NCAA bracket forecast

Rich Fyle column

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

It’s never too early to talk about the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Last season’s showcase was shelved because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the NCAA has now adjusted to playing the games — when it can be safely done — and the tournament will go on next month.

In a new twist, all tournament games will be played at different venues in the state of Indiana. That’s smart in keeping teams’ travel to a limited basis, and fans will be allowed to attend at a 25% capacity.

With Selection Sunday less than three weeks away, let’s take a look at top seeds in each regional, potential surprise teams in the tournament and Syracuse University’s odds to make the 68-school free-for-all:

n Unless there’s a major shake-up over the next couple of weeks, the top four seeds should be Gonzaga (the tournament’s No. 1 overall), Baylor, Michigan and Ohio State, according to ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi.

He also projects each region’s No. 2 seeds as Illinois, Alabama, Iowa and Villanova. Oklahoma, West Virginia, Houston and Florida State are viewed as third seeds in the four regions, while Virginia, Texas, Kansas and Creighton are in line for No. 4 seeds. However, expect some shuffling between now and through the end of the conference postseason tournaments.

n Depending what happened in Monday night’s Syracuse at Duke game, the loser could have a difficult time making the tournament as an at-large team.

In Lunardi’s First Four out, he has Stanford, Connecticut, St. Bonaventure and Richmond on the outside looking in. The Next Four out includes Saint Louis, Utah State, Duke and Syracuse — and that’s BEFORE Monday’s key ACC game at Durham, N.C.

Syracuse has had five ACC games postponed this season because of the coronavirus, and it’s highly unlikely the Orange will get the majority of its postponed games made up, leaving potential quality victories on the floor.

n Lunardi projects the Last Four teams into the tournament as Xavier, Maryland, Colorado State and Minnesota. Overall, the Big Ten has the most schools in the NCAA tournament with 10, the Big 12 is next with seven, while the ACC and SEC each have six teams in the field.

The ACC schools that Lunardi expects to be included are Virginia (No. 3 seed), Florida State (No. 4), Virginia Tech (No. 6), Clemson (No. 7), Louisville (No. 8) and North Carolina (No. 11).

n I like the following schools as potential sleepers that could crash region brackets: Belmont, Wichita State, San Diego State and VCU.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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