After two years of no NCAA tournament action, the men’s basketball postseason party didn’t disappoint. We had exciting overtime matchups. Also, there have been some major disruptions in the past two days.
In our attempt to re-seed the field, don’t expect a ton of movement (or, in the case of Oregon, none) after a game. Sure, some of the double-digit seeds that caused a stir in the first round deserve the attention they have received so far, but are likely not due to a significant change in their standing within the current hierarchy. Once we’re through the first weekend, it could be a different story. But for now, here is our newly filled field of 32 for the NCAA men’s tournament.
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (Original seed: No. 1. Seed: No. 1)
Norfolk State kept matters close for a few minutes before Gonzaga got serious early in the first half of a 98-55 win over 16-Seed on Saturday. The 98-point record was a program record for Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament, according to ESPN Stats & Info. No team has secured a perfect season since the NCAA switched to a 64-team format in 1985, but it’s this scoring opportunity that makes perfection possible for a Gonzaga team that hasn’t lost since February 2020. The Bulldogs made 52 percent of their 3-pointers against Norfolk State. Eight players scored at least five points in the game. It’s unclear how a team can stop Gonzaga, also one of America’s best defensive teams, when the Zags hit Globetrotters like the Harlem.
2. Illinois Fighting Illinois (Original seed: No. 1. Seed: No. 1)
While the college basketball world has fixed appropriately Ayo Dosunmu‘s rise, you could do that in the event Kofi Cockburn is the most difficult matchup for an opposing team. In a 78:49 win over Drexel on Friday, the duo together scored 35 points (16:24 within the arc) in a game that ended before the dragons got off the bus. Facing Dosunmu and Cockburn is like trying to fight Iron Man and then you look across the square and see Captain Marvel coming for you. Illinois scored more points in the suit (58) than Drexel in the entire game, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Loyola Chicago will next try to corral this crew.
3. Baylor bears (Original seed: No. 1. Seed: No. 1)
While the final months have focused on the program’s defensive challenges after returning from a three-week hiatus, Baylor remained an offensive threat that can still overwhelm opponents. The bears scored at least 77 points in four of the seven games in the NCAA tournament. So their 79:55 win over Hartford in the opening round wasn’t unexpected. Your depth – Jared Butler only finished 5-for-16 and the Bears were still running away – carrying them to a round two matchup against Wisconsin. It was a strong defensive effort, too, with Scott Drew’s squad keeping Hartford under a 44 percent clip within the arch. It was the first time Baylor had crushed an opponent in weeks, but it was also a sign that the team’s boast is slowly returning.
4th Michigan Wolverines (Original seed: No. 1. Seed: No. 1)
When participating in the NCAA tournament, Michigan had kept its opponents with 0.92 points per possession Isaiah livers on the floor, via hooplens.com. With livers still indefinitely with a foot injury, Brandon Johns Jr. (11 points) increased Michigan’s 82-66 win over Texas Southern on Saturday. The Wolverines aren’t the same group with no livers, but they’re still pretty good because of that Mike Smith, Franz Wagner, Hunter Dickinson and Eli Brooks encompass a core that can still argue. The win on Saturday was easier than on Monday against an LSU team that played well on the track. But Juwan Howard’s group played like a top seed on Saturday even without a key player.
5. Alabama Crimson Tide (Original seed: No. 2.Reseed: No. 2)
The problem for opponents facing Alabama is the 6-foot-5 John Petty (10 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) and 6-8 Herbert Jones (20 points, six rebounds) allow Nate Oats’ team to switch everything without sacrificing speed or sportiness. For this reason, Alabama ranks first at KenPom in terms of customized defensive efficiency. Iona tried to play the game at a pace (68 possessions) that was below the norm for Alabama, but the Tide are such an efficient crew (54% arc on Saturday) that they are always in control. During its current 10-1 stretch, Alabama looked like a top seed and a potential Final Four squad.
6th Houston Cougars (Original seed: No. 2.Reseed: No. 2)
Kelvin Sampson’s team took the money for their opponents’ lunch last month, and the Cougars looked like tyrants again as they stormed to an 87-56 win over Cleveland State, the Horizon League tournament winner, on Friday . Aside from two exciting single-digit wins against Memphis in recent weeks, the Cougars have been dominant, winning six of their last eight games by at least 24 points. Quentin Grimes (18 points) continues to play great games for this crew. But the scary part for opposing teams? Fabian White (12 points), who suffered an ACL tear before the season and returned last month, is getting into game shape at the right time.
7th Iowa Hawkeyes (Original seed: No. 2. Seed: No. 2)
The Big Ten are full of teams with wingers who can fire shots and talented big men who can make life difficult Luka Garza. Most of the field, however, lacks a postal presence to face the contender for the wood price. Garza finished the race with 24 points and recorded a 4v5 clip from the 3-point line in Iowa’s 86:74 win over the Grand Canyon on Saturday. An Iowa team that has played 9-2 in their last 11 games is playing their best basketball of the season in this chapter. One thing to note: Grand Canyon is the third team in their last four games to record at least 1.08 points per possession against Iowa. However, the Hawkeyes scored 137 points per 100 possessions. If Garza continues to play like this, few teams can rival Fran McCaffery’s roster.
8th. Arkansas Razorbacks (Original seed: No. 3.Reseed: No. 2)
After a rocky start, Arkansas prevailed 85-68 against a persistent Colgate squad on Friday. Justin Smith led the squad with 29 points. In the past three games, Arkansas has had three different top scorer (Smith, Moses Moody and JD Notae). For the past two months, the Razorbacks have only lost to Oklahoma State (when Cade Cunningham scored 21 points on January 16) and to the LSU (when Cameron Thomas and Ja’vonte Smart collected 40 points in the semi-finals of the SEC tournament on March 13th). That’s a 13-2 run since January 16 for a Razorbacks group that will face Texas Tech on Sunday.
9. Kansas Jayhawks (Original seed: No. 3.Reseed: No. 3)
Tristan Enaruna and Jalen Wilson were not available due to COVID-19 logs. David McCormack did not start after missing a game in the Big 12 tournament due to the same protocols. And brothers from east Washington Gerber groves and Jacob Groves combined to score 58 points. Still, Kansas secured a 93-84 win. A resurgent defense effort had helped the KU evolve from an afterthought in January to an intriguing sleeper in February. A team that prepared through a series of shorthanded drills has proven that they can still win a game with their offensive skills (54 percent within the arc, 40 percent from the 3-point line). Now Bill Self’s roster has to hope that he can advance and possibly enter the Sweet 16 with his full squad.
10. Oklahoma State Cowboys (Original seed: No. 4.Reseed: No. 3)
The idea that the cowboys are just a one-man crew has been called into question over the past few weeks. Scheduled number 1, Cade Cunningham missed the regular season finale in West Virginia, but the Cowboys won. On Friday, Cunningham finished the 3-on-14 with 15 points, but Avery Anderson III (21 points, 8 against 14) was one of three unnamed OSU players Cunningham to score nine or more points in a 69:60 win over Liberty on Friday. Cunningham and a reliable supporting cast are a combination that could rise to Sweet 16 – and maybe beyond. The Cowboys will next take on Oregon State – the Golden State Warriors of the Pac-12 with their devastating skills from beyond the bow.
11. West Virginia climber (Original seed: No. 3.Reseed: No. 3)
Bob Huggins took his 900th win with an 84-67 win over Morehead State in the opening round. It was a positive moment for a West Virginia squad who had played 3-1 in the last four games of the NCAA tournament. When Miles McBride (30 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals) performs the way he did against Preston Spradlin’s roster. However, the Mountaineers can play with any team in America. Friday marked the third time in five games that an opposing team recorded 105 points for every 100 possessions or more against West Virginia. It was also the third time in five games that the WVU scored 80 points or more in one game. Are you pushing Virginia? No more. Next up: Syracuse on Sunday.
12th Florida State Seminoles (Original seed: No. 4.Reseed: No. 3)
It seemed like FSU was in control of the game when they were 21-7 ahead in the first half, but UNC Greensboro rallied to reduce Florida State’s lead to three points at halftime. Leonard Hamilton’s team took the 64-54 win despite shooting 0-9 from the 3-point line. However, it was the third time in three games that the state of Florida scored no more than one point per possession. We know how good Florida State can be, but the offensive fighting has resulted in more games resembling Saturday’s win against UNC-Greensboro than last month’s 21-point win over Virginia. Still a team with RaiQuan gray, M. J. Walker and Scottie Barnes can compete with any team in the country. Next up is a matchup against Colorado on Monday.
13th Villanova wild cats (Original seed: No. 5.Reseed: No. 4)
A losing Winthrop squad came in for a sexy surprise in the opening round to a Villanova team without front runner Collin Gillespie who suffered an MCL tear earlier this month. But Villanova’s 73-63 win over the Eagles was a reminder that a team was having Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (22 points) and a healthy one Justin Moore (15 points) is still a handful for most opponents. Jay Wright’s squad, offensively unbalanced in the first two games (both losses) without Gillespie, recorded 112 points per 100 possessions on Friday. Now the Wildcats are playing against a squad in North Texas who upset Purdue.
14th Creighton Bluejays (Original seed: No. 5.Reseed: No. 4)
That team hasn’t seen part of a second weekend team in weeks – a postponement that began after Greg McDermott’s “stay at the plantation” comments. Georgetown beat the Bluejays in the Big East tournament title and couldn’t get past Villanova after that either Collin Gillespie missed most of the game with a knee injury at the end of the season. Creighton did little to allay concerns about its recent trend when it was bruised with 12 seeds by UC Santa Barbara on Saturday. Marcus Zegarowski (17 points) kept his team alive in the NCAA tournament, but Creighton just hasn’t looked like a trustworthy outfit lately.
15th Colorado Buffalo (Original seed: No. 5.Reseed: No. 4)
When competing in the NCAA tournament, Colorado had 51 percent of its shots within the arc and 37 percent of its shots from the 3-point line McKinley Wright on the floor, via hooplens.com. Wright showed how he can make an impact on his squad by getting a one-sided 96-73 win over Georgetown, the Big East tournament winner, on Saturday with an even performance (12 points, 13 assists and five rebounds) for a Buffaloes -Kader scored 64 percent of his 3-point attempts. Colorado go into the second round against Florida State with a 7-1 record in their last eight games.
16. Texas Tech Red Raiders (Original seed: No. 6.Reseed: No. 4)
Chris Beard’s roster has landed on the wrong end of some thrillers this season. Of his team’s 10 losses this season, three were one-point losses in regulation and two were in overtime. The Red Raiders were waiting for the chance to play someone outside of the stacked Big 12. When they finally got the chance, they fired Utah State, a senior Mountain West squad, 65-53. They kept the Aggies at 0.80 points per possession and made 39% of their 3-point (Mac McClung led all scorers with 16 points.) Texas Tech is an elite defensive team that can beat anyone when they combine this trait with efficient offensive performance. The Red Raiders are next up against a tough Arkansas group.
17th USC trojan (Original seed: No. 6.Reseed: No. 5)
Drake had caught the nation’s attention after winning its first 18 games. The Bulldogs slid into the first round after a promising win over Wichita State in the top four. But they hadn’t seen anyone like them Evan Mobley, the planned top 3 picks in this summer’s NBA draft, according to ESPN’s latest mock. Mobley and his brother Isaiah Mobley combined to score 32 points in a 72-56 win for USC who faced David McCormack and Kansas on Monday. This forecourt is a dilemma for every opponent. Drake just wasn’t the size to deal with the Trojans, a team that came into play with a 4-3 mark in the previous seven.
18th Florida Gators (Original seed: No. 7.Reseed: No. 5)
The Gators didn’t have to prove their resilience. Reaching the NCAA tournament after losing the top scorer Keyontae Johnson in December showed their tenacity. But now they want to prove that they are a competitor. 6-foot-11 junior in her 75-70 win over Virginia Tech in the opening round Colin Castleton ended with 19 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. His growth was a welcome development for Mike White’s Club. The opposing teams accumulated 35 percent of their misses when Castleton is on the bench and only 29 percent when he is on the ground, according to hooplens.com. Now Tre man & Co. will compete against an Oral Roberts squad who defeated the US state of Ohio 75-72 in extra time, triggering the biggest NCAA tournament against Virginia since UMBC three years ago.
19th LSU Tiger (Original seed: No. 8.Reseed: No. 5)
After Saturday’s 76-61 win against St. Bonaventure, who won the Atlantic 10 tournament championship, Cameron Thomas averages 22.6 PPG in LSU’s last six games (5-1). In a league with strong Arkansas and Alabama, it was Will Wade’s team that took first place in the conference game in offensive efficiency. The Tigers did not achieve this defensive effort. In their last three defeats they dropped 80, 83 and 91 points. On Saturday, however, the LSU handed over St. Bonaventure, the number 1 in offensive efficiency in the league game, the worst loss of the season. If the Tigers can make those defensive stops the next round, they’ll still have a shot against Michigan.
20th Oregon ducks (Original seed: No. 7.Reseed: No. 5)
The nightmare scenario feared by the NCAA unfolded on Saturday when it became known that Oregon’s matchup in the first round against VCU had been classified as a “no-contest” for the Rams due to COVID-19 problems. It’s an unfortunate development that allows Oregon to move forward while the VCU is being sent home. The ducks are now going straight to a matchup against Iowa on Monday – no easy task. But the Ducks have only lost two games since February 4th. Eugene Omoruyi (16.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.2 APG, 38 percent off the 3-point line) is the kind of athlete who could cause problems for the Hawkeyes.
21. Loyola Chicago Ramblers (Original seed: No. 8.Reseed: No. 6)
Sister Jean advances after Loyola Chicago’s 71:60 win over a Georgia Tech squad that didn’t have an ACC Player of the Year Moses Wright on Friday. This is a well-known team with a serious advantage. In some key metrics, however, this group is even better than the team that made it to the Final Four three years ago. Cameron Krutwig (14.9 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.9 APG) is no longer the young newbie who starred in the 2018 NCAA tournament for the magical walkers. But Loyola Chicago’s final run contained some auspicious moments – UMBC eliminated Virginia, Nevada defeated Cincinnati, and Kansas State defeated a Kentucky roster with Kevin Knox and P.J. Washington. To move forward this time around, the Ramblers must face a team from Illinois playing incredible basketball.
22nd Oklahoma Sooners (Original seed: No. 8.Reseed: No. 6)
When the school announced it De’Vion Harmon (12.9 PPG), second in the ranking for Oklahoma, would miss Saturday’s matchup against Missouri, some people switched brackets and Las Vegas bookies waved the odds of making Missouri an easy favorite. But the Tigers just haven’t been a good team since their surprise win over Alabama on February 6. The team was 3-7 in their next 10 games, including Saturday’s 72-68 loss to an Oklahoma team that wasn’t at full strength. But Lon Kruger showed why he’s one of three coaches who led five different programs to the NCAA tournament when he reached out to his vets. Austin reacts, Elijah Harkless and Brady Manek scored all but 14 points of their team.
23 Wisconsin Badgers (Original seed: No. 9.Reseed: No. 6)
After a tumultuous end in the Big Ten, Wisconsin defeated North Carolina 85-62 in the first round by doing what it did best: capping sales (seven) and becoming the nation’s top offensive rebounding team ( 41%) well below its average (30% against the badger). It was one of the most impressive wins of the season in Wisconsin. However, a matchup against Baylor goes against the trend for a Badgers squad that has played 8-10 in the last 18 games, largely because they scored 0 on that stretch against Illinois, Iowa, Purdue, Illinois, Michigan and the state of Ohio : 9 ended. The bears are the kind of elite team Wisconsin has to contend with all season.
24 Maryland Terrapins (Original seed: No. 10.Reseed: No. 6)
The weird screaming match that played out in the Big Ten tournament between Juwan Howard and Mark Turgeon earlier this month only highlighted the lingering question about the terps: what are they doing? You could have said that they lost to Northwestern and Penn State in the last two games of the regular season and also in the 4-9 start in Big Ten. But the Terps saved their season with a five-game winning streak and showed more of that resilience on Saturday. The 63-54 win over UConn in the first round included a 50% clip from the 3-point line (9-for-18). But Alabama’s defensive effectiveness is another hurdle to a program that has fallen victim to fewer enemies in recent weeks.
25th Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Original seed: No. 10.Reseed: No. 7)
Geo Baker, Jacob Young and Ron harper jr combined to score 36 points in a 60-56 win over Clemson in the first round. Nothing has been easy for Rutgers this season, but beating the Tigers was the stuff he needed to crack the field after finishing 10-10 in the Big Ten. At the start of that game, Rutgers had registered 104 points per hooplens.com per 100 possessions and had sales on just 14.7% of their possessions, with Baker, Young and Harper lying on the floor together. If all three players contribute, Rutgers can compete with good teams. The problem with the Knights is that Houston, their next opponent, is not a good team. It’s a great team.
26. Syracuse orange (Original seed: No. 11.Reseed: No. 7)
Jim Boeheim’s success in the opening round of the NCAA tournament continues – he lost only once in the first round since 2006. Buddy Boeheimwas unstoppable in his team’s 78-62 win over San Diego State, a 6-seed, on Friday. It was Buddy Boeheim’s third game in a row with at least 27 points. He has scored 26 or more in four of the team’s last five games. The idea that teams would struggle to compete against the Syracuse Zone the first time was proven by the State of San Diego, which won Mountain West with a 39.5% clip from the 3-point line in league action headed only to reach 11 -40 against Syracuse, who played over his seed in that matchup.
27 UCLA Bruins (Original seed: No. 11.Reseed: No. 7)
The first-round Pac-12 surge continued as the Bruins sacked BYU, a 6-seed, to give the conference a perfect 5-0 mark (including Oregon’s “no-contest” win). Johnny Juzang made huge hits in his team’s win over Michigan State when he finished with 23 points, and the previous Kentucky transfer scored 27 points in his team’s 73-62 win over BYU. Remember, UCLA lost four games in a row before their first four-game game against Michigan State. But the Bruins lost 17 against 37 from the 3-point line in their two NCAA tournament games. There have been questions about whether Mick Cronin would be the right pick for the famous West Coast squad after an extended stint in Cincinnati, but he’s already exceeded expectations in his first two seasons.
28. Oregon State Beavers (((Original seed: No. 12. Seed: No. 7)
Will Wayne Tinkle’s roster, who upset Tennessee in a 70:56 win by 5 seeds on Friday, ever cool down? And is any of it real? Oregon State finished 10th out of 12 teams in the Pac-12 with a 33% mark out of the 3-point league. In its four games since the end of the regular season, Oregon State has scored 40% (versus UCLA), 53% (Oregon), 41% (Colorado) and 48% (Tennessee). Via ESPN Basketball Power IndexThe State of Oregon had a 1 in 820 chance of winning all four games. But the beavers move on and will now face Cade Cunningham and the state of Oklahoma.
29 Ohio Bobcats (Original seed: No. 13. Seed: No. 8)
A few years ago, Jason Preston was a UCF basketball player who barely fell off the bench in high school. On Saturday Preston (11 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists) led the 13-seed Ohio to a 62:58 win over Virginia. It’s unfair to point out Virginia’s challenges after a positive COVID-19 test forced the program to withdraw from the ACC tournament and postponed its arrival to 24 hours before the Ohio game. The Cavaliers had a good lead and simply couldn’t stop an Ohio team that proved their cap in a two-point loss to Illinois in the non-conference season. The Bobcats are big, they can shoot, and they just kept the ACC champions off the field for a 35% clip. This team is dangerous.
30th Abilene Christian Wildcats (Original seed: No. 14.Reseed: No. 8)
It was fitting that Abilene Christian’s 53:52 win over Texas in the first round ended in sales – the 14th-seed Wildcats had led the nation on defensive turnover rate, and the Longhorns posted 23 sales on Saturday. Abilene Christian shot less than 30% for the game while Texas made more than 50% of its shots within the arc. But the pressure from Joe Golding’s squad, who were 13-1 in their last 14 games on Monday against UCLA, made the difference. Now it’s up against a Bruins team who angrily defeated BYU.
31. Oral Roberts Golden Eagle (Original seed: No. 15.Reseed: No. 8)
After his team’s 75-72 win over Ohio State in extra time, Paul Mills said he had confidence in the game because his team had been cautious throughout the season – among the top 15 offensive sales at KenPom – and Ohio State ranked 13th out of 14 Big Ten teams that force sales. Plus, Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor was great all season. Abmas made double-digit efforts against Oklahoma State, Wichita State, Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas during non-conference games. The golden eagles are among the top 15 in terms of 3-point accuracy and are number 1 in the country for free throw shooting. Florida will be a tough test, but after that effort, nothing seems impossible for Mills’ roster.
32. North Texas Mean Green (Original seed: No. 13. Seed: No. 8)
The NCAA tournament doesn’t always make sense. North Texas had lost three consecutive conference games before entering the Conference USA tournament, which it won with an overtime win over Western Kentucky. Coincidence, right? Then North Texas defeated Purdue (which finished fourth in the Big Ten standings) on Friday 78-69 in overtime. The run makes more sense once you learn that Javion Hamlet averages 19.6 PPG over the last five games. Villanova will be another challenge for this group, but the Mean Green are confident after scoring 118 points per 100 possessions against a Purdue team that finished third in defensive efficiency in the league game.