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Duke still No. 1 overall, Vols still on top line...for now

The latest.

NCAA Men’s Final Four - Previews Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

After some time away, a fresh bracket projection is here and certainly quite a bit has happened over this recent period of time, namely Tennessee getting throttled in Lexington by the Wildcats and Zion Williamson’s shoe exploding mere moments after Duke tipped off against North Carolina. Both teams are still on the top line in this update. Duke is still No. 1 overall though their grip may not be as strong as it was before Zion went down. As for the Vols, they’re still No. 3 on the board thanks to their win over Gonzaga plus three other Quadrant 1 victories away from home. However, if they lose again to Kentucky, they very well can kiss that No. 1 seed goodbye.

On the plus side, all five of Tennessee’s remaining games are against tournament teams (LSU, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Auburn). The path to a No. 1 seed for the Vols is still very clear. But like any good meteorologist knows, that path can get very foggy very quickly.

More on the field after we take a look at the full bracket.

Bracket Projection: February 23rd

East Region (Washington, D.C.) South Region (Louisville)
East Region (Washington, D.C.) South Region (Louisville)
Columbia (Mar. 22/24) Columbia (Mar. 22/24)
1. Duke 1. Virginia (ACC)
16. St. Francis (PA) (NEC) / Canisius (MAAC) 16. Sam Houston State (Southland)
8. St. John's 8. Ole Miss
9. Wofford (Southern) 9. Washington (Pac-12)
Salt Lake City (Mar. 21/23) San Jose (Mar. 22/24)
5. Villanova 5. Virginia Tech
12. Hofstra (Colonial) 12. Liberty (Atlantic Sun)
4. Iowa State 4. Texas Tech
13. Old Dominion (Conference USA) 13. Yale (Ivy)
Hartford (Mar. 21/23) Des Moines (Mar. 21/23)
6. Cincinnati 6. Mississippi State
11. VCU (Atlantic 10) 11. Seton Hall
3. Marquette (Big East) 3. Purdue
14. Vermont (America East) 14. Montana (Big Sky)
Des Moines (Mar. 21/23) Columbus (Mar. 22/24)
7. Florida State 7. Maryland
10. Minnesota 10. North Carolina State
2. Michigan State 2. Kentucky
15. Radford (Big South) 15. Texas State (Sun Belt)
West Region (Anaheim) Midwest Region (Kansas City)
Salt Lake City (Mar. 21/23) Jacksonville (Mar. 21/23)
1. Gonzaga (West Coast) 1. Tennessee (SEC)
16. Prairie View (SWAC) / Norfolk State (MEAC) 16. Drake (Missouri Valley)
8. Auburn 8. Ohio State
9. Oklahoma 9. Texas
San Jose (Mar. 22/24) Hartford (Mar. 21/23)
5. Nevada (Mountain West) 5. Kansas State (Big 12)
12. Georgetown / Temple 12. Butler / Utah State
4. LSU 4. Wisconsin
13. New Mexico State (WAC) 13. Belmont (Ohio Valley)
Tulsa (Mar. 22/24) Tulsa (Mar. 22/24)
6. Buffalo (MAC) 6. Louisville
11. Arizona State 11. Florida
3. Houston (AAC) 3. Kansas
14. UC Irvine (Big West) 14. South Dakota State (Summit)
Columbus (Mar. 22/24) Jacksonville (Mar. 21/23)
7. Baylor 7. Iowa
10. Syracuse 10. TCU
2. Michigan 2. North Carolina
15. Lehigh (Patriot) 15. Northern Kentucky (Horizon)

Last Four Byes: Minnesota, Seton Hall, Arizona State, Florida

Last Four In: Butler, Utah State, Georgetown, Temple

First Four Out: Alabama, UCF, Saint Mary’s, Providence

Next Four Out: Clemson, Oregon, Dayton, Davidson

Conference Breakdown

ACC - 8

Big 12 - 8

Big Ten - 8

SEC - 7

Big East - 6

American - 3

Mountain West - 2

Pac-12 - 2

One-bid leagues - 23

Some changes to the SEC field since our last update. Alabama is now just outside the field while Florida, on the heels of their overtime win at LSU on Wednesday, along with a win at Alabama and a NET ranking of 31, move into the field. That still gives the SEC seven teams in the field, with eight certainly a possibility.

A few spots in the field opened up since the last update, thanks to the collapse of Nebraska and the epic self-destruction of Indiana. Nebraska has fallen to 5-11 in Big Ten play and Indiana has completely crumbled, now sitting 4-12 in conference and 13-14 overall. Once upon a time, the Hoosiers were 11-2 and had home wins over Louisville and Marquette. Since then, Indiana has gone 1-12, somehow that win being in overtime at Michigan State. At this point, there’s no reason to even consider Indiana or Nebraska for a tournament bid.

Also since the last update, Buffalo has retaken the lead in the MAC, meaning Bowling Green no longer is taking up a spot and VCU leads the Atlantic 10, further opening the at-large pool with Davidson on the outside.

This has allowed teams like Butler and Temple to move back into the field and, for the first time in our projections, Utah State and Georgetown are in the field.

Utah State has one Quadrant 1 victory but it’s over a fellow bubble team in Saint Mary’s and they have a top-40 NET ranking and if the committee’s initial top-16 is any indication, they are taking the NET seriously. Having a top-25 non-conference schedule helps their cause as well.

Georgetown has quietly played their way into the field. though their latest drum beat was a loud one, a 12-point win on Wednesday against Villanova. Three Quadrant 1 wins away from home, including two against current tournament teams in St. John’s and Butler, have the Hoyas in position to make the Tournament for the first time since 2015.

Temple may not have a lot of meat on their bones, but they are still the only team so far this season to beat Houston. They also boast a nice 7-4 record in true road games, plus a neutral-court win over Davidson. They just beat out Alabama, who is a mere 3-7 on the road and is just 15-11 overall.

By no means is Alabama out of the picture. They have two upcoming home games against LSU and Auburn over the next ten days. Win those and the SEC is likely looking at a second straight season with eight teams in the field.

As for today’s action in the SEC, Tennessee is on the road against a very good LSU team, but trying to recover from that tough loss to Florida. Auburn really could use a good road win and it doesn’t get much better than winning at Kentucky. Tigers look like a classic 8/9 game candidate.

Ole Miss will try to handle their business against Georgia, while Florida looks to keep their spot in the field by avoiding a rough loss at home to Missouri.

Alabama cannot afford a home loss to Vanderbilt and Mississippi State needs to beat South Carolina to avoid having their seed line drop.