Bracket Watch: Who’s left in the race for a No. 1 seed?

With just two days of games remaining, the race for the four NCAA Tournament No. 1 seeds is down to just five realistic contenders — and one longshot.

Villanova (30-3) and Kansas (28-4) have separated themselves from the pack and are sure-fire bets for the first two slots. The Jayhawks’ Big 12 quarterfinal loss to TCU cost them the No. 1 overall seed, but not much more.

As of Saturday morning, my other two No. 1s were still North Carolina (27-7) and Gonzaga (32-1), but there’s mild concern for both. The Tar Heels’ ACC semifinal loss to Duke wasn’t exactly damaging, but it did send them into a tie for the most losses ever by a No. 1 seed. And many have been speculating for some time that the Pac-12 tournament champ could unseat the ‘Zags.

Both teams caught a break late Friday when Arizona toppled UCLA in the Pac-12 semifinals. The Bruins (29-4) stood to finish with the most impressive resume of the Pac-12’s heavyweight trio. The Wildcats (29-4), on the other hand, notched just their second RPI Top 25 win of the season. By comparison, UNC and Gonzaga both have five. Arizona is not in contention for a No. 1 seed.

Could Oregon (29-4) move up to the top line by beating Arizona for a second time? Possibly. Though keep in mind the Ducks would still have just five RPI Top 50 wins. That doesn’t stack up with UNC (11) or Gonzaga (six) either.

Here’s one other long-shot possibility, though: Duke. If the Blue Devils (26-8) win their fourth game in four nights Saturday against Notre Dame, they could finish with a national-best 13 RPI Top 50 wins. But they also lost eight games and tied for fifth place in the ACC this season.

All in all, there’s a good chance my current No. 1s will stay there.

* — Denotes projected conference champion, automatic berth. Teams in bold have secured an automatic berth.

This edition’s bracket is East vs. West and Midwest vs. South in the national semifinals, based on the order of my No. 1 seeds.


Seed Team Location
1 Villanova* at Buffalo
16 New Orleans*
8 Miami
9 Dayton
4 Florida at Orlando
13 Vermont
5 Virginia
12 UNC Wilmington
6 Minnesota at Salt Lake City
11 Wake Forest
3 Arizona
14 Florida Gulf Coast
7 Maryland at Greenville, SC
10 Vanderbilt
2 Duke
15 Iona
Seed Team Location
1 Gonzaga at Salt Lake City
16 South Dakota State/Mount Saint Mary’s
8 Marquette
9 South Carolina
4 West Virginia* at Buffalo
13 East Tennessee State
5 SMU*
12 Kansas State/Illinois State
6 Iowa State at Indianapolis
11 Providence/USC
3 Louisville
14 Cal State Bakersfield*
7 Virginia Tech at Sacramento
10 Wichita State
2 Oregon*
15 Jacksonville State
Seed Team Location
1 Kansas at Tulsa
16 North Dakota*/Texas Southern
8 Northwestern
9 Xavier
4 Butler at Milwaukee
13 Princeton*
5 Cincinnati
12 Nevada*
6 Wisconsin* at Orlando
11 Middle Tennessee*
3 Florida State
14 Akron*
7 Creighton at Indianapolis
10 VCU*
2 Kentucky*
15 UC Irvine*
Seed Team Location
1 North Carolina at Greenville, SC
16 NC Central
8 Seton Hall
9 Oklahoma State
4 Purdue at Milwaukee
13 Bucknell
5 Notre Dame*
12 UT Arlington*
6 Saint Mary’s at Tulsa
11 Michigan State
3 Baylor
14 Winthrop
7 Michigan at Sacramento
10 Arkansas
15 Northern Kentucky

LAST FOUR BYES: VCU, Vanderbilt, Michigan State, Wake Forest

LAST FOUR IN: Providence, Kansas State, USC, Illinois State

FIRST SIX OUT: Rhode Island, Syracuse, Iowa, Illinois, Cal, TCU

MULTIPLE BID CONFERENCES: ACC (9), Big Ten (7), Big East (7), Big 12 (6), SEC (5), Pac-12 (4), A-10 (2), American (2), MVC (2), WCC (2)