Here at Bracketville, you’ll find insights and updates, in-season information, power rankings, and forward-thinking predictions for the NCAA Tournament. We’ve had four great seasons online and look forward to another adventure in 2013-2014. We’ve also partnered with NBCSports.com again to provide bracket projections.
2014 SEASON UPDATES ..
BRACKET PROJECTION | Preseason update: Thursday, November 7
POWER 24 | Updated Monday, December 2
S-CURVE | Updated: Monday, December 2
On that note, here are five undefeated teams – as of Saturday morning, December 7 – whose unbeaten records are suspect. We could very well see all of them in the 2014 NCAA Tournament bracket - a couple could even be Top 5 seeds – but through the first month of the season, we haven’t learned much despite the group compiling a 40-0 record.
UCLA (8-0) – The Bruins leave home for the first time today (at Missouri, see Weekend Preview). It will be their only true road game before Pac-12 play begins; and the Bruins don’t play a conference road game until January 16 (at Colorado). Their only other non-conference NCAA-level game (right now) appears to be a matchup with Duke (Dec. 19). UCLA’s best win to date is probably Drexel at home. The Bruins’ overall non-conference schedule is okay (Northwestern, Santa Barbara, Alabama), but it would be nice to leave So Cal once in a while.
Pittsburgh (9-0) – The Panthers don’t leave home until January 4 (@NC State). Which means Pitt will have completed its non-conference schedule without playing a true road game. Prior to that, the Panthers will have played Stanford, Duquesne, and Cincinnati on neutral courts. And the Panthers’ win over Stanford is probably their best to date; although Penn State fans might argue differently. Either way, Pittsburgh might be a Top 4 seed, but that will have to be earned in the ACC – unless Stanford, Penn State, or Cincinnati shines in the coming weeks. Read more…
Massachusetts is unbeaten heading into its matchup with BYU this weekend. Of their seven wins, the Minutemen have five victories away from home – four on neutral courts and a roadie at Eastern Michigan. Can UMass keep it going? Chaz Williams and Cady Lalanne have been superb and lead five Minutemen averaging double figures in the scorebook. It’s certainly been a team effort. Much like UMass, BYU has put together a solid start to the 2013-14 season. The Cougars’ only losses are to Iowa State (two points) and Wichita State. BYU also ranks among the top teams in the nation in points per game, assists per game, and rebounding. Together, Guards Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino average 40 points a contest. Should be a fun one to follow.
Here are some of the weekend’s other Inside the Bracket matchups:
UCLA at Missouri – The visiting Bruins are unbeaten although largely untested, save a tight home opener with Drexel. This is the only true road game on UCLA’s non-conference schedule; that alone adds some intrigue and importance. The Bruins don’t play another road game until a January 16 trip to Colorado. Missouri hasn’t left home either, and doesn’t play a neutral-court game until the Tigers’ annual battle with Illinois in St. Louis. The Tigers best win probably came Thursday night against West Virginia.
Clemson at Arkansas – Both squads are part of a large group of bubble teams that will dwindle and change as the season progresses. While losing twice in Maui, the Razorbacks played well enough to beat Minnesota and battle both Gonzaga and California down to the wire. They also have an underrated home win over SMU. In the revamped ACC, Clemson has some tough sledding ahead. The Tigers gave Massachusetts all it wanted in Puerto Rico in their only loss. This is Clemson’s first road test; a victory would certainly add a nugget to the Tigers’ resume.
Marquette at Wisconsin – It’s been somewhat of a rough start for the Golden Eagles who were manhandled by Ohio State at home and taken to task by San Diego State at the Wooden Legacy. With three losses, Marquette would love to put a high-end road victory on its resume. Albeit an ugly game at Virginia, the Badgers remain unbeaten and have been as consistent as any team in the country through the first month. A win at the Kohl Center would put Wisconsin in prime position to complete its non-conference season without a setback. Read more…
Teams: Miami-Fla, George Washington, Marquette, Fullerton, Charleston, San Diego State, Creighton, Arizona State
Favorites: Marquette / Creighton - Finding a favorite in the new-look Big East is a tough task. Marquette and Creighton are two of the teams considered for that position. In a field without an otherwise clear-cut favorite, we’ll give the Golden Eagles and Bluejays top billing. Creighton finished off its first two weeks with a victory over Tulsa, but the Bluejays best win is the roadie at St. Joseph’s. Offensively, Creighton is a fine-tuned machine, ranking among the best in the nation in scoring, assists, and field goal percentage. Marquette is like a reverse reflection of the Jays. Thus far, the Golden Eagles rank near the bottom of Division 1 in field goal percentage and scoring. They make up for it with tenacious defense and rebounding.
Contender: Arizona State - It’s interesting that ASU hosted Marquette on November 25 (a two-point ASU victory). They could meet again as the Sun Devils and Golden Eagles are on opposite sides of the bracket. In the opening two weeks, ASU has proven to be a balanced team in several offensive categories; they rank high nationally in points, rebounds, and assists. Jahii Carson can carry the Sun Devils; he’s averaging 23 points a game and is hitting over 50-percent of his three-point attempts. Read more…
Teams: Kansas, Wake Forest, Villanova, USC, Tennessee, UTEP, Xavier, Iowa
Favorite: Kansas - The Jayhawks earned a No. 1 seed in our preseason bracket projection and have already beaten Duke on a neutral court. Even in a deep and talented field, Andrew Wiggins and company will be favored in any game they play in the Bahamas. Plus, the bracket sets up nicely for the Jayhawks. Following the opener with Wake Forest, KU will face either Villanova or USC in the semifinals. If the Jayhawks play well, expect to see them in the title game.
Contenders: Iowa / Tennessee - This is the year that Iowa is supposed to finish in the top of half of the Big Ten conference and return to the NCAA tournament. Between now and mid-March we’ll see if those predictions hold true. Iowa arrives in the Bahamas averaging over 90 points a game, led by Roy Devin-Marble (14 ppg) and Aaron White (13 ppg / 7.6 rpg). The Hawkeyes are also among the nation’s best in rebounding and assists. Much like Iowa, this is the year Tennessee is supposed to break through and participate in March Madness. They opened the season ranked in our Power 24. Since then, the Volunteers have fallen four points short in a road loss at Xavier and won three at home against lesser competition. Jordan McRae (21 ppg) and Jarnell Stokes have been the most consistent offensive threats. Can the Volunteers play like a Top 25 team when it matters? We’ll find out. Read more…
Teams: Purdue, Oklahoma State, Butler, Washington State, Memphis Siena, LSU, St. Joseph’s
Favorite: Oklahoma State - Through five games, Marcus Smart and the high-powered Cowboys are averaging over 100 points a game. That includes a dominant 101-80 victory over Memphis. Smart and Markel Brown combine to average 36 points a game. OSU has the firepower to make a deep run next March. If the Cowboys continue to play defense and rebound, they’ll be tough to beat in Orlando.
Contenders: Memphis - The Tigers have to be disappointed by the drubbing Oklahoma State put on them in Stillwater. How will they respond? Memphis is arguably the second most talented team in the field. Shaq Goodwin must continue to progress. Nick King leads the Tigers in scoring through three games; he’s also second on the team in rebounding. Overall, the Tigers share the scoring load with nine players averaging at least five points. As the season is young, there are some questions about how this year’s group will mesh. Read more…
Teams: Arkansas, California, Minnesota. Syracuse, Chaminade, Baylor, Dayton, Gonzaga
Favorites: Syracuse / Gonzaga - The Orange haven’t been overwhelming, but there’s plenty of talent in place for Jim Boeheim. Syracuse is led by returning starter C.J. Fair and his 18 points a game. Freshman guard Tyler Ennis is still adjusting to the college game, but has shown flashes of high-end talent. Playing against their long 2-3 zone isn’t easy, and the Orange are adept at turning turnovers into points . Gonzaga has scored 90 or more points in three of four games to open the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, Jr. are playing at a high level. New starter Sam Dower provides size inside. Even with the departures of Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris, the Bulldogs are set to contend for another West Coast Conference crown. Gonzaga has depth and scoring punch at the guard positions. Mark Few can put as many as five shooters on the court at once.
Contender: Baylor - Baylor is one of those teams that looks great in spurts and so-so in others. Consistent effort and execution have sometimes eluded the Bears. Cory Jefferson (13 ppg) provides both offense and rebounding (9.8 rpg). With four players averaging double figures, the Bears have been balanced offensively in the early going. Brady Heslip is a threat from the 3-point line and Isaiah Austin is averaging almost five blocks a contest. Assuming “good” Baylor shows up against Chaminade, a potential date with Gonzaga awaits in Round 2. Read more…
Favorite: New Mexico - Former head coach Steve Alford bolted for UCLA, but the Lobos return several starters from a team that earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament last spring. Although untested to this point, UNM is averaging 98 ppg in two contests. The good news: New Mexico’s strongest challenge will probably come from Massachusetts in the semifinals. The bad news: This year’s field doesn’t appear to offer the Lobos many additional chances for high-end victories.
Contender: Massachusetts – The Minutemen have been close to an NCAA bid in recent years and hope to break through in 2014. With early victories over Boston College and LSU, UMass has positioned itself for a successful non-conference slate. Chaz Williams has been superb, averaging 21 ppg in three contests. Cady Lalanne is averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds in that same span. If the Minuteman can get past Nebraska in the opener, they will likely get a shot at New Mexico in the semifinals. Win that one and it could be a November to remember in Amherst. Read more…