Kentucky and Syracuse remain No. 1 and No. 2 on the s-curve in this week’s bracket. That scenario may not change when the actual Field of 68 is announced on Selection Sunday. Wildcat fans can start making plans to watch their team in nearby Louisville during Rounds 2 and 3 of March Madness. It would take a mighty February fall for UK to leave the Commonwealth. Syracuse is most likely headed to Pittsburgh as the top seed in the East Region.
Ohio State remains entrenched as the No. 1 seed in the Midwest. Which leads us West, where the race includes five teams: Baylor, Kansas, Duke, Missouri, and North Carolina. Those are the teams ranked 4 to 8 on the s-curve today. Baylor gains the edge with its seven (7) Top 50 RPI wins and 8-1 record away from home (road + neutral). By comparison, Kansas has six (6) Top 50 wins and Missouri four (4). Kansas is 6-3 away from home and Missouri is 7-2. Duke has five (5) Top 50 wins and is 8-2 away from home. Baylor has lost only to Kansas (road) and Missouri (home). If you prefer a different order, that’s fine.
Schedule of key games this week
Could we have a surprise No. 1 seed? It would take a team like Vanderbilt, Florida, or Michigan State winning a regular-season and/or conference tournament title. The Mountain West and Missouri Valley are strong leagues, but neither UNLV or Creighton is in position to reach the top line. There simply aren’t enough power victories on their schedules.
How many bids for the Big 10? With the No. 1. RPI rating and no teams ranked below 150, the Big Ten could easily garner bids from teams that finish 9-9 in conference play. Even an 8-10 finish wouldn’t eliminate a team – depending on the eight wins. If in doubt, look at the resumes of the current bubble teams. Because of the Big Ten’s overall strength, quality wins are more available. Think back to the 11 bids captured by Big East teams in 2011. The scenario is similar. That doesn’t mean Big Ten teams will dominate the tournament, but the odds of seven to nine teams making the final bracket is pretty good.
Cincinnati is this week’s ultimate test case (again). Riding a three-game losing streak, the Bearcats have fallen to No. 101 in the RPI (at collegerpi.com). That would be a very dangerous place to be on Selection Sunday. Looking past the RPI number, we find UC with a 2-3 record against Top 50 teams (good wins at Georgetown and Connecticut). They are 6-4 vs. the Top 100 and have a 5-3 mark in true road games. UC has losses to teams ranked 135, 148, and 229 in the current RPI. Then there’s the albatross of a non-conference SOS ranked No. 330. Now, let’s look at Colorado’s numbers from 2011 … four Top 25 RPI wins (beat K-State three times), five Top 50 wins and losses to RPI teams ranked 120, 126, and 138. The Buffaloes also had a non-conference SOS over 300. The Selection Committee chose not to invite Colorado with those numbers – despite its quality wins. The Bearcats are one of the final teams IN today. But the odds won’t be in UC’s favor if the current trend continues.
Enjoy another week of hoops. After Super Bowl Sunday, we being updating the bracket twice a week. Bubble Banter returns soon.
Fresh off a win at Baylor, the Missouri Tigers grab the final No. 1 seed this week and head West. Kansas is this close behind as current leader of the Big 12. As we wrote Sunday in an Inside the Bracket column, the current landscape for No. 1 seed options includes the aforementioned Tigers and Jayhawks, plus Baylor and Duke. This week, it was a choice between Mizzou and KU. Arguments could be made either way, and there’s no right or wrong answer. Mizzou and KU still face each other twice, so it will be settled on the court – exactly how it should be. Don’t assume Baylor is out of the picture either. The Bears have re-matches with both the Jayhawks and Tigers. There’s also the Big 12 tournament.
With Duke’s loss to Florida State, the Blue Devils sit at No. 7 on the S-curve, sandwiched between Baylor (No. 6) and North Carolina (No. 8). Those are your two seeds – along with Kansas – for the January 23 bracket.
Schedule of key games to watch this week
The bracket remains fairly fluid in the middle, which isn’t uncommon. We had some interesting results the past eight days, and that trend is likely to continue. Conference play often provides an ebb and flow. Same with those teams hovering aroud the cutline. Bubble Banter will return in early February, and that figures to be quite an adventure. This week’s Last 5 IN – St. Louis, NC State, Marshall, Iowa State, and Oregon. The First 5 OUT – Stanford, Northwestern, BYU, Mississippi, Arkansas.
Not a lot of projected changes at the bottom of the bracket. Nevada moves in as the representative from the WAC. The Wolfpack would be a fringe at-large candidate and could stay there if they win the league in dominant fashion. Time will tell. Enjoy another great week of hoops, and thanks for your interest.
When a new bracket appears on Monday, Kentucky, Syracuse, and Ohio State will remain as No. 1 seeds. Yes, Syracuse lost at Notre Dame on Saturday, but the Orange were not headed to the NCAAs with a perfect record. That’s unrealistic when you play in a Top 10 RPI conference. It’s more likely that Syracuse will have two or three losses by Selection Sunday. If that’s the case, SU could/should be a No. 1 seed. The question: Which teams are currently in the hunt for the final No. 1 seed? Data comes from collegerpi.com.
The best candidates right now are Duke and three teams from the Big 12: Missouri, Kansas, and Baylor. Some people will point at Duke’s home loss to Florida State and discard the Blue Devils. Just keep in mind that Duke is 4-2 vs. Top 25 RPI teams – including non-conference wins over Michigan State and Kansas. The Blue Devils have also beaten Michigan, Virginia, and Davidson - a team that won at Kansas - and boast the nation’s No. 1 strength-of-schedule. Duke may or may not be one of the best four teams, but the Blue Devils’ overall resume is still pretty strong. We’ve seen it before: if Duke wins both an ACC league and/or ACC tournament title, the Blue Devils could again be a top seed.
Missouri boasts an impressive 18-1 record and is coming off a strong road victory at Baylor. By comparison, the Tigers’ are 2-0 against Top 25 (RPI) teams and 3-1 vs. the Top 50. Missouri’s best additional wins: Illinois, California, Iowa State, and Texas. Of those, only Illinois is a confident NCAA pick at this juncture. As a footnote: Missouri’s non-conference SOS ranks No. 260 – Duke’s non-conference SOS is No. 3
Kansas leads the Big 12 and dominated Baylor in Lawrence. KU still plays Missouri twice, so that will be a huge factor in the final analysis. The Jayhawks are 5-3 vs. Top 50 teams and 8-3 vs. the Top 100. That ties them with Duke (and a few others) for the most Top 100 wins, and is only behind Syracuse (10 Top 100 wins). KU’s losses are on neutral courts to Duke and Kentucky, plus a home loss to Davidson. The Jayhawks have wins over Baylor, Ohio State (no Jared Sullinger), Georgetown, and Kansas State. Those are four tournament level teams.
Baylor had a tough schedule this past week, visiting Kansas and hosting Missouri. A split (road/home) would have been expected. Instead, Baylor lost both and is now two-games back of Kansas. Overall, Baylor is 7-1 away from home and 4-1 in true road games. Those are strong numbers. Road wins include Kansas State, Northwestern (by 27), and BYU. There are questions about Baylor’s ability to win physical games, but the Bears’ resume to date remains impressive. Their only losses are to teams mentioned here as potential No. 1 seeds. Read more…
It really wasn’t that difficult determining the No. 1 seeds this week. It came down to Ohio State and Duke after North Carolina absorbed a 33-point loss at Florida State. While individual head-to-head results aren’t a huge factor in final selection or seeding, the Buckeyes soundly beat Duke in Columbus during the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. It’s enough of an edge to move forward realizing we still have two months of basketball before Selection Sunday. Duke is close behind the Buckeyes, though, with a strong number of Top 100 RPI wins. Your No. 1 seeds this week: Syracuse (East), Kentucky (South), Baylor (West) and Ohio State (Midwest). The South Region is a more natural base for UK and the mileage difference between Atlanta and St. Louis is minimal, so that’s why we have the Wildcats placed in Georgia. It also makes more sense to slot Baylor toward Phoenix than St. Louis or Atlanta. It’ll be interesting to see how the Selection Committee views those decisions.
January 16 Bracket Projection – through games Sunday, January 15
Schedule of key games this week.
The toughest part of this bracket (as usual) was determining the last few teams in. Take, for example, Cincinnati. Since a troublesome opening month and a brawl with Xavier, the Bearcats have played basketball worthy of NCAA consideration. But we can’t just forget November and December, and neither will Selection Committee members in March. Cincinnati played a non-conference strength-of-schedule ranked No. 323, and has one victory over a team that today would be in the NCAA tournament (at Georgetown). Positives include a 4-1 record in true road games and a 4-1 mark in the Big East standings through Sunday’s games. According to CollegeRPI.com, UC began the day with an RPI of 107. A team with that overall profile would not be an at-large team in March. What the past three weeks have done is move Cincinnati into consideration, which is a long way from where the Bearcats were in late December. As for the remaining teams along the cutline, all have flaws. We focused on quality wins, schedule strength, and wins over teams in the projected field as determining factors.
It’s still a bit early to be overly concerned with league standings. Conference pecking order will be more important once we hit the midway point in late January or early February. Look no further than Kansas State: the Wildcats opened Big 12 play with Kansas, Missouri, Baylor and Oklahoma. K-State lost to Kansas and Baylor, and beat Missouri. And the Baylor game was a close one in Manhattan. So a 1-3 mark (despite a somewhat surprising loss at Oklahoma) isn’t nearly as bad as it might look. The Wildcats play Texas, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech in their next three. Let’s reserve judgement on K-State’s league standing until the schedule evens. That goes for a lot of teams.
Enjoy another great week of hoops. And thanks for your interest at Bracketville.
The Pac-12 currently ranks 9th in Conference RPI at CollegeRPI.com (through January 12 games). That’s behind the Mountain West (6), Atlantic 10 (7), and Missouri Valley (8). Curious enough, as a conference, Pac-12 teams have records of 3-11 vs. the Mountain West, 3-2 vs. the Atlantic 10, and 0-1 vs. the MVC. Against BCS leagues, the Pac-12 is 10-19. The best of those efforts is a 3-3 mark against the ACC (4th in Conference RPI).
For all those numbers, the more important reality remains individual team performances. Stanford, California, and Arizona are the best at-large hopefuls right now. Of those three, Stanford has the top at-large profile with non-conference wins over Colorado State, Oklahoma State, and NC State. How confident should the Cardinal be about those wins pushing them into the NCAA field? Hard to say. Colorado State and NC State are potential at-large contenders, but we can’t say those are definite NCAA level wins. Meanwhile, Stanford’s non-conference strength-of-schedule ranks No. 267.
California’s best win is at home to Denver, one of the two best teams in the Sun Belt. The Bears have lost to the other potential non-conference NCAA teams on its schedule: Missouri (neutral), at San Diego State, and at UNLV. Only the SDSU game was close.
Arizona has non-league wins over St. John’s and at WAC leader New Mexico State. The Wildcats finished 0-4 vs. other NCAA-level teams on their non-conference schedule (Mississippi State, San Diego State, Florida, Gonzaga).
For those wondering about Washington, Oregon, and UCLA … Washington’s best non-conference win is UC-Santa Barbara; Oregon’s is at Nebraska, and UCLA’s is Richmond. Could Pac-12 teams win games in the NCAA Tournament? Sure. But it looks unlikely that more than 2 or 3 teams will make it. And those teams need to separate and put together strong conference records. Either that, or win the Pac-12 tournament.