET; away games vs. 136-240 NET
- Quadrant 4 wins: Home games vs. 161-plus NET; Neutral site games vs. 201-plus NET; away games vs. 241-plus NET
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 WAG. 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.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism