Florida takes top seed in Vegas' latest March Madness projection

Want the most accurate NCAA tournament bracket projection around? Then turn it over to Las Vegas and listen to the sharps. This week, Florida leaps Syracuse for the No. 1 overall seed.

By Vegas' standards, the Florida Gators are currently the nation's strongest team.

Andy Lyons / Getty Images North America

Considering the outpouring of support (disdain is a synonym for support) for the first installment of Vegas Bracketology, I’m sure all of our subsequent versions will continue to elicit strong responses from college basketball enthusiasts. 

For those asking if I was on drugs seeding Iowa and Louisville on the top line, the answer is no. However, both teams fell off the top seed line despite producing double digit-wins (and covers) last weekend. That’s the difference between our poll and the mainstream media: Every win isn’t created equally, meaning margin of victory (in relation to the pointspread) goes a long way and teams don’t get to stay put just by winning games. 

This poll is designed to do one thing and one thing only: give you an indication of who would be favored over who on a neutral court. All that crap about “most deserving” and “resume building wins” doesn’t apply here.

Wins are good; covering and exceeding Vegas' expectations is better. The perfect example of a team losing yet improving its stock last weekend was VCU. Logically, the question becomes: How is this possible considering VCU lost to Saint Louis yet jumped the Billikens in the poll.

The reason for this happening is more straightforward than you'd think: SLU closed as a 5.5-point favorite for the game against the Rams. The Billikens won but failed to cover -- meaning they actually underperformed compared to oddsmakers' expectations, while VCU playing a game closer than anticipated meant its overall profile needed to be upgraded.

Iowa was another team that showed strong against Penn State, but the Hawkeyes still fell a few slots in our rankings given how teams in their competitive set performed. Kentucky and Villanova, two very good basketball teams, took it on the chin losing valuable real estate in the poll after failing to cover against Florida and Creighton, respectively. 

Rather than just rattle off the incliners and decliners, here is how the protected top 16 seeds changed in just a few short days. When reviewing these rankings remember they don’t account for matchup issues certain teams would encounter against one another, just who would find themselves favored even if by the slimmest of margins.

  Last Week Today
#1 Syracuse Florida
#2 Duke Syracuse
#3 Iowa Duke
#4 Louisville Creighton
#5 Arizona Louisville
#6 Creighton Iowa
#7 Kansas Arizona
#8 Florida Villanova
#9 Michigan St Virginia
#10 Villanova Kansas
#11 Virginia Ohio St
#12 Kentucky Wisconsin
#13 Ohio St UCLA
#14 Wichita St Pittsburgh
#15 UCLA Kentucky
#16 Iowa St Wichita St

There's a razor thin margin between all of these top ranked teams and one odd result at the top of the leader board can change the way Vegas views these teams overnight. For example, the margin separating the top team in the land, Florida, from #18 Michigan State is a grand total of 4.5 points ... for now.

This bracket is:

-- Illustrative of how Vegas ranks the 36 best at-large teams and 32 automatic qualifiers.

-- Expected to pay merit to a team's overall power profile, not how “deserving” they are of a birth in the dance.

-- Inclined to piss people off if they are accustomed to watching college basketball as a fan rather than an oddsmaker expecting to see a more customary bracket.

This bracket isn’t:

-- Meant to mirror the projected field of other sites beyond anything more than having the same number of teams included.

-- Compelled to look at win/loss records as a useful determinant of team strength.

-- Worried about a 12 beating a 5 seed because upsets do happen and in our case, it would be an actual upset rather than improperly seeded teams.

-- A personal vendetta against the little guy. San Diego State and Wichita are both talented teams and will have their chance to compete, but anyone who thinks they deserve a #1 seeds implies they’d be favored over just about everyone, which isn’t the case.

Field of 68

Complete list of Vegas power numbers

*Automatic qualifiers conferences listed

#1 Florida (SEC) vs #16 Charleston Southern (Big South) / Southern (SWAC)
#2 Villanova vs #15 Stephen F Austin (Southland)
#3 Virginia vs #14 Toledo (MAC)
#4 Wichita St (MVC) vs #13 UC Santa Barbara (Big West)
#5 Michigan vs #12 Louisiana Tech (C-USA) / UW Green Bay (Horizon)
#6 Cincinnati vs #11 UMASS
#7 Saint Louis vs #10 Marquette
#8 Oregon vs #9 Kansas State

#1 Syracuse (ACC) vs #16 Weber State (Big Sky) / Robert Morris (NEC)
#2 Arizona (Pac 12) vs #15 Delaware (CAA)
#3 Kansas (Big 12) vs #14 Vermont (America East)
#4 Kentucky vs #13 North Dakota State (Summit)
#5 Michigan State vs #12 St John's / Harvard (Ivy)
#6 San Diego State (MWC) vs #11 New Mexico
#7 SMU vs #10 Texas
#8 Minnesota vs #9 Florida State

#1 Duke vs #16 Davidson (Southern)
#2 Iowa (Big Ten) vs #15 Belmont (OVC)
#3 Ohio State vs #14 Georgia State (Sun Belt)
#4 Pittsburgh vs #13 Mercer (A-Sun)
#5 Uconn vs #12 BYU
#6 VCU (A-10) vs #11 Maryland
#7 Memphis vs #10 Missouri
#8 Arizona State vs #9 California

#1 Creighton (Big East) vs #16 NC Central (MEAC)
#2 Louisville (AAC) vs #15 Boston University (Patriot)
#3 Wisconsin vs #14 Iona (MAAC)
#4 UCLA vs #13 New Mexico State (WAC)
#5 UNC vs #12 Arkansas
#6 Iowa St vs #11 Oklahoma
#7 Gonzaga (WCC) vs #10 Xavier
#8 Tennessee vs #9 Stanford

First four out

Baylor
George Washington
Utah
West Virginia

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