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Bracketology 2021: Gonzaga all but sews up the No. 1 overall seed

Meanwhile, BYU acquitted itself well against the Bulldogs, so the Cougars remain a seven in today’s projection.

NCAA Basketball-WCC Tournament-BYU vs Gonzaga
Yes, you’ll see this photo again at the top of Conference Tournament Central 2022 simply because it’s the easiest to find in the photo search engine.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Even though five teams clinched bids to the 2021 NCAA Tournament on Tuesday night, only two of them didn’t feature in Monday’s bracket. So, changes to today’s field are minimal compared to what’s to come starting tomorrow. Note, however, that no further automatic bids will be awarded until Saturday—when a whopping 15 are on offer, followed by another five on Selection Sunday.

  • While BYU jumped out of the gates quickly in Tuesday night’s WCC championship game, building a lead against Gonzaga that held into the second half, the Bulldogs buckled down in the second half to win 88-78. That was Gonzaga’s 23rd consecutive win by 10 or more points. So, the 26-0 Zags will almost assuredly be the No. 1 overall seed on Selection Sunday. As for the Cougars, I’ve kept them as a seven seed for now.
  • Drexel earned its first NCAA bid since 1996 by keeping Elon from its first-ever bid, winning the CAA final, 63-56.
  • Oral Roberts qualified by breaking the Dakota State schools’ dominance of the Summit League. Not that North Dakota State went quietly, as the Bison nearly overturned the Golden Eagles’ 25-point halftime lead, falling just short, 75-72. ORU earned its first bid since making three straight trips between 2006 and 2008. Amazingly, the 2007-08 Golden Eagle team was the last current Summit member to earn a bid other than North Dakota State or South Dakota State.
  • Oakland, the last team period from outside of the Dakotas to earn the Summit’s auto bid before last night, failed to earn its first dance ticket since winning its former conference’s crown in 2010 and 2011. The Golden Grizzlies fell to Cleveland State, 80-69, in the Horizon League championship game in Indianapolis. Dennis Gates’ squad qualifies for its first tournament since 2009 (when the Vikings recorded a 13-over-4 upset of Wake Forest) just one season removed from an 11-21 campaign plagued by roster shortcomings.
  • Mount St. Mary’s kept Bryant from clinching its first NCAA bid by winning the NEC championship on the Bulldogs’ home floor, 73-68. The Mountaineers last made the field in 2017, when they won a First Four game. The Mount might just avoid having to play the extra game this time around.

The Bracket

Stars (✴️) indicate new entrants, while arrows (⬆️ ⬇️) indicate movement up and down the seed list since Tuesday. In a change for this season, teams that have won their auto bids are in gold-colored cells.


IN (2): Mount St. Mary’s (NEC), Oral Roberts (Summit)
OUT: Bryant (NEC), North Dakota State (Summit)

Last Four Byes: Michigan State, Maryland, VCU, Louisville
Last Four IN: Colorado State, Drake, Boise State, Xavier,
First Four OUT: Saint Louis, Syracuse, Utah State, St. John’s
Second Four OUT: Ole Miss, SMU, NC State, Seton Hall
Third Four OUT: Memphis, Richmond, Stanford, Belmont

Locks and Bubble by Conference

For Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Conference (Bids) Locks (55) Bubble IN (5) Last Four Byes/ Last Four In (8) Bubble Out (12)
Conference (Bids) Locks (55) Bubble IN (5) Last Four Byes/ Last Four In (8) Bubble Out (12)
Big Ten (9) 6: 1. Michigan*,
1. Illinois,
2. Iowa,
2. Ohio State,
4. Purdue,
8. Wisconsin
1: 10. Rutgers 2: 10. Michigan State,
11. Maryland
ACC (7) 4: 4. Virginia*,
6. Florida State*,
6. Clemson,
7. Virginia Tech
2: 9. Georgia Tech,
10. North Carolina
1: 11. Louisville Syracuse (First 4 Out), NC State (Second 4 Out)
Big 12 (7) 7: 1. Baylor*,
3. West Virginia,
3. Texas,
4. Oklahoma State,
4. Kansas,
6. Oklahoma,
6. Texas Tech
SEC (6) 6: 2. Alabama*,
3. Arkansas,
5. Tennessee,
8. Missouri,
8. LSU,
9. Florida
Ole Miss (Second 4 Out)
Big East (4) 3: 3. Villanova*,
5. Creighton,
7. UConn
1: 12. Xavier
(First Four)
St. John's (First 4 Out), Seton Hall (Second 4 Out)
Pac-12 (4) 4: 5. Colorado,
6. USC,
7. Oregon*,
Stanford (Third 4 Out)
Mountain West (3) 1: 8. San Diego State* 2: 11. Colorado State
(First Four),
12. Boise State
(First Four)
Utah State (First 4 Out)
Atlantic 10 (2) 1: 10. St. Bonaventure* 1: 11. VCU Saint Louis (First 4 Out) Richmond (Third 4 Out)
American (2) 1: 2. Houston 1: 12. Wichita State* SMU (Second 4 Out), Houston (Third 4 Out)
Missouri Valley (2) 1: 9. Loyola Chicago* 1: 11. Drake
(First Four)
West Coast (2) 2: 1. Gonzaga*,
7. BYU
One-Bid 20 conference tournament winners Belmont (Third 4 Out)

The at-large pool has been stable for the past two days, but that will start to change this afternoon.

  • The ACC’s second round (all four games on ACC Network) is a veritable bubble buffet. First, the 8/9 game between Syracuse and NC State (12 p.m. ET) is a virtual elimination game, particularly for the Wolfpack, who have already lost to the Orange twice. While Clemson isn’t on the bubble, a loss to Miami in game two (2:30 p.m.) could cost the Tigers some seeding. In the evening session, Duke faces a Louisville squad (6:30 p.m.) it’s fallen to twice in an effort to get two games over .500 and back under consideration. Of course, the stakes are high for the Cardinals too, since they’re just above the “First Four” group. Finally, North Carolina will look to avoid a costly loss against a Notre Dame team (9 p.m.) that stunned Wake Forest at the buzzer on Tuesday night.
  • Of the two Big 12 first-round contests on the schedule, only one is of at-large interest, and it’s fairly minimal at that. Oklahoma faces an Iowa State team (9:30 p.m., ESPN) that went 0-18 in the Big 12 aiming to earn a quarterfinal date with second-seeded Kansas.
  • It’s a similar story in the Big East, which has an opening-round tripleheader on tap, thanks to UConn’s addition to the conference. Just the second of those contests, Xavier-Butler (6 p.m., FS1), features a team on the bubble. If the Musketeers drop that one, their bubble will likely pop.
  • With Arizona ineligible for the postseason, there are just three Pac-12 first-round games scheduled for today instead of the usual four. Of those, just the final contest, the second Cal-Stanford opening round game in as many seasons (10 p.m., Pac-12 Networks), will have any bracket impact. If the Cardinal repeat their performance in last season’s 63-51 loss, their hopes will be toast.
  • While the Big Ten, Mountain West, and SEC tournaments all open today, none of those six total matchups should have much of an impact on the bracket. Since Minnesota is now under .500, the Golden Gophers will need to make a run through the bracket in Indy to have any chance.

I wouldn’t expect many changes to Thursday morning’s projection based on this schedule, but don’t worry, the real fun is just about to start.