ATR: Carolina-Cats, bracket news, and reality checks
Around the Rim (ATR) … Our first in-season bracket projection will be posted on December 7. As a reminder, we don’t build projections based solely on if the season ended at projection time. Bracket projects are based on performance and potential. Early projections are weighted more on potential; later brackets more on performance.
Games of the weekend: North Carolina at Kentucky is the headliner. In a Bracketville preseason poll, the Wildcats were solid favorites to win the NCAA title. So this is an early chance for UK to reinforce its status. So far the ‘Cats have been a bit shaky; note the early squeekers with Miami-OH and Stanford. Then again, remember how different Carolina looked against Syracuse and Michigan State? If I were making a pick, Carolina wins a close one at Rupp. Other games of note:
- Kansas @ UCLA – Do the Bruins have any fight left?
- Arizona @ Oklahoma – These could end up being two bubble teams; especially surprising for the Sooners.
- Villanova @ Maryland – The Terrapins have managed to miss on most of their early opportunities.
- Miami @ Boston College – An ACC game in early December? Yes. Winner gets a leg-up.
- Washington State @ Kansas State – Which of these teams will compete for the NCAAs?
- Iowa State @ California – Bears really need to put something noticeable in the win column.
- St. John’s @ Duke – Red Storm looks for some cred.
- Penn State @ Temple – This one would benefit the Owls more.
- St. Mary’s @ Utah State – If it were February, we’d call this a BracketBuster game.
- VCU @ Williams & Mary (update) – Early clash between potential Colonial contenders.
Reality checks for non-BCS teams: With the Pac-10 struggling (like the SEC last year), there may be extra bids available for non-BCS teams. Of course, that’s based on performance. Reality is … teams like Creighton (Missouri Valley), Siena and Niagara (Metro Athletic) and Butler (Horizon) haven’t taken full advantage of early opportunities. With Georgetown and Ohio State still on the docket, Butler has the best chance to secure some breathing room (and they do have a win at Northwestern). Then there’s teams like UNLV and Portland. The Pilots left an impression in Anaheim, but still need to challenge Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference. UNLV’s overtime win at Arizona is noteworthy. Northern Iowa won at Iowa State. Other non-BCS teams that could put themselves in the at-large conversation based on early results: Richmond, New Mexico, Temple, and Virginia Commonwealth. It’s too bad the list isn’t larger. Maybe that’ll change.
Slow starts / Fast starts: Teams that want to make it a December to remember … Oklahoma, Michigan, Minnesota, Louisville, Mississippi State, Illinois, Maryland, Xavier, Memphis, Washington and California. Teams that want to relive November: Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Florida, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Marquette, Gonzaga, Miami (FL), Wisconsin, St. John’s and Alabama. The Raiders, Gators, Badgers, and Golden Eagles have been particularly surprising. Expect to see a few of those in Monday’s bracket.
The fight for No. 1 (seeds): I have to agree with Jay Bilas of ESPN on this – there simply isn’t a dominate team right now – not like last year’s Carolina team. The Jayhawks are favored, but not the same way. That means we could have several teams in the hunt for No. 1 seeds on March 12. Teams who figure to be in conversation … Kansas, Texas, North Carolina, Michigan State, West Virginia, Villanova, Kentucky and Purdue. If they sustain early runs, teams like Duke, Syracuse, and Florida could also be in the mix.
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