Two Big 12 kingpins and two power mid-majors are out front in the debut projection for USA TODAY Sports’ bracketology.
Baylor, Kansas, San Diego State and Gonzaga are the currently projected No. 1 seeds, with each team presenting résumés with marquee wins and few blemishes. The same four teams lead the NET rankings, the NCAA’s tool put into place last year that assesses each team’s strength of schedule among other stats.
March Madness is still six weeks away, so there’s plenty of time for the current No. 1s to either implode or bolster their stock. The Bears (19-1) and Jayhawks (18-3) are more susceptible to suffer upsets in a challenging Big 12 schedule. The disadvantage the Aztecs (23-0) and Bulldogs (23-1) face is that one loss in their respective leagues (Mountain West and West Coast) means their credentials could take a bigger hit.
At the No. 2 line, Duke and Florida State are well positioned to ascend to the top seed line based on overall credentials. But the ACC, currently sporting just four teams in the projected field, isn’t doing much to bolster either’s résumé. The ACC is ranked sixth among seven power conferences in the NET after finishing last season as one of the top three. The other projected No. 2s Seton Hall and Villanova are better positioned to improve their profiles because the Big East is No. 1 in the NET conference rankings.
► No. 1 seeds: Baylor, Kansas, San Diego State, Gonzaga
► Last four in: Memphis, Virginia, Arizona State, Mississippi State
► First Four out: Georgetown, North Carolina Carolina State, Virginia Commonwealth, Cincinnati
Others considered for at-large bid (in no particular order): Richmond, Syracuse, Purdue, Miami (Fla.), St. Johns, Minnesota, Duquesne, Georgia, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Tulsa, Providence, SMU, TCU, DePaul, Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri, South Carolina, Oregon State, Saint Louis, Clemson, UNC-Greensboro, Oklahoma State, Utah, Virginia Tech, Furman, Washington, Texas, Utah State.
On life support (in no particular order): Kansas State, Mississippi, North Carolina, Iowa State, Washington State, Connecticut.
Multi-bid conferences: Big Ten (10), Big East (6), Pac-12 (6), SEC (6), Big 12 (5), ACC (4), SEC (5), American (4), West Coast (3), Atlantic 10 (2).
Leaders or highest RPI from projected one-bid conferences — (23 total): America East – Vermont, Atlantic Sun – Liberty, Big Sky – Montana, Big South – Winthrop, Big West – UC Irvine, CAA – Hofstra, C-USA – North Texas, Horizon – Wright State, Ivy – Yale, MAAC – Monmouth, MAC – Bowling Green, MEAC – NC A&T, MVC – Northern Iowa, MWC – San Diego State, Northeast – Robert Morris, OVC – Murray State, Patriot – Colgate, Southern – ETSU, Southland – SFA, SWAC – Texas Southern, Summit – South Dakota State, Sun Belt – Little Rock, WAC – New Mexico State
- Transition schools ineligible to participate: Cal Baptist, North Alabama, Merrimack
- Banned from participating: Georgia Tech, Detroit
About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 on his website, Bracket W.A.G. He joined USA TODAY in 2014. In his seventh season as our national bracketologist, Mast has finished as one of the top three bracketologists in the past six March Madnesses. He’s also predicted for The Indianapolis Star, collegeinsider.com and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.