One month from today we’ll forget about projecting the NCAA Tournament bracket and begin filling out our actual brackets in preparation for the greatest three weeks in sports. What will the bracket look like? There’s still a lot to be decided. We’re also likely to see a few surprises in conference tournaments. February 15 Bracket Projection.
No changes on the No. 1 seed line. It’s odd, however, that both Syracuse losses have been at home. Kansas remains the overall No. 1 seed – followed by Kentucky, Villanova and Syracuse. That gives us a little shake-up in location. Kentucky moves to the South and Villanova to the East. Since UK has to travel (a similar distance) either way, this makes sense. I would imagine KU and UK will stay 1-2 next month. That means a regional trip to St. Louis for the Jayhawks. The Wildcats would thus be placed in either Syracuse or Houston. That may depend on who else earns a No. 1 seed. As far as other top-line contenders … Purdue, Duke, Michigan State and Ohio State could all be in play, with West Virginia on the fringe. Georgetown’s loss at Rutgers basically eliminates the Hoyas from winning a Big East regular-season title. Purdue and Duke have the strongest profiles if they win outright conference championships.
We still have a lot of wiggle room from Seeds 4-9. Then there’s a mess at the bottom of the bracket. As usual, more teams will continue to play their way out. Case in point … nearly every bubble team (except Louisville and Cincinnati) lost games they should have won – and the Cardinals actually did too – losing by 19 at St. John’s before winning at Syracuse. Go figure. The SEC West is not represented in the Feb. 15 bracket. Ole Miss continues to flounder and now projects out – losing both games to rival Mississippi State along the way.
Our Last 5 In (at large) – Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State, UAB, Florida, Cincinnati. First 5 Out (at-large) – Mississippi, Mississippi State, St. Mary’s, San Deigo State, William & Mary. Check it out. Rebounds are always welcome. I’ll be working on Bubble Banter throughout the week in preparation for Thursday’s complete update. Could also be the week we start an extra bracket on Friday.
CBS will continue its December hoops warm-up with Kentucky at Indiana on Saturday. You can bet Assembly Hall in Bloomington will be rockin’ for an upset. Come March, however, several other games could have more impact on selection and seeding. Those are the games we take a look at in this posting of our newest quick-hitting column: Bracket Bits.
- Purdue @ Alabama – First true road game for the Boilermakers. Equally important, Alabama could use a marquis win on its non-conference resume. The Crimson Tide have beaten Baylor and Michigan, but neither of those teams are in Purdue’s class at this point.
- Texas A&M @ New Mexico – Winning at The Pit is never easy. This might be the Aggies’ toughest test. Before the season, both teams were projected as possible at-large teams, but certainly not NCAA locks. The Lobos have fewer in-conference splash games, so it’s best to make good on these opportunities. Read more…
Around the Rim (ATR) … this wasn’t the way Mississippi State or Oregon State imagined their season openers: Rider rode into Starkville on Friday night (the 13th no less) and rode out with an 88-74 upset of Top 25-ranked Mississippi State. Meanwhile on the islands - actually the Duel in the Desert – the Islanders of Texas A&M CC stuck a few cactus needles in the Beavers and beat OSU 67-43. Wake-up call anyone? Remember, Syracuse lost a preseason home game to Le Moyne (Division II) and has since breezed past Albany and Robert Morris.
The good news? It’s a long season. Every team hits its bumps and takes its lumps. Much better to be in November than February. Consider too that Rider is a member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) – the same league as Siena and Niagara: two teams easily capable of making the NCAAs. Siena is the favorite and anyone who watched the Saints last March knows how dangerous they’ll be again. They are a projected 8-seed in our preseason bracket. The bad news? Oregon State plays a suspect non-conference schedule. Other than Texas Tech, there’s little substance before the Pac-10 opener at Washington on December 31. How the Beavers perform in league play will ultimately determine their NCAA hopes. But they don’t want to make a habit of acquiring questionable losses – particularly by 24 points. Then again, maybe TAM-CC will be the next Cinderella.
Thoughts from opening Friday … Seton Hall needed a 28-foot three-pointer from Eugene Harvey at the buzzer to overtake St. Peters 53-51. Pittsburgh survived Wofford 63-60 and Pac-10 favorite Washington nipped Wright State 74-69. By the way, the Wright State Raiders are solid and should challenge Butler in the Horizon League. BU is the heavy favorite, but WSU won’t go away quietly and an upset in the league tourney could easily open the door for the Horizon to put two teams in the Field of 65 again. Some NCAA heavyweights start bumping into each other next week. More to come then. Remember to check the Schedule page for noteworthy games. As always, send a rebound.
Now that Midnight Madness has officially opened practice, we look forward to the first regular season games. Those begin Monday, November 9 as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer classic. There are four games scheduled on the 9th. Teams hosting games include Ohio State, North Carolina, Syracuse and California. All are projected NCAA teams. I’ve also re-launched the Schedule page; you can view upcoming games on the page. As the season progresses we list games that my have an impact on conference standings and/or NCAA-consideration. The first full-slate of games is scheduled for Friday, November 9. There’s still time to vote in our NCAA-favorite poll. I’ll release results in a couple of weeks.
We’re only about three weeks away from Midnight Madness. That’s the time we start gaining momentum toward the tip-off of the 2009-10 NCAA men’s basketball season and NCAA Tournament. In preparation, we’ve launched a new page called Team Capsules that will allow me to list key wins and key losses as the season progresses. … It won’t be long until we post our first pre-season bracket projection. Hard to believe the off season is almost over. Please send along your thoughts and rebounds. I look forward to another fun basketball season. If you have ideas, let me know – Dave