Sunday, May 16

March Madness Hairpin 4.0 Predictions: Projecting the Field of 68 for the 2021 NCAA Tournament

Selection Sunday for the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament is just a few days away.

The 68-team field is taking shape during conference tournament week, and Wednesday’s schedule includes 33 conference tournament games. A lot may change from No. 1 seed to bubble over the next four days, and SN will be tracking the action with daily updates from here through Selection Sunday.

Here’s a look at the updated Field of 68 from Sporting News as of Wednesday, March 10:

MORE: Sporting News’ 2020-21 College Basketball All-Americans

March Madness Group Predictions for the 2021 NCAA Tournament

Seeds No. 1 projected

  • ** Gonzaga 26-0 (West Coast)
  • Baylor 21-1 (12 big)
  • Michigan 19-3 (big ten)
  • Illinois 20-6

Low down: Gonzaga won the West Coast Conference tournament for the eighth time in nine seasons and should be a virtual lock for the tournament’s top seed. Baylor also appears to be insurance for a No. 1 seed heading to the Big Ten tournament. Illinois and Michigan are likely to stay along these lines as well, but it might require winning at least one game in the Big Ten tournament just to be safe.

Seeds No. 2 projected

  • Alabama 21-6 (SEC)
  • Iowa 20-7
  • Houston 21-3 (US)
  • Ohio State 18-8

Low down: Iowa and Ohio State are 2 interesting seeds on different paths. The Hawkeyes could slide to No. 1 with a good showing in Indianapolis. KenPom has Iowa at No. 4, so it’s possible. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, are on the edge of 3rd place after losing their last four games of the regular season. Ohio State slipped to fifth place in the Big Ten tournament. To be fair, three of those losses at the end of the season were to the top 10 teams.

Seeds No. 3 projected

  • Arkansas 21-5
  • Virginia 17-6 (ACC)
  • Kansas 19-8
  • Texas 17-7

Low down: Arkansas enters the SEC Tournament as one of the most popular teams in college basketball. The Razorbacks have won eight in a row, including an 81-66 win over Alabama on February 24. Arkansas could play line 2 with ease. The Big 12 will place four teams on the No. 3 or No. 4 line, depending on how they fare in the Big 12 tournament. Kansas and Texas are seeded higher than the pair of teams we put on the No. 4 line. and KenPom has them ranked higher as well.

Seeds No. 4 projected

  • Villanova 16-5 (Great East)
  • West Virginia 18-8
  • Oklahoma State 18-7
  • Purdue 18-8

Low down: West Virginia and Oklahoma State play in the 12 quarterfinals of the Big 12 on Thursday, so that should settle that debate. Villanova feels a little low here given their KenPom rating of No. 10, and they could easily play a line (or two) depending on how they fare in the Big East tournament. Purdue got the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten tournament, but there is a significant gap between them and the other top seeds in the conference.

MORE: Iowa’s Luka Garza is Sporting News’ Player of the Year

Projected No. 5 seeds

  • Florida State 15-5
  • Creighton 18-7
  • Oregon 19-5 (Pac-12)
  • USC 21-6

Low down: The state of Florida has a strong case for moving up to that number 4 line and is separated from Purdue by a spot in KenPom. The Seminoles lost two of their last three games in the regular season. Oregon is the top seed in the Pac-12 tournament, with the Ducks winning their last five games of the regular season. That said, Oregon was 1-2 against USC and Colorado this season. Buffaloes could easily be placed on this line.

Seeds No. 6 projected

  • Colorado 20-7
  • Clemson 16-6
  • Texas Tech 17-9
  • Oklahoma 14-9

Low down: The love of the big 12 continues. The conference could have all seven Tournament teams in the top six lines, and Texas Tech could pass as the fifth seed at this point. Clemson closed the season with six wins in its last seven games. They are in good shape to stay in line.

Seeds No. 7 projected

  • Tennessee 17-7
  • LSU 16-8
  • San Diego State 20-4 (Mountain West)
  • Wisconsin 16-11

Low down: The Badgers have double-digit losses, but they are also heading into the Big Ten tournament with a KenPom rating of No. 11. They are a prime candidate to be outscored with a touch based on the strength of the Big Ten. LSU, which has won five of its last seven games, and Tennessee, which finished 3-3 in its last six, are both on this line right now.

Seeds No. 8 projected

  • Florida 13-8
  • UConn 14-6
  • ** Loyola-Chicago 24-4 (Missouri Valley)
  • North Carolina 16-9

Low down: That’s a lot of blue blood on the No. 8 line with the Tar Heels, Huskies and Gators; But the No. 1 seed on the team might be wary of it is Loyola-Chicago. The Ramblers have lost just one game since Jan.11.

MORE: Michigan’s Juwan Howard is Sporting News Coach of the Year

Rest of field projections

Seeds No. 9: Virginia Tech 15-5, St. Bonaventure (A-10), Missouri 15-8, BYU 20-6
No. 10 seeds: Georgia Tech 15-8, UCLA 17-8, Louisville 13-6, Rutgers 14-10
No. 11 seeds: Michigan State 15-11, Maryland 15-12, VCU 19-6, ** Winthrop 23-1 (Big South)
No. 12 seeds: Louisiana Tech 20-6 (C-US), Wichita State 15-4, Colorado State * 17-5, Drake * 25-4, St. Louis * 14-6, Xavier * 13-7
No. 13 seeds: Toledo 20-7 (MAC), UC Santa Barbara 19-4 (Big West), Colgate 12-7 (Patriot), ** Liberty 22-5 (A-Sun)
No. 14 seeds: ** UNC-Greensboro 20-8 (South), ** Morehead State 23-7 (Ohio Valley), Grand Canyon 15-6 (WAC), Southern Utah 19-3 (Big Sky)
No. 15 seeds: ** Cleveland State 19-7 (Horizon), Siena 12-4 (MAAC), Nicholls State 17-6 (Southland), Hartford 13-8 (East America)
No. 16 seeds: Prairie View A&M 14-4 (SWAC), ** Oral Roberts 16-10 (Summit), North Carolina A & T * 11-10 (MEAC), ** Appalachian State * 17-11 (Sun Belt), ** Mount St. Mary’s * 12-10 (northeast), ** Drexel 12-7 * (colonial)

* First four teams
** Teams that have achieved automatic bids.

Last four in

  • St. Louis 14-6
  • Xavier 13-7
  • Drake 25-4
  • Colorado State 17-5

Low down: Drake didn’t win their conference tournament, but the Bulldogs should be able to get into the field of 68. Colorado State better win a game at the MWC tournament to keep two bubble teams behind them in the same conference.

First four

  • Utah State 18-7
  • Boise State 18-7
  • Syracuse 15-8
  • Be Miss 15-10

Low down: Some projections favor the state of Utah or the state of Boise over the state of Colorado for one of those last four spots. Syracuse will be watching those games closely, but the Orange need to beat NC State, another fringe bubble team, in game 8-9 in the ACC Tournament. We have Ole Miss ahead of Seton Hall in the pecking order, but that may change. Duke and Indiana remain off our radar for now.

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