This is the penultimate edition of our Top 16 projections, since Selection Sunday is just a few days away now, with most conferences holding their championship tournaments this weekend. Where does that leave us? Very close to finalizing our picks here.

There have been some upsets in conference tournaments already going on, of course, and that has impacted our numbers and analysis. Also, some teams finishing strong are charging hard toward these protected seeds for March Madness.

This is how we would rank and seed the top 16 teams in the country, regardless of conference, for the 2020 NCAA Tournament. We had 38 teams under consideration this week. Here we go, in order, with the three new teams in the rankings denoted by an asterisk (*):

  1. Kansas (28-3)
  2. Gonzaga (30-2)
  3. Baylor (26-4)
  4. Dayton (29-2)
  5. Michigan State (22-9)
  6. Duke (25-6)
  7. San Diego State (30-2)
  8. Ohio State (21-10)
  9. Florida State (26-5)
  10. Louisville (24-7)
  11. BYU (24-8)
  12. Maryland (24-7)
  13. West Virginia* (21-10)
  14. Villanova (24-7)
  15. Creighton* (24-7)
  16. Oregon* (24-7)

On the cusp: Houston (23-8), Seton Hall (21-9), Wisconsin (21-10), Michigan (19-12), Kentucky (25-6)

There is a considerable numerical gap between the Ducks and the Houston Cougars, so this Top 16 is solid now. Also, there is an even bigger gap between Kentucky and the next team in our projections (Arizona). Expect some shakeup toward the bottom of these protected-seed projections after the conference championships are done on Sunday.

Here is how we would seed these 16 teams regionally, based on the upcoming regional sites for the 2020 tournament, with the top seeds getting geographic advantage(s):

  • Indianapolis: No. 1 Kansas, No. 8 Ohio State, No. 9 Florida State, No. 16 Oregon
  • Los Angeles: No. 2 Gonzaga, No. 7 San Diego State, No. 10 Louisville, No. 15 Creighton
  • Houston: No. 3 Baylor, No. 6 Duke, No. 11 BYU, No. 14 Villanova
  • New York: No. 4 Dayton, No. 5 Michigan State, No. 12 Maryland, No. 13 West Virginia

Yes, we are not really happy KU is allowed to be a part of this, but it is what it is. The L.A. regional might be upset ready, too, with the weaker schedules played by Gonzaga and SDSU factoring into some early-round shenanigans. Only time will tell.

Also, using the offensive and defensive efficiency balance is the best way to project a tourney champion, and the top tier of potential champs has just one team in it still: those cheatin’ Jayhawks. The second tier has expanded since last week, to include Baylor, Duke, San Diego State, Michigan State, and Ohio State. The third tier is less crowded: Maryland and Houston, strangely. Keep these teams ready when picking your brackets next week.

We will post our final seedings on Monday next week, one day after Selection Sunday to see how the committee did. You can bet there will be some disagreements!