NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee unveils Top 16 teams

(courtesy the NCAA)

INDIANAPOLIS — The Division I Men’s Basketball Committee selected and seeded the top 16 teams, through games of February 12, as part of the Bracket Preview Show earlier today on CBS. Considerable discussion centered on the top two teams, Gonzaga and Baylor, which have played effectively and efficiently while going unbeaten against quality opponents. By a slim margin, Gonzaga was dubbed the overall No. 1 seed, thanks in part to impressive non-conference wins over the likes of Virginia, Iowa, West Virginia and Kansas.

“To no one’s surprise, these two teams are considered the best of the best,” said Mitch Barnhart, the Director of Athletics at the University of Kentucky and chair of the committee. “Gonzaga and Baylor have been dominant teams to this point, and while there’s no reason to think that won’t continue, the beauty of college basketball is that anything can happen on a given night.”

Selection Sunday is March 14. After last year’s cancellation, the 2021 tournament will be the 10th with a 68-team field and will begin with the First Four Thursday, March 18 in Bloomington and West Lafayette. Those two cities will join Indianapolis as hosts of first-round games March 19-20. Second-round games take place March 21-22, while the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight will be played March 27-30, and the Final Four will be played April 3 and 5. All games after the first round will be played in Indianapolis.

A pair of Big Ten teams also earned No. 1 seeds in the committee’s fifth annual sneak peek at the seeding of the top teams. Michigan, which stands at 13-1 but has not played since January 22, was voted as the overall No. 3 team, while Ohio State, which has won eight of its past nine games to get to 16-4 thus far this season, was the last of the No. 1 seeds. The rivals meet in Columbus February 21.

Another Big Ten team, Illinois, was voted as the overall No. 5 seed, edging out a trio of conference leaders who also ended up as No. 2 seeds. Big East leader Villanova, SEC frontrunner Alabama and American Athletic Conference leader Houston fell sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively, on the seed list. Defending national champion and current ACC leader Virginia heads the list of No. 3 seeds, joining West Virginia, Tennessee and Oklahoma. The final quartet of teams on the committee’s list were Iowa, Texas Tech, Texas and Missouri.

While the committee indicated last month that it would use the S-Curve to seed the field, bracketing principles prevented that from fully happening. Rules that require the committee to separate the top four teams from the same conference on the top four lines of the bracket resulted in changes, which included Region 1 consisting of Gonzaga, Alabama, Oklahoma and Iowa; Region 2 including Baylor, Illinois, Tennessee and Texas; Region 3 having Michigan, Houston, West Virginia and Missouri; and Region 4 consisting of Ohio St., Villanova, Virginia and Texas Tech.

The committee is going to continue possible options for renaming the four regions.

“The three days of meetings in Indianapolis were special for a lot of reasons,” Barnhart said. “It was not lost on us that it was the first time the committee was together since March 12, the day the 2020 tournament was cancelled, so just from that standpoint it was rewarding for all of us to be together. With the unusual format of this tournament, and the uncommon manner in which this season is being played, there are many business decisions that required considerable discussion. But it was a productive few days, highlighted by the selection and seeding of these 16 outstanding teams. It has taken an incredible effort on the parts of these players and coaches to get to this point and we’re excited to see how the rest of the season unfolds.”

Joining Barnhart on the committee is vice chair Tom Burnett, the commissioner of the Southland Conference; Mike Bobinski; the director of athletics at Purdue; Bubba Cunningham, the director of athletics at North Carolina; Charles McClelland, the commissioner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference; Bernadette McGlade, the commissioner of the Atlantic 10 Conference; Mike O’Brien, the director of athletics at Toledo; Jamie Pollard, the director of athletics at Iowa State; Chris Reynolds, the director of athletics at Bradley; and Craig Thompson, the commissioner of the Mountain West Conference.

Here are the top 16 teams, released Feb. 13: 

  1. Gonzaga 
  2. Baylor 
  3. Michigan 
  4. Ohio State 
  5. Illinois 
  6. Villanova 
  7. Alabama 
  8. Houston 
  9. Virginia 
  10. West Virginia 
  11. Tennessee 
  12. Oklahoma 
  13. Iowa 
  14. Texas Tech 
  15. Texas 
  16. Missouri