Beery's Brackets: The Projected Bracket for March Madness | Feb. 15, 2021

Over the last few years I’ve entrenched myself in the world of bracketology, routinely creating a mock bracket from scratch based on data, analytics and my own copious amounts of college basketball consumption.
Kyle B

We’ve officially crossed the one-month mark on the countdown to Selection Sunday. In a season unlike any other — with what’s sure to be a one-of-a-kind tournament waiting at the finish line — things felt like a pretty typical mid-February weekend in college basketball, aside from, you know, limited fan attendance and a handful of cancelations and postponements.

Saturday saw upsets, overtimes and great games across the sport. As teams continue to flesh out their resumes and we still try to grapple with getting to know these teams through the woes of the stop-and-start COVID season, we learned a lot about one team on Sunday in particular — Michigan.

The Wolverines, per the Michigan government’s orders, had spent the last 23 days on hiatus, despite no positive tests within the program. Returning from a spell like that can’t be easy, especially inside the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin. And while the first half appeared to confirm that theory, Juwan Howard’s bunch flipped the script in the second half and cemented the fact the Michigan’s here to stay.

Michigan notched its 14th win of the season, a 67-59 victory over the Badgers, as Isaiah Livers anchored the comeback win. A loss for the Wolverines wouldn’t have been excused, per se, but we would’ve understood, given the circumstances. But instead, they showed why they’ve been projected as a No. 1 seed for several weeks now, including in my bracket debut last week. They now face an even bigger test on Sunday, a trip to Columbus to take on fellow 1-seed hopeful Ohio State.

The NCAA Tournament picture is a fluid, ever-changing beauty. That’s part of what makes the sport so great. Between now and March 14, plenty can and will happen to shake things up. But this is my snapshot of what the tournament’s field of 68 would look like if the tournament started today. 

** Note: The NCAA has not yet determined the names of the regions for this year’s tournament, which will be centralized in a “controlled environment” in Indiana — for now, we’ll continue to label them numerically. Auto-bids (conference champions) are denoted in bold.

The Bracket

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Region 1

1. Gonzaga (WCC) vs. 16. Prairie View A&M (SWAC) / N.C. A&T (MEAC)

8. UCLA vs. 9. Indiana

4. Texas Tech vs. 13. Toledo (MAC)

5. Wisconsin vs. 12. UNC Greensboro (SOCON)

3. Iowa vs. 14. UC Santa Barbara (Big West)

6. Oklahoma State vs. 11. UConn

7. Arkansas vs. 10. North Carolina

2. Virginia (ACC) vs. 15. Wright State (Horizon)

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Region 4

1. Ohio State vs. 16. South Dakota (Summit)

8. LSU vs. 9. Clemson

4. Texas vs. 13. Liberty (A-Sun)

5. Creighton vs. 12. St. Bonaventure / Georgia Tech

3. West Virginia vs. 14. Navy (Patriot)

6. Purdue vs. 11. Drake / Boise State

7. Colorado vs. 10. VCU (A-10)

2. Alabama (SEC) vs. 15. Eastern Washington (Big Sky)


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Region 2

1. Baylor (Big 12) vs. 16. Mt. St. Mary’s (NEC) / Abilene Christian (Southland)

8. Xavier vs. 9. Minnesota

4. Missouri vs. 13. Belmont (OVC)

5. USC (Pac-12) vs. 12. Utah State (MWC)

3. Villanova (Big East) vs. 14. Grand Canyon (WAC)

6. Florida State vs. 11. Oregon

7. Florida vs. 10. Loyola-Chicago (MVC)

2. Illinois vs. 15. Texas State (Sun Belt)

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Region 3

1. Michigan (Big Ten) vs. 16. UMBC (Am. East)

8. Louisville vs. 9. San Diego State

4. Tennessee vs. 13. Western Kentucky (C-USA)

5. Kansas vs. 12. Winthrop (Big South)

3. Oklahoma vs. 14. Siena (MAAC)

6. Virginia Tech vs. 11. Stanford

7. Rutgers vs. 10. Seton Hall

2. Houston (AAC) vs. 15. James Madison (CAA)

Bubble Snapshot

Last 4 Byes - Stanford, Oregon, Seton Hall, UConn

Last 4 In (First Four) - Georgia Tech, St. Bonaventure, Drake, Boise State

First 4 Out - Ole Miss, Colorado State, St. John’s, Maryland

Next 4 Out - Saint Louis, Syracuse, Richmond, Penn State

Top of the Class

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Gonzaga and Baylor will continue to sit at the very top until or unless one of them suffers a first loss of the season. And even then, the case for the Zags and Bears to still claim the top two overall seeds will be strong.

Michigan’s win solidified its status as a current 1-seed, but a major test lies ahead against Ohio State, who holds onto the final 1-seed this week after dismantling Indiana on Saturday. The Buckeyes own the most Quad 1 wins (eight) of any team in the country and could be the first to double digits if they were to sweep Penn State and Michigan this week.

The next teams in line, trying to creep into the 1-seed picture, are Virginia, Alabama, and yet another Big Ten team in Illinois. Should any of them win out, or come close to doing so, there will be a strong, strong case for a spot on the top line, with Illinois perhaps having the best chances of doing so.

Rising Stock

— As I just said, Virginia has been quietly climbing up the ranks, having won four straight games since a loss at Virginia Tech at the end of January. The Cavaliers don’t have the gaudy heap of high-caliber wins that some teams boast, but they’re close to climbing into elite territory. Just three teams — Gonzaga, Baylor and Michigan — rank inside the top 10 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency metrics. UVA ranks 12 and 11, respectively. Monday’s game at Florida State could mean a lot for the Hoos in the seeding discussion.

— You know March must be right around the corner when we start seeing a shirtless Eric Musselman. Known for his locker room antics in his days at Nevada, Musselman has Arkansas riding high, and he let the world know after beating No. 10 Missouri in overtime on Saturday. The Razorbacks have won six straight SEC games, with a narrow loss at Oklahoma State in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge sandwiched in there. 

Oklahoma added a seventh win in eight games on Saturday after holding off West Virginia in 2 OT. The only loss in that stretch? A five-point loss at Texas Tech. Austin Reaves and Umoja Gibson have emerged as quite the duo, combining for 49 points on Saturday. OU has another big showdown on Tuesday as rival Texas comes to town.

Falling Stock

Tennessee needed to hold off a late charge against a subpar Georgia team on Wednesday and fell flat in the second half at LSU on Saturday. That’s two losses in four games and it’s clear the Volunteers are trending in the wrong direction. A team that was expected by many to win the SEC title, the Vols are failing to live up to the hype, but with the talent they have, they’re still capable of landing a top-four seed and still capable of being dangerous in March.

— Not even two weeks ago, UCLA was looking like a tournament lock, possibly even even on a trajectory for a top-four seed by the end of it all. Now all that’s come crashing down. After getting bombed by 18 points at rival USC, the Bruins managed to lose to a sub-100 KenPom team in Washington State. Two nights later, it almost got much, much worse, as UCLA barely staved off a sub-200 KenPom team at Washington. Posting an “0-for” on the road trip to the PNW would’ve been disastrous

Missouri is still clinging to a top-4 seed at the moment, despite an 0-2 week. The Rebels’ OT loss against Arkansas wasn’t all that detrimental to their resume, but Wednesday’s 11-point loss at Ole Miss sure hurt. The Tigers will still be safely in the tournament, but are definitely in danger of sliding down the seed lines even further.

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Bubble Talk

Last 4 Byes - Stanford, Oregon, Seton Hall, UConn

Last 4 In (First Four) - Georgia Tech, St. Bonaventure, Drake, Boise State

First 4 Out - Ole Miss, Colorado State, St. John’s, Maryland

Next 4 Out - Saint Louis, Syracuse, Richmond, Penn State

Two teams squarely on the bubble picked up huge wins over the weekend — UConn and Georgia Tech. The Huskies snapped a two-game skid with an impressive showing at Xavier, while the Yellow Jackets rebounded from a 2-point loss at Clemson Friday night with a win over fellow bubble battlers Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon.

St. Bonaventure relinquished the A-10 lead and finds itself treading water after a Friday loss to VCU. Drake’s nearly unblemished resume took an ugly hit Saturday — a blowout loss at home against Loyola-Chicago. But the Bulldogs punched right back on Sunday, avenging the Ramblers with a 51-50 OT win on Sunday. A weekend split was actually the ideal scenario for anyone out there rooting for a two-bid Missouri Valley.

Bracket Impact Games

We have some more BIG games on the docket this week, even though we’re again missing what would’ve been a ranked battle for Baylor.

Virginia @ Florida State (Monday, 7 p.m., ESPN)

Florida @ Arkansas (Tuesday, 7 p.m., ESPN2)

Texas @ Oklahoma (Tuesday’s 9 p.m., ESPN3)

Syracuse @ Louisville (Wednesday, 6:30 p.m., ACCN)

LSU @ Ole Miss (Wednesday, 9 p.m., ESPNU)

Minnesota @ Indiana (Wednesday, 9 p.m., BTN)

Rutgers @ Michigan (Thursday, 9 p.m., FS1)

Iowa @ Wisconsin (Thursday, 7 p.m., ESPN3)

Colorado @ Oregon (Thursday, 11 p.m., ESPN2)

Utah State @ Boise State (Friday, 10 p.m., FS1)

Virginia Tech @ Florida State (Saturday, Noon, ACCN)

UConn @ Villanova (Saturday, 1 p.m., FOX)

Texas Tech @ Kansas (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN)

West Virginia @ Texas (Saturday, 3 p.m., ABC)

Oklahoma State @ Baylor (Saturday, TBD)

Louisville @ North Carolina (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN)

Michigan @ Ohio State (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS)

Maryland @ Rutgers (Sunday, 3 p.m., TBD)

Clemson @ Pitt (Sunday, 6 p.m., ACCN)