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Inside the Bracket: Big East bids and No. 1 seeds

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In our January 10 Bracket Projection you’ll find ten (10) Big East teams.  That would be a record for any conference – even one as deep as the Big East.  Marquette is also a legitimate at-large contender.  So the question is … will we see 10 or 11 Big East teams in the actual bracket on Selection Sunday? 

Given the additional three at-large spots and the current landscape in the SEC, Pac-10, and even Atlantic 10, the idea is reasonable.  Still, the odds are against a double-digit Big East number.  Foremost, there’s the brutal Big East schedule – which means a lot of teams will compile losses.  Second, there’s bound to be a couple of BCS teams – say Maryland –  who could move into the bracket – much like the Terrapins did last season. The examples below further illustrate how dynamics can change. 

Example A: Cincinnati.  The Bearcats play Providence, Rutgers and South Florida only once in their Big East rotation (two are at home).  While that will help the potential for notable wins, it also means UC will have a more challenging time finishing .500 or better in league play.  Given the Bearcats’ poor non-conference schedule (ranked No. 322 at CollegeRPI.com), there’s a chance – much like Virginia Tech last season – that Cincinnati could be left home if bids get squeezed through conference tournament upsets, etc.

Example B: Power outage. Two years ago, Georgetown opened Big East play with a win at UConn and then beat Syracuse to post an early 3-2 mark in league play.  The Hoyas then lost five straight and seven of eight on their way to a 7-11 Big East finish (16-14 overall).  We’re not suggesting that this Georgetown team (1-3 in Big East play through Jan. 10)  is headed down the same path.  Rather, we’re suggesting that post-season potential can change a lot between mid-January and mid-February.

The Race for No. 1 seeds … Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Connecticut lead the way.  The current second tier would include Purdue, Kentucky, San Diego State, BYU, and Notre Dame.  San Diego State and BYU are the long shots given each has fewer opportunities in the Mountain West for high-level wins.  Now, if SDSU finishes with only one or two losses, the Selection Committee might find it hard to omit the Aztecs as a No. 1 seed in the West. 

Building the Bubble … Missouri State and Wichita State need to separate from the rest of the Missouri Valley if either expects serious at-large consideration – neither had a strong non-conference showing … Washington is the class of the Pac-10 – after that it looks like Arizona and Washington State are next in line.  Given better non-league wins, USC currently has a better chance to make the bracket than UCLA.  All four would be bubble teams today if we opened Bubble Banter.  … Without an upset in the SEC Tournament, it appears the West Division could again go without representation.  Ole Miss and Arkansas are the only West Division teams with any at-large hopes. … The second best team in the Atlantic 10 behind Temple is?  Richmond, perhaps – as the Spiders are the only team to beat Purdue.  Xavier and Dayton could still be in the mix, but have work ahead.  … Whose the second best team in the ACC?  Will Virginia Tech pull it together? There’s still a lot of questions about Boston College, Miami-FL, Florida State, Clemson, NC State – you get the idea. … Cleveland State took a beating by losing at Butler and Valparaiso last week.  The Vikings’ best non-conference win was South Florida – so CSU really needs to catch – or pass Butler in the Horizon regular-season race. … New Mexico will need to beat at least two of the big three in the Mountain West to be in the mix. … In the Big 10, it looks like another year on the edge for Northwestern and Michigan.  And in the Big 12, can Colorado and Oklahoma State stay in the mix?  Baylor also has a bubble-type resume at this point.

Lots to think about.  Send a rebound if you like.  Follow on Twitter at BracketguyDave.

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