San Diego State continues climb in Power 24/Bracket
Through games played December 19, we seem to have a Big 3 in college hoops – Duke, Ohio State, Kansas. Who belongs (and in what order) in the next six spots is more heavily debated. In our latest Power 24 (Dec. 20), Connecticut takes spot No. 4 and projects as the final No. 1 seed. By winning a top-heavy Maui Invitational, the Huskies have a solid non-conference profile. How the Big East plays out remains to be seen. Note: Power 24 reflects games through December 19 only.
Three more Big East teams – Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Syracuse – arrive next. No real argument if you have a different order. Georgetown has done the best work overall, reflected in its No. 1 RPI ranking (through Dec. 19). Part of the Power 24 also projects ahead, so Pitt remains a slight step in front looking forward. Syracuse has yet to play a true road game; we have to consider that point.
Reaching No. 8 is San Diego State – putting the Aztecs in line for a No. 2 seed in the West Region. SDSU would love games in Tucson and then Anaheim. In comparison, San Diego State has won four true road games and played six total games away from home – opening with five straight outside San Diego. Wins at Gonzaga and over Wichita State and St. Mary’s look to be NCAA-caliber. Their next two are in Las Vegas – making it eight road/neutral games in non-conference play. That type of challenge will pay big dividends in March. When you factor in the overall strength of the Mountain West – especially at the top – there’s no reason to think SDSU can’t earn a No. 2 seed. A No. 1? That may depend more on what happens in the Big 10, Big East, and Big 12. What the Aztecs also need is for BYU, UNLV and New Mexico to continue playing well. As of December 20, the Mountain West ranks No. 6 in conference RPI (according to CollegeRPI.com).
Weekly bracket updates return January 3. Other than some seeding evaluations, not a lot of changes from the December 6 bracket. Drexel is one new arrival, replacing Butler. We’ll have a much better feeling about the Bulldogs’ at-large chances after the Diamond Head Classic this week in Honolulu. The field includes Baylor, Florida State, Washington State, and Mississippi State. Oklahoma State is the other new addition. The once-beaten Cowboys (10-1) may not survive the Big 12, but they have done more than Cincinnati (No. 329 non-conference schedule). The Bearcats may well regret a two-month hiatus to start the season. With no marquis wins out-of-conference, it’ll take some hefty work in the Big East to be in the discussion on Selection Sunday.
Other teams who are just on the doorstep: Xavier, Southern Mississippi, Mississippi, VCU, Maryland, Virginia Tech, UCLA, and South Carolina. We also can’t sleep on Marquette, Iowa State, and Missouri State. Have a different opinion? Rebounds always welcome. E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter at twitter.com/BracketguyDave.