Welcome to the first edition of Bracketology in the month of February here at ClutchPoints, and before we dive into my most recently updated NCAA Tournament Bracket projections, I want to use this opening section to shout out two particular mid-major programs that are having stellar seasons thus far. This is the time of the year when it's worth taking stock of some of the teams that could possibly end up “busting brackets” come March, and the two teams I've got my eye on right now are the Saint Mary's Gaels and the Indiana State Sycamores.

As of February 5th, the Indiana State Sycamores are 4th in the nation in field goal percentage, 5th in three point percentage, and 16th in free throw percentage. They're the only team in the country that ranks in the top 16 in all three of those categories. Put all that together, and the Sycamores have the 7th-best offensive rating in college basketball. The only teams ahead of them are usual suspects like Alabama, Connecticut, Baylor, BYU, and Purdue, plus High Point, the leader in the Big South and the owner of the longest current winning streak in the country.

Conversely,  Saint Mary's is one of the best defensive teams in the country, with only Houston (83.8) and Iowa State (89.4) boasting better defensive ratings than the Gaels (90.9). On the other end of the floor, Saint Mary's has a balanced and efficient scoring attack. Even though the Gaels are 231st in the country in points per game, their offensive rating (112.6) is 59th-best. Not a surprise considering how experienced their roster is — there's not one single freshman who cracks the Gaels rotation. Over the weekend, Saint Mary's defeated Gonzaga in Spokane for only the fifth time in the last thirty years. To me, that indicates the tides may be turning, and the Gaels (along with the Sycamores) are a team to take note of before filling out brackets in mid-March.

Bracketology Bracket


NCAA Tournament Bracketology Bracket

Bracketology Breakdown

Top Seeds: Purdue Boilermakers (Midwest Region), Connecticut Huskies (East Region), North Carolina Tar Heels (South Region), Houston Cougars (West Region)

Multi-Bid Leagues: AAC (2), ACC (4), Big 12 (9), Big East (6), Big Ten (6), Mountain West (5), Pac-12 (3), SEC (9)

Bracketology Bubble Watch 

Last Four Byes: Boise State, Seton Hall, Nebraska, Florida

Last Four In: Virginia, Memphis, Colorado, Providence

First Four Out: Cincinnati, Washington State, Butler, Villanova

Next Four Out: Gonzaga, Oregon, Nevada, Wake Forest

Five Most Intriguing Games of the Week 

Ole Miss at South Carolina – Tue. Feb. 6, 6:30 PM ET, SEC Network

Iowa State at Texas – Tue. Feb. 6, 8:00 PM ET, Longhorn Network

Arizona at Utah – Thu. Feb. 8, 8:00 PM ET, Pac-12 Network

Illinois at Michigan State – Sat. Feb. 10, 2:00 PM ET, CBS

Baylor at Kansas – Sat. Feb. 10, 6:00 PM ET, ESPN

And One! 

Up top in my opening section, I mentioned the High Point Panthers, the top team in the Big South, as one of the best offensive teams in the country. Props to first-year head coach Alan Huss, who overhauled the Panthers roster, bringing in four double-digit scorers (Duke Miles, Kezza Giffa, and Kimani Hamilton) through the transfer portal, as well as Cameroonian 7-foot freshman Juslin Bodo Bodo, who in just 22 minutes per game leads the Big South in rebounds and is 2nd in blocks. The Panthers are 20-4 and on a 12-game winning streak, but their toughest in-conference test of the season comes on Wednesday night as they go on the road to play the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs, the defending Big South champions. High Point got the better of Asheville back on January 10th, coming away with an 84-79 win in a game in which Duke Miles and Asheville's Drew Pember — the two leading scorers in the Big South — scored 28 and 36 points respectively.

High Point has certainly been tested during their 12-game winning streak, including four wins that were decided by five or fewer points. But even with a few close calls in there, I think High Point could go into the NCAA Tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country. So here is my prediction, and admittedly, there are conditions placed on it: If High Point defeats UNC-Asheville on Wednesday night, I think the Panthers will run the table the rest of the way until the NCAA Tournament, meaning they'll be taking a 22-game winning streak into March Madness.

Past And One! Predictions

11/6/23 – Maryland will win the Asheville Championship early season tournament (INCORRECT)

11/13/23 – 50 Point Scorer during the week (INCORRECT)

11/20/23 – I will eat entirely too much food on Thanksgiving (CORRECT)

11/27/23 – SEC will win the ACC/SEC Challenge (TIE)

12/11/23 – Connecticut to beat Gonzaga by 10+ points (CORRECT)

12/18/23 – Oklahoma to defeat North Carolina and FAU to defeat Arizona (INCORRECT)

12/26/23 – Mid-Major Conference Leader pulls upset over Power 5 Opponent (CORRECT)

1/1/24 – James Madison will be the final undefeated team in the country (INCORRECT)

1/8/24 – Washington Huskies to defeat the Michigan Wolverines for the National Championship (INCORRECT)

1/15/24 – Conference Championship Gauntlet — Duke, Connecticut, Purdue, Kansas, Arizona, Auburn to win their conference tournaments (TBD)

1/22/24 – UAB to defeat Memphis (CORRECT)

1/29/24 – Duke at North Carolina decided by 5 or fewer points (INCORRECT)

OVERALL RECORD: 4-6-1 (with the 1/15/24 prediction To Be Determined in March)