Bracketology: Gonzaga, Baylor, Villanova and Creighton are No. 1 seeds in early 2021 bracket projection
Jerry Palm takes a never-too-early look at next year's NCAA Tournament field of 68
First off, I hope you are all doing well and staying safe as we shelter ourselves away from COVID-19. Like all of us, I am looking forward to getting back to watching sports in the present rather than living in the past. In the spirit of contemplating that future, here is a way-too-early bracket for the 2020-2021 season. After all, it is only 340 days to selection Sunday.
Of course, we still do not know everyone who is going off to the NBA early or transferring to other schools. Just in the last few days since I started on this bracket, Cassius Stanley (Duke), Jalen Smith (Maryland), Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky) and Kofi Cockburn (Illinois) are among those declaring for the NBA Draft.
Michigan has had two players announce they are transferring, the most notable of which is guard David DeJulius. Purdue was surprised to learn that 7-foot-3 center Matt Haarms was going to leave as a grad transfer. Again, that's just since I started working on the bracket, and there have been others.
To say the least, a lot more roster movement is coming.
Here is a look at the projected No. 1 seeds for now:
Top seeds in Palm's Bracketology
- Gonzaga: The Zags could see some key players explore the NBA, but if everyone returns, this team could be even better than last season's, and that was a No. 1 seed. In fact, you could argue it was Mark Few's best team at Gonzaga. It would not have been a surprise to see the Zags win the national championship had it been played.
- Baylor: The Bears will lose Freddie Gillespie, but returns their top three scorers, including Jared Butler, who led the team at 16 ppg. Mark Vital, one of the top defenders in the nation also returns. Baylor got a big monkey off its back last season by winning at Kansas. Now, they figure to enter the season as the Big 12 favorite and be a significant part of the national championship talk.
- Villanova: Almost everybody will be back for the Wildcats as well, with the notable exception of Saddiq Bey. Bey, Villanova's leading scorer last season, is very likely headed to the NBA. The rest of the team is still pretty good. Four double-digit scorers will be back led by Collin Gillespie, who averaged 15.1 ppg.
- Creighton: This is pretty high cotton for the Bluejays, which has only been seeded higher than a No. 6 seed one time. They were a three-seed in 2014 with Doug McDermott leading the squad. They very likely would have been at least that high of a seed in 2020 also. Now, Creighton will have a chance to set a new standard for the program. The Bluejays are coming off a Big East championship and return every significant player as they shoot to repeat that conference title and perhaps take a No. 1 seed for the first time ever.
In putting together a bracket this early, it is necessary to be lax with some of the bracketing rules. For instance, regular-season rematches are not factored in since we don't have full schedules to compare to yet.
The NET rankings and other data on the Bracketology page is as of the end of the 2019-2020 season.
Can't wait to see the ball tipped again in November!
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