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Bracketology: Tennessee No. 2 in latest seed list, top 16 revealed

Our latest projection.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Charlotte Practice Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Super Bowl is in the history books, many fans are shifting their focus to the world of college basketball. And what a time to join in. There has been plenty of competition all throughout the field and we could be in for another fun NCAA Tournament.

We’ll talk Tennessee, the bubble and the top 16 after the bracket projection.

February 9th Projection

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

Last Four Byes: TCU, Syracuse, Minnesota, Alabama

Last Four In: Seton Hall, VCU, Nebraska, Arizona State

First Four Out: Arkansas, UCF, Saint Mary’s, Utah State

Next Four Out: Temple, Butler, Florida, Creighton

Conference Breakdown

Big Ten — 10

ACC — 8

Big 12 — 8

SEC — 7

Big East — 4

American Athletic — 2

Atlantic 10 — 2

MAC — 2

Pac-12 — 2

One-bid leagues — 23

Focusing on the Volunteers for a moment, they currently sit as the No. 2 overall seed in today’s projection, behind only Duke. Tennessee looks in good shape for a No. 1 seed in about five weeks time (yes, it’s that close already), but they won’t be without their obstacles. Tennessee still has both meetings with Kentucky as well as road trips to LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn.

We knew the win over Gonzaga would go a long way, especially now with Gonzaga sitting as the fourth No. 1 seed in our field. But also the Louisville victory is looking better and better. The Cardinals are currently a No. 4 seed in the West. And with their remaining schedule, Tennessee certainly has a chance to be the overall No. 1 seed.

Saturday is an important day in the season as we will get a glimpse of how the committee views the top teams. Similar to how football gives their weekly top 25 playoff rankings, today the Selection Committee will unveil their top 16 teams and also place them into the four regions. It’s possible they already view Tennessee as the top team. And keep an eye on who the committee ranks in their top 16 as history shows those teams have a good chance of staying in the top 16. In the first two years of this exercise, we’ve seen 15 of the original 16 in 2017 and 13 of the original 16 in 2018 be ranked in both the February top-16 and the final top-16 on Selection Sunday.

In an effort to try and compare with the committee, here’s how I see the top 16 at the moment in the field. Tune into CBS at 12:30 eastern to see the reveal of the top 16 seeds.

  1. Duke Blue Devils
  2. Tennessee Volunteers
  3. Virginia Cavaliers
  4. Gonzaga Bulldogs
  5. Michigan Wolverines
  6. Kentucky Wildcats
  7. Michigan State Spartans
  8. North Carolina Tar Heels
  9. Houston Cougars
  10. Wisconsin Badgers
  11. Purdue Boilermakers
  12. Iowa State Cyclones
  13. Louisville Cardinals
  14. Texas Tech Red Raiders
  15. Nevada Wolf Pack
  16. Virginia Tech Hokies

On the bubble

There’s quite a bit of mess to sort out for the final few spots, but eventually it was Seton Hall, VCU, Nebraska and Arizona State as the last four in. Wins over teams in the field were a key factor, especially for a team like Arizona State, who has non-conference wins over Kansas and Mississippi State. Similar to last season, the Sun Devils struggled as the season was winding down, but big wins outside of the Pac-12 pushed them in. These wins are nowhere near the level of Kansas and Xavier, who were both No. 1 seeds last season, but they still fall in Group 1 and the committee has shown they love Group 1 wins (see 2018 Oklahoma). Arizona State’s NET ranking is pretty low for now, but there is still time to make up ground.

Seton Hall stills has those wins over Kentucky and Maryland away from home. Like Arizona State, those may be the key pieces to just push the Pirates in. And Nebraska was very tough, but a you wonder if them having a top-40 NET ranking would entice the committee. And they did win at Indiana. But the issues are clearly there, including 3-9 in Big Ten play, meaning the best they can do is 9-9. But we’ve seen a few times recently a team get selected with an 8-10 conference record. It’s when we get to 7-11 that the trouble really starts. In other words, Nebraska does not have much room left for error.