With its victory over Kentucky – and Arizona’s loss at Oregon - the Florida Gators are in the driver’s seat for the overall No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. Regardless, the Gators will be the top seed in the South Region with opening round games in nearby Orlando. The remaining No. 1 seeds as we begin Championship Week: Arizona (West), Wichita State (Midwest) and Villanova (East).
At this point, the first three No. 1 seeds appear to be locked-in. Which leaves us one spot for three or four teams. At least that’s how it appears today. The contenders include Villanova (as noted above), Kansas, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Virginia is still in the hunt, but its journey became much tougher after Sunday’s loss at Maryland. Achieving a No. 1 seed with eight losses would be something new, but few teams in history have played Kansas’ schedule. If Michigan wins the Big Ten tournament, the Wolverines would have a legitimate argument. They possess a higher number of NCAA-level wins than Villanova – due to the strength of the Big Ten as compared to the Big East. Wisconsin’s non-conference performance – with victories over Florida and Virginia – would help the Badgers’ case if they find the winner’s circle in Indianapolis next Sunday.
We’ll be updating the bracket every day this week as automatic qualifiers arrive and conference tournaments continue. Teams that have clinched automatic berths are listed in ALL CAPS – with the exception of teams like BYU and UCLA.
The bubble remains a work in progress. Nebraska grabbed a spot after beating Wisconsin on Sunday. Xavier, Tennessee, and BYU join the Huskers at the First Four in Dayton. It’s a big week for those teams and several others who are just above the last four at-larges. We’ll have to see how it plays out.
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Pac-12 teams in the Bay Area. California has lost three straight and four of five. Stanford has also dropped three straight. Both schools are coming off home losses (Utah and Colorado), and both need a course correction to avoid problems on Selection Sunday.
Stanford’s win at Connecticut is worth mentioning first, and perhaps puts the Cardinal a tiny bit ahead of Cal at this juncture. As for the rest of its resume? Stanford is 6-10 vs. Top 100 RPI teams and has a losing record (9-11) against the Top 150. When you factor in the three-game skid – which included missed opportunities against Arizona and Arizona State – there’s reason for concern. Other than the win at UConn, Stanford’s best non-conference victory is either Northwestern or Denver.
California has its home win over Arizona. Impressive as that is, the Bears are 6-11 vs. the RPI Top 100 and two of those wins are against Washington (No. 95 as of this morning – March 8). Outside the league, they beat Arkansas in Maui and also beat Denver. Having played a couple more Top 150 games, Cal is 11-11 by comparison. During its three-game slide, Cal also missed opportunities against Arizona and Arizona State.
Safe to say, both the Bears and Cardinal have work to do at the Pac-12 tournament. Read more…
The two teams leading our March Madness Gala … Florida and Arizona. The Gators and Wildcats both have the opportunity to enter the NCAA Tournament dance as the overall No. 1 seed. Should both win their remaining games – including conference tournament titles – the edge will likely to go Arizona. Not that it’s that critical this year because the two teams are geographically separated. Florida will lead the South Region; Arizona the West. A year ago, when Louisville and Indiana were battling for the top spot in the Midwest, and a route through Indianapolis, that top position meant more.
Wichita State begins Missouri Valley Tournament play today in St. Louis. The Shockers ended the regular season without a blemish. If they win three more under the Arch, expect WSU to be a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday. Kansas continues to hold the final No. 1 slot. Four other teams are chasing the top line: Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia, and Villanova. Recent struggles make it difficult for Syracuse to regain a No. 1 seed. Read more…
As the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Tournament opens in St. Louis, unbeaten Wichita State is a heavy favorite to win both the MVC tourney title and capture a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Here’s what else we believe: the Shockers are the only Valley team in position to earn an at-large berth. Which means if someone other than WSU wins the title game on Sunday, one less at-large bid will be available on Selection Sunday.
The most obvious challenger is Indiana State. Before losing ground in league play, the Sycamores put together wins over Notre Dame and Belmont. Belmont has been solid. Notre Dame has struggled. But at the time, the Irish were an NCAA-caliber squad. Just below the Sycamores sits Northern Iowa. The Panthers beat VCU in December. There’s also No. 4-seed Missouri State, which managed victories over Tulsa and Texas AM in non-conference play.
Last year, No. 1 seed Creighton pushed through to claim the league’s automatic bid. The two years prior? Creighton (No. 2 seed) and Indiana State (No. 3 seed) garnered the invitation. By this time you know that Creighton has moved to the Big East, so there’s one less nemesis in Wichita State’s path. But this is March and nothing is guaranteed. Friday, the Shockers take on the winner of Thursday’s game between Drake and Evansville.
Bubble teams everywhere hope there’s nothing shocking under the Arch.
A month ago, Pittsburgh was a no-doubt NCAA Tournament team. The Panthers had battled Cincinnati, Syracuse, and Virginia to the final seconds in close losses. Their efficiency numbers suggested a team that could win in March. All they needed was a couple of notable victories to validate their position. The problem: those victories have yet to materialize.
Bubble Banter – Update
Instead, less than two weeks before Selection Sunday, we find a Pittsburgh resume with only one victory against a projected NCAA team: Stanford (in November). Since then, the Panthers have managed four Top 100 RPI wins: Maryland (twice), Clemson, and NC State. And Monday night, the Wolfpack returned the favor by beating Pitt on its home floor. So where does this leave the Panthers? As a team with some work to do between now and March 16. The one thing helping Pitt beyond those close losses is the absence of any bad losses (to sub-100 RPI teams). Will that hold up if the Panthers take an early exit from the ACC Tournament? Read more…