It’s the Christmas Eve edition of our Power 24. Which in this case means merry times for Michigan and Kansas. The Wolverines and Jayhawks have climbed to spots No. 3 and No. 4 on the s-curve; No. 1 seeds if we were updating the bracket. For those keeping track, KU was No. 4 in our preseason rankings. Regular weekly bracket projections begin in two weeks. Here’s to a great two weeks of Holiday hoops.
Duke remains No. 1 overall, and the Blue Devils continue to boast the nation’s best overall resume. If this were Selection Sunday, there’s little doubt Duke would be the top overall seed with a spot atop the East Regional. Louisville comes in at No. 2. The Cardinals’ lone loss was to Duke at the Battle for Atlantis – the game in which center Gorgui Dieng injured his wrist. In his absence, U of L has kept winning, and the Cards will be primed to meet rival Kentucky later in the week.
Arizona and Missouri continue to climb as well. Both are firm two-seeds right now – holding spots No. 6 (Arizona) and No. 7 (Missouri) on the seeding curve. Indiana is fifth after the loss to Butler and Syracuse is No. 8 after falling to Temple in New York. As always, conference play will play a big role from here on out. Most BCS conferences begin league play around New Year’s Day.
No new teams this week. Miami-FL would have slid into the No. 25 spot had they beaten Arizona late Sunday in Hawaii. The Hurricanes were largely overmatched, however, and currently sit at No. 27 on the curve. A full s-curve will be released with our regular brackets this year. A preview of that - including the Top 96 s-curve teams – will be released New Year’s Day.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
With the 24-hour ESPN College Basketball Tip-Off Marathon complete, here are a few post-marathon resume notes from the season’s opening 10 days …
RESUME BUILDERS: Akron, Cleveland State and Kent State all compiled impressive road wins. It’s been a while since the Mid-American Conference put two teams in the NCAA Tournament, so the fact that Akron and Kent State both have strong out-of-conference wins this early is significant. Akron won at Mississippi State (SEC) and Kent State at West Virginia (Big East). Cleveland State owns the biggest upset to date - taking down Vanderbilt in Nashville. In other Horizon League action, Detroit missed an opportunity at Notre Dame. The good news is the Titans still have multiple chances to still make non-conference statements (@Alabama, Mississppi State most notably). CSU’s schedule doesn’t provide the same BCS resume-building opportunities, so beating Vandy was huge. On a side note: Cleveland State plays both Akron and Kent State.
In the Missouri Valley, Evansville rallied to beat Butler. If the Aces can back it up with a win over Indiana (tonight), that’s even better. Northern Iowa traveled over 3,000 miles in 60 hours – winning a big road game at Old Dominion before falling at St. Mary’s. A 50-50 split is pretty solid. MVC favorites Creighton and Wichita State haven’t been tested yet. But that changes soon – as Creighton plays UAB, Iowa, and San Diego State in its next four games. Wichita State has chances in Puerto Rico this week.
Drexel posted a solid victory (with a 6:00 a.m. tip) at Rider on Tuesday.
Belmont looked and played like an NCAA team during a brutal two-game road swing. That’s why we’ll consider the Bruins’ two losses as resume builders. One would think a single-point loss at Duke and a solid showing at Memphis would hold some weight if the Bruins falter in the Atlantic Sun Tournament. That said, Belmont’s toughest remaining non-conference opponent is probably Marshall. Beating the Herd, a potential NCAA team, would certainly be helpful. Read more…
It’s time to start tracking results: the regular season begins.
The matchup between North Carolina and Michigan State is certainly Week 1′s primo event. The Tar Heels open the season ranked No. 1 and are among the favorites to reach the Final Four in New Orleans. Michigan State has some new faces but also the talent to contend for a top four spot in the Big Ten. Both UNC and MSU open the year in our Preseason Power 24. Add in the date (11-11-11), the backdrop (aircraft carrier), and two of the nation’s best coaches (Roy Williams, Tom Izzo), and we have a March-ish game in November. See Schedule for more games.
Here are some other Week 1 Games to Watch:
Akron @ Mississippi State (Wed | November 9) – Akron is a contender to win the Mid-American crown (Kent State, Western Michigan are others). The Zips made the NCAA field in 2011 as an automatic qualifier, but will need good showings - and wins – in non-conference games for strong at-large consideration. Akron is led by 7-0 center Zeke Marshall and forward Nikola Cvetinovic. Marshall had 9 blocked shots in last year’s MAC title game. At Mississippi State, coach Rick Stansbury hopes on and off-court troubles are behind the Bulldogs. With Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney eligible for a full season, MSU has its sights on the SEC West and an NCAA bid. Other potential contributors for MSU include UTEP tranfer Arnett Moultrie and star recruit Rodney Hood.
Belmont @ Duke (Friday | November 11) - This compelling matchup follows the UNC-MSU game. Belmont raced through the Atlantic Sun en route to a 30-5 record and NCAA bid last season. The Bruins return most of their key pieces including Mick Hedgepath, Scott Saunders, and Ian Clark. Belmont faces Memphis on November 15, so two early chances await. While winning either game isn’t crucial, keeping the games manageable will be. Other than Marshall, the remaining Bruins’ schedule likely won’t provide much of a boost to their at-large profile. Read more…
Ready again for college hoops? In anticipation of the Midnight Madness bracket projection here at Bracketville, time for a quick peek at the Top Five stories from the NCAA off-season. Let’s go …
No. 5 – Kyle Singler returns to Duke: Matched with Nolan Smith and super-recruit Kyrie Irving, Duke will try to match Florida’s back-to-back titles in 2006-2007. Prior to the Gators’ run, the Blue Devils pulled off the repeat in 1991-1992. Not sure it’s going to happen, but the crazies from Durham have been a front-runner since May.
No. 4 – Tom Izzo stays at Michigan State: After a lengthy back-and-forth with the Cleveland Cavaliers, one of college hoop’s finest decides to stay in East Lansing. Forget that LeBron James bolted for Miami, Izzo made the right choice. He’s a college guy and has an amazing track record at Michigan State. Think about this … which is hard to remember, when MSU made the Final Four or missed it? By the way, the Spartans could easily make a third straight trip.
No. 3 – Recruiting issues at UConn and Tennessee: What a mess for two noteworthy programs. How much the allegations, potential penalties, and turmoil affect on-court performance remains to be seen. But it’s not looking good for the Huskies or Volunteers. Teams have been known to unite in difficult times; they’ve also been known to fall apart. Given the uncertainty ahead, the latter seems more likely. Update: The NCAA is also now sniffing around at Baylor
No. 2 – Player eligibility: While Dee Bost is back at Mississippi State (albeit with a nine-game suspension), Kentucky and Kansas await major decisions regarding two high-profile recruits … Enes Kanter (UK) and Josh Selby (KU). The NCAA outcome could certainly change the fortunes of either squad. Guess here is that both play this season. How much remains to be seen. Update: There’s also the case of LaceDarius Dunn at Baylor. Suspended, somewhat reinstated, but unknown. The Bears could be a middle-of-the-pack team without him.
No. 1 – Tournament expands to 68 teams: Better than a once-debated 96-team field, the NCAA added three more at-large bids to create its newest format. Dubbed the First Four, Dayton will host a series of four “play in” games to finalize the traditional 64-team field. The First Four will match the four lowest rated S-curve teams and the last four at-large teams. For the first time, the NCAA Selection Committee will have to reveal its final at-large teams.
As always, rebounds are welcome. Follow along on Twitter, or send an e-mail to email@example.com. Here’s to another great season of college hoops. Tell your friends. Thanks for visiting Bracketville.
Shocked it is.
The NCAA has announced the set-up for its 68-team field that will be unveiled on Selection Sunday in March 2011. By now you know there will be two types of play-in games – dubbed the First Four. The four lowest ranked teams (S-Curve 65-68) will pair up to play for 16-seeds in two regions. The last four at-large teams will also be paired with the winners falling on a 10-12 seed line against a pre-determined opponent in the other two regions.
Is it a good compromise? Depends on your perspective. If you want to improve opening-round TV ratings (and the NCAA just renegotiated its deal with CBS and Turner for broadcast rights) then matchups between the final at-large selections makes some sense. More people would likely watch a Virginia Tech-Illinois game (two teams that just missed last year) than would watch three more pairings of lower-level conference champions. That said, here’s why I’m shocked by the decision …
1) The NCAA must tell us its final four at-large selections – How many Selection Committee chairs have danced around this very question? Despite a more open approach to the selection process in recent years, there remains a behind-closed-doors element to actual bracket development. Only recently have we been privy to the tournament’s overall No. 1 seed and rankings of the other No. 1s. Same for the final two teams on the S-curve who were paired in the 64-65 game. Now, us fans will know exactly who the last four at-large teams are. Didn’t think that would happen. Will the actual S-curve rankings be next?
2) A team either deserves an at-large bid or it doesn’t - Selecting teams has been – and should be – the NCAA’s most important task. As former Committee Chair C.M. Newton once noted … a team can play its way out of a bad seed, it can’t play it’s way out of not being selected. But once a team is deemed worthy of an at-large bid, should that team then be told it’s not yet in the actual bracket? Congratulations, you received an at-large bid. All you have to do now is win one more game to play in the main tournament that starts on Thursday. Of course, you can say the same thing for the automatic qualifiers, but that’s the rub of a 65 or 68-team field.
Overall, a 68-team field is far better than a 96-team set-up. And three at-large candidates who would otherwise miss the NCAA Tournament will now be playing in the newly touted First Round. But the only way to create a bracket based on team rankings (s-curve) is to seed the field 1-68 and pair the lowest eight seeds with winners on the 16-seed line. Doing that actually creates a stronger bracket because the 16-seeds would be more like 15-seeds – meaning a better chance for upsets and a stronger overall field. Thought that was the goal. Then again, when money talks people listen. Even the NCAA and its member schools – who, by the way, shouldn’t complain if they are one of the at-large opening-round participants, because they could be at home.
Now it’s time to move on … an updated 68-team bracket projection (for fun and practice) on it’s way. The NCAA Tournament will always be the most exciting three weeks in sports. Have a different opinion? Send a rebound.