While it appears the four 1-seeds are all but locked up, there’s still plenty of seeding drama to play out, with a ton of intrigue near the dreaded bubble.
Kyle B

Here we are. We’re finally at the doorstep of a long-awaited return to the madness. We’ll see the NCAA Tournament’s field of 68 revealed on Sunday, a simple yet cherishable annual moment on the sports calendar.

While the season’s final stages are imminent, there is still a whole lot of basketball to be played. In the course of seven days we’ll see nearly 200 games to sort out 27 more automatic bids and 37 at-large bids. Yes, that means we had four automatic bids decided over the weekend — Liberty (A-Sun), Morehead State (OVC), Loyola-Chicago (MVC) and Winthrop (Big South).

While it appears the four 1-seeds are all but locked up — more thoughts on that in a minute — there’s still plenty of seeding drama to play out, with a ton of intrigue near the dreaded bubble.

In my quest to bring you the best possible projections for the NCAA Tournament bracket we’ll feast our eyes on in less than a week, here is a snapshot of what the bracket would look like if the tournament started today. Bracketology is a fluid art in the final days leading up to the bracket reveal, but this is a pretty good idea of where we stand entering the week.

Note: I follow the NCAA’s bracketing principles in constructing my brackets, including intra-conference matchup restrictions, top-four seed protection, and new this year, placing First Four teams and BYU on the left side of the bracket. Teams that have clinched auto bids are denoted in bold.

The Bracket

Region 1

First & Second Round Games Saturday / Monday

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

8. LSU vs. 9. UCLA

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

5. Florida State vs. 12. Drake / Xavier

3. Houston vs. 14. South Dakota State (Summit)

6. Tennessee vs. 11. Georgia Tech

7. BYU vs. 10. St. Bonaventure (A-10)

2. Ohio State vs. 15. Grand Canyon (WAC)

Region 4

First & Second Round Games Saturday / Monday

1. Illinois vs. 16. Hartford (Am. East) / Nicholls State (Southland)

8. Oregon (Pac-12) vs. 9. North Carolina

4. Oklahoma State vs. 13. UNC Greensboro (SOCON)

5. USC vs. 12. Syracuse / Colorado State

3. Kansas vs. 14. Morehead State (OVC)

6. Creighton vs. 11. Rutgers

7. Wisconsin vs. 10. Louisville

2. Alabama (SEC) vs. 15. Southern Utah (Big Sky)

Region 2

First & Second Round Games Friday / Sunday

1. Baylor (Big 12) vs. 16. Bryant (NEC)

8. Florida vs. 9. UConn

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

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

3. Villanova vs. 14. Colgate (Patriot)

6. Colorado vs. 11. Maryland

7. Virginia Tech vs. 10. VCU

2. Iowa vs. 15. Siena (MAAC)

Region 3

First & Second Round Games Friday / Sunday

1. Michigan (Big Ten) vs. 16. Georgia State (Sun Belt)

8. San Diego State (MWC) vs. 9. Loyola-Chicago (MVC)

4. Virginia (ACC) vs. 13. UCSB (Big West)

5. Texas Tech vs. 12. Toledo (MAC)

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

6. Oklahoma vs. 11. Wichita State (AAC)

7. Missouri vs. 10. Michigan State

2. West Virginia vs. 15. Northeastern (CAA)

Bubble Snapshot

Last 4 Byes: Rutgers, Maryland, Georgia Tech, Michigan State

Last 4 In (First Four games): Drake, Xavier, Syracuse, Colorado State

First 4 Out: Boise State, Saint Louis, Ole Miss, Utah State

Next 5 Out: Memphis, Seton Hall, Duke, St. John’s, Belmont

Top of the Class

As I mentioned up top, it appears all four 1-seeds have been decided. Gonzaga, Baylor and Michigan could all stand to suffer a loss and remain on the top line.

The only possible question mark could be Illinois. But even if the Illini were to take a first-round loss to Rutgers — a likely NCAA Tournament team — or Indiana, my gut tells me they’d be safe. Illinois has the most Quad-1 wins (nine) in the nation. Certainly, that could change by the end of the week — Baylor has eight, while five others boast seven — but I think ultimately Alabama’s Quad-3 loss will hold it back and Iowa will come up a little shy.

Led by a masked Ayo Dosunmu in his return from a facial injury, Illinois flipped fortunes late in Saturday’s game at Ohio State, knocking off the Buckeyes to finish Big Ten play at 16-4. That leaves the Illini just shy of the Big Ten regular season title, but among the hottest teams in the entire country right now.

Rising Stock

- I’ve claimed my stake in UConn more than once, and the Huskies continue to surge with James Bouknight back on the floor. The Huskies — 10-2 with Bouknight and 4-4 without — may be the favorites to win the Big East Tournament this week at Madison Square Garden.

- Colorado is trending in the right direction as the Pac-12 tourney gets underway, having won their last four games of the season. The Buffs rank in the top 20 of the NET and KenPom, but three Q3 losses back in January and early February are holding them back from shooting up the seed lines.

- Georgia Tech, once sitting with a 9-8 record, has ripped off six straight wins, including triumphs over Virginia Tech, Syracuse and Duke. The Yellow Jackets aren’t quite safe, but a win in the ACC quarterfinals may do the trick.

Falling Stock

- Villanova finds itself in an unfortunate spot after starting point guard Collin Gillespie saw his season cut short with an MCL tear. To make matters worse, backup Justin Moore was hobbled in Saturday’s loss at Providence. The Cats have lost two of their last three.

- Indiana and Minnesota. I don’t need to say much more about that.

- Xavier. The Musketeers have been watching their season slowly slip away. They’re 2-5 since the middle of February, with some nearly inexcusable losses for a team on the bubble. Wednesday’s opener at the Big East tourney against rival Butler is essentially a must-win and another win over Creighton after that could spell safety.

Bubble Talk

Last 4 Byes: Rutgers, Maryland, Georgia Tech, Michigan State

Last 4 In (First Four games): Drake, Xavier, Syracuse, Colorado State

First 4 Out: Boise State, Saint Louis, Ole Miss, Utah State

Next 5 Out: Memphis, Seton Hall, Duke, Belmont, St. John’s

To be honest, about a month ago, I was ready to call the curtains on Tom Izzo and Michigan State’s tournament hopes. What a mistake that would’ve been. The Spartans closed out the season with five wins — three against top-5 ranked opponents — in seven games. I expected to be placing MSU among the “last four in,” but after looking at the resumes of the teams surrounding them, I’ve firmly got Sparty above the cut line.

And I don’t think that’ll change between now and Selection Sunday. A win over fellow bubble team Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament would likely be the icing on the cake. Losing that game wouldn’t drop MSU out of the field, but they’d be sweating things out on Sunday. Michigan State saw losses pile up this season, but the backbone of their resume is that stack of five Quadrant 1 wins — only one team below my projected 4-seeds have more than that. That’ll bode well for MSU.

Elsewhere on the bubble, Rutgers’ late season woes have the Scarlet Knights sliding in the wrong direction, but a win over Indiana might be a big enough bandaid to stop the bleeding. Drake, after losing Sunday’s MVC title game, will have a nervous week ahead as they hope their 23-4 record holds up against the likes of other bubble teams with more Q1 opportunities. The good news for the Bulldogs is a 5-0 record against Q2. The bad news? Two losses in Q3.

The Mountain West is bubblicious this year with Colorado State, Boise State and Utah State fighting for what’ll likely amount to just one available bubble spot. There will be a lot of drama in Vegas Thursday-Saturday.

Bubble Impact Games

Any game for any team that’s fighting for its tournament life is an important one this time of year, we all know that. And it’s hard to know which games we’ll actually get to see during Champ Week, but here are some of the locked-in early-round matchups across the country that will carry some bubble weight.

Duke vs. Boston College - Tuesday, 4:30 p.m. (ACC Network)

Syracuse vs. NC State - Wednesday, noon (ACCN)

Xavier vs. Butler - Thursday, 6 p.m., (Fox Sports 1)

Michigan State vs. Maryland - Thursday, 11:30 a.m. (Big Ten Network)

Seton Hall vs. St. John’s - Thursday, 3 p.m. (FS1)

Boise State vs. Nevada - Thursday, 5:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Rutgers vs. Indiana - Thursday, 6:30 p.m. (BTN)

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!


Enter The Beery's Bracket VIP Jackpot!

It's simple. Enter a guess. If you are correct, you win the Jackpot! It's FREE to play. This is an exclusive Jackpot for Beery's fans. Get in there and win some cash!

Have any questions? Shoot a tweet at @BeeryK.