By Kyle Beery
A busy weekend in college basketball provided a lot of movement in this week’s projected bracket. Kansas escaped Waco with a controversial win over Baylor to all but wrap up its 13th consecutive Big 12 regular season title. The Jayhawks also solidified their case for a No. 1-seed.
The Bears, on the other hand, suffered their second loss of the week, dropping them from the one-line. That made room for North Carolina to rise to a top seed after dominating Virginia by 24 points on Saturday.
The Tar Heels’ rivals are rising as well. The Duke Blue Devils may be the hottest team in the country, rattling off seven straight wins, three of them against top-25 teams. Duke will get one more crack at UNC in the last game of the season on March 4 in Chapel Hill.
With less than three weeks until selection Sunday, the importance of each game is magnified. There are a handful of blockbuster matchups on the docket this week, including No. 22 Butler at No. 2 Villanova on Wednesday in a game that could help the Bulldogs move into 3-seed territory.
We also get No. 7 Louisville at No. 8 North Carolina on Wednesday, as well as No. 13 Florida at No. 11 Kentucky on Saturday. This week could provide some more movement in the projected bracket, but this is where the field stands at the moment.
Projected field of 68
FIRST FOUR (DAYTON; TUE/WED (March 14, 15)
East Regional: 16. Mount St. Mary’s / 16. New Orleans
East Regional: 12. Seton Hall / 12. Illinois St.
Midwest Regional: 16. UC Irvine / 16. North Carolina Central
South Regional: 12. Marquette / 12. Texas Tech
*Conference champions have conference in parenthesis
EAST REGIONAL (New York City; March 24, 26)
MIDWEST REGIONAL (Kansas City; March 23, 25
WEST REGIONAL (San Jose; March 23, 25)
South REGIONAL (Memphis; March 24, 26)
Last five at-large byes: TCU, Kansas State, Virginia Tech, Arkansas
Last four in (First four in Dayton): Seton Hall, Illinois State, Marquette, Texas Tech
First five out: Providence, Syracuse, Tennessee, Clemson, Rhode Island
Next five out: Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Indiana, Alabama, Boise State
This year’s bubble is one of the most fluid we have ever seen. Teams are moving in the field and dropping out seemingly a few times a week. That will continue all the way up until Selection Sunday on March 12.
Seton Hall finds itself in the First Four despite suffering a 22-point home loss to Villanova on Saturday. The Pirates beat Creighton three days earlier behind 41 points and a game-clinching steal from Khadeen Carrington. Seton Hall gets the nod thanks to Syracuse’s recent three-game skid featuring losses at Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech.
TCU, also on a three-game losing streak, continues to drop near the bubble. The Horned Frogs have a shot to cement their status as a tournament team with a signature win when they travel to Kansas on Wednesday, though we all know how tough it is to go into Lawrence and get a win.
Top of the class:
While North Carolina slid into a No. 1-seed this week, the Tar Heels have several teams right on their heels (no pun intended). Oregon has looked phenomenal over the last month as Dillon Brooks and Jordan Bell are hitting their stride. Had the Ducks not blown a 19-point lead against UCLA, they likely would have moved up a seed line.
Arizona and Louisville are both candidates for a top seed, and both have chances at another signature win this week when the Wildcats host UCLA looking for revenge and the Cardinals head to Chapel Hill to take on the Heels.
Baylor is certainly not out of the mix. Despite losing a heartbreaker against Kansas, if the Bears win out — they have four winnable games remaining, including one against West Virginia — and at least make an appearance in the Big 12 Championship Game, they very well could return to the top line.
Big 12: 7
Big Ten: 7
Big East: 6