Welcome back, college hoops. Time for a little pre-season fun, Midnight Madness style.
After a rather interesting off-season - my Top 5 story lines here – let’s take an updated look the new 68-team bracket. Quick note of caution … selecting and seeding teams for a bracket projection in March is easier than estimating what might happen over the next five months. So consider this effort what it is: a mix of what we know, what we expect, and a lot of guesswork.
UPDATE (11/6/2010): The Midnight Madness edition is now longer available. It has been replaced with our Season-Opening edition – a few minor tweaks/updates included. Below is the rest of the column regarding the Midnight Madness edition.
If there is common ground, it’s that defending champ Duke should open the season as the No. 1 team. No exception here as the Blue Devils remain the overall top seed. From there, we start tweaking. Joining Duke on the top line are: Purdue, Michigan State and Pittsburgh. The Panthers made the biggest leap, but coach Jamie Dixon is bullish on his team and we’ll buy it. The uncertainty surrounding star recruits at Kentucky (Enes Kanter) and Kansas (Josh Selby) are also considerations. Both the Wildcats and Jayhawks lead a group of solid No. 2 seeds along with Ohio State and Kansas State. Syracuse, Villanova, Florida and Memphis fall into the three-line. Talk about powerhouse names.
First Four: The new format begins with four games in Dayton. Projected matchups … New Mexico vs. Dayton | Louisville vs. USC | Lehigh vs. Vermont | Jackson State vs. S.F. Austin. In this scenario, New Mexico, Dayton, Louisville and USC are the last four at-large teams in the field. Lehigh, Vermont, Jackson State and S.F. Austin are projected as the lowest four ranked teams on the S-curve.
Last 5 IN: Northwestern, New Mexico, USC, Louisville, Dayton. First 5 OUT: Maryland, Connecticut, Northern Iowa, St. Louis, Notre Dame.
We all know there will be a surprise or two along the way – especially in conference tournaments. One could easily argue that Illinois and Virginia Tech missed last year’s tournament because New Mexico State (WAC) and Houston (C-USA) won their league tournaments. It happens almost every year and teams on the bubble this March will face the same fate – even with the expanded field. Someone will always be the first team out.
For those new to Bracketville, links for the Schedule (upcoming key games), Bubble Banter, and Conference Tourneys will be updated as warranted. Team Capsules highlights key wins and losses for schools under consideration. If you want to know how we did last season, check out 2010 Projection Results.
Take a look. Send a rebound. Differences of opinion are part of the fun. Follow college hoops on www.nbcsports.com; I’m excited about our second year of partnership. Follow along on Twitter and e-mail us a firstname.lastname@example.org. More to come. The regular season is just around the corner.
We have to fill 65 spots. So as you look at the bottom half of the bracket and think … really? They’re still in the Field? The short answer is, yes. There are 34 at-large spots available. We can’t just leave one empty. Maybe that’s why all these bubble teams keep losing games – except for Notre Dame, of course, which has decided to play its way into the tournament. History often repeats … more teams play their way out than in … just the way it seems to work. That said, here’s the latest bracket ….
Villanova rejoins the No. 1 seeds for now. Kansas, Syracuse and Kentucky have locked up the other three. Highly unlikely that will change. The only question is how the actual Selection Committee decides to assign the regions. If Kansas stays No. 1 overall, it’s hard to see them anywhere but St. Louis. Depending on who wins the fourth spot, Syracuse could be moved South or West. It’s possible that if Villanova/West Virginia earns a 1-seed they’ll be kept in the East … Kentucky will go South … with Syracuse sent West.
About this bracket … BYU takes an unfortunate drop to the 6-line because of Big East conflicts and the Cougars’ Friday-Sunday restriction. There simply wasn’t a spot on the 5-line once Maryland moved up. With New Mexico entrenched in the West, BYU has to be in the East Region. This shouldn’t be an issue next week as the bracket moves into its final position. Just one of those things. Our last 5 IN … Virginia Tech, Illinois, Dayton, Rhode Island and San Diego State. First 5 OUT … Connecticut, UAB, Seton Hall, South Florida, Memphis.
Couple of thoughts about the week ahead … Northern Iowa could easily lose in the Missouri Valley tournament; the favorite rarely seems to win. The bubble could squeeze further if teams like Utah State, Old Dominion, Siena and California lose their conference tournaments. If Cal wins the outright Pac-10 title, will the Committee leave out the regular-season champion of a BCS conference? Those questions lie ahead. Welcome to Championship Week. Enjoy the hoops and send a rebound!
Our first Friday bracket, or two-a-weeks, finds Purdue as the newest projected No. 1 seed. Couple of reasons for that. First, Villanova lost to Connecticut at home; second, the Boilermakers won a significant road game at Ohio State. Not only that, but Purdue’s route to a Big 10 title is now in their own hands. By winning at Michigan State, the Boilers can sweep the Spartans when the two play in West Lafayette on February 27. Hard to imagine Purdue losing that game at home. The remaining schedule should also be manageable.
In other news, St. Mary’s re-enters that bracket as the final at-large team (No. 13 seed) thanks mostly to several other bubble teams losing – and the Gaels’ profile now just a tad bit stronger. Although we still project forward to complete the bracket, many of the ho-hum Big East teams have yet to distinguish themselves. That could change – particularly if Connecticut or Seton Hall makes a push. As for losing, Rhode Island has dropped three straight and Charlotte fell at home to Duquesne this week. Both still project “in” at this point, but their margin for error is getting rather thin. Charlotte’s overall profile is slighlty better.
Last Five In: Charlotte, UAB, Rhode Island, Florida, St. Mary’s. Last Five Out: San Diego State, William & Mary, South Florida, Seton Hall, Cincinnati.
Next Bracket Update will be Monday, February 22 (evening). Next week, the full Bubble Banter update will be Wednesday evening with a bracket update on Thursday night. This works better for our partnership with NBC Sports, and also gives us a weekend preview. Thanks for your interest. Enjoy the hoops – and the BracketBuster games this weekend. Follow me on Twitter if you like at BracketguyDave.
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.
Significant conference battles headline a strong weekend of college hoops. Vanderbilt visits Kentucky (with Vandy leading the SEC) and Kansas visits Kansas State. Don’t forget about the Ivy League tussle between Cornell and Harvard. Outside conference lines, Duke travels to Georgetown. You can see the full slate of meaningful games on our Schedule page.
Our next bracket projection arrives Monday, February 1. Too early to look closer at potential No. 1 seeds? Uh, no. For now, we’ll stick to eight (8) teams. Odds are at least six will remain in the conversation a month from now during the final push toward Selection Sunday. The goal is to make some simple comparisons about the relative strength(s) of each team’s profile. Data is for games through Wednesday, January 28. As always, we give credit to CollegeRPI.com for the data. Top 50 and Top 100 refer to RPI rankings at the time of release.
- Syracuse | 4-1 vs. Top 50 | 12-1 vs. Top 100 | SOS: 4 | Road: 4-0
- Villanova | 5-1 vs. Top 50 | 9-1 vs. Top 100 | SOS: 41 | Road: 6-1
- Kansas | 6-1 vs. Top 50 | 8-1 vs. Top 100 | SOS: 15 | Road: 4-1
- Kentucky | 2-0 vs. Top 50 | 5-1 vs. Top 100 | SOS: 82 | Road: 3-1
- Texas | 4-2 vs. Top 50 | 7-2 vs. Top 100 | SOS: 51 | Road: 3-2
- Michigan State | 2-1 vs. Top 50 | 7-3 vs. Top 100 | SOS: 48 | Road: 5-2
- Duke | 7-2 vs. Top 50 | 10-3 vs. Top 100 | SOS: 7 | Road: 1-3
- Kansas State | 6-3 vs. Top 50 | 9-3 vs. Top 100 | SOS: 5 | Road: 3-1
As the Selection Committee evaluates teams, numbers are just part of the equation. Conference titles carry weight. Individual perceptions of each team vary (by Committee member). For some, schedule strength is an important factor. For others, a dominating overall record. Others look at the number of “quality” wins vs. the RPI and other rankings. Some value consistency throughout the season. Based on figures above, Kentucky has the fewest quality wins and lowest strength of schedule. Syracuse and Duke have the most quality wins; but the Blue Devils are weaker away from home. With a lot of basketball remaining, this picture will become clearer.
Other teams that could sneak into the conversation? West Virginia is probably the best bet given the strength of the Big East schedule. Georgetown perhaps. It would take a lot more work for teams like Purdue. If you’re wondering about a team like BYU, the Cougars just didn’t play a strong enough non-conference schedule (ranked No. 200). As good as the Mountain West is BYU will probably top out as a No. 4 seed (perhaps a No. 3 if they win out). Enjoy the games … rebounds are always welcome.