The long, strange college basketball offseason is nearly over, which means it’s time to go on record with my preseason bracket projections. This set of projections is always the toughest to do since there simply isn’t actual data to use, and the uncertainty hanging over this season made the exercise even more difficult than normal.
In terms of methodology, I try to absorb as much preseason content as I can, whether that’s online or in print, data-driven or subjective. I review the 1-353 rankings that many sites are posting and look through past performance, returning production, and potential breakouts for the teams that profile as contenders in their league or the at-large pool. From a practical standpoint, this exercise is a useful way to build out my initial list of teams to monitor as the season begins.
I don’t typically produce another set of projections until after the first of the year, and it may end up being even later this year depending upon how many games are canceled or postponed between now and then.
While I didn’t have the time to do detailed write-ups as I have the last few seasons, I did want to touch briefly on Indiana and the Big Ten as a whole. The league didn’t land any teams on the top seed line, but it does lead all conferences with nine teams in the projected field. Similar to most preseason predictions for the Big Ten, there are two distinct clusters of teams with Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan State all placed between the two and four lines and then four other teams in the field as six or seven seeds. Purdue was the final Big Ten team to make the field, but Minnesota was also in consideration after receiving after benefitting from multiple transfer waivers. Much like last season, the conference is shaping up to be among the deepest in the country, and I would be surprised if any other conference sends more teams dancing than the Big Ten.
As for the Hoosiers, I think it would be a stretch to place them in that upper tier based on what we know now, but I am bullish enough on the team to believe a fifth place finish is well within the realm of possibility. And in a league as tough as the Big Ten projects to be, that would certainly be good enough for a strong seed. If you look at the other teams in the same tier of the league, Rutgers has a ton of returning production, but it remains to be seen how much the lack of home games at the RAC will truly mean. Michigan must replace multiple key pieces while integrating some transfers, and Ohio State is dealing with injuries already in addition to the loss of Kaleb Wesson.
Indiana’s non-conference schedule provides multiple opportunities for victories over major conference foes, and the tough Big Ten slate is loaded with chances to win games that would impress the selection committee. It’s also going to be an unprecedented season from a selection standpoint, so on some level, a high volume of opportunities to beat tournament-caliber teams should serve the Hoosiers well, provided they can acquit themselves well in those contests.
Following the bracket, I included the list of other teams I considered for the field as well as a breakdown by conference. Based on recent announcements from the NCAA, you will notice that I just numbered the regions and set Indianapolis as the site for all first round games.
|REGION 1||REGION 2|
|1) Gonzaga||1) Villanova|
|16) NC Central / Texas Southern||16) Colgate / Fairleigh Dickinson|
|9) Purdue||9) Oklahoma|
|5) Florida St.
|12) W. Kentucky||12) Loyola Chicago
|4) Texas Tech||4) Tennessee|
|13) Furman||13) New Mexico St.|
|6) Arizona St.||6) Indiana|
|11) Arkansas||11) Miami (FL) / Ole Miss|
|3) Iowa||3) West Virginia|
|14) Wright St.||14) Little Rock|
|7) Michigan||7) UCLA|
|10) Seton Hall||10) Syracuse|
|2) Duke||2) Wisconsin|
|15) UC Santa Barbara
||15) E. Washington|
|REGION 4||REGION 3|
|1) Virginia||1) Baylor|
|16) Hofstra||16) Lipscomb|
|8) Memphis||8) LSU|
|9) Alabama||9) Richmond|
|5) Texas||5) North Carolina|
|12) Vermont||12) BYU / Marquette|
|4) Michigan St.||4) Oregon|
|13) South Dakota St.||13) Murray St.|
|6) Rutgers||6) Florida|
|3) Kentucky||3) Creighton|
|14) Bowling Green||14) Stephen F. Austin|
|7) Ohio St.||7) Louisville|
|10) Saint Louis||10) San Diego St.|
|2) Kansas||2) Illinois|
|15) Siena||15) Winthrop|
Other Teams Considered (in alphabetical order):
Big Ten (9): Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin
ACC (7): Duke, Florida State, Louisville, Miami (FL), North Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia
SEC (7): Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee
Big 12 (6): Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia
Big East (6): Connecticut, Creighton, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova
Pac-12 (5): Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA
American (2): Houston, Memphis
Atlantic 10 (2): Richmond, Saint Louis
West Coast (2): BYU, Gonzaga
America East: Vermont
Atlantic Sun: Lipscomb
Big Sky: Eastern Washington
Big South: Winthrop
Big West: UC Santa Barbara
Conference USA: Western Kentucky
Horizon: Wright State
Ivy: N/A (League announced it will not be playing basketball this season)
MAC: Bowling Green
MEAC: NC Central
Missouri Valley: Loyola Chicago
Mountain West: San Diego State
Northeast: Fairleigh Dickinson
Ohio Valley: Murray State
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
SWAC: Texas Southern
Summit: South Dakota State
Sun Belt: Little Rock
WAC: New Mexico State
Follow Andy on Twitter (@andybottoms) for more thoughts on college hoops and to receive an update whenever new brackets are posted.
Filed to: 2020-2021 Bracketology