Harvard, Delaware, Manhattan and Wofford have all punched their tickets to the NCAA tournament already by winning their conference title. So, with the March picture starting to come into focus, things shift this week to the bigger conferences, as the Big East and BCS leagues begin the battles for their respective automatic qualifiers. Teams like Villanova — assured of a bid — are fighting for seeding, while others on the bubble will struggle for an invite.
This week, Villanova starts off as a consensus 1-seed in all four projection this week. Last week, the 'Cats looked more like a 2-Seed, until CBS's Jerry Palm became the first to shift them up to the top line. The 'Cats have hit 28 wins in the regular season for the first time ever, and while their place in the bracket is not yet secure, they should not fall below a 2-Seed. A good run in the Big East tournament is surely necessary to hang in among the top seeds, while a title in the MSG may be needed to top the famous arena's region.
The Wildcats remain at 4th in the RPI, holding steady from last week. The Wildcats moved up to 6th in the KenPom.com computer rankings, with the 11th-best offensive efficiency and the 13th-best defense in the nation.
On to the Bracketology... (ESPN and CBS updated on Monday, NBC and SB Nation were revised yesterday)
ESPN (Joe Lunardi) - 1 Seed, Buffalo, East Region
Joe Lunardi has moved Villanova up to a 1-Seed in his East Region this week. Now the Wildcats are slated to face the winner of a Coastal Carolina and Stony Brook from a 16-seed play-in game. Either Oregon (8-Seed) or Baylor (9-Seed) would await in the second round.
Duke is the 2-Seed in the region, while Iowa State (3-Seed), Louisville (4-Seed) and Saint Louis (5-Seed) are also top seeds in the East.
CBS Sports (Jerry Palm) - 1 Seed, Buffalo, East Region
Palm kept Villanova in his East Region after moving them up to a 1-Seed. They now square up for an opening round meeting with Utah Valley in Buffalo. Either Oregon (8-Seed) or a re-match with Iowa (9-Seed) will await the winner of that game.
Top seeds in Palm's East region include Syracuse (2-Seed), Louisville (3-Seed), Michigan State (4-Seed), and Oklahoma (5-Seed)
NBC Sports (Dave Ommen) - 1 Seed, Buffalo, East Region
Dave Ommen follows the pack on Villanova's seeding and regional assignments. This week's projections have them against either Wofford or Texas Southern (16-Seed play-in). The winner would face either UConn (6-Seed) or BYU (11-Seed) for a chance to advance to the Sweet 16.
Top seeds for Villanova in NBC's bracket include Michigan (2-Seed), Iowa State (3-Seed), San Diego State (4-Seed), and North Carolina (5-Seed).
SB Nation (Chris Dobbertean) - 1 Seed, Buffalo, East Region
Now a 1-Seed in the East, Dobber's bracket has the Wildcats preparing to play 16-Seed Stony Brook at Buffalo. The winner of that game would take on either New Mexico (8-Seed) or SMU (9-Seed) in the second round, to punch a ticket to MSG.
Other top seeds in Villanova's region include Kansas (2-Seed), Louisville (3-Seed), North Carolina (4-Seed) and Ohio State (5-Seed).
Bracketology Around the Big East
The Big East hasn't yet recovered from last week's low of just 3 bids, with three of four brackets including just Villanova, Creighton and Xavier. Providence, St. John's and Georgetown remain on the bubble, however, and any of those teams could punch their ticket this week in Manhattan.
Creighton took another drop down to the 4-line this week in two of the projections, while Xavier is hardly safe as an 11- or 12-Seed and a likely First Four participant. Providence appeared in just one bracket.
The schools are seeded as follows:
ESPN - 3 Bids: (1) Villanova, (3) Creighton, (11) Xavier
CBS - 4 Bids: (1) Villanova, (4) Creighton, (11 - Play In) Xavier, (12 - Play In) Providence
NBC - 3 Bids: (1) Villanova, (3) Creighton, (12 - Play In) Xavier
SBN - 3 Bids: (1) Villanova, (4) Creighton, (11 - Play In) Xavier