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BRACKET PROJECTION | Updated: March 2, 2015
CURRENT SEED LIST | Updated: March 4, 2015 – NEW
BUBBLE BANTER | Updated: February 27, 2015 ___________________________________________________________________________
Missouri Valley regular-season champion Wichita State and runner-up Northern Iowa cleared the rest of the MVC by five full games in the standings. Both the Shockers and Panthers will be Dancing when the NCAA tournament pairings are announced on March 15. For that reason, bubble teams will be paying attention to Arch Madness, which begins Thursday in St. Louis.
If either of the favorites loses, it’ll open the door for a potential bid thief – a Valley team that could claim the league’s automatic bid and thus remove one of the “bubble” spots available to someone else. Which teams might create such havoc? The most likely candidates are Illinois State, Evansville, or Indiana State.
Illinois State owns a victory over Old Dominion and swept Evansville in the regular season; the teams meet again Thursday in the 4/5 quarterfinal matchup. ISU lost its pair of meetings with both WSU and UNI, but every game was close with the exception of its away game at Northern Iowa. Read more…
It’s been a topic of discussion for several weeks. What would happen if Gonzaga lost? Would they fall? Who would take their place as a No. 1 seed? Following the ‘Zags home loss to BYU – which also vaulted the Cougars into a First Four game in today’s bracket – we have an answer: Villanova, at least for now.
The Wildcats – there are two of them (Kentucky) on the top line – slide into the West Region; following UK, Virginia, and Duke. We say for now, because Wisconsin and Arizona also continue to push for that final spot. And it’s conceivable we could see a shift among spots 2-6 on the Seed List between now and Selection Sunday. We know that either Virginia or Duke will lose at least one more game – both play in the ACC tournament. If Wisconsin, Villanova, and Arizona all win out it’ll be interesting to see how the Committee dissects that group of profiles.
With just under two weeks until Selection Sunday, we have several unclaimed spots in the bracket. Perhaps more than ever, conference tournament games could prove decisive . It’ll be even more interesting should we have an upset winner or two. The Atlantic 10 race is a good example – as of this posting, there are three teams tied atop the standings. There are another three teams – VCU, Richmond, and Massachusetts – all within a game or two of the top. It’s perfectly conceivable that anyone of those teams could grab the automatic bid.
It’s March. The Madness is almost here.
Given this year’s rather unimpressive Bubble, there’s been ample opportunities for so-called “mid-majors” to cash in. But as the calendar turns to March, Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley) is the only one to really take advantage: the Panthers will be Dancing. Old Dominion was in a similar position in mid-January until some unsightly Conference USA losses clouded their horizon. The Monarchs can still make it, but not without a strong finish, and maybe a little help.
Which brings us to the next question: Are there any other potential mid-major teams who could make a late push toward at-large consideration? Here are the leading candidates (records are D1 only) …
Wofford (21-6) | (Southern) – The Terriers might be the leading candidate thanks to a Top 20 non-conference schedule that includes a victory at NC State. Wofford’s other Top 100 wins include Iona and Sam Houston State. The biggest hang-up, and it sticks out like a 300-pound gorilla, is a loss at The Citadel, which stands at No. 310 on the RPI rankings as of this posting. It would also be a bit unusual for a six-loss team in Wofford’s situation to gain momentum on the At-Large Board. Assuming the Terriers would lose only to Chattanooga in the SoCon tourney finale, there’s an outside chance, but it’s just that. Read more…
As the calendar turns to March, Kentucky has entrenched itself as the No. 1 overall seed. Unless the Wildcats lose multiple times between now and Selection Sunday – which is highly unlikely – they will stand atop the bracket when the official Field of 68 is unveiled on March 15. UK’s proverbial “march” will begin in Louisville and head through Cleveland in the Midwest Region.
As for the remaining No. 1 seeds, Virginia has a firm grasp on the East. After that, there’s still a bit of a race. If Gonzaga loses, Villanova is next in line to ascend to the top line. We also can’t exclude Wisconsin, Arizona, or even Kansas – although the Jayhawks will need help from the others in front of them. While winning both Big 12 regular season and tournament titles (if it happens) would be mighty impressive, the Jayhawks’ loss total might be too great to push KU ahead of the other three if those teams continue to win.
The bubble/cutline remains a hodge-podge of rotating resumes. The week ahead – leading into conference tournaments – figures to be huge. And it might be Friday or Saturday of Championship Week before the final Field comes into focus.
The bubble continues to ebb and flow with a collection of pedestrian resumes maneuvering toward Championship Week. So instead of discussing a revolving door, let’s address perhaps the most-debated question regarding current bracket projections: Should Gonzaga be a No. 1 seed?
Let’s start here: the Selection Committee would prefer to have a “West-based” team atop the West Region. Gonzaga – and Arizona, obviously – both fit that description and both teams have resumes that would put them in the discussion. Which brings us to the finer points of the ‘Zags resume. The numbers are pretty strong … Gonzaga is 8-1 against both RPI/BPI top 100 teams. Here’s how the Bulldogs rank on various power ratings: RPI (8), BPI (4) and KenPom (5). Gonzaga has non-conference wins over these current NCAA-projected teams: SMU, St. John’s, and Georgia. The ‘Zags only loss was by three points at Arizona.
Those on the other side of the equation will argue that Gonzaga has played only two Top 100 teams (BYU and Saint Mary’s) since beginning West Coast Conference play, and that the league hasn’t challenged them enough to be a No. 1 seed. They will argue that Gonzaga’s non-conference schedule wasn’t as strong as past years. Both of those arguments are – at least to a certain point on the latter – true. Of course, schedules are often made in advance, and Memphis and UCLA (as examples) haven’t been as good as expected.
Whichever side of the argument you fall on, it’s a healthy debate that will continue in Indianapolis prior to Selection Sunday. But if Gonzaga wins out, and finishes with just one loss, odds would place the Bulldogs as favorites to be a No. 1 seed in the West. We’ll see how it plays out. If Gonzaga loses, the door will certainly be open for the four teams currently residing on the two-line: Villanova, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Arizona.
This year’s Big Ten is not last year’s Big Ten. Wisconsin is just as good, but quality throughout the league isn’t the same – even with solid contributions by newcomer Maryland. All of which would suggest that fewer Big Ten teams would be participating in this year’s NCAA tournament. Not necessarily so.
Given the current status of bubble teams – those hanging around the proverbial 68-team cutline – as many as eight Big Ten teams have realistic hopes of hearing their name called on Selection Sunday. Case in point: there are eight teams in today’s updated bracket projection – further buoyed by Purdue’s victory last night at Indiana. The Boilermakers had some issues in December, but they’ve been a different basketball team the past three weeks. We’ll see if they can finish the task at hand. We’ll also find out soon if Illinois and Iowa can stay the course. Will all eight teams make it? Probably not. But the door is open. Read more…
Let’s talk about something positive, like the eight teams positioned along the top two seed lines. For all the middling around the cutline, this group continues to shine: Kentucky, Virginia, Gonzaga, Duke, Kansas, Villanova, Wisconsin, and Arizona. While we can’t “lock” anyone into a position yet, these eight are rapidly pushing toward a slot on the top two lines of the eventual bracket in March. So, here’s today’s question:
How are the teams placed in bracket regions?
As a guideline, geography takes precedence based on the Seed List order. Currently, Kentucky is No. 1 on the list, so the Wildcats would be given first preference. Regional sites are located in Cleveland (Midwest), Syracuse (East), Houston (South), Los Angeles (West). Cleveland is closest to Lexington (KY) so Kentucky slots into the Midwest. The rest of the current No. 1 seeds then fall into place: Virginia (Syracuse – East), Gonzaga (Los Angeles – West), and Duke (Houston – South).
Here’s where the debate begins. Seed List order matters on the second line, but so does geography. Selection Committee members can balance regions (based on the first four seed lines) using spots 9-12 and 13-16. Monday – before Kansas lost at West Virginia – the Jayhawks were No. 5 on the Seed List. That would put them opposite the No. 4 team (Duke) in the South Region. In this case, the so-called s-curve worked perfectly, as that would be KU’s preferred location. Next up was Villanova. If the true s-curve model were followed, Villanova would go West, opposite Gonzaga. But the Committee also knows that Arizona (No. 8 on the list) will be placed on the two-line. Thus, it offers them the opportunity to keep Villanova in its home region (East); a win for both teams and their fans. Wisconsin would naturally choose the Midwest, so the Badgers move opposite Kentucky. If this set-up holds, placing the top two lines into the bracket will actually be an easy exercise. Read more…