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Bracketology 2021: Reassessing the picture as the regular-season wraps up

While Michigan State fell at Michigan on Thursday night, the Spartans are still one of two new at-larges in today’s update.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Michigan
The Spartans had a rough go of it in Ann Arbor last night, but they’re still in today’s projection.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve been a little pressed for time yesterday and today, so I’m trying something new with presenting the lock and bubble picture. First, today’s entire bracket projection, with Michigan State and Saint Louis entering and Boise State and Seton Hall departing since Tuesday.

The Bracket

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

After an OT win at West Virginia Tuesday and impressive home victory over Oklahoma State Thursday, Baylor is back to the No. 2 spot overall behind Gonzaga. Michigan drops to No. 3 overall, thanks to their blowout loss to new No. 4 overall Illinois. The Wolverines were able to rebound by winning the first of this week’s two meetings with Michigan State last night. Despite the loss and a sub-par NET ranking of 74th, the Spartans are in today’s projection, thanks to top 10 wins over Illinois and Ohio State, along with two further Quad 1 wins, at Duke and Indiana (on Tuesday). Basically, if you’re going to include Maryland and Rutgers at this point, the Spartans should get a look as well. As my friend and fellow bracketologist Kerry Miller pointed out last night, the difference in their profiles is down to MSU’s being blown out a few times. That’s driving the Spartans’ NET down.

Saint Louis also enters, though the Billikens have a tricky Atlantic 10 Quarterfinal awaiting them against UMass this afternoon (1 p.m., NBCSN).

Otherwise, Houston replaces West Virginia as the fourth No. 2 seed, thanks to the Mountaineers’ loss at Baylor. Kansas dropped to the final No. 4 spot, behind a pair of Big 12 rivals in Oklahoma State and Texas and Purdue out of the Big Ten. While the Cowboys lost on Thursday (and Cade Cunningham rolled his ankle, a situation that bears watching), the Longhorns avenged a 80-79 home loss to Oklahoma by winning 69-65 in Norman.

Villanova, who lost point guard Collin Gillespie to a torn MCL, remains on the three line, for now, but the Wildcats’ performance without him will go a long way to determining their final position in the bracket.

Rundown

IN (5): Michigan State, Saint Louis, Sm Houston State (Southland), Southern Utah (Big Sky), Wagner (NEC)
OUT: Boise State, Bryant (NEC), Eastern Washington (Big Sky), Nicholls State (Southland), Seton Hall

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

Locks and Bubble by Conference

14/68 Spots Remain

Conference (Bids) Locks (52) Near Locks (2) Bubble IN (6) Last Four Byes/ Last Four In (8) Bubble Out (12)
Conference (Bids) Locks (52) Near Locks (2) Bubble IN (6) Last Four Byes/ Last Four In (8) Bubble Out (12)
Big Ten (9) 6: 1. Michigan*,
1. Illinois,
2. Ohio State,
2. Iowa,
4. Purdue,
7. Wisconsin
1: 10. Maryland 2: 10. Rutgers,
11. Michigan State
(First Four)
ACC (7) 4: 3. Florida State*,
5. Virginia,
7. Virginia Tech,
7. Clemson
2: 9. Louisville,
10. Georgia Tech
1: 11. North Carolina Syracuse (First 4 Out), Duke (Third 4 Out), NC State (Third 4 Out)
Big 12 (7) 7: 1. Baylor*,
3. West Virginia,
4. Oklahoma State,
4. Texas,
4. Kansas,
5. Oklahoma,
6. Texas Tech
SEC (6) 6: 2. Alabama*,
3. Arkansas,
6. Tennessee,
6. Missouri,
8. Florida,
8. LSU
Ole Miss (Second 4 Out)
Big East (4) 2: 3. Villanova*,
5. Creighton
1: 9. UConn 1: 11. Xavier
(First Four)
Seton Hall (First 4 Out), St. John's (Third 4 Out)
Pac-12 (4) 3: 5. Colorado,
6. USC,
8. Oregon*
1: 9. UCLA Stanford (Second 4 Out)
Atlantic 10 (3) 1: 10. St. Bonaventure* 2: 11. VCU,
12. Saint Louis
(First Four)
Richmond (Third 4 Out)
American (2) 1: 2. Houston 1: 12. Wichita State* Memphis (Second 4 Out), SMU (Second 4 Out)
Missouri Valley (2) 1: 9. Loyola Chicago* 1: 12. Drake
(First Four)
Mountain West (2) 1: 8. San Diego State* 1: 11. Colorado State Boise State (First 4 Out), Utah State (First 4 Out)
West Coast (2) 2: 1. Gonzaga*,
7. BYU
One-Bid 20 conference tournament winners

As you can see, the number of spots available is quickly dwindling, and the only reason the number of locks isn’t larger is because of backsliding. Consider Maryland and Rutgers, who picked up bad road losses this week, to Northwestern and Nebraska, respectively. Xavier lost to Georgetown, while Seton Hall dropped its third game in a row, a result that pushed the Pirates out. UCLA ceded control of the Pac-12 race to Oregon, with the two switching positions as locks/near locks.

And the picture could change significantly today. Two conference leaders, St. Bonaventure and Loyola Chicago play in their respective tournament quarterfinals, while Drake, VCU, and Saint Louis—all among the last eight in—will as well. Colorado State, another team in the Last Four Byes group, wraps its regular season up at Nevada tonight. And the Wolf Pack swept Boise State in Reno a month ago.

You can get the schedule and broadcast lowdown for those matchups in today’s TV preview.

Since we’re getting down to the final week, I’ll publish my next projection on Sunday, and I’ll go daily (at a minimum) until the Selection Show.