Ticket Bracketology: Rivalry Week Highlights Top Seeds

Cover Image
Photo credit © Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The game we've long been craving is nearly here. Naturally, we'll have to wait until Sunday to sink our teeth into No. 10 Michigan State at No. 7 Michigan. It's the latest the two teams have met for the first time in the regular season in a damn long time. 

Longer than Tom Izzo has been coaching at Michigan State, for one. Izzo himself admitted earlier this season he was growing weary of the wait. That was in January, and Izzo was probably ready to face Michigan in December.
Here we are in February, and the two best teams in the Big Ten have yet to square off. Yeah, Sunday can't come soon enough.

Depending how things shake out in Monday's poll, #Michigan and #MichiganState set for a top-10 matchup next Sunday for just second year in 70-year history of the @AP_Top25 ... They split two such matchups in 2013. In the words of the big man @bobwojnowski: "Mitten Madness!"

— Will Burchfield (@burchie_kid) February 17, 2019

This year, there's a whole lot more than local bragging rights on the line. The Wolverines and Spartans are tied atop the Big Ten, each with five games remaining -- including another showdown in the season finale. The conference title will hinge largely on Sunday's result. 

Looking even further ahead, both Michigan and Michigan State are still vying for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. A win on Sunday would go a long way toward propelling either one toward that goal. 

Which brings us to the fourth installment of Ticket Bracketology, a look at how the tournament field would shake out if the season ended today. It's assembled, as always, by our college basketball expert Kyle Beery. 

By the way, the nation's "other" rivalry is on tap this week, also for the first time this season. No. 1 Duke hosts No. 8 UNC on Wednesday. The Tar Heels, projected as a 2-seed below, could use a big win after letting one get away last week against Virginia -- and there would be no bigger win than at Cameron Indoor. 

As you try to bide your time until Sunday, a little Tobacco Road rivalry tilt is a good place to start. Meanwhile, Saturday brings some juicy matchups between No. 3 Virginia and No. 18 Louisville, No. 5 Tennessee and No. 13 LSU, No. 12 Kansas and No. 14 Texas Tech, and No. 4 Kentucky and Auburn. 

It's almost here, we swear. 

For now, enjoy the latest edition of Ticket Bracketology. (As always, teams earning an automatic bid are denoted by their respective conference.)

EAST REGIONAL – Washington D.C.
Columbia, SC

1. Duke (ACC) vs. 16. Norfolk State (MEAC) / Quinnipiac (MAAC)

8. Washington (Pac-12) vs. 9. Ohio State

San Jose, Calif.

4. Iowa State vs. 13. Yale (Ivy)

5. Villanova (Big East) vs. 12. Hofstra (CAA)

Jacksonville, Fla.

6. Wisconsin vs. 11. NC State

3. LSU vs. 14. Old Dominion (C-USA)

Des Moines, Iowa

7. Cincinnati vs. 10. Oklahoma

2. Michigan State (Big Ten) vs. 15. Drake (MVC)

East Regional Rundown

  • Top Dogs: Duke (23-2, 11-1 ACC)
    • The Blue Devils looked vulnerable for 31 minutes against Louisville and absolutely unbeatable for the last nine minutes.
  • On the rise: LSU (21-4, 11-1 SEC)
    • The Tigers escaped Rupp Arena with a huge win and are in contention for the SEC crown.
  • Falling: NC State (18-8, 6-7 ACC)
    • The Wolf Pack have a good shot to win at least four of their last five and stack wins to climb back to safety.
  • Mid-Major to watch: Hofstra (21-5, 12-2 CAA)
    • ​Hofstra could have had an outside shot at an at-large bid, but a loss to UNCW took that away. But it didn’t take away the fact they have a top-20 KenPom offense.

SOUTH REGIONAL – Louisville, Ky.

Columbia, SC

1. Virginia vs. 16. Prairie View A&M (SWAC) / St. Francis (PA) (NEC)

8. Auburn vs. 9. Baylor

Hartford, Conn.

4. Purdue vs. 13. Liberty (A-Sun)

5. Kansas State (Big 12) vs. 12. Belmont (OVC)

Tulsa, Okla.

6. Virginia Tech vs. 11. Minnesota

3. Kansas vs. 14. UC Irvine (Big West)

Columbus, Ohio

7. Buffalo (MAC) vs. 10. UCF

2. Tennessee (SEC) vs. 15. Sam Houston State (Southland)

South Regional Rundown

  • Top Dogs: Virginia (23-2, 11-2 ACC)
    • Two matchups with Louisville in their final five games will either solidify their status as a 1-seed or leave them sweating it out some Selection Sunday.
  • On the rise: Minnesota (17-9, 7-8 Big Ten)
    • The Gophers were among our first four out last week. Despite a narrow loss at Nebraska, they’re back in the field, thanks to a messy bubble.
  • Falling: Tennessee (22-2, 11-1 SEC)
    • The Vols had their 19-game win streak snapped at Kentucky, who supplants them on the top line. Plenty of time to climb back up, though.
  • Mid-Major to watch: Liberty (20-5, 12-1 A-Sun)
    • The Flames are new to the field this week after winning at Lipscomb. If either of those teams wins the A-Sun tourney, they could steal a game in the NCAAs.

WEST REGIONAL – Anaheim, Calif.

Salt Lake City, Utah

1. Gonzaga (WCC) vs. 16. Bucknell (Patriot)

8. Ole Miss vs. 9. Wofford (SOCON)

San Jose, Calif.

4. Texas Tech vs. 13. New Mexico State (WAC)

5. Iowa vs. 12. Utah State/Clemson

Salt Lake City, Utah

6. Florida State vs. 11. Temple

3. Nevada (MWC) vs. 14. Texas State (Sun Belt)

Tulsa, Okla.

7. Mississippi State vs. 10. Seton Hall

2. Houston (AAC) vs. 15. Radford (Big South)

West Regional Rundown

  • Top dogs: Gonzaga (25-2, 12-0 WCC)
    • Think playing in the WCC discounts the Zags from being top of the class? Watch them play, then think again.
  • On the rise: Houston (25-1, 12-1 AAC)
    • The Cougars replace North Carolina as the last 2-seed. Tied with Duke and Michigan State for second-most wins (14) between Q1+Q2, behind only Michigan (15).
  • Falling: Clemson (15-10, 5-7 ACC)
    • An 0-2 week has the Tigers clinging to life. Luckily, this year’s bubble is weak, so they have plenty of time to recover.
  • Mid-Major to watch: Nevada (24-1, 11-1 MWC)
    • I’ve written plenty about Wofford the last two weeks, so here’s a reminder that Nevada’s really, really good. Except on defense. Fix that, Eric Musselman.


Columbus, Ohio

1. Kentucky vs. 16. Northern Kentucky (Horizon)

8. Syracuse vs. 9. Texas

Hartford, Conn.

4. Marquette vs. 13. Vermont (America East)

5. Louisville vs. 12. Arizona State/Furman

Jacksonville, Fla.

6. Maryland vs. 11. TCU

3. North Carolina vs. 14. Montana (Big Sky)

Des Moines, Iowa

7. St. John’s vs. 10. VCU (A-10)

2. Michigan vs. 15. South Dakota State (Summit)

Midwest Regional Rundown

  • Top Dogs: Kentucky (21-4, 10-2 SEC)
    • The Cats are finally playing like we expected them to in the preseason. Huge win over Tennessee gives them twice as many Q1 wins as the Vols.
  • On the rise: St. John’s (19-7, 7-6 Big East)
    • The Johnnies may have pulled away from bubble danger with a win over Villanova. But no team is truly safe until the very end.
  • Falling: North Carolina (20-5, 10-2 ACC) and Louisville (18-8, 9-4)
    • The Heels and Cards let massive opportunities slip through their fingers early in the week against Virginia and Duke, respectively.
  • Mid-Major to watch: Furman (22-5, 14-4)
    • A 2-bid SOCON is very realistic. Furman probably has the best chance at an at-large bid, with wins at Villanova and Loyola-Chicago, plus some sneaky good SOCON wins.

Last 4 Byes: TCU, Temple, NC State, Minnesota

Last 4 in (First Four in Dayton): Arizona State, Clemson, Utah State, Furman

First 4 out: Butler, Florida, Nebraska, Lipscomb

Next 4 out: San Francisco, Davidson, Murray State, Indiana