Now, a month in, Katz has updated his bracket after taking in dozens of games from coast to coast and talking to some of the biggest names in the sport. There are quite a few changes, and rightfully so.
We’ll break down his field here, but let’s first look at the bracket itself (click or tap here to open the bracket in a new window or tab):
And here’s that bracket in table form:
|16||Northern Colorado||(ACU/Grambling)||American||(St. Francis-NY/Howard)|
|13||New Mexico State||Drake||Texas State||South Dakota State|
|5||Arizona State||Iowa State||Houston||North Carolina|
|14||Penn||North Texas||Stony Brook||Lipscomb|
|6||Florida State||Arkansas||Villanova||Virginia Tech|
|15||UC-Irvinie||Northern Kentucky||Rider||College of Charleston|
Katz’s Final Four: Gonzaga, Michigan, Duke, and Virginia
Only one of Katz’s original Final Four teams is still headed to Minneapolis in this latest prediction — Gonzaga. In November, that field also included Kentucky, Villanova, and North Carolina. All three of those blue bloods seemed poised for monster seasons, but have disappointed somewhat through the early stretch of the year.
Katz’s current Final Four consists of Gonzaga, Michigan, Duke, and Virginia, who all happen to be his 1 seeds as well. Those four are slightly different than the AP’s current top four, leaving out current No. 2 Kansas (which gets a 2 seed).
Gonzaga and Duke have both lived up to the hype, keeping their 1 seeds from Katz’s preseason prediction. The Bulldogs are 8-0, while the Blue Devils are 7-1, with the lone loss coming to Gonzaga.
Michigan, on the other hand, has surpassed preseason expectations. Last year’s runner up might actually have a better team this year. The Wolverines are 9-0 on the year, with extremely impressive wins against Villanova (by 27 points), North Carolina (by 17 points), and Purdue (by 19 points). The Tar Heels are the only team to have scored more than 61 on Michigan’s rock-solid defense this year, and even they only managed 67 — 26 points below their season average.
And then there’s Virginia, which currently sits atop the NET rankings, thanks in part to three neutral court wins and one true road win. Unsurprisingly, the Cavaliers have one of the best defenses in the country again this year and are second only to Siena for the slowest pace in Division I, always making for a tough matchup.
In the title game, Katz predicts Gonzaga beating Michigan — redemption from 2017 for the Bulldogs, and heartbreak again for the Wolverines.
The biggest drop by any team came from West Virginia. In the preseason bracket, West Virginia earned a 4 seed, which didn’t seem like such a bold decision — the Mountaineers were No. 13 in the preseason AP poll. But through eight games this year, West Virginia has struggled, losing to Buffalo in its opener, then dropping games to unranked Western Kentucky and Florida. After that performance, Katz doesn’t have the Mountaineers in the field of 68 at all. It’s still very early, but without a currently-ranked matchup until Texas Tech in January, West Virginia won’t have many opportunities to bolster their resume until conference play.
Some other big names dropping out of the field were Washington (6-3), Loyola Chicago (5-4), and Oregon (4-3).
On the other end of the spectrum is Texas Tech. The Red Raiders weren’t even in the field for Katz’ preseason bracket (and received only six votes on the AP preseason poll), but are one of just 11 teams that are still undefeated this year. Texas Tech is 8-0 on the year with wins over USC, Nebraska, Memphis, and Northern Colorado. And the Red Raiders’ wins aren’t even close. They’re outscoring their opponents by an average of 24.3 points so far, and they’ve had more 30-point wins (3), than games within 15 points (2). As such, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to learn that Texas Tech has the best defensive efficiency in the country so far, only allowing teams to score 76.9 points per 100 possessions.
Another big surprise so far this year is Furman. The Knights are undefeated through nine games and picked up a huge win on the road against No. 8 Villanova in November. Furman hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 1980, but it currently leads the Southern Conference, with 7-2 Citadel close behind. That hot start has them at a 9 seed in Katz’s bracket.
Also entering the field were Ohio State (8-1), Arizona State (7-0), Arkansas (6-1), Maryland (7-1), and Louisville (6-2), among 20 others.
Finally, here’s a list of all 68 teams in Katz’s latest field, with how their seeding has changed since the preseason bracket:
|Team||Preseason seed||Current seed||Movement|
|New Mexico State||N/A||13||N/A|
|South Dakota State||13||13||0|
|College of Charleston||N/A||15||N/A|