Florida has not lost a college basketball game in almost three months. Only undefeated Wichita State owns a longer streak. So it’s no surprise that both the Gators and Shockers remain No. 1 seeds in today’s bracket. Given back-to-back losses by Syracuse, it’s also not surprising to find Florida as the top overall seed with Arizona, Wichita State, and Syracuse next in line.
If Kansas wins its remaining regular season games or wins the Big 12 Tournament next month (or both), the Selection Committee will have some difficult decisions to make about the four No. 1 seeds – assuming all finish strong. The Jayhawks have played an incredible 21 games against the RPI Top 100. That’s impressive, even if you’re not a fan of the formula. Kansas has won 15 of those games – with more Top 100 games on tap. At some point, we may also have to factor in Wisconsin or Michigan. Few teams had a better non-conference season than the Badgers. In other words, the race for No. 1 seeding is far from over.
Today’s seeding curve hit a proverbial snag at about No. 27 – which is right in the middle of the seven-seed line. From that point, until the final few teams IN, we find a glob of teams with more interesting profiles – positives, negatives, and a bunch of stuff in-between. Which basically means those spots, along with the those along the cutline, are very much in a state of flux. Unless we have a few conference tournament upsets, we could be in for a very interesting Selection Sunday.
Enjoy your week of hoops!
Today’s bracket update includes this very scenario, as the Flyers are the final at-large team in the projected Field of 68. They are matched against Tennessee in one First Four pairing; Baylor and Providence square off in the other grouping. Given the overall bubble picture, it’s hard to ignore Baylor’s non-conference wins over Colorado (when the Buffaloes were at full strength) and Kentucky. Plus, the Bears’ are riding a three-game winning streak. If we’ve learned anything, though, it’s that the bubble picture changes quickly. Case in point: Baylor visits West Virginia and Texas in its next two games and the Bears have not thrived away from home. Dayton also has a closing schedule that can help or hinder their NCAA chances. It starts with trips to Duquesne and Saint Joseph’s.
No changes today on the No. 1 seed line despite Syracuse’s unexpected home loss to Boston College. We’ll see how the Orange respond at Duke on Saturday night. It should be a game where two feisty teams try to undo an unpleasant result (the Blue Devils are coming off a defeat at rival North Carolina on Thursday).
One housekeeping note … BYU is a true 11-seed after beating Gonzaga. However, accommodating BYU’s bracketing requirements (Thursday-Saturday sites only) forced the Cougars down a seed line (12-seed in South Region). The projected good news: they open in Spokane.
Enjoy a stellar weekend of college hoops.
The bubble is much like a recent weather forecast for the Midwest or East Coast: unpredictable and generally less than welcoming. So instead of debating the final few teams IN our OUT in today’s bracket, let’s look at the No. 1 seed contenders. We have just over a month until Selection Sunday.
Syracuse, Arizona, Kansas, and Florida retain No. 1 seeds (same as Monday). Syracuse is in the strongest position to hold its post – although road trips through Pittsburgh, Duke, and Virginia remain. Arizona’s biggest question isn’t RPI numbers or quality wins, it’s a notable injury: how will the Wildcats play without Brandon Ashley? He’s out for the season with a foot injury. The Selection Committee will be watching how Arizona responds. Kansas owns the top spot in the RPI and has played the nation’s top-rated schedule. Will that offset five (or more) losses? If the Jayhawks claim an outright Big 12 title and win the Big 12 tournament, history would suggest that, yes, KU would be a top seed given its profile. Florida’s biggest advantage – and disadvantage – is its schedule. Once again, the SEC isn’t particularly deep. With Missouri and Tennessee hovering around the bubble, Kentucky is the Gators’ top resume-builder. That said, Florida is among the most talented teams in the nation when healthy. It’s conceivable the Gators could enter the SEC Tournament with a record of 29-3. That would be hard to ignore.
Here are some other contenders:
- Michigan State – if the Spartans heal up and win the Big Ten, they will push for the top line. Keep in mind, MSU has not lost a game when playing at full strength.
- Wichita State – after winning at Indiana State, the Shockers will be favored to enter the Missouri Valley Tournament with a perfect record. Although the MVC isn’t as strong as it’s been in recent years, one could easily argue that WSU has earned a No. 1 seed. Read more…
If you need any other evidence, check out the teams listed around the bubble in today’s bracket. They’re moving around faster than the Seahawks’ defense at MetLife Stadium. We have some very interesting resumes. Like recent weather forecasts, they change quickly, and often.
After 12 straight wins – and a loss by an injured Michigan State squad – the Florida Gators move to the top line. Wichita State is another team pushing for region supremacy. The aforementioned Spartans, along with Villanova and San Diego State round out the two-seed line today. Following its thrilling overtime victory over Duke on Saturday, and Arizona’s loss at California, the Orange now sit atop the bracket as the No. 1 overall seed. Arizona and Kansas remain as the other projected No. 1 seeds based on games played through Sunday, February 2. Yes, the Jayhawks lost at Texas, but their resume is filled with 12 Top 100 wins, a No. 1 strength of schedule, and the top spot in the RPI. Kansas also leads arguably one of the best two conferences (Big 12) in the nation.
Memphis absorbed the biggest seeding drop. It’s not so much the loss at SMU as much as the behind-the-scenes resume numbers. The Tigers are a concerning 2-5 against the RPI Top 50 and they have just three Top 100 RPI victories. Fortunately, opportunities for seed-building wins remain: Gonzaga, Connecticut, Louisville, Cincinnati, and SMU are still on the schedule.
As you look through the bracket, you may notice a few things that seem askew. Remember, several new bracketing principles were put into play this year to help keep more teams on their true seed line. Most notably, teams from the same conference can meet before regional finals – if they play each other less than three times (including conference tournaments) during the season. Several such situations developed when creating the bracket today. We may see these scenarios; we may not.
Enjoy a fun week of hoops. We’re on the final push toward Selection Sunday.
Since losing to San Diego State, the Kansas Jayhawks have put together a five-game surge that includes victories over its biggest competitors in the Big 12 conference – Oklahoma, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and Baylor. Two of those (Oklahoma, Iowa State) were on the road. Add in victories over Duke and New Mexico in non-conference play, and KU has notched eight Top 50 RPI victories. That’s two more than Syracuse, four more than Arizona, and three more than Michigan State – the other members of today’s No. 1 seed club. It’s also worth noting that Kansas has played the nation’s toughest schedule and currently sits atop the RPI. That’s a pretty strong profile (despite four losses – all to Top 25 RPI Teams), and the primary reason why the Jayhawks received the No. 4 slot on this week’s seed list (s-curve). When evaluating KU’s overall body of work, it’s pretty strong.
We still have two months to go and several other teams could reach the No. 1 seed line by March. Teams like Florida and Wichita State are building strong resumes, as is San Diego State. And it’s too early to count out Iowa, Michigan, or Wisconsin from the Big Ten title chase. The final contenders will be much more clear by mid-February.
On the flip side, January hasn’t been a good month for teams like Ohio State, Baylor, and North Carolina – or Georgetown for that matter; as the Hoyas are among the First Five OUT today. Through the first third of conference play, the Buckeyes, Bears, and Tar Heels own a combined 4-12 record (in league play). Some of that is due to scheduling and some of it has been inconsistent play. Either way, it would be a good time for those squads to reverse course. By the time we reach mid-February, a seriously sub-par conference record will not be endearing to the Selection Committee.
One of the best things about college basketball is that we never know what will happen. Enjoy the hoops.
The countdown to March Madness has officially arrived. We begin the trek toward Selection Sunday with Arizona and Syracuse as the top two seeds in the Field of 68. Joining the Wildcats and Orange on the top line … two teams from the Big Ten: Wisconsin and Michigan State. Villanova and Ohio State are close behind.
If you’re new to bracket watching or are returning for the new year, a couple of quick housekeeping notes:
- The NCAA Selection Committee implemented new bracketing procedures designed to keep more teams on their true seed line (from the seed list or s-curve). If you want all the details, visit http://www.ncaa.com. Today’s (January 6) bracket is a fitting example. In the South Region, Saint Louis is the No. 8 seed – which puts the Billikens in the same half of the bracket as Massachusetts, the No. 5 seed. Both reside in the Atlantic 10 conference. In previous years, Saint Louis would have had been bumped a seed line higher or lower – or moved out of its geographic region – to avoid two teams from the same conference (unless more than eight were selected) meeting before a Regional Final. That bump would have affected more than Saint Louis, perhaps dropping another team from a seven seed to an eight. The new configuration is allowable in part because SLU and UMass are scheduled to meet only once during the A10 regular season. Without going into detail, you’ll also notice Florida and Tennessee engaged in a similar scenario. If those two happened to meet in the SEC tourney (which would be their third meeting), the set-up in this bracket would not be possible. But since we don’t know whether that will occur, it’s accurate for today.
- Teams are selected and seeded based on their overall body of work (now and moving forward). Just because Team A beat Team B doesn’t necessarily mean Team A’s overall body of work – such as quality wins, strength of schedule, etc – is superior to Team B’s. Teams lose games. If overall accomplishments weren’t considered, we would rank Belmont ahead of North Carolina and Northern Colorado ahead of Kansas State. But that would not be an accurate way to assess either team’s overall performance.
- It’s too early to be overly concerned about the bubble or cutline. Conference play us just beginning. Try not to overreact to a team being one of the last few in or first few out. We have a long way to go. Some teams currently in the bracket will miss the tournament and others will climb into the bracket come March.
- Teams earn bids, not conferences. Although it’s unlikely the Big 12 will earn seven bids on Selection Sunday, it worked out that way through games played on January 5. Next week, it could be different.
College hoops is entering its annual March to Madness. Enjoy the journey to Selection Sunday.
As of New Year’s Day, the Wisconsin Badgers hold the No. 3 spot on our s-curve and a No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region. That would route the Badgers through Milwaukee and Indianapolis – a pretty favorable set-up. Arizona (West), Syracuse (East), and Michigan State (South) grab the other No. 1 seeds. Villanova, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, and Florida are next in line. Conference races will help shape the top of the bracket in March – particularly in the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12, and the new-look Big East.
The cutline remains quite fluid at this juncture. So don’t put too much stock in the last few in or first few out. Teams continue to ebb and flow. Resumes tend to look very similar. Conference results will be critical for teams with little or nothing to show from the season’s first two months. Those who notched a few quality wins on their resume have more room to maneuver.
Weekly bracket updates resume on Monday (January 6). This year, the entire s-curve will be included (and is today), and I’ll try to add a few more posts related to selection, seeding, and the overall landscape. If you’re just re-entering the college hoops scene, the NCAA Selection Committee has a few new rules to play with this season. You can see those for yourself at www.ncaa.com. The goal is to keep as many teams as possible on their true seed line.
Your input is always welcome. It’s what makes it fun. If you’re on Twitter, I’m @BracketguyDave. You may also comment here or email the site. I try to respond as best I can. Please offer your insights and information. Let the journey to March begin!