March Madness bracket predictions 4.0: Projecting the Field of 68 for 2020 NCAA Tournament

It’s Selection Sunday week! Welcome to Edition 4.0 of Sporting News’ NCAA Tournament projections, known around these parts as the Field of 68.

We’ll update these projections every morning this week. Even though seed lines might not drastically shift day-to-day, even minor movement seems monumental at this time of the year, and that’s worth updating, isn’t it?

Tracking the bids for 2020 NCAA Tournament

Our goal is to give you a numbers snapshot for every team, and then maybe a note or two on most squads. This isn’t a projection of what the seed lines will look like on Selection Sunday, but rather an educated guess at how the bracket would look if the season ended yesterday. (Lots can happen between now and then, folks.) Our goal is to give you the information that will be used by the selection committee — a mix of statistics and other relevant facts for every single at-large team.

As you know, even though numbers matter, they aren’t the only thing: The committee looks at an entire body of work, a process that includes many factors (injuries, etc.).

Our Field of 68 automatic bids go to teams that fit these one of these three categories:

Projected No. 1 seeds

Kansas (Big 12), Gonzaga (WCC), Dayton (A10), Baylor

Kansas (27-3): NET/Pom/Sag: 1/1/1. vs. Q1: 12-3. vs. Q2: 8-0. vs. Q3/4: 7-0
Gonzaga (29-2): NET/Pom/Sag: 2/2/2. vs. Q1: 5-2. vs. Q2: 4-0. vs. Q3/4: 20-0
Dayton (29-2): NET/Pom/Sag: 3/4/7. vs. Q1: 5-2. vs. Q2: 8-0. vs. Q3/4: 16-0
Baylor (26-4): NET/Pom/Sag: 5/3/4. vs. Q1: 11-2. vs. Q2: 5-2. vs. Q3/4: 10-0

Thoughts: Kansas, Gonzaga and Dayton are all No. 1 seeds, and it’s hard to imagine that changing, even if Dayton loses its A10 tournament opener to the winner of the UMass/VCU contest. If San Diego State had won the Mountain West tournament title instead of falling to Utah State, the Aztecs would have had a great case for a No. 1 seed — over Baylor, though, not over Dayton. The Bears have lost three of their past five games and have slipped from the top overall seed to the fourth overall seed. It would be surprising, but not stunning, to see the committee drop the Bears a seed, anyway.

Projected No. 2 seeds

San Diego State, Florida State (ACC), Creighton (Big East), Villanova

San Diego State (29-2): NET/Pom/Sag: 4/6/9. vs. Q1: 4-1. vs. Q2: 7-0. vs. Q3/4: 18-1
Florida State (26-5): NET/Pom/Sag: 10/15/6. vs. Q1: 6-3. vs. Q2: 8-2. vs. Q3/4: 12-0
Creighton (23-7): NET/Pom/Sag: 11/13/13. vs. Q1: 9-7. vs. Q2: 6-0. vs. Q3/4: 8-0
Villanova (24-7): NET/Pom/Sag: 13/18/10. vs. Q1: 10-6. vs. Q2: 6-1. vs. Q3/4: 8-0

Thoughts: There’s still fluidity and opportunity on the 2-seed line behind SDSU and Florida State. As many as nine different teams — the last two here, all four on the 3-seed line and everyone other than Wisconsin on the 4-seed line — could possibly wind up as a 2-seed with conference tournament titles. It’s not about the titles themselves, but runs to their respective conference titles for these nine schools (all power teams) would include multiple Q1 wins over high-quality teams; adding three of those in a week would be quite the resume boost. Remember, though, nothing happens in a vacuum, and the path to a 2-seed for some of the schools would require multiple other dominoes to fall, too.

Projected No. 3 seeds

Michigan State, Kentucky (SEC), Duke, Seton Hall

Michigan State (22-9): NET/Pom/Sag: 7/7/3. vs. Q1: 7-7. vs. Q2: 6-2. vs. Q3/4: 8-0
Kentucky (25-6): NET/Pom/Sag: 21/28/11. vs. Q1: 9-3. vs. Q2: 5-2. vs. Q3/4: 11-1
Duke (25-6): NET/Pom/Sag: 6/5/8. vs. Q1: 5-3. vs. Q2: 6-2. vs. Q3/4: 14-1
Seton Hall (21-9): NET/Pom/Sag: 15/19/14. vs. Q1: 10-7. vs. Q2: 5-2. vs. Q3/4: 6-0

Thoughts: It’s kind of amazing, the difference between the computer rankings for the teams currently on our 3-seed line. The metrics love Michigan State and Duke but hate Kentucky — almost as much as Louisville, Indiana or Tennessee fans — with Seton Hall snugly in the middle of the pack.

Projected No. 4 seeds

Maryland, Louisville, Oregon (Pac-12), Wisconsin (Big Ten)

Maryland (24-7): NET/Pom/Sag: 18/11/20. vs. Q1: 7-7. vs. Q2: 7-0. vs. Q3/4: 10-0
Louisville (24-7): NET/Pom/Sag: 8/9/18. vs. Q1: 4-6. vs. Q2: 6-1. vs. Q3/4: 14-0
Oregon (24-7): NET/Pom/Sag: 12/17/17. vs. Q1: 8-5. vs. Q2: 6-2. vs. Q3/4: 10-0
Wisconsin (21-10): NET/Pom/Sag: 24/22/12. vs. Q1: 9-8. vs. Q2: 4-1. vs. Q3/4: 8-1

Thoughts: Louisville has the best metrics of this group — top 10 NET and KenPom — but by far the fewest Q1 victories, and that matters. (Heck, Oregon State and DePaul, two teams far outside the at-large conversation, have more Q1 wins than the Cardinals). This might be a little high for Wisconsin; the Badgers had an overwhelmingly “meh” nonconference showing but have been playing as well as anyone the past month or so. They’ve won eight in a row and, shockingly, captured the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament despite at one point owning a 6-6 league mark.

B1G | SEC | ACC | B12 | P-12 | Big East

Projected No. 5 seeds

Butler, Ohio State, BYU, Virginia

Butler (22-9): NET/Pom/Sag: 19/25/25. vs. Q1: 10-6. vs. Q2: 5-3. vs. Q3/4: 7-0
Ohio State (21-10): NET/Pom/Sag: 16/8/5. vs. Q1: 5-8. vs. Q2: 7-1. vs. Q3/4: 9-0
BYU (23-7): NET/Pom/Sag: 9/12/16. vs. Q1: 3-4. vs. Q2: 5-3. vs. Q3/4: 15-0
Virginia (23-7): NET/Pom/Sag: 42/44/22. vs. Q1: 5-3. vs. Q2: 7-3. vs. Q3/4: 11-1

Thoughts: Speaking of “maybe too high,” Virginia doesn’t have impressive computer rankings by most metrics. But it has won 10 of 11, knocking off the ACC’s three heavyweights — Florida State, Duke and Louisville — in that stretch and rolling up to the No. 2 seed in the ACC Tournament. (That last part’s just an aside on how they’re playing, not a determining factor for the committee, by the way). Their resume is far from flawless, but with soooooo many teams checking in with 9, 10 or 11 losses heading into conference tournaments, the seven Ls the Cavaliers own starts to stand out.

Projected No. 6 seeds

Auburn, West Virginia, Illinois, Iowa

Auburn (25-6): NET/Pom/Sag: 27/34/24. vs. Q1: 7-3. vs. Q2: 7-2. vs. Q3/4: 12-1
West Virginia (21-10): NET/Pom/Sag: 17/10/21. vs. Q1: 6-7. vs. Q2: 6-3. vs. Q3/4: 9-0
Illinois (20-10): NET/Pom/Sag: 38/30/26. vs. Q1: 5-8. vs. Q2: 4-1. vs. Q3/4: 10-1
Iowa (20-11): NET/Pom/Sag: 34/23/28. vs. Q1: 7-7. vs. Q2: 6-1. vs. Q3/4: 7-2

Thoughts: Earlier this week, Auburn was 4-3 in Q1 contests and 9-2 in Q2 contests. Today, despite playing only one more game, the Tigers are 7-3 in Q1 and 7-2 in Q2. It’s not that the Tigers did anything, but multiple teams they’ve played reached the magic plateaus to jump up a level, and Auburn reaps that benefit, at least on the surface. Does that drastically change Auburn’s resume in the committee’s eyes? It will be interesting to see what it looks like in a couple of days. Remember how West Virginia was the No. 8 overall seed when the selection committee did its preview reveal in early February? Well, the Mountaineers lost six of their next eight games, with the only wins against teams outside the at-large conversation. That’s why their win against Baylor to close the regular season was so important; it was their first Q1 victory since mid-January.

Projected No. 7 seeds

Penn State, Colorado, Michigan, Arizona

Penn State (21-10): NET/Pom/Sag: 35/26/42. vs. Q1: 7-7. vs. Q2: 6-2. vs. Q3/4: 8-1
Colorado (21-10): NET/Pom/Sag: 23/32/58. vs. Q1: 6-5. vs. Q2: 5-4. vs. Q3/4: 10-1
Michigan (19-12): NET/Pom/Sag: 25/16/15. vs. Q1: 6-10. vs. Q2: 5-2. vs. Q3/4: 8-0
Arizona (20-11): NET/Pom/Sag: 14/20/48. vs. Q1: 3-8. vs. Q2: 5-3. vs. Q3/4: 12-0

Thoughts: Let’s talk for a moment about bad losses. Penn State had one to close the regular season, falling by double-digits to a Northwestern team that didn’t beat any Big Ten teams aside from Nebraska all year until the Nittany Lions came to town. Yikes. Same thing with Arizona, which lost its regular-season finale to a Washington squad that finished dead last in the Pac-12 standings (even win that win). And that happened in Arizona! Not a good look for a team that’s wildly overrated by most metrics — especially the NCAA’s own NET — and might be a big high here as a 7-seed.

Projected No. 8 seeds

Saint Mary’s, Houston, LSU, Providence

Saint Mary’s (24-7): NET/Pom/Sag: 31/37/39. vs. Q1: 2-4. vs. Q2: 5-1. vs. Q3/4: 17-2
Houston (23-8): NET/Pom/Sag: 20/14/19. vs. Q1: 2-5. vs. Q2: 7-3. vs. Q3/4: 13-0
LSU (21-10): NET/Pom/Sag: 29/36/36. vs. Q1: 4-8. vs. Q2: 7-1. vs. Q3/4: 10-1
Providence (19-12): NET/Pom/Sag: 36/41/27. vs. Q1: 7-8. vs. Q2: 5-0. vs. Q3/4: 7-4

Thoughts: I’m fascinated to see how the committee balances Providence’s plethora of Q1 wins with its barrage of Q3/4 losses. No other at-large team — or first four out team — has more than two Q3/4 losses, but the Friars have four. FOUR! Yes, they’ve been playing great lately, but if the full resume truly counts, as the NCAA has been telling us forever, it’s hard to see them above an 8-seed.

Projected No. 9 seeds

Oklahoma, Indiana, Rutgers, USC

Oklahoma (19-12): NET/Pom/Sag: 46/35/31. vs. Q1: 5-9. vs. Q2: 6-3. vs. Q3/4: 8-0
Rutgers (19-11): NET/Pom/Sag: 32/27/30. vs. Q1: 4-9. vs. Q2: 5-1. vs. Q3/4: 10-1
Indiana (19-12): NET/Pom/Sag: 60/40/35. vs. Q1: 4-10. vs. Q2: 5-2. vs. Q3/4: 10-0
USC (22-9): NET/Pom/Sag: 45/54/49. vs. Q1: 5-7. vs. Q2: 6-1. vs. Q3/4: 11-1

Thoughts: We were going to write this section earlier, but we were watching “Sesame Street.” Apologies. Indiana’s resume isn’t as bad as some folks seem to think. The Hoosiers have no bad losses (worst ones are to bubble teams Purdue and Arkansas) and five Q1 wins. That’s a solid bubble resume. Rutgers saved its chances with the wins against Maryland (home) and Purdue (road) to end the regular season. Big-time wins.

Projected No. 10 seeds

Marquette, Florida, Arizona State, Utah State (MWC)

Marquette (18-12): NET/Pom/Sag: 26/31/40. vs. Q1: 5-10. vs. Q2: 6-2. vs. Q3/4: 7-0
Florida (19-12): NET/Pom/Sag: 28/33/29. vs. Q1: 5-9. vs. Q2: 4-3. vs. Q3/4: 10-0
Arizona State (20-11): NET/Pom/Sag: 52/64/65. vs. Q1: 5-9. vs. Q2: 5-2. vs. Q3/4: 10-0

Thoughts: Selfishly, I was glad Utah State won the Mountain West auto bid, because then I didn’t have to lose sleep about its at-large status. The Aggies are in, and it wouldn’t shock me to see them make it through to the second weekend.

Projected No. 11 seeds

Texas Tech, UCLA, Xavier, Stanford, Texas, Cincinnati (AAC)

Texas Tech (18-13): NET/Pom/Sag: 22/21/38. vs. Q1: 3-10. vs. Q2: 4-3. vs. Q3/4: 11-0
*UCLA (18-12): NET/Pom/Sag: 76/77/57. vs. Q1: 6-7. vs. Q2: 3-3. vs. Q3/4: 9-2
*Xavier (19-12): NET/Pom/Sag: 44/43/37. vs. Q1: 3-11. vs. Q2: 7-1. vs. Q3/4: 9-0
*Stanford (20-11): NET/Pom/Sag: 30/38/62. vs. Q1: 5-7. vs. Q2: 2-3. vs. Q3/4: 13-1
*Texas (19-12): NET/Pom/Sag: 69/61/47. vs. Q1: 5-8. vs. Q2: 2-4. vs. Q3/4: 12-0

Thoughts: Four of the teams here had opportunities to close the regular season with statement wins, but Tech lost at home to Kansas, UCLA lost across town at USC, Xavier lost at home to Butler and Stanford lost at Oregon. Texas? The Longhorns went out and got smoked at Oklahoma State, snapping their five-game winning streak. It would be best to avoid going-one-and-done in the conference tournament.

Projected Nos. 12-16 seeds

No. 12 seeds: ETSU (Southern), Stephen F. Austin (Southland), Liberty (Atlantic Sun), Yale (Ivy)
No. 13 seeds: Bradley (MVC), North Texas (C-USA), Akron (MAC), Vermont (America East)
No. 14 seeds: Belmont (Ohio Valley), Wright State (Horizon), UC Irvine (Big West), Colgate (Patriot)
No. 15 seeds: New Mexico State (WAC), Winthrop (Big South), North Dakota State (Summit), Hofstra (Colonial)
No. 16 seeds: Eastern Washington (Big Sky), Little Rock (Sun Belt), * Robert Morris (Northeast), *Siena (MAAC), *Prairie View A&M (SWAC), * North Carolina Central (MEAC)

*First Four teams

Teams that have clinched automatic bids are in italics.

Newbies: Bradley, Cincinnati, Utah State, Winthrop
Dropped out: Northern Iowa, Purdue, Radford, Tulsa

First four out

N.C. State (19-12): NET/Pom/Sag: 51/54/44. vs. Q1: 4-5. vs. Q2: 4-5. vs. Q3/4: 11-2
Richmond (24-7): NET/Pom/Sag: 37/46/53. vs. Q1: 3-4. vs. Q2: 3-2. vs. Q3/4: 18-1
Wichita State (23-8): NET/Pom/Sag: 41/39/41. vs. Q1: 2-5. vs. Q2: 7-3. vs. Q3/4: 13-0
Memphis (21-10): NET/Pom/Sag: 58/58/46. vs. Q1: 2-4. vs. Q2: 6-2. vs. Q3/4: 13-3

Next four out

Mississippi State (20-11): NET/Pom/Sag: 50/47/45. vs. Q1: 2-7. vs. Q2: 6-2. vs. Q3/4: 12-2
Purdue (16-15): NET/Pom/Sag: 33/24/23. vs. Q1: 4-10. vs. Q2: 5-4. vs. Q3/4: 7-1
Northern Iowa (23-6): NET/Pom/KPI: 48/48/89. vs. Q1: 1-1. vs. Q2: 3-2. vs. Q3/4: 19-3
Saint Louis (22-8): NET/Pom/Sag: 49/62/68. vs. Q1: 2-5. vs. Q2: 2-2. vs. Q3/4: 18-1

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