Behind the Bracket — What an 80-team NCAA tournament would look like

Just in case the 48- and 16-team versions aren’t enough to satisfy the craving for pandemic alternatives to the traditional 68-team NCAA tournament field, we present the next monthly update of a potential 80-team bracket.

Here’s a refresher on the basics:

  • All conference champions — regular-season and tournament — qualify for the expanded field.
  • Instead of the current “First Four” games, there would be 16 opening-round contests spread across the four regions. These games would be played on the home court of the higher seed (without fans).
  • Teams winning both regular-season and conference tournament championships — double qualifiers, if you will — receive an opening-round bye. They become part of a 48-team group advancing directly to the central tournament site.
  • The number of at-large teams, set for 37 this year because of the Ivy League opting out, will fluctuate between 32 and 48 depending on the number of “double qualifiers” (the typical number of teams in this category is 12 to 16).
  • Reduced travel will be a consideration in the opening-round pairings when it can be done without unduly impacting competitive balance.
  • Existing principles for avoiding intra-conference pairings remain in place.

These pairings are updated through games of Jan. 25 (currently projected “double” qualifiers are listed in ALL CAPS, with a bye):

WOODEN REGION

(1) GONZAGA vs. (20) NORTH CAROLINA A&T
(8) Oregon/(14) Syracuse vs. (9) UConn/(13) Loyola Chicago
(5) Florida State vs. (16) WINTHROP
(4) West Virginia vs. (17) WOFFORD

(6) USC vs. (11) Arkansas/(12) Maryland
(3) VIRGINIA vs. (18) NORTHEASTERN
(7) Florida/(15) Georgia Tech vs. (10) San Diego State/(12) Stanford
(2) Iowa vs. (19) TEXAS STATE

MARAVICH REGION

(1) Baylor vs. (20) PRAIRIE VIEW A&M
(8) Clemson/(15) Penn State vs. (9) BYU/(14) Providence
(5) UCLA vs. (16) BELMONT
(4) Tennessee vs. (17) LIBERTY

(6) Purdue vs. (11) ST. BONAVENTURE
(3) Wisconsin vs. (18) GRAND CANYON
(7) Louisville vs. (10) Indiana/(13) Richmond
(2) ALABAMA vs. (19) SAM HOUSTON STATE

PHOG ALLEN REGION

(1) MICHIGAN vs. (20) SOUTH DAKOTA
(8) Virginia Tech/(14) VCU vs. (9) Xavier/(13) SMU
(5) Texas Tech vs. (16) UAB
(4) Illinois vs. (17) UC IRVINE

(6) Colorado vs. (11) Rutgers/(12) Seton Hall
(3) Missouri vs. (18) BRYANT
(7) Saint Louis/(15) Marquette vs. (10) DRAKE
(2) Texas vs. (19) CLEVELAND STATE

NAISMITH REGION

(1) VILLANOVA vs. (20) MONTANA STATE
(8) Oklahoma State/(14) Pittsburgh vs. (9) BOISE STATE
(5) Creighton vs. (16) TOLEDO
(4) Kansas vs. (17) SIENA

(6) Minnesota vs. (11) North Carolina/(12) Michigan State
(3) Ohio State vs. (18) NAVY
(7) Oklahoma/(15) Colorado State vs. (10) LSU/(13) Utah State
(2) HOUSTON vs. (19) UMBC

LAST FOUR BYES

Minnesota
USC
Purdue
Louisville

LAST FOUR IN

VCU
Georgia Tech
Marquette
Colorado State

FIRST FOUR OUT

Duke
Wichita State
Western Kentucky
Saint Mary’s

NEXT FOUR OUT

Memphis
NC State
Kentucky
Tulsa

MULTI-BID CONFERENCES

Big Ten (12)
ACC (9)
Big East (7)
Big 12 (7)
SEC (6)
Pac-12 (5)
Atlantic 10 (4)
Mountain West (4)
American (2)
Missouri Valley (2)
West Coast (2)