Auburn had its projected No. 1 seed stolen earlier this week by Baylor, following a weekend that saw the Tigers fall on the road vs. Tennessee.
But falling to the No. 2 line had as much to do with other teams ‘ascension as it did with Auburn’s NCAA Tournament résumé which was aided by the Tigers’ overtime defeat of bubble team Mississippi State on the road Wednesday night.
Auburn (26-4, 14-3 SEC) has credentials to hear its name called as a top seed on Selection Sunday – sporting eight Quadrant 1 victories – but the Tigers will have to beat out fellow SEC No. 2 seed Kentucky.
It’s been a strong season for the SEC, which ranks third behind the Big 12 and Big Ten in conference NET rankings. Behind Auburn and UK as No. 2 seeds in the latest bracket projection, Tennessee is forecasted as a No. 4 seed, Arkansas as a No. 4 seed, and Alabama and LSU as No. 6 seeds. That gives the league six surefire tourney teams, all of which can be dangerous once the NCAAs tip off.
After Mississippi State’s loss to Auburn, the lone bubble team with a shot of inclusion in the SEC is Florida, which finds itself on the outside looking in as one of the “first four out.” The Gators draw Kentucky this Saturday for a make-or-break game. If UF wins, that doesn’t mean the Wildcats – like Auburn – aren’t a Final Four contender. It just means their seeding line will likely be No. 2.
No. 1 seeds
Gonzaga, Arizona, Kansas, Baylor.
Last four in
BYU, Rutgers, SMU, North Carolina
First four out
Memphis, VCU, Indiana, Florida.
Next four out
Saint Bonaventure, Oregon, Virginia Tech, Belmont.
Others considered for at-large bids: St. John’s, South Carolina, Dayton.
On life support: Richmond, Mississippi State, Saint Louis, Virginia.
Multi-bid conferences: Big Ten (8), Big East (7), Big 12 (6), SEC (6), ACC (5), West Coast (4), Mountain West (4), Pac-12 (3), American Athletic (2).
Leaders or highest NET from projected one-bid conferences – (22 total): A10 – Davidson; America East – Vermont; Atlantic Sun – Liberty; Big Sky – Montana State; Big South – Longwood; Big West – Long Beach State; CAA – Towson; C-USA – North Texas; Horizon – Cleveland State; Ivy League – Princeton; MAAC – Iona; MAC – Toledo; MEAC – Norfolk State; Missouri Valley – Loyola-Chicago; Northeast – Wagner; Ohio Valley – Murray State; Patriot – Colgate; Southern – Chattanooga; Southland – Nicholls State; SWAC – Texas Southern; Summit – South Dakota State; Sun Belt – Texas State; WAC – New Mexico State.
- Ineligible schools: Oklahoma State (banned), Cal Baptist, North Alabama, Merrimack, Dixie State, Tarleton State, Bellarmine, UC San Diego, St. Thomas.
NCAA Tournament language explainer:
- NET stands for the NCAA Evaluation Tool, which is the barometer for the selection committee. It includes game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin (capping at 10 points per game), and net offensive and defensive efficiency.
- Quadrant 1 wins: Home games vs. 1-30 NET teams; Neutral-site games vs. 1-50 NET; Away games vs. 1-75 NET
- Quadrant 2 wins: Home games vs. 31-75 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 51-100 NET; Away games vs. 76-135 NET
- Quadrant 3 wins: Home games vs. 76-160 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 101-200 NET; Away games vs. 136-240 NET
- Quadrant 4 wins: Home games vs. 161-plus NET; Neutral-site games vs. 201-plus NET; Away games vs. 241-plus NET
Note: Most statistical data is used from WarrenNolan.com. The NET rankings (NCAA Evaluation Tool) also are a reference point.
About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 on his website, Bracket WAG He joined USA TODAY in 2014. In his ninth season as our national bracketologist, Mast has finished as one of the top three bracketologists in the past eight March Madnesses. He’s also predicted for The Indianapolis Star, collegeinsider.com and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.
About our college basketball reporter: Scott Gleeson has covered men’s college basketball for USA TODAY since 2012, contributing to bracketology and running Bubble Tracker before tackling everything March Madness following Selection Sunday. He correctly forecasted Virginia would win the national championship in 2019 before the season began and also picked Loyola-Chicago as a Cinderella mid-major in 2018. Follow him on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.