March is five months away. Thousands of college basketball games will be played before Selection Sunday. Yet two things seem pretty clear in early November. North Carolina and Kentucky are loaded, and the Tar Heels and Wildcats are heavy favorites to reach the Final Four in New Orleans. So it’s no surprise that UNC and UK are the top two teams in our preseason bracket projection.
From there, it gets interesting. Debates rage across the internet and college hoops magazines about the next group of teams. Defending champion Connecticut returns a host of talent, as does 2011 top seed Ohio State. Other teams in the early running for No. 1 seeds: Syracuse and Duke. Florida and Vanderbilt both have the talent to challenge Kentucky in the SEC. Louisville and Pittsburgh are potential threats to the Orange and Huskies in the Big East. Memphis has the horses to dominate an improved Conference USA.
There are also plenty of good mid-major programs to watch. Belmont could be an at-large candidate if it navigates an opportunistic non-conference schedule. Detroit will test Butler in the Horizon League. As many as three or four teams could push for bids from the Colonial and Atlantic 10. Both the Missouri Valley and Mid-American have multiple bid options. In all, our preseason projection has two teams each from the Colonial, MVC, and Horizon. Hopefully, we’ll see that – or more – play out next Spring.
Further down the bracket, it’s educated guesswork … Last 5 teams IN: Virginia, Minnesota, Wichita State, Drexel, St. Louis. First 5 teams OUT: Notre Dame, BYU, Northwestern, Virginia Tech, St. Mary’s. The next group includes Kent State, VCU, Indiana, Old Dominion, and Central Florida. None of these would be huge surprises. That’s the beauty of college hoops. We play the games and what happens on the court matters more than public opinion.
Here’s to a great season. Let’s enjoy the ride to Selection Sunday.
With the entry deadline for the 2011 NBA Draft behind us, time for an updated Power 24 here at Bracketville. The first two selections were pretty easy: North Carolina and Kentucky. Harrison Barnes and a host of other talented Tar Heels return to Chapel Hill. UNC came within a game of the Final Four this past March, and Carolina should be an early favorite to cut down the nets in 2012. Close behind is Kentucky. Yes, the Wildcats lost Brandon Knight, but Terrence Jones decided to stay and will be joined by yet another top-flight recruiting class.
If you think of the Top 4 teams as potential No. 1 seeds, the remaining slots belong to Syracuse and Ohio State. The Orange return a host of talent and figure to open play in November as the Big East favorite. Once Jared Sullinger decided to stay in Columbus, the Buckeyes became the team to beat in the Big Ten – again.
The rest of the Top 10 looks like this … Connecticut, Louisville, Duke, Vanderbilt, Arizona, and Memphis.
Wisconsin opens at No. 11 thanks to Jordan Taylor staying in Madison. The Badgers are followed by Kansas, Alabama, Michigan and Florida in the Top 15. Then we find Marquette, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Xavier and Missouri rounding out the Top 20. The Big East will be good again – but not as strong as this past season.
Our final Power 24 spots go to … Florida State, Texas, Gonzaga, and UCLA.
You could easily make a case for several other teams. Others considered were Baylor, Texas AM, George Mason, Michigan State, Villanova, Washington, West Virginia, Temple, Georgetown, Georgia, Colorado, and Butler. Butler will again be good, but it’ll be hard to replace to replace both Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard.
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…
Even without playing a true road game, Syracuse moves up and claims the final No. 1 seed in our latest Bracket Projection. With three of their next four away from the Carrier Dome, we’ll have a better idea soon if the Orange can maintain top-line status. Most important, Syracuse has handled its best three opponents (Notre Dame, Michigan State, Drexel) in convincing fashion. The other No. 1 seeds are unchanged – Duke, Ohio State, and Kansas.
Kentucky jumps up to the two-line this week, joining Pittsburgh, Connecticut, and San Diego State. UK dominated Louisville on the road and has again positioned itself as the team to beat in the SEC. A strong run through the conference would put the Wildcats in position for another No. 1 seed.
Cincinnati is an interesting case. The Bearcats are 14-0 (D-I games), but haven’t been tested. Their best win is at home vs. Dayton – albeit a dominating performance. UC’s non-conference strength of schedule ranks No. 335. It couldn’t be much worse. Considering history (Virginia Tech last year, for example), Cincinnati has significant work ahead in the Big East. They open 2011 as a 10-seed. Overall, nine Big East teams find a home this week. That would be a record. Check back in late January and we’ll have a better idea of contenders and pretenders.
Last Five In: West Virginia, Drexel, Cleveland State, Georgia, Oklahoma State. First Five Out: Dayton, New Mexico, USC, Richmond, Rhode Island.
Have an different opinion? Rebounds always welcome. Thanks for your interest and for visiting Bracketville. Follow us on Twitter at BracketguyDave.
With tip-off for the 2010-11 college basketball season upon us, we seem to know two things: Duke and Michigan State are strong favorites to make return trips to the Final Four. After that, there’s a lot of debate. Which is great, of course, because none of us knows how the season will unfold.
Here’s our SEASON-OPENING Bracket Projection.
The No. 1 seed line features … Duke, Michigan State, Pittsburgh and Ohio State. The Buckeyes move up to replace Purdue after the Boilermakers lost star Robbie Hummel to another season-ending knee injury. The Boilers still have a lot of talent and experience in West Lafayette, and open as a projected No. 3 seed in the Southwest Region. A solid No. 2 line features Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, and Syracuse. Both KU and UK are still awaiting elibility status on star recruits (Selby, Kanter). My guess is both play this season; how much we dont’ know.
What about the First Four? The opening games in Dayton will match the last four at-large teams and the four lowest-rated teams on the S-curve. In our projection those matchups are … New Mexico vs. Dayton | USC vs. Maryland | Maine vs. Winthrop | Jackson State vs. SF Austin. The winners advance into the traditional 64-team bracket to play Thursday or Friday. Our Last 5 in: Northwestern, Maryland, New Mexico, USC, and Dayton. Our First 5 out: UNLV, UCLA, Connecticut, St. John’s, Mississippi.
We have a great opening month ahead with lots of bracket-building matchups in early-season tournaments. Our next bracket update will be Monday, December 6.
Rebounds are always welcome. Leave a comment or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for visiting Bracketville and for joining us on another road to Selection Sunday.