NCAA Bracket Breakdown: A.Scott’s Bracketology Vol. 1

A Scott NCAA Bracketology

WHO THE FUCK IS JOE LUNARDI? College basketball fans know him as the guy who predicts the NCAA Tournament Bracket, but why him? Yeah, Lunardi has been working in the field of bracketology, attempting to predict brackets since 1995. But honestly, ESPN only gives him the spotlight because he’s been in the game the longest, and it’s time for a change. After all, Joey Brackets is only slightly above average at what he does. 

So, as I make my run to becoming the next great bracketologist, I will release my predicted bracket for the 2021 men’s NCAA basketball tournament each week leading up to Selection Sunday. Bracketology is my calling. I only have a tweet to prove it, but in 2018, I correctly predicted 65 of the 68 teams that were selected to make the NCAA Tournament.

Not bad for my 1st attempt at predicting a bracket, but this year I’m going for perfection. 

Joe Lunardi is a scrub. It’s time to welcome everyone to A.Scott’s Bracketology.

A.Scott’s Bracketology: 3 Weeks Until Selection Sunday

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the NCAA Tournament harder to predict than ever before. So how do you compare a team like St. Bonaventure (11-3) with a team like Minnesota (13-10)? Because of the pandemic, the Bonnies only played 2 non-conference games. So, the selection committee is essentially left to judge them solely based on how they did in the Atlantic 10 Conference. St. Bonaventure has a solid record and the A10 is a solid conference, but it’s nowhere near the level of the Big 10. So While Minnesota may only be a few games above .500, the committee may put them ahead of other mid-majors because of their difficult schedule.

In year’s past, it tends to be about who you beat. The selection committee can look past bad losses, but a program needs quality wins to balance them out. On the other hand, how much will the committee “penalize” mid-major schools for not having quality wins? In many cases, these schools, like St. Louis (11-4), Colorado St. (14-4), and St. Bonaventure (11-3), didn’t even have a chance at quality wins because the pandemic delayed or canceled their non-conference season. Mid-majors rely on the non-conference to play quality teams in better conferences, but that was simply taken away from them. Many mid-majors will finish with impressive records, and could be left out of the tourney because COVID-19 cancelled their non-conference schedule. It’s a tough dilemma for the selection committee, but these last few games could be very telling.

MORE: Syracuse Can Still Make a Run for the Tourney

In a season of uncertainty, one thing has remained clear from the beginning: Gonzaga and Baylor are a cut above the rest of the country. Unless the Zags and the Baylor Bears completely implode down the stretch, they are locked in as #1 seeds. After that, it’s anybody’s guess as to where these teams will be seeded come March.

For those unfamiliar with how the NCAA Men’s Basketball Bracket is constructed, here’s the breakdown:

Each team that wins their conference tournament earns an automatic bid to the Big Dance. However, with the Ivy League sitting out this season, there will only be 31 automatic qualifiers. This leaves 37 of the 68 teams in the tournament up for debate. Until the conference tournaments are played, I will give the automatic qualifiers to the teams currently leading their respective conferences.

Now, let’s get to the bracket.

A.Scott’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Bracket: Vol. 1 (released Tuesday, February 23rd at 9 a.m.)

#1 Seeds

  • Gonzaga (#1 Overall Seed)
  • Baylor
  • Michigan 
  • Ohio St. 

#2 Seeds

  • Illinois
  • Oklahoma
  • Alabama
  • Villanova

#3 Seeds

  • West Virginia
  • Iowa
  • Texas
  • Florida St.

#4 Seeds

  • Houston
  • Kansas
  • Virginia
  • Virginia Tech

#5 Seeds

  • Creighton
  • Texas Tech
  • Clemson
  • Missouri

#6 Seeds

  • Purdue
  • USC
  • Wisconsin
  • Tennessee

#7 Seed

  • Arkansas
  • BYU
  • Oklahoma St.
  • LSU

#8 Seed

  • UCLA
  • Rutgers
  • Oregon
  • Colorado 

#9 Seed

  • Loyola Chicago
  • Louisville
  • Florida
  • North Carolina

#10 Seed

  • VCU
  • Xavier
  • St. Bonaventure
  • Maryland

#11 Seed

  • Seton Hall
  • Stanford
  • Minnesota
  • Boise St.

#12 Seed

  • Wichita St. / UConn
  • Duke  / Indiana
  • Western Kentucky – AQ
  • Belmont – AQ

#13 seed

  • Colgate – AQ
  • UC Santa Barbara – AQ
  • Wright St. – AQ
  • Toledo – AQ

#14 Seed

  • Winthrop – AQ
  • Abilene Christian – AQ
  • UNC Greensboro – AQ
  • Eastern Washington – AQ

#15 Seed

  • James Madison – AQ
  • UMBC – AQ
  • UT Rio Grand Valley – AQ
  • Siena – AQ

#16 Seed

  • Texas St. – AQ
  • Prairie View A&M – AQ
  • Wagner / North Carolina A&T – AQ
  • Bellarmine / South Dakota – AQ

Last 4 in: 

  • Wichita St. 
  • Duke
  • Indiana
  • Uconn (Last team in)

First 4 out:

  • Drake
  • St Louis
  • Georgia Tech
  • Ole Miss

Next 5 out:

  • Western Kentucky (Projected to make tournament as conference tournament winner)
  • Colorado St.
  • St. John’s
  • Syracuse
  • San Diego St.

Key notes:

  • Ohio State remains a #1 seed despite losing to Michigan.
  • Also, after its wins over Virginia and Syracuse, Duke climbs into my field of 68. 
  • Wichita St’s recent win over Houston puts the Shockers in a nice spot to make the tournament.
  • St. John’s loss to DePaul is an absolute crusher as the Johnnies now has 3 bad losses on their resume.

It’s do or die time for almost every team at the bottom of this list. For some teams, there are only 2 games left in the regular season. The good news for a lot of the teams on the bubble is that they control their own destiny. Chances are a handful of the bubble teams drop a game down the stretch. So, the teams that run the table could catapult up the bracket.

Key games this week:

St. Louis @ VCU  –  Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Georgia Tech @ Virginia Tech   –     Tuesday at 7 p.m.

St John’s @ Villanova    –      Tuesday at 8 p.m.

St. Bonaventure @ Davidson      –       Wednesday at 5 p.m.

Indiana @ Rutgers      –        Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Western Kentucky @ Houston     –       Thursday at 8 p.m.

Syracuse @ Georgia Tech     –      Saturday at noon

Michigan @ Indiana      –       Saturday at noon

Boise St. @ San Diego State       –      Saturday at 4 p.m. 

Louisville @ Duke     –       Saturday at 6 p.m.

It’s difficult to wrap your mind around this season. COVID-19 has thrown an entirely new aspect into the equation. So trying to compare teams from different conferences with few non-conference games to judge them by is difficult. We are under 3 weeks away from selection Sunday, and I’m intrigued to see who the committee selects for their field of 68 because you could make a case for a lot of programs.

Tune into the Cali to Cuse: Up in the Rafters Podcast, your home for college basketball, by clicking here. New episodes every Friday.

A.Scott, Deputy Editor for The Challenge. Lifelong Jets, Mets, Nuggets and Flyers fan still looking to celebrate his first pro sports championship. Retired degenerate sports gambler who likes to come out of retirement. Learned how to count cards at the age of 18, but has yet to put the skill to good use. Primarily writes about the MLB, but will dip his toes into the NFL, NBA, college basketball and UFC. When I’m not writing for The Challenge or for a local news station in Syracuse, you can catch me either on the golf course or pounding brews with bros. “Don’t worry, be happy!” R.I.P. Mac Miller

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