HeRKeYHoPeFuL's Bracketology 12/17/2020
Welcome to the first edition of HeRKeYHoPeFuL’s 2020-2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Bracketology! Here I’ll be sharing my picks for the ’21 NCAA Basketball Tournament Selection, discuss selection criteria, and highlight teams that may be surprising one direction or another.
The 2020-2021 College Basketball season will be unlike any in recent memory. Between entire conferences (Ivy) not playing, teams having to pause for weeks at a time and the uncertainty of how many teams will be invited to the tournament, it will become a very difficult evaluation process this year. Additionally, the NCAA is implementing some changes to the NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) Ranking System for this season.
Starting at the top, I see 11 teams realistically fighting for the 4 top seeds: Gonzaga, Villanova, Baylor, West Virginia, Texas, Kansas, Florida St., Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Tennessee
We could see another couple of teams move into this group as they resume team activities, but for now, let’s focus on these teams.
Gonzaga appears to be the best team at the moment, having defeated Kansas, Auburn, and West Virginia. A matchup with Iowa looms large to solidify their placement, but a loss would not knock them off the top line in my opinion.
Villanova, while not undefeated, has a bunch of quality wins already. They have already bested Texas, Butler, Georgetown, Arizona St. and Boston College; so despite losing in overtime to Virginia Tech, I don’t see other teams that have more accomplishments on the record thus far. As teams get into conference play, I’d expect Villanova to drop a bit, but Nova will also have opportunities to strengthen their profile and hold off other contender.
Baylor seems to be the other team in the top tier with Gonzaga. However, they have only played one game against solid competition, beating Illinois by 13. They have been paused due to COVID, but upon resuming play and getting into B12 conference play, I would expect the Bears to solidify their profile and secure a top seed.
West Virginia has played a really strong schedule. With North Texas as their worst opponent. Their only loss is a neutral court defeat at the hands of Gonzaga, and I credit them with five quality victories so far. B12 play will sort out whether West Virginia is a true contender, but they’ve done a lot of work in the non-conference and can afford a few stumbles along the way.
Texas has two very strong wins with victories over Indiana and North Carolina in route to winning the Maui Invitational before suffering their only defeat, losing to Villanova in one of the marquee Big East-Big Twelve Battle games. It should be clear by now that the B12 winner is likely to earn a top seed; whichever team that may be.
Kansas has two solid wins, beating both Kentucky and Creighton, while only losing to Gonzaga in their first game of the season. This Kansas team doesn’t seem to be as good as recent versions, but it’s never a good idea to bet against Bill Self once Big Twelve play rolls around.
Florida St. is solid on both ends of the floor and already has victories over Indiana, Florida and Georgia Tech which should serve them well. Can this team win the ACC and earn a top seed? Only time will tell.
Iowa is the best offensive team in the country on a per-possession-basis, and is averaging over 100 points-per-game in the first six games. The defense was always going to be a question mark and we’ll see if that has improved enough to make them a true contender. Any blurb about Iowa would also be incomplete without a mention of National Player of the Year frontrunner Luka Garza, so… Luka Garza. If you’re unfamiliar, just tune into an Iowa game sometime, and you won’t be disappointed.
Wisconsin might be the polar opposite of Iowa. An elite defensive team that slows down the pace and grinds opponents into submission. This is a balanced team with serious ability to execute their game plan, and if they can string together wins in the Big Ten, they’ll have enough quality wins to compare to anyone in the country.
Illinois is another Big Ten title contender, anchored by the inside out duo of Ayo Dosunmo and Kofi Cockburn. They’ve fixed their three point shooting woes from last year, and are currently top ten in offensive efficiency. Oh, by the way, they still have their elite pressure defense that currently ranks 26th in per-possession-efficiency.
Tennessee had been paused due to COVID, but has picked up and gone 3-0 to start the year with solid victories over Colorado and Cincinnati. With Kentucky down, they have a path to win the SEC, which would lend credibility to the outside chance of earning a top seed.
True Seed List (in order)
1 – Gonzaga, Villanova, Baylor, West Virginia 2 – Texas, Kansas, Florida St., Iowa 3 – Clemson, Wisconsin, Illinois, Houston 4 – Indiana, Tennessee, Rutgers, Texas Tech 5 – Duke, San Diego St., Missouri, Michigan St. 6 – Michigan, Oregon, Virginia Tech, Marquette 7 – North Carolina, Louisville, Ohio St., Florida 8 – Purdue, Creighton, UCLA, Virginia 9 – Syracuse, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Saint Louis 10 – Penn St., Richmond, Stanford, Xavier 11* – USC, Connecticut, LSU, Arkansas, Colorado 12* – Alabama, VCU, Loyola Chicago, Western Kentucky, Furman 13 – South Dakota St., Vermont, Liberty, Toledo 14 – Georgia St., New Mexico St., Winthrop, Wright St. 15 – Murray St., Abilene Christian, UC Santa Barbara, Siena 16* – Colgate, Eastern Washington, Hofstra, Bryant, Texas Southern, Norfolk St. * Additional teams due to play-in games (italicized)