In November, the Louisville Cardinals were projected to be a No. 1 seed when the NCAA tournament began. Now, less than a week until Selection Sunday, the Cardinals have reclaimed their spot on the top line. Louisville sits as the fourth No. 1 seed, heading to the South Region. Duke (East), Indiana (Midwest), and Gonzaga (West) are in front of the Cards. The race isn’t over, though. Kansas, Georgetown, New Mexico, and a second Big Ten team could still claim a spot on the top line. It’s going to be an important week for both the top and bottom of the bracket.
Speaking of the bubble, Kentucky is the final at-large team on the board today. They are joined in the First Four by Saint Mary’s, La Salle, and Iowa State. The margin between these teams, and those around them, is minimal. If we see an upset or two this week, the last few spots could change several times between now and Sunday. Which conference tournaments are most likely to produce a surprise winner? On the surface, it looks like the Atlantic 10, SEC, or the Pac-12. While Memphis has dominated Conference USA, the Tigers haven’t wrapped up the automatic berth. Any stumble would likely claim an at-large spot.
As for seeding, the middle of the bracket is an interesting adventure. One could almost throw names in a hat (for say, seeds 7-10) and line them up that way. Again, we could see some shifting on those lines, both due to resume adjustments and for geography. For all practical purposes, teams in the 8/9 games are essentially the same. More updates this week. Enjoy the final ride to March Madness.
Saturday, the buzzer-beaters, close finishes, and general Madness arrived in full force. Which begs the question: After all of that, where do we stand as far as the bubble and top seeds? Well, here you go …
Last 5 IN … Temple, Saint Mary’s, La Salle, Iowa State, Kentucky
First 5 OUT … Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Baylor, Iowa
No. 1 seeds … Duke (East), Gonzaga (West), Indiana (Midwest), Louisville (South). The loss at Kansas – combined with Louisville’s win over Notre Dame – dropped the Jayhawks to No. 5. Georgetown, New Mexico, and Michigan State are in spots 5-8 on the curve entering today.
March 10 s-curve | 7:45 a.m.
The race, however, is far from over. Conference tournaments could play a huge role in deciding the final few at-large spots. We also have not yet had a conference tournament winner that might take an at-large spot away. Creighton and Wichita State both reached the Missouri Valley final. Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are in the West Coast final. Belmont beat Murray State to capture the Ohio Valley’s automatic bid. That’s not to say a potential bid-stealer won’t appear this coming week.
Take the top seed line. Indiana remains in control of its current No. 1 seed position. The other three spots still have some wiggle room – although based on Ryan Kelly’s return performance Saturday against Miami-FL, the Duke Blue Devils appear headed for yet another top seed on Selection Sunday. In this update, Gonzaga and Kansas grab the other two No. 1 slots. Miami, Georgetown, Louisville, New Mexico, Michigan State, and Michigan aren’t far behind. Remember, there are only four spots on each seed line. Someone has to be number nine or ten on the seed list (s-curve). And the order could easily change. Throughout the bracket, these final two weeks will help decide the starting position for several teams.
March 4 Bracket Update | 10 p.m. ET
The bottom of the bracket is no less uncertain. This past Saturday, six teams directly on the bubble lost. So in some ways, not a lot changed. The newest addition to the bracket is Boise State. After beating Colorado State, the Broncos resume is tournament worthy with two games to play. As a side note, Boise is a true 11 seed in the bracket but had to be placed on the 12 line because of various conflicts and bracketing principles. It’s not uncommon for this to happen. Many of the teams in the middle of the bracket are tightly bunched and while one or two seed lines may appear to be a big difference, that’s not necessarily true.
The final couple of at-large spots in the Field of 68 could be argued for hours. That’s why this week’s games and those in conference tournament play may prove more important than ever. For now, the final at-large spots belong to Iowa State, Villanova, Virginia, and Tennessee. Those four are paired in the First Four – with winners headed to matchups in the East and West Regions. Kentucky, Baylor, Alabama, Massachusetts, and Arkansas are among the first teams outside the bracket.
Note: The bracket update does not include the Baylor-Texas game on Monday evening. That game will be factored into our next update. Enjoy the ride to Selection Sunday.
Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans are at it again. The Spartans have lost just once in 2013 (at Indiana), and they play the Hoosiers tonight in a heavy-weight tilt in East Lansing. IU and MSU are tied at the top of a strong Big Ten conference. All this considered, Michigan State joins IU, Miami-FL, and Florida as a No. 1 seed in today’s bracket. Duke, Michigan, Gonzaga, and Louisville (among others) are chasing. Those four fall into spots five through eight on the current s-curve. Kansas and Syracuse could also re-enter the No. 1 seed debate over the next few weeks. Arizona has fallen off a bit, but it’s not impossible for the Wildcats to regain some traction if they win out.
Kentucky is among our first five out. Bottom line: UK is 0-1 without Nerlens Noel, and that was a lopsided loss at Tennessee. The Wildcats have time to re-establish their NCAA position, but they have to show the Selection Committee they can win without one of their most important players. North Carolina is among the last five in today. The Tar Heels still have just one Top 50 RPI win (UNLV). Villanova, Arizona State, Temple, and Virginia join UNC as the final teams in the bracket. They are paired in the First Four. Teams just missing today? St. John’s, Maryland, Charlotte and Indiana State – along with aforementioned Kentucky.
While things are starting to settle some, we still have a fair amount of fluidity in the middle and bottom of the bracket. We also have a couple of procedural bumps today. Illinois – which has played its way off the bubble – is a true eight seed, but moves up to the No. 7 spot in the Midwest because of conference conflicts. UCLA is the team that falls a line, dropping from a true seven to an eight. Those things happen on a fairly regular basis. The Selection Committee tries to follow its s-curve (now referred to as Seed List) as closely as possible, but exceptions have to be made.
Geography also plays a factor. Gonzaga is rewarded with the No. 2 seed in the West Region even though they are behind Duke and Michigan on the s-curve rankings. Again, this can – and does – happen. The region is re-balanced later. Kansas, the top three-seed today, is moved West. These are tweaks the Committee uses to create balance based on its Seed List. Enjoy another great week of hoops.
Florida grabs a No. 1 seed in the East Region in our latest bracket projection. The other number one seeds are Kansas, Michigan, and Arizona. It’s shaping up to be quite a race for the top line. Indiana, Syracuse, and Duke are close behind. It would take some help, but it’s not impossible for Gonzaga or even Butler to be considered a top-line team if those two keep piling up wins. Several other teams are in the mix, too. An outright winner of the Big Ten will almost certainly garner consideration.
As for the bubble, wait a day, it’s bound to change. Consider Kentucky. The Wildcats numbers are pretty blah. By holding off LSU, UK stays in the field as one of our last five “in” today. With visits to Ole Miss and Texas AM up next, it’s a huge week for Big Blue Nation. Villanova and La Salle both join the field thanks to good weeks. Villanova beat Syracuse and Louisville back-to-back. La Salle beat Butler and VCU. While slotted only one spot different on the s-curve, Villanova drops to the 12-line to avoid conference conflicts.
Following the Super Bowl, the countdown to Selection Sunday will take center stage. Here’s to a great week of hoops.