A new bracket projection is up, the first since the preseason bracket back in November. Unlike that one, I am not looking ahead as to what might happen. This bracket and all future ones will be what I think the NCAA Tournament field would look like if it started today.
It should come as no surprise that this bracket looks significantly different top to bottom than the preseason one, especially with all the upsets at the top of the rankings so far this season. Only seven of my preseason top 16 seeds are still top 16 seeds in this bracket, and two of my preseason top 16 seeds are out entirely.
Those two might be teams you have heard of – Kentucky and North Carolina. More on them later, but let's start at the top of the bracket with a look at the top seeds.
Kansas is No. 1 overall seed
The overall No. 1 seed in this bracket is Kansas, which suffered a two-point loss to Duke in its season opener, but has not lost since. The Jayhawks have been largely dominant over the rest of its schedule, save an overtime win over Dayton.
Ohio State has also been dominant to start the season. The Buckeyes were expected to be improved over last season, but even with that expectation, this has been a pleasant surprise. If not for a loss at Minnesota last week, they would be the overall No. 1.
Gonzaga is having another terrific season and is the third No. 1 seed in this bracket. The Zags can stake their clam as the best team in the Pac-12 as well, with wins over Oregon, Arizona and Washington. Their only blemish is a loss to Michigan.
Baylor rounds out the current top four. The Bears' only loss came to Washington, but they have wins over Butler, Arizona and Villanova.
Duke and Louisville just miss the top line. The Blue Devils have some quality wins, but not enough to overcome the loss to Stephen F. Austin at home. The Cardinals have a big win over Michigan, but the only other quality opponent they have played so far is Texas Tech, the team to defeat them.
Keep in mind, this is just a snapshot in time. Conference play has not begun in earnest yet and a lot of weeding out is yet to come. The next bracket will be January 3rd Hope everyone has a happy holiday season!
Why Kentucky is out
The Wildcats started off the season with a moment of glory. They beat then No. 1 Michigan State 69-62 and ascended to the throne of the AP Top 25 poll right afterwards.
The glow did not last long, however. A week later, Kentucky lost at home to Evansville and the Wildcats have done nothing to add to their tournament resume since. Every opponent Kentucky has played, including the Purple Aces, are in Quadrant Four except their most recent opponent. That was Utah, which beat the Wildcats on Wednesday night. Utah is not in this bracket either, nor particularly close to being in it.
That's pretty much it. Kentucky has a bunch of tomato can wins, two bad losses and a win over Michigan State. Don't get me wrong, I fully expect UK to be in the final bracket in March, but it is a good thing for them that March is three months off.
Resume building for Kentucky and other SEC teams may be tough. The league has taken a step back from the great year it had last season and has only four team in this bracket. Auburn is undefeated still, but Florida and Tennessee, while in this bracket, have disappointed. The Tigers are the only SEC team in my colleague Gary Parrish's Top 25 and 1 rankings. UK is still 6th in the polls this week, but poll voters are much more enamored by the name on the front of the jersey than Gary or the NCAA Tournament selection committee is.
Kentucky does not have to wait until conference play to resume build though. The next eight days could be huge for the Wildcats. They get Ohio State in the CBS Sports Classic on Saturday in Las Vegas, then host Louisville on Dec. 28.
Why North Carolina is out
North Carolina is also not in the current field largely due to a 6-5 record, with one of those five losses coming to Wofford at home last week. The Tar Heels are banged up. In particular, star freshman Cole Anthony is expected to miss four-to-six weeks after knee surgery. They will have to find a way to win without him if the Tar Heels are going to play their way into bracket contention.
Resume building will be tough in the ACC as well as it also only has four teams in the bracket. The difference with the SEC though is that all four are five-seeds or better, so there are more chances for high quality wins.