March Madness bracket predictions 7.0: Projecting the Field of 68 for 2021 NCAA Tournament

Selection Sunday for the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament is just days away.

The 68-team field is taking shape through conference tournament week, and Wednesday’s schedule features 33 conference tournament games. A lot can change from the No. 1 seeds to the bubble over the next four days, and SN will track the action with daily updates from here through Selection Sunday.

Here is a look at Sporting News’ updated Field of 68 as of Saturday, March 13: 

MORE: Sporting News’ 2020-21 college basketball All-Americans

March Madness bracket predictions for 2021 NCAA Tournament

Projected No. 1 seeds

  • **Gonzaga 26-0 (West Coast)
  • Baylor 22-2 
  • Michigan 20-3 (Big Ten)
  • Illinois 21-6

Lowdown: Gonzaga won the West Coast Conference tournament for the eighth time in nine seasons and is a virtual lock for the top seed in the tournament. Baylor also appears to be a lock for a No. 1 seed despite a loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 semifinals. Michigan and Illinois took care of business in the Big Ten quarterfinals, which should be enough to get the conference a pair of No. 1 seeds. That is, unless Iowa or Ohio State win the Big Ten tournament. 

Projected No. 2 seeds

  • Iowa 21-7
  • Alabama 22-6 (SEC)
  • Houston 22-3 (American)
  • Ohio State 20-8

Lowdown: The Hawkeyes and Buckeyes likely will fall just short of the No. 1 seed line, but their wins yesterday almost ensure that the Big Ten will have four teams on the top two seed lines. That’s never happened before. Alabama still has to hold off Arkansas to keep a No. 3 seed. 

Projected No. 3 seeds

  • Oklahoma State 20-7 (Big 12) 
  • Arkansas 22-5
  • Kansas 20-8
  • Virginia 18-6

Lowdown: Kansas and Virginia pulled out of their respective conference tournaments because players tested positive for COVID-19. This is going to be a real dilemma for the selection committee because both teams are firm on the No. 3 line. With the seven-day restrictions, both teams would theoretically have to play first-round games Saturday. Oklahoma State could leap-frog either Ohio State or Houston for a No. 2 seed based on a strong showing at the Big 12 tournament. 

Projected No. 4 seeds

  • Texas 18-7
  • West Virginia 18-9
  • Florida State 16-5 (ACC) 
  • Purdue 18-9

Lowdown: Florida State can stick on this line with a win in the ACC championship game against Georgia Tech. A 69-66 victory against North Carolina made that case stronger, but the Seminoles are probably a stretch to climb up to the No. 3 line. Purdue missed out on a chance to move up after an 87-78 overtime loss to Ohio State. 

MORE: Iowa’s Luka Garza is Sporting News’ Player of the Year

Projected No. 5 seeds

  • Villanova 16-6
  • Creighton 20-7 (Big East)
  • Colorado 22-7 (Pac-12)
  • Tennessee 18-7

Lowdown: Villanova and Creighton likely will fall on the same line, and bubble teams will be rooting for the Blue Jays to knock off Georgetown in the Big East championship game Saturday. Colorado likely earns the highest seed among Pac-12 teams no matter what happens in the championship game against Oregon State. Tennessee is the SEC team 

Projected No. 6 seeds

  • Wisconsin 17-12
  • USC 22-7
  • Texas Tech 17-10
  • Florida 14-9

Lowdown: Wisconsin has a higher KenPom rating, but this still seems like the logical landing spot at this point. Some bracketologists might have the Badgers as a No. 5. LSU could push one of these teams down a line with a victory against Arkansas on Saturday. 

Projected No. 7 seeds

  • LSU 17-8
  • Oregon 20-6
  • San Diego State 22-4 (Mountain West)
  • North Carolina 18-10

Lowdown: The Tar Heels are heating up at the right time, and the victory against Virginia Tech should pull them off the No. 8 line. The loss to the Seminoles did not hurt too much. LSU, which won seven of its last nine games, stays on this line. Oregon takes a hard fall here after a loss to Oregon State in the Pac-12 quarterfinals. 

Projected No. 8 seeds

  • Clemson 16-7
  • Connecticut 15-6
  • **Loyola-Chicago 24-4 (Missouri Valley)
  • BYU 20-6

Lowdown: Clemson likely could slide down to this line after a 67-64 loss to Miami on Thursday. The team No. 1 seeds might be wary of is Loyola-Chicago. The Ramblers have lost just one game since Jan. 11.

MORE: Michigan’s Juwan Howard is Sporting News’ Coach of the Year

Rest of field projections

No. 9 seeds: Oklahoma 15-10, St. Bonaventure (A-10) 15-4, Virginia Tech 15-6, Missouri 17-9
No. 10 seeds: Georgia Tech 16-8, Maryland 16-13, Rutgers 15-10, VCU 19-6
No. 11 seeds: UCLA 17-9, Louisville 13-7, Michigan State 15-12, Utah State* 19-7, Syracuse 16-9*
No. 12 seeds: Western Kentucky 20-6 (C-USA), **Winthrop 23-1 (Big South), Wichita State 16-4, St. Louis* 14-6, Drake* 25-4
No. 13 seeds: **Liberty 22-5 (A-Sun), Ohio 15-7 (MAC), UC Santa Barbara 21-4 (Big West), Colgate 12-7 (Patriot)
No. 14 seeds: **UNC-Greensboro 20-8 (Southern), **Morehead State 23-7 (Ohio Valley), Grand Canyon 16-6 (WAC), Eastern Washington 14-7 (Big Sky)
No. 15 seeds: **Cleveland State 19-7 (Horizon), Nicholls State 18-6 (Southland), **Oral Roberts 16-10 (Summit), **Drexel 12-7 (Colonial)
No. 16 seeds: Iona 11-5 (MAAC), Hartford 13-8 (America East), Norfolk State* 15-7 (MEAC), Prairie View A&M* 15-4 (SWAC), **Appalachian State* 17-11 (Sun Belt), **Mount St. Mary’s* 12-10 (Northeast)

*First Four teams
** Teams that have clinched automatic bids

Last four in

  • Drake 25-4
  • Utah State 20-7
  • Syracuse 16-9
  • St. Louis 14-6

Lowdown: Syracuse is back on the bubble after a 72-69 loss to Virginia in the ACC quarterfinals. The Orange, however, might be helped by Duke missing the rest of the ACC tournament. Drake didn’t win its conference tournament, but the Bulldogs should be able crack the Field of 68. Utah State likely played its way in with a victory against Colorado State. 

First four out

  • Colorado State 18-6
  • Xavier 13-8
  • Ole Miss 15-11
  • Boise State 18-8

Lowdown: Xavier is in trouble after a 70-69 loss to Seton Hall in the Big East tournament on Thursday. That overtime loss, could knock the Musketeers off the bubble. Xavier blew a 14-point lead in the loss. Boise State lost 89-82 to Nevada, which might have knocked the Broncos out of tournament consideration. Seton Hall’s bubble burst after a 66-58 loss to Georgetown in the Big East semifinals. 

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