By Kyle Beery
Gonzaga’s quest for perfection came to an end Saturday night when the Bulldogs (29-1) suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of BYU. But the Bulldogs’ quest for a No. 1-seed is anything but over.
Mark Few’s team holds onto a top seed in this version of the bracket, thanks to 10 wins against the RPI top 100, four of which came against the top 20. The Bulldogs also remain the No. 1 team according to kenpom.com.
Gonzaga could be in danger of losing a top seed, though, and it would likely come at the hands of whichever team wins the Pac-12. Right now, Oregon, Arizona and UCLA all have cases for the final No. 1-seed, and if one of them were to win out and win the conference tournament, they would have an even stronger case to overtake the Bulldogs because they would likely have to beat at least one of the other teams along the way.
UCLA climbed into the discussion with an impressive road win at Arizona on Saturday. The Bruins leaped over Kentucky, who also got a nice win over Florida this weekend, moving them to the top No. 3-seed, right on the heels of UCLA.
Things are really heating up as we’re less than two weeks away from Selection Sunday, and mid-major conference tournaments begin this week. This is where the field stands right now, if the Big Dance were to start today.
Projected field of 68
FIRST FOUR (DAYTON; TUE/WED (March 14, 15)
Midwest: 16. New Orleans vs. 16. UC Davis
Midwest: 11. Syracuse vs. 11. Illinois State
East: 16. Texas Southern vs. 16. Mount St. Mary’s
South: 11. Wake Forest vs. 11. Rhode Island
*Conference champions have conference in parenthesis
(Note: The winner of the Midwest Regional will matchup with the winner of the West in the Final Four, and the winners of the East and South will play each other)
MIDWEST REGIONAL (Kansas City; March 23, 25)
WEST REGIONAL (San Jose; March 23, 25)
EAST REGIONAL (New York City; March 24, 26)
South REGIONAL (Memphis; March 24, 26)
Last five at-large bids: California, Virginia Tech, VCU, Seton Hall, Providence
Last four in (First Four in Dayton): Syracuse, Illinois State, Wake Forest, Rhode Island
First five out: TCU, Marquette, Kansas State, Vanderbilt, BYU
Next five out: Georgia, Colorado State, Utah, Ole Miss, Houston
We’re at the point of the season where the bubble picture typically starts to take shape. It becomes more clear.
Well, this season is an anomaly. It is anything but clear. This is the most fluid bubble in years. Teams are moving in and out on a daily basis.
Syracuse looked to be solidly in after beating Duke last week, but the Orange suffered a setback with a 20-point loss at Louisville on Sunday. TCU was hovering around a No. 7-seed about two weeks ago, but now the Horned Frogs are on the outside looking in after a five-game losing streak.
Marquette, one of the last four teams in the last version of the bracket, did itself a disservice Saturday by blowing a big lead at Providence.
Rhode Island picked up an important win over VCU to strengthen its resume. URI was ranked in the preseason AP Top 25, but failed to get a signature win in several attempts against quality teams. The Rams are trying to make up ground now, and the win over VCU was a good place to start, but they still need to finish strong and win a few games in the A-10 tournament.
Top of the class:
With UCLA shooting up the bracket after its big win this weekend, Baylor continues to drop. The Bears were projected as a No. 1-seed just two weeks ago, but they have lost three of four games and only barely beat a poor team in Oklahoma.
Butler built on what was arguably the best regular season win in program history — a road win over No. 2 Villanova to complete a season sweep of the defending national champs — by getting a road win over rival Xavier. The Bulldogs solidified their case as a No. 3-seed, but they still have to finish strong to hold onto that spot.
— #BIGEASThoops (@BIGEASTMBB) February 26, 2017
Butler must get a win over Seton Hall on senior day this weekend, and win at least one game in the Big East Tournament, something the Bulldogs have never done in their first three years in the league.
Big Ten: 7
Big East: 6
Big 12: 5
Atlantic 10: 3
Missouri Valley: 2