One. More. Day. Today is the final day of the 2016-17 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Season. At least, it’s the final day of the regular season. The smaller conference tournaments are already underway. There have already been some casualties (see Bruins, Belmont; they lost to Jacksonville State in the OVC Semis), and there’s still PLENTY of excitement to go. Here are the final regular season Armchair Brackets: good through March 3rd.
There’s one final hurdle remaining for #4 overall North Carolina (25-6). That comes in the form of Duke (23-7), their incredibly fierce rival. The Blue Devils took game one of the Tobacco Road showdown this year, but UNC will be a heavy favorite tonight in the Dean Dome. Kansas (27-3) and Villanova (27-3) are absolutely locked into the top two spots of the NCAA field. Gonzaga (29-1), third overall, will be a one seed if they make it to the WCC Final. Win or lose to (probably) St. Mary’s (27-3) there, and they’ll still be top four overall. If the Heels get swept by Duke, however, Oregon (26-4) is more than ready to become a one seed as well.
Northwestern (21-9) has to be the best story of the season so far. Infamously, the Wildcats of Evanston, Ill. are the only major conference team to never make the NCAA Tournament. I, along with the rest of the world, would be gobsmacked if they don’t make it into the brackets this season. With Wednesday’s emotional buzzer-beating victory over Michigan (19-11), the Wildcats are all but locked into the field. It was well-earned, and the Wildcats will likely end up the feel-good story of what will hopefully be a wild 2017 NCAA Tournament.
While the city of Evanston may be on Cloud Nine, the city of Cincinnati (or at least the half that wear navy and silver) is not feeling the love. Xavier (18-12), once a legitimate Final Four contender who many thought could challenge Villanova for the Big East crown, is in the Last Four In. It turns out, Edmond Sumner is really, really important to the Musketeers. He’s been out for six games, and isn’t returning this year. Xavier has, not coincidentally, lost six straight. They now face a must-win at DePaul to feel any sort of confidence going into Madison Square Garden. What a crazy world we live in, where Xavier may fall out of the brackets after such a promising start.
Wake Forest (17-12) is now the last team in the field. When you beat Louisville (23-7), it’s hard not to bump a team up a few notches. The Deacons were already just out, and beating the Cardinals turned them from a “pretty good, but not enough” sort of team to a “they look like a tournament team” resume. Wake Forest faces Virginia Tech (21-8) later in the day. Just behind them are Vanderbilt (16-14), Kansas State (18-12), Georgia Tech (17-13), and Illinois (18-12).