With the NCAA Tournament less than two months away, bracketology is heating up and Gonzaga and Baylor are already virtual locks to be No. 1 seeds for March Madness.
There are less than two months until Selection Sunday for the bubbled NCAA Tournament, meaning now is as good a time as any to look at some bracketology. Every week for the rest of the season FanSided will take a look at which teams are on track to earn the top seeds in March Madness.
Normally geography is a factor in the selection committee’s seeding criteria but a bubble eliminates those considerations, making the brackets a truer representation of the S-curve used to rank all 68 teams. Let’s take a look at the four projected top seeds this week as well as a few contenders who are waiting in the wings.
Top overall seed – Gonzaga Bulldogs
The Bulldogs are a mortal lock for the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. A strong non-conference schedule feature wins over Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa and Virginia as Gonzaga is off to a perfect 14-0 start.
The bigger question to raise with the Bulldogs is whether they can enter March Madness undefeated, which hasn’t happened for a team since Kentucky’s 2014-15 squad made it all the way to the Final Four without a loss. The WCC is tougher than usual but Gonzaga is head-and-shoulders above anyone else in the country.
Second overall seed – Baylor Bears
The other undefeated juggernaut is Baylor, which made a big statement on Monday by beating Kansas 77-69 in a huge contest in the Big 12. The Bears returned pretty much everyone from last year’s elite team and it has paid massive dividends in a year where continuity is king in college basketball.
The Big 12 as a whole remains a beast and Baylor has plenty of tough games left so there will likely be a few losses along the way. There is an opportunity here as well to pass Gonzaga as the top overall seed if the Bulldogs slip up and the Bears keep accumulating quality wins.
Third overall seed – Michigan Wolverines
An 18-point loss at Minnesota over the weekend is discouraging but doesn’t take away how great Michigan has looked so far this season. The Wolverines picked up wins in their first 11 games thanks to a strong foundation of players like center Hunter Dickinson, forward Isaiah Livers and guard Franz Wagner.
The Big Ten is unquestionably the nation’s deepest conference so whoever wins the league should end up on the top line in March. That is Michigan’s claim to fame right now but we’ll see if they stay here with a ton of tough contests to come.
Fourth overall seed – Iowa Hawkeyes
The race for the last no. 1 seed is tight but for now, we’ll give it to Iowa, which has the nation’s most dominant player in Luka Garza and is tied with Michigan atop the Big Ten standings. The Hawkeyes have lost twice this season, once to Gonzaga (which is understandable) and once to Minnesota, which Iowa avenged with a 15-point victory in the rematch.
There are plenty of big games left on Iowa’s schedule, including a pair of games with Wisconsin and matchups with the likes of Illinois, Michigan and Ohio State. It would take an extraordinary showing from Iowa to maintain this spot given the quality of teams chasing them.
There are a few teams clearly in the hunt for a top seed, with the closest right now being Texas, which has a bunch of quality road wins and two losses by a combined six points. The Longhorns slipped off the top line with a loss to Texas Tech last week but could reclaim it by being the team to take down Baylor on Feb. 2.
Villanova has the talent to be a no. 1 seed but is just getting back on the court after a lengthy COVID pause. A dominant showing in the Big East could propel the Wildcats back to the top line if some of the teams in the Big Ten and Big 12 cannibalize each other in conference play.
The SEC’s best shot at a top seed likely comes with Tennessee, whose balanced rotation and strong defense make them a worthy national title contender. A lengthy COVID pause at the start of the season hurt the Volunteers’ non-conference schedule, however, making a huge showing in conference play a must to crack the top line.
The dark horse for the top line is the Houston Cougars, who are the AAC’s best team and have a nice win over Texas Tech in the non-conference portion of their schedule. The AAC isn’t that deep, however, so Houston’s best chance to end up on the line is by sheer win accumulation while the other contenders stumble enough in league play.
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