With two months until the NCAA tournament gets underway, we have our latest prediction for the March Madness field, thanks to NCAA.com basketball expert Andy Katz. 

Katz has traveled the country this regular season watching games and talking to top players and coaches, all of which have helped inform his fourth bracket prediction of the season for the DI men’s basketball tournament.

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We break down his picks below, but first, let’s look at the bracket itself (Tap or click here to open the bracket in a new window or tab).

And here’s that bracket in table form:

  East West South Midwest
1 Virginia Duke Michigan Tennessee
16 Pine-Bluff/UMKC Sam Houston/Norfolk St. N. Colorado Detroit
         
8 Ohio St. Wisconsin Mississippi St. Kansas St.
9 Seton Hall Cincinnati TCU NC St.
         
5 Oklahoma Iowa St. Buffalo Nebraska
12 St. Louis Murray St. Wofford Georgia St.
         
4 LSU Maryland Virginia Tech Marquette
13 Hofstra Liberty Radford Loyola-Chi.
         
6 Auburn Louisville Purdue Villanova
11 Minnesota Texas/Temple Arizona Alabama/USF
         
3 Houston Nevada Kentucky North Carolina
14 South Dakota St. Princeton Lehigh Vermont
         
7 Iowa St. John’s Florida St. Ole Miss
10 Syracuse Indiana Washington UCF
         
2 Texas Tech Gonzaga Kansas Michigan St.
15 Wagner UCSB UTSA Rider

1 seeds cementing their position

For the first time all season, Katz has the same set of 1 seeds in two straight brackets. Virginia, Michigan, Tennessee, and Duke all appear on the top line in this prediction. 

As of Friday, those top two teams — Virginia and Michigan — were still undefeated. The Cavaliers have their toughest test of the season Saturday when they travel to Cameron Indoor to play No. 1 Duke, which is fresh off a loss to Syracuse. In a close game, it’s hard to see either team drop from a 1 seed, regardless of who wins.

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Michigan doesn’t play another ranked team until traveling to Indiana on Jan. 25, but the Wolverines’ next two games are against teams currently in Katz’s predicted field — Wisconsin (8) and Minnesota (11) — which will offer some good tournament experience for Michigan.

Tennessee is currently riding an 11-game winning streak, and it’s hard to see that stopping anytime soon. The Volunteers’ biggest remaining test this season will come on Feb. 16, when they travel to Lexington to take on Kentucky. 

Ohio State leads the biggest drops

Ohio State has had a rough stretch since Katz’s last bracket. The Buckeyes were ranked as a 4 seed in Katz’s previous prediction, but are in the midst of a 3-game losing streak, dropping games to Michigan State, at Rutgers, and at Iowa. That dropped them to an 8 seed, and the road ahead isn’t going to be much easier. All of Ohio State’s next four opponents are predicted tournament teams, and two (Maryland and Michigan) are ranked in the AP Top 25. This will be a do-or-die month for Ohio State.

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Two weeks ago, North Carolina State had strung together seven wins in a row, but the start of ACC play has been tough for the Wolfpack. They pulled out wins at Miami and at home against Pittsburgh, but fell at home to North Carolina and on the road to Wake Forest, the latter of which was 7-8 overall and winless in conference beforehand. That dropped NC State from a 5 seed to a 9 seed in Katz’s latest bracket, but the opportunities are there to move back up. In the next month, the Wolfpack play Virginia, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina in consecutive games. Two wins there would do wonders for their resume.

VCU has been streaky this season, but since a loss to Virginia on Dec. 9, the Rams haven’t played a team in the top 70 of NET rankings and lost at home to College of Charleston and on the road to Davidson. Katz has the A-10 as a one-bid league at the moment, with Saint Louis claiming the automatic qualifier spot. It’s certainly not out of reach for VCU to win the conference tournament for the first time since 2015, but the odds don’t look great at the moment.

Maryland among biggest risers

After dropping games to Purdue and Seton Hall in December, Maryland has started the new year strong, winning six straight since Dec. 29. That includes ranked wins over Nebraska and Indiana, pushing them from a 10 seed to a 5 seed in Katz’s latest bracket. Looming on the horizon is a trip to the Breslin Center to take on No. 6 Michigan State, where we’ll see just how high the Terps’ ceiling is.

Kansas State also made strides in the latest prediction, coming in as an 8 seed after not appearing in Katz’s previous bracket. The Wildcats are coming off a hot three-game stretch that saw them beat West Virginia, then go on the road to take down both No. 20 Iowa State and No. 20 Oklahoma. Two of those wins came within two points — a good sign for a team that had lost a pair of close games earlier in the season. Kansas State will face a heat check on Jan. 22, when they host the best defensive team in the nation — No. 8 Texas Tech.

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