Conference tournament week has been chaotic this year, with close to half of the No. 1 seeds getting upset and several top-tier programs being forced to end their tournaments to meet COVID-19 protocols.
With Selection Sunday right on the horizon, we have seen teams bolster their NCAA Tournament profiles, while others have damaged theirs. Projected seeding lines have been in constant fluctuation.
Which teams have used the final week to hit their stride for March Madness? And which teams are drifting in the opposite direction?
The biggest winners and losers from championship week:
Texas. The Longhorns (19-7) started the season off hot at 10-1. Then they hit a skid midway through the season. Now, they’re back to being hot. Coach Shaka Smart’s team won its sixth game in a row with a 91-86 victory over a similarly surging Oklahoma State team in the Big 12 Tournament final. Texas didn’t get to play Kansas in the semifinal because the Jayhawks were forced to drop out because of a COVID-19 positive test, so that likely overshadowed how much this team is hitting its stride. This win likely vaults Texas up to a No. 3 seed.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets (17-8) took down Florida State 80-75 to claim the ACC tournament title Saturday. It’s just the latest evidence that this is one of the hottest teams in the country. Georgia Tech, once a bubble team, is now a safe No. 9 seed thanks to winning their last nine games.
Illinois: The Fighting Illini (22-6) solidified their No. 1 seed by dispatching Iowa 82-71 to reach the Big Ten tournament final. It also positions Illinois to make a statement as the league’s best team as March Madness begins, thanks to Michigan falling. Coach Brad Underwood is a national coach-of-the-year nominee, while Ayo Dosunmu is a national player-of-the-year candidate.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes (21-8) knocked off top-seeded Michigan 68-67 in the Big Ten tournament semifinals – a Quadrant 1 win that will bolster Ohio State’s credentials as a likely No. 2 seed in the NCAAs. Before that, the Buckeyes beat Minnesota in the second round and Purdue in the quarterfinals. Ohio State’s showing in the league tournament is huge for March momentum purposes considering it had lost four consecutive games to close out the regular season.
Alabama: Coach Nate Oats has this team rolling in March. After hammering Mississippi State by 38 points in the SEC tournament opener, the Crimson Tide (23-6) held off a tough Tennessee effort for a 73-68 win in the semifinals. While it’s unlikely now to catch Michigan or Illinois for a No. 1 seed, ‘Bama will be one of the best No. 2 seeds.
Georgetown. After an offseason of transfers and controversy, coach Patrick Ewing now finally has himself an NCAA Tournament team following the Hoyas’ 73-48 beatdown of Creighton in the Big East Tournament final. The bid thief of the this year’s March Madness, Georgetown knocked off top-seded Villanova and Seton all before Saturday’s impressive win.
LSU: The Tigers (18-8) clipped Arkansas 78-71 in the SEC tournament semifinals on Saturday to reach the final. Before that, they survived Mississippi at the last second in a 76-73 win in the quarterfinals. This is all good news for LSU, which had slipped in seeding because of poor play in late January. But now this group is drifting toward a No. 6 seed.
Creighton. The Bluejays (20-8) got obliterated by Georgetown 73-48 in the Big East tournament final, and hardly looked like the best iteration of this team that’s been ranked all season. The blowout loss is coming on the heels of a one-game suspension last week for coach Greg McDermott after he used racially insensitive remarks during a postgame speech with his players. Creighton showed signs of being a strong No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament in the Big East semifinals, edging Connecticut 59-56. But Saturday’s outcome is still eye-opening.
Baylor. The Bears (22-2) are locked in as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, trailing only undefeated Gonzaga as the top overall seed. But Friday’s 83-74 upset loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tournament semifinals revealed how beatable Baylor can be when it isn’t shooting well (6-for-28 from three-point range) and when its defense falters (allowing 45 points to Cade Cunningham and Avery Anderson III). Baylor has been phenomenal all year, but it also is prone for an upset. Championship week just reinforced that notion.
Missouri. Coach Cuonzo Martin’s team was one of the top 16 seeds unveiled by the NCAA in last month’s bracket reveal. Now, the reeling Tigers (16-9) are a No. 6 seed on the verge of falling to a No. 7 seed. A narrow win against Georgia in the SEC tournament was followed by a 70-64 loss to Arkansas in the SEC tournament quarterfinals. This group has now lost six of nine.
Oklahoma: The Sooners (15-10) are not a good team to pick in your NCAA Tournament bracket. Although they barely escaped Big 12 doormat Iowa State in the conference tournament opener, they couldn’t get past Kansas in the quarterfinals and have now lost five of six. Coach Lon Kruger’s team looks unimpressive this March and we’ve seen OU fall from a No. 4 seed to a No. 7 seed in bracketology as a result.
UCLA: Coach Mick Cronin got the Bruins (17-9) off to an 8-0 start in the Pac-12 this season, but this team is not heading in the right direction heading into the NCAA Tournament. They’ve lost four consecutive games, including an 83-79 overtime loss to Oregon State in the Pac-12 tournament. While UCLA did enough earlier in the season to be safe on Selection Sunday, it’s still fallen to a No. 10 seed in bracketology.
Duke, Virginia, Kansas: All three blue-blood programs were forced to drop out of their conference tournaments due to COVID-19. While the Blue Devils lost their chance to make a run for an NCAA Tournament at-large or automatic bid, Virginia and Kansas lost out on opportunities to improve their seeding line by calling it quits to adhere to COVID-19 protocols. Kansas is a No. 3 seed that could have improved to a No. 2 seed and Virginia is a No. 4 seed that could have jumped to a No. 3 seed. Duke, of course, needed to beat Florida State in the ACC tournament to be even considered as a bubble team.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.