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Bracketology 2021: We finally have a new No. 1 seed!

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The top of this bracket had started to resemble a broken vinyl LP. But this Friday brings a change to the track listing.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Iowa
Ohio State won a thriller in Iowa City on Thursday night.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, Ohio State took its place on this projection’s No. 2 seed line. But thanks to the combination of the Buckeyes’ Thursday win at Iowa (who remains on the two line) and midweek losses by former No. 1 seed Villanova and a pair of twos in Texas (to Baylor) and Houston (to East Carolina), Chris Holtmann’s team is now the fourth No. 1 seed. Gonzaga, a Baylor squad that’s had to postpone its next two contests, and a Michigan team that’s still in an enforced pause all currently rank ahead of Ohio State. And it’s that Big Ten rivalry that looks likely to determine who holds the third and fourth No. 1 seeds. The Buckeyes and Wolverines are currently scheduled to meet just once, on Sunday, February 21st—in Columbus.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at St. John
St. John’s enters the field after snapping Villanova’s nine-game win streak.
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Turning our attention to the other end of the at-large pool, Villanova’s loss played a role in altering today’s field. St. John’s is one of three new at-large entrants today, joining Big East rival Seton Hall (an impressive winner at Providence) and Maryland (a 61-60 victor over visiting Purdue).

That means Oregon (whose loss to Washington State was a second Quad 3 defeat in as many games), Indiana (who couldn’t take advantage of a home game against Illinois on Tuesday), and North Carolina (defeated by Clemson, also on Tuesday) drop out. As a result, Saturday’s UNC-Duke showdown in Durham isn’t the high stakes affair it usually is—though with the loser having a steeper climb to earning an at-large, perhaps considering this one as a “low stakes contest” isn’t all that accurate either.

After today’s bracket and rundown, I have your weekend (and Monday) TV preview.

The Bracket

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

Rundown

IN (7): Bryant (NEC), Iona (MAAC), Maryland, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Stephen F. Austin (Southland), UNCG (SoCon)
OUT: Indiana, LIU (NEC), Oregon, North Carolina, Sam Houston State (Southland), Siena (MAAC), Wofford (SoCon)

Last Four Byes: Saint Louis, LSU, St. John’s, Maryland
Last Four IN: Colorado State, Seton Hall, San Diego State, Richmond
First Four OUT: North Carolina, Indiana, VCU, Utah State
Next Four OUT: Syracuse, Oregon, SMU, Wichita State

Bids by Conference

*: auto bid holder

One-bid conferences: 21

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

Maryland at Penn State, 7 p.m. (FS1)
Boise State at Nevada, 9 p.m. (FS1)
George Mason at Dayton, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
South Dakota at South Dakota State, 8 p.m. (MidCo SN/ESPN3)

Maryland is back in the projected field, but the Terps hit the road tonight to take on a Penn State squad that’s been competitive, but not quite good enough, as illustrated by a recent split with Wisconsin. Boise State heads to Reno for the first of a pair at Nevada, who happens to be 5-1 in Mountain West home games. George Mason travels to Dayton, who already won in Fairfax in January, though that game came against George Washington. Then there are South Dakota and South Dakota State, who are a combined 12-0 in Summit League play, despite the Coyotes already owning a 1-0 mark against the Jackrabbits this season. USD defeated SDSU by a 91-78 score in the finale of a round-robin non-conference series the Dakota teams played in Sioux Falls in December. That win was the only one the ‘Yotes claimed in that event! (And they’ve yet to meet one of their three Dakota rivals in Summit play.)

Saturday

Early afternoon

Seton Hall at UConn, 12 p.m. (Fox)
Alabama at Missouri, 12 p.m. (ESPN)
Iowa State at Oklahoma, 12 p.m. (ESPN2)
NC State at Boston College, 12 p.m. (ACCN)
Virginia Tech at Miami (Fla.), 12 p.m. (ACC RSNs)

The most intriguing contests in the Saturday noon Eastern window sees the top two teams in the SEC standings clashing in Columbia, Mo. and a Big East bubble clash in Storrs.

Mid-afternoon

Wisconsin at Illinois, 2:30 p.m. (Fox)
Kansas at West Virginia, 2 p.m. (CBS)
Texas at Oklahoma State, 3 p.m. (ABC)
St. John’s at Providence, 2 p.m. (FS1)
St. Bonaventure at Saint Louis, 2 p.m. (CBSSN)
Syracuse at Clemson, 2 p.m. (ACCN)
Drake at Valparaiso, 2 p.m. (ESPN3)
Evansville at Loyola Chicago, 2 p.m. (NBCS Chicago/ESPN+ ($))
East Carolina at Memphis, 2 p.m. (ESPN)
Our Lady of the Lake at Houston, 3 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

The schedule heats up in the mid-afternoon with a crucial matchup for a pair of Big Ten protected seed contenders in Madison, along with a pair of intriguing Big 12 contests. In the Big East, St. John’s can leap further past Providence in the Big East pecking order by grabbing a road win. Over in the ACC, Syracuse travels to inconsistent Clemson for one of the few quality win opportunities left for the Orange. In the Valley, the top two squads begin their final series before their showdowns in Des Moines next week. As for American leader Houston, it hosts a non-D1 squad, while the ECU team that stunned the Cougars on Wednesday evening travels to Memphis. In the Atlantic 10, league-leading St. Bonaventure heads to Saint Louis to take on a Billiken squad that’s 0-2 since returning from a lengthy pause.

Late afternoon

Pittsburgh at Virginia, 4 p.m. (ESPN)
Texas Tech at Kansas State, 4 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
Creighton at Marquette, 5 p.m. (Fox)
Washington at Oregon, 4 p.m. (CBS)
Northwestern at Purdue, 4:30 p.m. (BTN)
Mississippi State at South Carolina, 3:30 p.m. (SECN)
Ole Miss at Auburn, 4 p.m. (ESPN2)

The late afternoon window, on the other hand, looks like a good time for a winter’s nap. Pitt travels to Virginia looking to build on Wednesday’s home win over Virginia Tech. Otherwise, the majority of the remaining contests pit teams in the field against opponents who aren’t particularly close.

Early evening

North Carolina at Duke, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
Colorado State at Wyoming, 6 p.m. (CBSSN)
Washington State at Oregon State, 6 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
UCF at Tulsa, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
Nebraska at Michigan State, 6:30 p.m. (BTN)
Vanderbilt at Georgia, 6 p.m. (SECN)

UNC-Duke might feature two mediocre teams, but it’s the most intriguing matchup out of this group. However, that statement sells Colorado State’s tricky trip up US-287 to take on Wyoming short. The Rams only defeated the Cowboys by a bucket on Thursday.

Mid-evening

Tennessee at Kentucky, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Arizona at Colorado, 8 p.m. (FS1)
Notre Dame at Georgia Tech, 8 p.m. (ACCN)
South Dakota at South Dakota State, 8:30 p.m. (MidCo SN/ESPN3)
Gonzaga at Pepperdine, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

Tennessee-Kentucky is yet another marquee matchup that lacks luster in 2020, but this is a vital game for the Vols, thanks to Tuesday’s shocking loss at Ole Miss. Colorado hosts Arizona in a key game for the Buffs’ seeding. South Dakota and South Dakota State meet again in Brookings, while Prairie View puts its perfect SWAC mark to the test at Texas Southern. Georgia Tech will look to take care of Notre Dame, while Gonzaga can complete a season sweep of Pepperdine.

Late evening

Utah State at Fresno State, 10 p.m. (FS1)
UCLA at USC, 10 p.m. (ESPN)

Pac-12 leading UCLA travels down the 10 to take on second-place USC, who swept the Bruins last season. In the Mountain West, Fresno State hosts Utah State to conclude a series that began with an Aggie win on Thursday night.

Sunday

Iowa at Indiana, 12 p.m. (Fox)
Georgetown at Villanova, 2:30 p.m. (Fox)
Drake at Valparaiso, 2 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
Evansville at Loyola Chicago, 2 p.m. (NBCS Chicago Plus/ESPN+ ($))
Temple at Wichita State, 3 p.m. (ESPNU)
Boise State at Nevada, 4 p.m. (FS1)
California at Stanford, 10 p.m. (FS1)

Fox has a Super Bowl Sunday doubleheader, with CBS tied up in pregame commitments. Indiana can complete an unexpected season sweep of Iowa, while Georgetown looks to follow up its win over Creighton by knocking off a Nova squad that lost at St. John’s last time out. Elsewhere, the Valley favorites complete their respective weekend series, Boise State meets Nevada for a second time, and VCU visits Duquesne’s new digs for the first time. Cal also meets Stanford as the Bay Area rivals complete their season series. The Cardinal won handily in Berkeley on Thursday night.

Monday

Oklahoma State at Kansas, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Ohio State at Maryland, 9 p.m. (FS1)
Gonzaga at BYU, 11 p.m. (ESPN)
Miami (Fla.) at North Carolina, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
UNCG at Furman, 5 p.m. (ESPNU)
Oregon State at Colorado, 7 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
Nebraska at Minnesota, 8 p.m. (BTN)
SMU at East Carolina, 5 p.m. (ESPN2)
Saint Mary’s at San Diego, 9 p.m. (WCC Network)
San José State at San Diego State, 11 p.m. (FS1)

Monday’s slate is a little more packed than usual, thanks to Sunday’s reduced slate. The two biggest games of the night are set for the 9 Eastern hour, as Maryland looks to grab another quality win, this time against Ohio State, and Oklahoma State can complete a season sweep of Kansas by grabbing a win at Phog Allen. It’s an old school Big Monday with three ESPN games, as Gonzaga and BYU meet in a freshly scheduled WCC clash at 11 Eastern. Also, note the key SoCon game between UNCG and Furman on ESPNU at 5 Eastern.

See you all on Tuesday with my next projection.