With the start of college hoops season just a week away, it’s no surprise that North Carolina tops our Preseason Power 24 at Bracketville. Kentucky, Connecticut, and Ohio State are right behind.
One can debate whether UConn or Ohio State should be switched. Fair-minded people can also discuss North Carolina and Kentucky. But with a host of experience back, the Tar Heels are early favorites to cut down the nets in New Orleans. UK, UConn, and Ohio State should challenge, as will a handful of others. Spots 5-10 look like this … Syracuse, Duke, Memphis, Florida, Vanderbilt, and Louisville.
Cautious optimism is always wise. If we’ve learned anything the past few years it’s that preseason expectations and on-court performance aren’t always the same. We’ve also seen talented teams struggle early as they learn to play together. Because we have no real evidence, preseason rankings are merely a starting point. Thankfully, come March, what matters is actual results. Sure, we’ll have our debates about a few teams, but the tournament will be great because we play the games.
I’m excited about another journey toward Selection Sunday. Thanks for your interest. Follow along here and at NBC Sports.com.
Selection Sunday is quickly approaching. While the bottom of the bracket remains highly volatile, the No. 1 seed contenders are taking shape. We have four front-runners with eight total teams remain in the hunt. Keep in mind that a team’s entire body of work is examined by the Selection Committee. So one good week in early March isn’t justification for a No. 1 seed. Here’s a look at the contenders …
Ohio State – The Buckeyes are a lock. OSU could potentially lose its spot in the East Region, but I can’t imagine a scenario in which the Buckeyes fall off the top line. OSU’s only two losses are at Wisconsin and at Purdue – both are in line for top-three seeds. The Buckeyes are 15-2 vs. the RPI Top 100 and beat Florida and Florida State on the road.
Pittsburgh – The Panthers lead the Big East and have been very consistent throughout the season. Pitt also has a non-conference victory over Texas on its resume and six Top 25 RPI wins. While not yet a lock, the Panthers control their path to a top seed in the East or Southeast. They may not have to win the Big East Tournament title, but they do need to avoid back-to-back losses to end the season. Their worst loss is Tennessee (neutral court).
Kansas – Kansas sits at No. 1 in the RPI (for what that’s worth) and has 17 wins vs. Top 100 teams – best in the nation. The Jayhawks also own the inside track to a Big 12 regular-season title. Why is Kansas not a lock? Only because there is the potential to be bumped should they lose a couple of games this next week and other teams below them excel. Kansas’ losses are to Texas at home and Kansas State on the road.
Duke – The Blue Devils close their regular season at North Carolina. A victory would give them the outright ACC title. A loss would leave Duke tied with Carolina pending the ACC Tournament. While Duke’s overall body of work is better to this point, if the Blue Devils were to lose twice to UNC in the next week, their odds to stay on the top line would certainly diminish. Duke is 14-3 vs. the Top 100. It’s best non-conference wins are Kansas State and Temple. Read more…
Welcome to Championship Week.
Duke rejoins the top line as a No. 1 seed in the West in our latest bracket update – largely due to the loss and surrounding uncertainty with BYU. The Cougars will be re-evaluated between now and Selection Sunday. How much their seeding is effected will depend on how BYU plays this weekend and in the Mountain West Tournament. Butler and Washington State rejoin the bracket today and are part of the First Four in Dayton. Butler largely backed its way in with the declining bubble landscape, but the Bulldogs will take a Dance ticket and run.
We still have 11 spots available in the bracket. That’s an amazing number. Usually it’s more like four or five. Great time to like college hoops with conference tournaments underway and some huge matchups on tap this weekend. Send a rebound if you like. There’s nothing like March Madness. We’ll have more frequent updates this entire next week.
Even without playing a true road game, Syracuse moves up and claims the final No. 1 seed in our latest Bracket Projection. With three of their next four away from the Carrier Dome, we’ll have a better idea soon if the Orange can maintain top-line status. Most important, Syracuse has handled its best three opponents (Notre Dame, Michigan State, Drexel) in convincing fashion. The other No. 1 seeds are unchanged – Duke, Ohio State, and Kansas.
Kentucky jumps up to the two-line this week, joining Pittsburgh, Connecticut, and San Diego State. UK dominated Louisville on the road and has again positioned itself as the team to beat in the SEC. A strong run through the conference would put the Wildcats in position for another No. 1 seed.
Cincinnati is an interesting case. The Bearcats are 14-0 (D-I games), but haven’t been tested. Their best win is at home vs. Dayton – albeit a dominating performance. UC’s non-conference strength of schedule ranks No. 335. It couldn’t be much worse. Considering history (Virginia Tech last year, for example), Cincinnati has significant work ahead in the Big East. They open 2011 as a 10-seed. Overall, nine Big East teams find a home this week. That would be a record. Check back in late January and we’ll have a better idea of contenders and pretenders.
Last Five In: West Virginia, Drexel, Cleveland State, Georgia, Oklahoma State. First Five Out: Dayton, New Mexico, USC, Richmond, Rhode Island.
Have an different opinion? Rebounds always welcome. Thanks for your interest and for visiting Bracketville. Follow us on Twitter at BracketguyDave.
Through games played December 19, we seem to have a Big 3 in college hoops – Duke, Ohio State, Kansas. Who belongs (and in what order) in the next six spots is more heavily debated. In our latest Power 24 (Dec. 20), Connecticut takes spot No. 4 and projects as the final No. 1 seed. By winning a top-heavy Maui Invitational, the Huskies have a solid non-conference profile. How the Big East plays out remains to be seen. Note: Power 24 reflects games through December 19 only.
Three more Big East teams – Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Syracuse – arrive next. No real argument if you have a different order. Georgetown has done the best work overall, reflected in its No. 1 RPI ranking (through Dec. 19). Part of the Power 24 also projects ahead, so Pitt remains a slight step in front looking forward. Syracuse has yet to play a true road game; we have to consider that point.
Reaching No. 8 is San Diego State – putting the Aztecs in line for a No. 2 seed in the West Region. SDSU would love games in Tucson and then Anaheim. In comparison, San Diego State has won four true road games and played six total games away from home – opening with five straight outside San Diego. Wins at Gonzaga and over Wichita State and St. Mary’s look to be NCAA-caliber. Their next two are in Las Vegas – making it eight road/neutral games in non-conference play. That type of challenge will pay big dividends in March. When you factor in the overall strength of the Mountain West – especially at the top – there’s no reason to think SDSU can’t earn a No. 2 seed. A No. 1? That may depend more on what happens in the Big 10, Big East, and Big 12. What the Aztecs also need is for BYU, UNLV and New Mexico to continue playing well. As of December 20, the Mountain West ranks No. 6 in conference RPI (according to CollegeRPI.com).
Weekly bracket updates return January 3. Other than some seeding evaluations, not a lot of changes from the December 6 bracket. Drexel is one new arrival, replacing Butler. We’ll have a much better feeling about the Bulldogs’ at-large chances after the Diamond Head Classic this week in Honolulu. The field includes Baylor, Florida State, Washington State, and Mississippi State. Oklahoma State is the other new addition. The once-beaten Cowboys (10-1) may not survive the Big 12, but they have done more than Cincinnati (No. 329 non-conference schedule). The Bearcats may well regret a two-month hiatus to start the season. With no marquis wins out-of-conference, it’ll take some hefty work in the Big East to be in the discussion on Selection Sunday.
Other teams who are just on the doorstep: Xavier, Southern Mississippi, Mississippi, VCU, Maryland, Virginia Tech, UCLA, and South Carolina. We also can’t sleep on Marquette, Iowa State, and Missouri State. Have a different opinion? Rebounds always welcome. E-mail at email@example.com and follow on Twitter at twitter.com/BracketguyDave.