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…
Fresh off an impressive victory at San Diego State – with help from Texas and Duke – BYU claims the fourth spot on our latest S-Curve and a No. 1 seed in the West Region. Welcome to March. Our other No. 1 seeds remain the same – Ohio State, Pittsburgh, and Kansas. We have a strong set of 2-seeds: Texas, Duke, Notre Dame, Purdue. If you’re looking for San Diego State, the Aztecs are the highest ranked 3-seed. No shame in losing to BYU (twice this season). Instead, SDSU was passed by Purdue. Few teams are playing better than the Boilermakers.
We’re still sorting through the bottom of the bracket. The bubble has shrunk a bit. We’re now at roughly 28 teams battling for 12 spots. Every team seeded 10 and lower in this update has work to do. A lot of the teams are interchangeable. It’s very likely that conference tournaments will help determine the last few in and the last few out.
Send a rebound if you like. We’re in for an exciting two weeks until Selection Sunday.
Now that the National Football League has crowned its champion, we look forward to March Madness. Selection Sunday is just over a month away. With that in mind, two quick observations about our bracket update. First, the No. 1 seeds remain solid – Ohio State, Kansas, Pittsburgh, and Texas. Second, the bottom half of the bracket is a mess. Bubble Banter opened with an incredible 41 teams on bubble. Not much has changed. See a team seeded eight or lower in the bracket? An NCAA future is far from certain. Thankfully, we have another month for teams to play their way in or out.
Notable changes this week are the inclusion of three teams from the Colonial – George Mason, Old Dominion and VCU. Plus, the departure of Michigan State and Penn State from the Big 10. Then, there’s Alabama. If we set up the bracket as … if the season ended today … the Crimson Tide would be designated with the SEC automatic bid. Although we don’t use that formula directly, we’ve include Alabama as one of the last teams in the field. Alabama is 7-1 in a BCS conference, and despite early struggles, they have won 10 of 12 games, including wins over Kentucky and at Tennessee. Certainly, ‘Bama still has work to do, but so do a large number of other teams with underwhelming profiles. Whether the Crimson Tide stay very long remains to be seen. You’ll find more in our Bubble Banter update on Tuesday.
Let’s take a peek inside the latest bracket and highlight some news, notes, interesting stats and even a little bubble talk.
No. 1 Seeds … The January 17/18 bracket was put together before the Pitt-Syracuse game on Monday. Even with Pitt winning, Syracuse remains a No. 1 seed candidate. The game was at Pitt and the Orange played without leading scorer Kris Joseph. Thanks to an unbalanced schedule, however, we miss a rematch at the Carrier Dome. Kansas is now No. 1 in the RPI and looked the part at Baylor – more on the Bears in bubble talk. Ohio State will be tested at Illinois this weekend. Duke has four of its next five on the road. Those next in line are … Pittsburgh, Connecticut and San Diego State. The Big East has had multiple No. 1 seeds before, no reason to think it can’t happen again. Regions … Duke no longer has a stranglehold on the East (unless Kyrie Irving returns healthy). The West would be an ideal spot for San Diego State, but the Aztecs may need some help to reach the top line. Either way, trips to Tucson and Anaheim are looking better all the time.
BYU Placement … Why is BYU not in the West? As San Diego State currently ranks higher on the S-Curve, SDSU has the No. 2 seed in the West Region and bracketing principles prohit BYU from being in the same region because the Mountain West only has three teams in the bracket. This means the Cougars must move to the Southeast – the only other Region that plays Thursday-Saturday the second weekend. Read more…
Our first in-season bracket projection is due out Monday evening (Dec. 6). With it will come a lot of debate (and some complaints). Time to fire away with some notes and observations from a great first month of college hoops.
The first note is to remind ourselves that a lot of meaningful basketball remains. Things don’t necessarily end like they start. Flashback: Georgetown opened the ’08-’09 season 11-1, including a win at Connecticut – an eventual No. 1 seed. From there, the Hoyas stumbled through the Big East – finishing 7-11 in conference play and 16-14 overall – missing the NCAAs. With that, here we go …
- San Diego State and UNLV lead a quadrant of teams (BYU and New Mexico) from the Mountain West that could impact our final bracket in March. SDSU opened with three true road games and two neutral-court affairs – including a win at Gonzaga. It’s the type of schedule that should pay big dividends. UNLV has already beaten Wisconsin (home) and Virginia Tech (neutral court). BYU has victories over WAC-favorite Utah State and St. Mary’s. If there’s a bubble team, it’s likely New Mexico. The Lobos beat Arizona State, but lost a lopsided tilt at Cal.
- If Connecticut continues to get production from Alex Oriakhi, Shabazz Napier, and others, the Huskies are in line for a very good season. Kemba Walker is a front-runner for Player-of-the-Year, and UConn already has three wins over NCAA-level teams: Wichita State, Michigan State, and Kentucky (Maui Invitational).
- Who thought Notre Dame would win the Old Spice Classic in Orlando? While beating Georgia, California, and Wisconsin isn’t quite like UConn’s feat in Maui, the Irish have certainly improved expectations – at least outside South Bend.
- Georgetown is also off to a great start. The Hoyas 111-102 OT win over Missouri ranks as the season’s best game to date. The season-opening road win at Old Dominion is looking better all the time.
- Pittsburgh is solid again – beating Maryland and Texas in New York. A No. 1-seed hopeful, the Panthers’ real questions won’t begin until March. Can they reach a Final Four?
- Overall, the Big East is 17-6 vs. fellow BCS teams.
- The Big Ten – fresh off its second straight ACC-Big Ten title – is 14-10 vs. BCS teams and 9-5 vs. the ACC overall. In our preseason Power 24, we suggested that Ohio State would challenge Michigan State for league supremacy. No team has two bigger true road wins (Florida, Florida State) than the Buckeyes. That said, MSU was 4-2 at this juncture last season and the Spartans ended up in the Final Four. Don’t quit on Tom Izzo’s bunch just because they lost to UConn and at Duke. Read more…