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Bracketology 2021: Rounding the three-quarter turn

Unbelievably, this most unusual college basketball regular season is four weeks away from its scheduled conclusion, then a unique NCAA Tournament.

NCAA Basketball: West Virginia at Texas Tech
While West Virginia defeated Texas Tech on Monday night, both teams were able to rise up the bracket in the three days since.
Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The midweek schedule was so underwhelming that I had a little extra time to review the seeding picture, so there are a considerable number of changes outside of the top eight. The one and two seed lines remain the same as on Tuesday.

There’s been some shuffling of the three and four lines; however, with Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Texas Tech occupying the former and Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Texas rounding out the top 16. The Hawkeyes dropped despite ending a two-game skid with an impressive home win over Rutgers, while Mizzou dropped after getting blown out at Ole Miss.

NCAA Basketball: Oregon at Arizona State
On Thursday night, Oregon won its second straight game to climb back into the field.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Rebels are not counted among the two new at-large entrants in today’s projection, despite their impressive three-game winning streak. Ole Miss doesn’t even rank among the first eight out at the moment—thanks to three sub-90 losses and a head-to-head defeat to Wichita State, the Rebels are ninth out, just behind the Shockers.

Instead, Oregon, an impressive road winner at Arizona State on Thursday, and idle North Carolina replace Richmond (who will return from a CoVID pause Sunday against non-D1 St. Mary’s (Maryland) and St. John’s, whose OT loss at Butler eroded a considerable amount of recently-earned goodwill.

Stanford, blown out at home by Colorado, drops into the First Four group, as does Saint Louis, even though the Billikens defeated Rhode Island on Wednesday night.

After today’s full bracket and rundown, I’ll preview the Presidents Day/Valentine’s Day weekend schedule, featuring the Selection Committee preview show on Saturday afternoon.

The Bracket

Stars (✴️) indicate new entrants, while arrows (⬆️ ⬇️) indicate movement up and down the seed list.

Rundown

IN (4): Bryant (NEC), North Carolina, Oregon, UNCG (SoCon)
OUT: Fairleigh Dickinson (NEC), Richmond, St. John’s, Wofford (SoCon)

Last Four Byes: BYU, Oregon, North Carolina, Seton Hall
Last Four IN: Boise State, Stanford, Colorado State, Saint Louis
First Four OUT: Richmond, St. John’s, UConn, Western Kentucky
Next Four OUT: VCU, Syracuse, SMU, Wichita State

Bids by Conference

*: auto bid holder

One-bid conferences: 21

Big Ten (9): 1. Michigan*, 1. Ohio State, 2. Illinois, 3. Wisconsin, 4. Iowa, 7. Rutgers, 8. Purdue, 9. Minnesota, 9. Indiana
Big 12 (7): 1. Baylor*, 3. West Virginia, 3. Texas Tech, 4. Oklahoma, 4. Texas, 6. Kansas, 8. Oklahoma State
ACC (6): 3. Virginia*, 5. Florida State, 6. Virginia Tech, 7. Clemson, 8. Louisville, 11. North Carolina
SEC (6): 2. Alabama*, 4. Missouri, 5. Tennessee, 7. Arkansas, 8. Florida, 9. LSU
Pac-12 (5): 5. USC*, 6. Colorado, 7. UCLA, 10. Oregon, 12. Stanford (First Four)
Big East (4): 2. Villanova*, 5. Creighton, 6. Xavier, 11. Seton Hall
Mountain West (4): 9. San Diego State, 11. Utah State*, 12. Boise State (First Four), 12. Colorado State (First Four)
Atlantic 10 (2): 10. St. Bonaventure*, 12. Saint Louis (First Four)
Missouri Valley (2): 10. Drake, 11. Loyola Chicago*
West Coast (2): 1. Gonzaga*, 10. BYU

Weekend Lineup

Games are presented in relative order of importance. All times are Eastern. All times and broadcast information is CoVID-dependent. I’ll try to keep this section updated, but if I don’t, check out MattSarzSports.com’s weekly and daily schedules.

Friday

St. Bonaventure at VCU, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Georgia Tech at Clemson, 8 p.m. (ACCN)
Illinois at Nebraska, 9 p.m. (BTN)
UAB at Louisiana Tech, 7:30 p.m. (Stadium/Marquee)
Rice at Western Kentucky, 8 p.m. (WKYU/ESPN+ ($))

Two of the Atlantic 10’s best start Friday’s at-large-adjacent slate with a bang, as both the Bonnies and Rams could use a victory to differentiate themselves a bit from the mire. In the ACC on Wednesday night, Georgia Tech was unable to grab a quality win over Virginia at home. Tonight, the Yellow Jackets will try again at Clemson, an inconsistent squad that’s relatively safely in the field. In the Big Ten, Illinois looks to extend its win streak, visiting Nebraska for a hastily arranged game after Thursday’s scheduled contest against Michigan was postponed. Note the presence of two C-USA contests in tonight’s showcase rundown. Conference-leading UAB visits Louisiana Tech for the first of two, while Western Kentucky, an at-large contender thanks to wins over Alabama and Memphis, hosts Rice for a pair. The second games in each series are included in tomorrow’s schedule.

Saturday

Early afternoon

Oklahoma at West Virginia, 1 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
Indiana at Ohio State, 12 p.m. (ESPN)
Loyola Chicago at Drake, 12 p.m. (ESPN2)
UConn at Xavier, 12 p.m. (Fox)
Wake Forest at Florida State, 12 p.m. (ACC RSNs)
Kansas State at Oklahoma State, 12 p.m. (ESPNU)
Vanderbilt at Mississippi State, 1 p.m. (SECN)

Bracket Preview Special, 12:30 p.m. (CBS)

For my purposes, the Selection Committee’s now annual preview exercise will be among the most exciting programming in this window, as it will help me fine-tune my forecasts the rest of the way. The same cannot be said for the Auburn-Kentucky game that will follow on CBS, with the Tigers ineligible for the NCAAs and the Wildcats just a flat-out disappointment.

As for the rest of the on-court action, the best game of the afternoon window, Oklahoma’s attempt to sweep West Virginia is behind the ESPN+ paywall. However, Indiana’s contest at Ohio State and the first of two huge Missouri Valley showdowns between Loyola and Drake will be available to a wider audience. UConn faces a must-win at Xavier, as the Huskies have dropped four of five and are struggling without James Bouknight (elbow).

Mid-afternoon

Tennessee at LSU, 2 p.m. (ESPN)
Iowa at Michigan State, 2:30 p.m. (Fox)
Oregon at Arizona, 2 p.m. (ESPN2)
TCU at Texas, 2 p.m. (LHN)
Kansas at Iowa State, 3 p.m. (ABC)
Boston College at Syracuse, 2 p.m. (ACCN)
Stony Brook at Vermont, 2 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
Eastern Washington at Montana State, 2 p.m. (Pluto.tv)

The 2–3 Eastern window features important contests for several bubble teams (Michigan State, Oregon, Syracuse, TCU), along with a showdown between two squads currently 7-4 in the SEC (Tennessee and LSU). There’s also the first of two Stony Brook-Vermont games in the America East (the second is Sunday) and the conclusion of an EWU-Montana State series for first in the Big Sky that began on Thursday night with an Eagle win.

Late afternoon

Villanova at Creighton, 5 p.m. (Fox)
Arkansas at Missouri, 4 p.m. (ESPN2)
Georgia at Alabama, 3:30 p.m. (SECN)
Northwestern at Rutgers, 5 p.m. (BTN)
Saint Louis at Fordham, 3:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
Duke at NC State, 4 p.m. (ESPN)
UAB at Louisiana Tech, 4 p.m. (Stadium/Marquee)

Fox has the late afternoon’s marquee matchup, with the top two teams in the Big East squaring off in Omaha (with the return game scheduled for March 3rd). However, the two SEC contests bear watching, as Missouri welcomes Arkansas needing to bounce back from Wednesday’s poor performance at Ole Miss, while Georgia travels to Alabama following its road loss to Tennessee.

Early evening

North Carolina at Virginia, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
Gonzaga at San Francisco, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
Ole Miss at South Carolina, 6 p.m. (SECN)
Rice at Western Kentucky, 6 p.m. (CBSSN)

UNC travels to Virginia looking to grab a road in this broadcast window for the second week in a row. Of course, this season a trip to Charlottesville is just a bit more intimidating than one to Duke, given the quality of the hosts. In the WCC, Gonzaga visits a San Francisco squad that’s running out of chances to bolster its fading at-large hopes. On the other hand, Ole Miss will earn further consideration by grabbing a fourth straight win.

Mid-evening

USC at Washington State, 8 p.m. (ESPNU)
UCLA at Washington, 7:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
Saint Mary’s at Pepperdine, 8 p.m. (CBSSN)

With the Texas A&M-Florida game postponed due to CoVID issues, this window is suddenly lacking a bit in quantity. Saint Mary’s is scheduled to play for the first time since January 23rd, while the Pac-12’s Los Angeles squads will look to complete a Washington sweep (USC) and avoid one (UCLA).

Late evening

Colorado at California, 10 p.m. (ESPNU)
Utah at Stanford, 10 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
UNLV at Boise State, 10 p.m. (FS1)

In the late window, the Pac-12’s Rocky Mountain schools complete their Bay Area swing, with Utah having the trickier matchup on paper as they look to complete their respective sweeps. In the Mountain West, Boise State hosts UNLV for the second time in three days, having claimed the first matchup on Thursday.

Sunday

Michigan at Wisconsin, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Wichita State at SMU, 4 p.m. (ESPNU)
Loyola Chicago at Drake, 3 p.m. (ESPN2)
Minnesota at Maryland, 7 p.m. (FS1)
Pittsburgh at Georgia Tech, 4 p.m. (ACCN)
Stony Brook at Vermont, 2 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
Nebraska at Penn State, 3 p.m (BTN)
Oregon State at Arizona State, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

Sunday’s headliner is Michigan’s scheduled return to play after a CoVID pause. Instead of Thursday’s planned home game against Illinois as their first contest after two weeks away, the Wolverines will travel to Wisconsin. Elsewhere, Wichita State visits SMU in a key matchup for a pair of American bubble teams, Loyola and Drake conclude their Valley series, Minnesota-Maryland and Pitt-Georgia Tech are power conference bubble showdowns, and Stony Brook and Vermont close their America East series out in Burlington.

Monday

Virginia at Florida State, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Texas Tech at TCU, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Washington at Washington State, 8 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)

Baylor was scheduled to play at West Virginia for the Big 12’s Big Monday window, but Texas Tech-TCU was promoted from an ESPN+ stream to replace it. Still, that one ranks below the showdown between two of the top teams in the ACC in Tallahassee in Monday’s pecking order.

On Tuesday, I’ll be back with a full bracket update, based on the Selection Committee’s Saturday revelations.