2020 March Madness February Bracketology: Handful of Mid-Majors Snag Single-Digit Seeds

Selection Sunday is now less than a month away, and the regular season is winding down.  It’s time for my first bracketology of 2020.  A couple weeks ago, the selection committee revealed their current Top 16:

Today’s bracketology will highlight what has changed since this reveal, where I disagree with the committee.  I’ll be talking about the entire bracket though, not just the Top 16.


 

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Jared Butler and the Baylor Bears have dominated all year, only losing to Washington. Riding a 23 game win streak, they easily earn the top overall seed. Florida State has definitely impressed of late in the ACC, and they’ve built up the resume for a 2 seed in these last couple weeks after the committee projected them as a 3 seed two weeks ago. Many still believe the Dayton Flyers deserve a 2 seed, but in an easy Atlantic 10, I feel their performance has been overrated a bit. This 2-loss team still deserves a 3 seed, but no more than that. Seton Hall has struggled a bit these last couple weeks, but Myles Powell and the rest of the team have been competitive in a tough Big East, earning them a top four seed.

The Payton Pritchett-led Oregon Ducks should settle for a 5 seed after some recent Pac-12 struggles. I see Colorado as a slightly better team, and they’ll score a 5 seed as well. Ohio State is on the rise and cracked the Top 25 this week, so a 6 seed is fitting for them. Butler has slipped since the committee’s Bracket Preview, struggling against Big East competition. I don’t see them as more than a 6, 7, or 8 seed at this point, and the same goes for Michigan State, who has fallen behind teams like the Buckeyes in a confusing, but competitive B1G.

The bottom 8 seeds in this region are a big step down from the Top 8. Saint Mary’s isn’t as good as Gonzaga or BYU, but should still edge out an at-large bid. South Carolina and Florida have improved in a close SEC, so they should grab tournament bids as well. The 12-16 seeds will belong to conference winners here. A strong Yale squad takes the 12, while a New Mexico State team that always seems to make the tourney takes the 13. North Texas, Hofstra, North Colorado, and Norfolk State round out the region after underwhelming seasons, but they still should win their conferences and punch their ticket to the tourney.

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San Diego State is facing a weaker than usual Mountain West, but their undefeated season includes wins over ranked teams like Creighton and Iowa.  This should earn them a 1 seed. Auburn has just 3 losses and they play in a tougher SEC, enough for a 2 seed as the best team in their conference. Louisville has had an impressive season that includes a top 3 ACC performance and some big ACC wins including one over Duke. But they have lost to unranked ACC rivals like Clemson and Georgia Tech, which should hold Jordan Nwora and the Cardinals to a 3 seed for now. West Virginia has struggled against the top teams in an equally competitive Big 12, but they’ve beat the teams they were supposed to beat and have held a Top 3 spot in the conference for most of the season, enough for a 4 seed.  Iowa has performed similarly in the B1G, earning them a high end 5 seed.

Marquette, BYU, and Northern Iowa round out the Top 8. Marquette has improved lately, but they aren’t as good as the top teams in their conference yet. BYU plays in a fairly easy conference, but has done fairly well, second to Gonzaga in the standings. UNI has posted a 22-4 season, but they play in the easy Missouri Valley Conference and have mostly faced other mid-majors, even outside their conference to get to that record.

Arizona State is on a 6-game win streak that has bolstered their season, placing them close to elite Pac-12 competition in the standings and in this bracket. They could crack the Top 25 soon, but for now I see them as a 9 seed. Illinois has regressed of late and looking back, their wins haven’t been that impressive. They still should make the tourney though. URI has been Dayton’s toughest Atlantic 10 competition, outperforming most other teams in the conference and winning some key games outside the conference. USC has done fairly well despite falling behind in an increasingly competitive Pac-12, and Cincinnati has regressed but they should still edge out at-large bids.

Conference winners round out the bracket, with Bowling Green and UC Irvine (who have strong records and some out-of-conference merit) in the 13 and 14, while South Dakota State and Georgia State edge out conference victories for the 15 and 16.

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Led by Filip Petrusev, Zags has dominated in and out of the WCC. With just 2 losses, they deserve a 1 seed. Maryland takes a 2 seed, as they have stood out in a competitive B1G. Creighton is on the rise, and they have become one of the Big East’s top teams. I see them as a 3 seed right now, and they may even be better than their conference rival Villanova. Kentucky has been Auburn’s biggest SEC challenger, but they’ve had a few bad losses that have caused them to fall behind. They still deserve a 4 seed though. Houston should take a 5 seed after dominating in the AAC, a competitive mid-major conference, and cracking the Top 25 consistently. Texas Tech has had an up and down season. They have had a lot of losses compared to Top 25 rivals, but they’ve lost to just 3 other unranked teams: Oklahoma State, TCU, and DePaul. Arizona should grab a 7 seed. They’ve been competitive in the Pac-12 despite falling behind Oregon and Colorado.

Virginia and Oklahoma have both had rocky seasons in competitive conferences, but they have both had some big wins that should be enough to get them into the tournament. Virginia’s ACC rival, NC State should also edge out a tournament bid after defeating both Virginia and Duke and remaining fairly competitive in the ACC. But Conference-winning ETSU will grab a 10 seed after a strong performance in a fairly tough Southern conference and a win over LSU. They will have a better seed than NC State and a better seed than First Four opponents Michigan (who posted an above average season in the B1G) and Utah State (who have been San Diego State’s toughest conference competition). Colgate and Liberty will earn the 13 and 14 after conference dominance, and Wright State and Saint Francis round out the bracket here.

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Kansas has been neck and neck with the 24-1 Baylor Bears throughout the season, earning them a 1 seed. Duke has had some tough losses, losing to teams like Stephen F. Austin and NC State, but they’ve remained elite in the ACC, enough for a 2 or 3 seed. Villanova has been atop the Big East for most of the season. Creighton and Seton Hall have provided adequate competition, but Villanova still deserves the 3 seed. Penn State has stood out in the B1G, but they are nowhere near Maryland. Iowa, another B1G standout, earned a 5 seed. Penn State has done slightly better and should edge out a Top 4 seed. Colorado will take the 5 seed here. With Oregon struggling of late, Colorado has emerged as the Pac-12 favorite. Wichita State is a team that’s been overlooked by many. They’ve had some impressive wins this year despite struggles in the AAC that Houston has dominated. I see them as a 6 seed right now. Rutgers has had their best season in a long time, just like their B1G rival Illinois. The Scarlet Knights have more impressive victories than Illinois and even more than Michigan State. I see them as a 7 seed and a borderline Top 25 team. LSU has fallen far behind Auburn and Kentucky, but they’ve remained competitive in the SEC and should grab the 8 seed.

Much like the South, there’s a big gap after the Top 8 seeds. Wisconsin has barely posted a record above .500, but their B1G performance should earn them a tournament bid. Indiana has done better than Wisconsin overall, but their B1G struggles are a problem. I think they’ll edge out the 11 seed, just barely avoiding the First Four, but that could change. Xavier will earn the final bye though, slotting into a 12 seed after an underwhelming, but competitive season in the Big East. SFA has done far better than most other mid-major conference winners, and they’ve taken down Duke. I think they’ll earn a 10 seed, ahead of a handful of bubble teams. The rest of the conference winners in the East take bottom 4 seeds.

 


 

Overall, there have been a handful of mid-major squads that have stood out and outperformed bubble teams, and this is happening more than usual. In some cases, these teams have made an argument for the Top 25. But will they place ahead of March Madness regulars come Selection Sunday? Will they make it regardless of their performance in the conference tournaments? Or am I overvaluing these mid-major squads? We’ll just have to find out.