This article is part of our RotoWire Bracketology series.
Note: For the full bracket and live updates, visit the RotoWire Bracketology page.
It's February, which means it's time to get serious about the NCAA tournament. At least a little bit. People have been creating brackets since October (and probably sooner), but there's little use in examining them before half the season has been played. For example, what good did it do for anyone that Ohio State was considered the best team in the country the first day of 2020? Not much.
With a little more than a month to go before tournaments begin, we have a better idea of just how good everyone is. The main question everyone wants answered is who can be a No. 1 seed? While there are maybe 20 teams who could go undefeated the rest of the way and earn a top seed, that's unlikely. It's better to start with plausible situations and that leads to 10 teams in the mix.
There are few questions about the top four teams (Baylor, Kansas, Gonzaga, San Diego State) because they were given 1-seeds in last weekend's top-16 reveal. The next six teams need work and I don't think anyone else has a chance. Kentucky and Auburn won't be in the mix because of how down the SEC is. West Virginia could run the table and get a 1-seed, but it already has road losses to St. John's, Kansas State and Oklahoma, and there's no reason to think that could happen. The same goes for a team like Penn State, which has a good record but it's hard to see it going undefeated the rest of the way and even if it does, the weak non-conference slate will be a problem.
The other six teams who have a shot at a 1-seed are:
The Flyers need help from other teams, but they also need to win out and I don't think that happens. They've already struggled to beat decent teams on the road and still travel to VCU and Rhode Island, in addition to the conference tournament.
I don't think the Blue Devils are elite, but they have the schedule to finish with five or fewer losses and the metrics love them. It's a similar situation for the other ACC teams because there are only three good teams in the conference. The Seminoles weren't great in non-conference play which is why they're most unlikely, while the Cardinals may need to beat either FSU or Virginia (or both) on the road to have a chance at a 1-seed.
The Terrapins are alone atop the Big Ten standings and could grab a 1-seed if they finish with five regular-season losses. While that could happen, I'm not sure they get past road games against Michigan State, Ohio State, Minnesota and Rutgers with less than one loss. The national perception is that the Big Ten doesn't have an elite team, but that's a faulty argument when there are so many high-level teams. If Maryland played in the MWC or WCC, its lone loss may be the road game at Seton Hall in non-conference play. It's also unlikely they would have more than two conference losses if they played in the ACC or SEC. Competition matters and the argument that the Big Ten doesn't have an elite team isn't a good one.
As for the Pirates, the lone Big East team with a decent chance at a 1-seed, nothing is guaranteed. They still travel to Marquette and Creighton in addition to having to beat Villanova a second time. While it's possible, I think the only chance Seton Hall has is if it loses one game (or zero) before the conference tourney. Otherwise, its non-conference performance will be hard to overcome, especially with seven total losses.
So there you have it, 10 teams who have a chance to secure a 1-seed. In reality, it's probably only five or six teams given upcoming schedules and that the top four teams are unlikely to go on big losing streaks. While everyone will continue to talk extensively about 1-seeds over the next month, remember that the ones competing for those spots haven't changed since early February (and probably earlier).
As for the rest of the bracket, it's starting to take shape. The bubble still has a long way to go and I'll dive into that in future articles. Teams like Arizona State have slipped in for some, but I'm not sure they'll stick. I try and put a bit of prediction into my bracket and I'm not buying into teams just because they win a couple home games in a row.
For the full bracket and live updates, visit the RotoWire Bracketology page.