Beery's Brackets: The Projected Bracket for March Madness | March 1, 2021

Things are becoming clearer in some areas of the bracket, and much, much murkier in others.
Kyle B

Hi, folks. It’s March. After an entire year of sulking following the cancelation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament, we’re finally on the doorstep of March Madness again.

We’re less than two weeks away from Selection Sunday and this past weekend was just the gateway to what is sure to be an exciting month. Perhaps the most jam-packed week of the entire season saw Baylor take its first loss of the season, two blue bloods officially play their way back into at-large consideration and a handful of upsets that left us scratching our heads.

Things are becoming clearer in some areas of the bracket, and much, much murkier in others. I’ve been spending the last few months watching, tracking and scrutinizing teams to try and bring this picture into focus. Now is when things get exciting.

Here’s my latest look at how the NCAA Tournament field would look if the Big Dance 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 — like last week’s bracket, we’ll continue to label them numerically. Auto-bids (conference champions) are denoted in bold. It’s also worth noting that I’m assuming the NCAA will not make a decision on Oklahoma State’s ongoing postseason eligibility appeal between now and the start of the tournament.

The Bracket

Region 1

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

8. Florida vs. 9. Oregon

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

5. Purdue vs. 12. Toledo (MAC)

3. Villanova (Big East) vs. 14. UMBC (Am. East)

6. Texas Tech vs. 11. Maryland

7. Missouri vs. 10. Xavier

2. Iowa vs. 15. UNC Greensboro (SOCON)

Region 4

1. Illinois vs. 16. James Madison (CAA)

8. Virginia Tech vs. 9. LSU

4. Oklahoma vs. 13. Colgate (Patriot)

5. USC vs. 12. Drake / Michigan State

3. Kansas vs. 14. Cleveland State (Horizon)

6. Creighton vs. 11. VCU / Colorado State

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

2. Alabama (SEC) vs. 15. Texas State (Sun Belt)


Region 2

1. Michigan (Big Ten) vs. 16. Bryant (NEC) / Grand Canyon (WAC)

8. Colorado vs. 9. North Carolina

4. Clemson vs. 13. Belmont (OVC)

5. Oklahoma State vs. 12. Winthrop (Big South)

3. Houston vs. 14. Eastern Washington (Big Sky)

6. Wisconsin vs. 11. St. Bonaventure (A-10)

7. BYU vs. 10. UConn

2. West Virginia vs. 15. Siena (MAAC)

Region 3

1. Baylor (Big 12) vs. 16. South Dakota (Summit)

8. UCLA (Pac-12) vs. 9. Louisville

4. Arkansas vs. 13. UCSB (Big West)

5. Virginia vs. 12. Wichita State (AAC)

3. Florida State (ACC) vs. 14. Liberty (A-Sun)

6. Tennessee vs. 11. Boise State

7. San Diego State (MWC) vs. 10. Georgia Tech

2. Ohio State vs. 15. Nicholls (Southland)

Bubble Snapshot

Last 4 Byes: Boise State, Maryland, UConn, Xavier

Last 4 In (First Four): Colorado State, VCU, Drake, Michigan State

First 4 Out: Saint Louis, Seton Hall, Duke, Utah State

Next 4 Out: Memphis, Saint Louis, Syracuse, Indiana

Top of the Class

Lock it in. Gonzaga, Michigan and Baylor will be three of the four 1-seeds on Selection Sunday. That’s my final answer, Regis.

You’ll notice that for the first time all season, I did not mention Gonzaga and Baylor next to each other. That’s because this week saw the Bears struggle with Iowa State in their return from COVID pause and then fall from the ranks of the unbeaten at Kansas on Saturday.

While that’s not a bad loss by any stretch of the imagination, it was enough for me to slide Michigan — who knocked off another top-5 team in Iowa this week — ahead. For the time being, at least. It’s not by a wide margin, but the Wolverines have the slight edge thanks to one more Quad 1 win, a few more Quad 2 wins and slightly better numbers in the metrics. But that loss at Minnesota has turned into an ugly loss, which is keeping them from surpassing unblemished Gonzaga.

That wasn’t the only movement on the 1-line in this week’s iteration of the bracket. Ohio State has now suffered three straight losses — Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa. That’s a tough stretch for any team, no doubt, but coupling that slide with Illinois wins over Nebraska and at Wisconsin, the Illini have stuck their noses in front of the Buckeyes. A huge regular season finale in Columbus looms next Saturday afternoon, with the winner likely riding that 1-line into Champ Week.

The Buckeyes and Illini aren’t the only ones in the hunt for the fourth 1-seed. Alabama isn’t too far behind, though a Q3 loss to Western Kentucky could be the wart on that resume that holds the Crimson Tide back from reaching the top line. Iowa, though it just lost Jack Nunge for the season, is still in the mix and it’s not inconceivable that West Virginia could be in play come Selection Sunday.

Rising Stock

Arkansas has ripped off eight straight wins, including victories over Alabama and LSU in the last week. The Razorbacks have come from way down the pecking order to a realistic top-four seed in the snap of a finger, now owners six Q1 wins.

— Much like the Hogs, Clemson has shot back up the boards in recent weeks. The Tigers were sputtering in January, getting blown out in four of five games following a COVID pause — all in Q1 — but they went 5-0 in February to rise back into the spotlight.

Colorado found some much-needed success this week, putting a halt to an inconvenient skid. The Buffs took care of the two teams atop the Pac-12 standings in USC and UCLA with relative ease and now find themselves in the top 20 of the NET and KenPom, despite three Q3 losses. Do not sleep on McKinley Wright IV and Colorado. Don’t do it.

Falling Stock

Tennessee continues to drop after a loss at Auburn. The Vols have lost three of five and haven’t had a quality win since beating Kansas the final weekend of January. Tough look for a team that I had in the 2-seed conversation just a few weeks ago.

Minnesota has virtually played itself out of at-large consideration. The Gophers have hit rock bottom with five straight losses. This is a team that handed Michigan its lone loss of the year and knocked off the likes of Purdue, Ohio State and Iowa. Explain that to me.

— Speaking of stumbling Big Ten teams, Indiana has backed itself into a corner. There are still some opportunities for the Hoosiers to stay alive if they can beat Michigan State and Purdue, as well as making a bit of a run in the Big Ten Tournament, but it’s pretty much do-or-die for IU now.

Bubble Talk

Last 4 Byes: Boise State, Maryland, UConn, Xavier

Last 4 In (First Four): Colorado State, VCU, Drake, Michigan State

First 4 Out: Saint Louis, Seton Hall, Duke, Utah State

Next 4 Out: Memphis, Ole Miss, Syracuse, Indiana

I entered my bracket exercises Sunday night assuming Michigan State’s loss at Maryland on Sunday afternoon would’ve dropped Michigan State out of the field. But after comparing the resumes, it turns out the Spartans’ big week — wins over Illinois and Ohio State — left them hanging onto the final at-large spot, albeit a 12-seed. 

Let me be clear. Their resume is probably not strong enough to withstand a loss at Indiana on Tuesday, without making some major noise in the Big Ten tourney, if not winning the whole thing. But if they can win that game, they’re very much still alive. Two cracks at rival Michigan this week also present two more shots at bolstering the resume.

The other teams on the bubble just don’t currently have enough quality wins to stack up with MSU. Teams like Saint Louis and Utah State just don’t have enough good wins despite having far fewer losses, while the likes of Duke and Seton Hall have comparable records, but don’t have anything that compares to the Spartans’ best wins.

It’s going to be downright fascinating to see how things shake out on the bubble with uneven games and limited non-conference opportunities this season. Here’s to hoping things come into better focus over the next two weeks.


Note: If you’re really into bracketology and projecting the field, you have to check out Also follow me on Twitter @BeeryK. Let me know what you think of my latest projections — ask me questions, debate me, praise me; whatever floats your boat. Let’s talk some hoops!