Looking for the hottest team in college basketball right now?
Direct your attention to Oklahoma State – fresh off a profile-boosting victory over locked-in No. 1 seed Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals.
The Cowboys have garnered attention throughout 2020-21 because of Cade Cunningham, the 6-8 guard expected to be drafted No. 1 in the NBA draft. The freshman hasn’t disappointed, scoring 40 points in an overtime win over Oklahoma last month and nailing several game-winning jumpers throughout the year while dazzling to spearhead a span that’s seen OSU win eight of their last nine.
But Oklahoma State is much more than just Cunninghham. The Cowboys defeated a really good West Virginia team without him last week when he was recovering from injury. In that game, Avery Anderson III paved the way with 31 points.
“I hope we continue to dispel this notion that we’re Cade and a bunch of, like, puppets out there,” coach Mike Boynton told reporters after the Baylor win.
When it comes to NCAA Tournament seeding, OSU is likely locked in as a No. 3 seed but this squad is making a strong case for a No. 2 seed should any of the current No. 2 seeds slip up and Oklahoma State wins the Big 12 Tournament title. The Cowboys now ave 10 Quadrant 1 wins to go with the third best strength of schedule in the country. Those credentials speak volumes for the selection committee.
No. 1 seeds
Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan, Illinois.
Last four in
Drake, Colorado State, Syracuse, Boise State.
First four out
Utah State, Saint Louis, Memphis, Ole Miss.
Next four out
Seton Hall, St. Johns, Xavier, Southern Methodist.
Multi-bid conferences: Big Ten (9), ACC (8), Big 12 (7), SEC (6), Big East (4), Pac-12 (4), Mountain West (3), Atlantic 10 (2), American Athletic (2), Missouri Valley (2), West Coast (2).
Leaders or highest NET from projected one-bid conferences – (20 total): America East – Hartford, Atlantic Sun – Liberty, Big Sky – Eastern Washington, Big South – Winthrop, Big West – UCSB, CAA – Drexel, C-USA – Western Kentucky, Horizon – Cleveland State, MAAC – Iona, MAC – Buffalo, MEAC – Norfolk St., Northeast – Mount St. Mary’s, OVC – Morehead St, Patriot – Colgate, Southern – UNCG, Southland – Abilene Christian, SWAC – Prairie View A&M, Summit – Oral Roberts, Sun Belt – Appalachian State, WAC – Grand Canyon
- Banned from participating: Alabama State, Alabama A&M, Delaware State, Auburn, Arizona.
- Transition schools, ineligible for the tournament: Cal Baptist, North Alabama, Merrimack, Dixie State, Tarleton State, Bellarmine, UC San Diego.
- COVID-19: Ivy League, Bethune-Cookman, Maryland-Eastern Shore, Howard, Maine.
NCAA Tournament language explainer:
- NET stands for the NCAA Evaluation Tool, which is the barometer for the selection committee. It includes game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin (capping at 10 points per game), and net offensive and defensive efficiency.
- Quadrant 1 wins: Home games vs. 1-30 NET teams; Neutral-site games vs. 1-50 NET; Away games vs. 1-75 NET
- Quadrant 2 wins: Home games vs. 31-75 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 51-100 NET; Away games vs. 76-135 NET
- Quadrant 3 wins: Home games vs. 76-160 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 101-200 NET; Away games vs. 136-240 NET
- Quadrant 4 wins: Home games vs. 161-plus NET; Neutral-site games vs. 201-plus NET; Away games vs. 241-plus NET
Note: Most statistical data is used from WarrenNolan.com. The NET rankings (NCAA Evaluation Tool) also are a reference point.
About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 on his website, Bracket W.A.G. He joined USA TODAY in 2014. In his eighth season as our national bracketologist, Mast has finished as one of the top three bracketologists in the past seven March Madnesses. He’s also predicted for The Indianapolis Star, collegeinsider.com and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson