After chasing the top line for a month or so, Wichita State holds the final No. 1 seed (Midwest) in today’s bracket. And West Virginia has the distinction of being today’s final team IN the Field of 68. Whether either team holds onto its current status remains to be seen. Several heavyweights are vying for top seeds – including Kansas and Michigan State. Should Wichita State reach Selection Sunday with an unbeaten record, it’ll be interesting to see how the Selection Committee handles the Shockers. Especially if Kansas and Michigan State, for example, were to win Big 12 and Big Ten titles. We also can’t forget about the potential for strong finishes from Villanova and Michigan, or even Duke – if the Blue Devils were to win the ACC.
The bubble continues to be a mosh pit. It changes daily. West Virginia and St. John’s are two teams who have steadily climbed the seed list during the past couple of weeks. They are right next to each other on the s-curve if you remove the lower-seeded automatic qualifiers. St. John’s happens to be today’s first team OUT. Come Monday, things could well be different. It’s been that kind of season around the cutline. Even with all of their recent troubles, Oregon and Baylor remain capable of grabbing bids (again) in the next couple of weeks. And who knows about the SEC beyond Florida and Kentucky.
Enjoy a great weekend of college hoops.
If you need any other evidence, check out the teams listed around the bubble in today’s bracket. They’re moving around faster than the Seahawks’ defense at MetLife Stadium. We have some very interesting resumes. Like recent weather forecasts, they change quickly, and often.
After 12 straight wins – and a loss by an injured Michigan State squad – the Florida Gators move to the top line. Wichita State is another team pushing for region supremacy. The aforementioned Spartans, along with Villanova and San Diego State round out the two-seed line today. Following its thrilling overtime victory over Duke on Saturday, and Arizona’s loss at California, the Orange now sit atop the bracket as the No. 1 overall seed. Arizona and Kansas remain as the other projected No. 1 seeds based on games played through Sunday, February 2. Yes, the Jayhawks lost at Texas, but their resume is filled with 12 Top 100 wins, a No. 1 strength of schedule, and the top spot in the RPI. Kansas also leads arguably one of the best two conferences (Big 12) in the nation.
Memphis absorbed the biggest seeding drop. It’s not so much the loss at SMU as much as the behind-the-scenes resume numbers. The Tigers are a concerning 2-5 against the RPI Top 50 and they have just three Top 100 RPI victories. Fortunately, opportunities for seed-building wins remain: Gonzaga, Connecticut, Louisville, Cincinnati, and SMU are still on the schedule.
As you look through the bracket, you may notice a few things that seem askew. Remember, several new bracketing principles were put into play this year to help keep more teams on their true seed line. Most notably, teams from the same conference can meet before regional finals – if they play each other less than three times (including conference tournaments) during the season. Several such situations developed when creating the bracket today. We may see these scenarios; we may not.
Enjoy a fun week of hoops. We’re on the final push toward Selection Sunday.
The countdown to March Madness has officially arrived. We begin the trek toward Selection Sunday with Arizona and Syracuse as the top two seeds in the Field of 68. Joining the Wildcats and Orange on the top line … two teams from the Big Ten: Wisconsin and Michigan State. Villanova and Ohio State are close behind.
If you’re new to bracket watching or are returning for the new year, a couple of quick housekeeping notes:
- The NCAA Selection Committee implemented new bracketing procedures designed to keep more teams on their true seed line (from the seed list or s-curve). If you want all the details, visit http://www.ncaa.com. Today’s (January 6) bracket is a fitting example. In the South Region, Saint Louis is the No. 8 seed – which puts the Billikens in the same half of the bracket as Massachusetts, the No. 5 seed. Both reside in the Atlantic 10 conference. In previous years, Saint Louis would have had been bumped a seed line higher or lower – or moved out of its geographic region – to avoid two teams from the same conference (unless more than eight were selected) meeting before a Regional Final. That bump would have affected more than Saint Louis, perhaps dropping another team from a seven seed to an eight. The new configuration is allowable in part because SLU and UMass are scheduled to meet only once during the A10 regular season. Without going into detail, you’ll also notice Florida and Tennessee engaged in a similar scenario. If those two happened to meet in the SEC tourney (which would be their third meeting), the set-up in this bracket would not be possible. But since we don’t know whether that will occur, it’s accurate for today.
- Teams are selected and seeded based on their overall body of work (now and moving forward). Just because Team A beat Team B doesn’t necessarily mean Team A’s overall body of work – such as quality wins, strength of schedule, etc – is superior to Team B’s. Teams lose games. If overall accomplishments weren’t considered, we would rank Belmont ahead of North Carolina and Northern Colorado ahead of Kansas State. But that would not be an accurate way to assess either team’s overall performance.
- It’s too early to be overly concerned about the bubble or cutline. Conference play us just beginning. Try not to overreact to a team being one of the last few in or first few out. We have a long way to go. Some teams currently in the bracket will miss the tournament and others will climb into the bracket come March.
- Teams earn bids, not conferences. Although it’s unlikely the Big 12 will earn seven bids on Selection Sunday, it worked out that way through games played on January 5. Next week, it could be different.
College hoops is entering its annual March to Madness. Enjoy the journey to Selection Sunday.
Let’s take a look:
- Most importantly, the Badgers only play Michigan State and Ohio State once – and both games are at the Kohl Center, where UW is 8-0 this year and 225-30 since the facility opened (according to the uwbadgers.com).
- The Badgers will likely be favored in every league road game they play until traveling to Michigan and Iowa back-to-back in mid-February.
- Wisconsin’s closing stretch (final four games) includes road trips to Penn State and Nebraska (both manageable) and home dates with Indiana and Purdue. By contrast, Michigan State closes with Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, and Ohio State, and includes trips to Ann Arbor and Columbus. Ohio State closes with Minnesota, Indiana, Penn State, and Michigan State (IU and PSU are on the road). Iowa ends with road trips to Minnesota and Michigan State and home dates with Purdue and Illinois .
- Michigan State plays Ohio State, Iowa, and Michigan twice.
- Iowa plays Michigan State, Ohio State, and Michigan twice.
- Ohio State plays Michigan State and Iowa twice, and Michigan once.
If results follow projections, Wisconsin certainly has an advantage. And considering the Badgers are 13-0 with non-conference victories over Florida, St. John’s, Saint Louis, Marquette, and Virginia, an outright Big Ten title would put them in prime position for a No. 1 seed with opening games in Milwaukee. That’s a pretty good way to start the New Year.
Defending NCAA champion Louisville headlines our preseason Power 24 rankings. The Cardinals return a host of talent from last year’s title team, and a third straight trip to the Final Four is certainly within reach. Michigan State, Kentucky, Kansas, Duke and Arizona are the other early favorites to contend for No. 1 seeds.
Great storylines await when the season tips-off on Friday, November 8. Will ultra-talented Kentucky emerge as a dominant team? Will Andrew Wiggins lead the Jayhawks to another title? Will Tom Izzo guide Michigan State back to the Final Four? Will we have another Final Four surprise? We can’t sleep on Marcus Smart and the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Throw in conference re-alignments, and we have a virtual re-make of the college hoops landscape.
The team in our preseason Power 24 that might surprise some: Iowa. Call it a hunch, but the Hawkeyes were playing like an NCAA team at the end of the last season. Some early stumbles and a poor non-conference schedule ultimately hurt their NCAA resume. Most of their talent returns. Iowa has the depth and talent to finish as a Top 4 team in the Big Ten. Will it happen? We’ll see.
The good news: All of this will be settled on the court. Preseason projections are fun. They prompt discussions. But none of us knows how the journey will develop. That’s the beauty of college basketball.
Several teams – including Florida, North Carolina and Oregon (announced late Tuesday this week) have suspension and/or injury issues. How those scenarios play out will impact each of those squads. It’s just too early to know.
Those just missing the preseason Power 24? Creighton, Notre Dame, New Mexico, Indiana, Baylor, Virginia, Saint Louis, and Harvard. You could make a case for any of those teams to be included. The season is almost here. Let’s enjoy the ride.