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Inside the Bracket: At-Large picture – Part II

December 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Just in time for Christmas, here’s Part II of the at-large landscape.  This version focuses on teams from the BCS conference along with those from the Mountain West, Conference USA, and Atlantic 10.  As we noted in Part I, conference season begins in full force next week, and a lot of basketball remains.  The goal is to provide a quick peek into the at-large picture ahead of Bubble Banter in February.

It’s too early to lock any teams into the NCAA Tournament.  For the purposes of time and space, however, we’re not going to dwell on the at-large possibilities for teams like Kentucky, North Carolina, Syracuse, Duke, etc.  If January turns sour, then we’ll catch up on those teams in February.  Let’s go Inside the Bracket:

Kansas State – The Wildcats play Long Beach State on Sunday for the Diamond Head Classic title in Honolulu.  A victory would add LBSU to a win list that includes Alabama and Virgina Tech (road).  K-State lost a neutral court game to West Virginia.  While the rest of the non-conference resume is light, the Wildcats enter Big 12 play in pretty good position.  West Virginia and Virginia Tech are both potential bubble teams, so a split is okay.  The key will be finding victories against Kansas, Baylor, and Missouri and finishing among the top four or five in conference play.  Kansas State opens at rival KU on January 4.  After that, it’s Missouri and Baylor at home.  So the Wildcats can set an NCAA footprint early.

Texas AM – If you take a closer look at the Aggies, one thing becomes apparent: an NCAA bid is in serious jeopardy.  The Aggies non-conference schedule strength (No. 337) is dreadful, and TxAM’s best win is St. John’s.  Furthering the issue is a lopsided loss at Florida and follow-up home loss to Rice.  It will take some serious work in the Big 12 to overcome the Aggies’ start.  That work begins at Baylor on January 2.  Flashback: Colorado (last March).  The Buffaloes won some big games in the Big 12 but were left home on Selection Sunday thanks to a non-conference SOS that mirrors the Aggies’ in 2011-12. Read more…

Categories: Current Updates, Team News

Inside the Bracket: At-large Picture – Part I

December 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Let’s go Inside the Bracket for a look at which non-majors have put themselves in a position to be in the at-large discussion next March.  There is, of course, a lot of basketball yet to be played, so things may look a bit different when we launch Bubble Banter in February.  We’ll call this Stocking Stuffer Part I.  Part II will feature a look at major conference teams that could be on or near the bubble come March.  Note: For this discussion, Atlantic 10, Mountain West, and Conference USA teams will be featured in Part II.

At-Large Picture – Part I: Teams to watch …

Murray State  –  The Racers have beaten Southern Mississippi at the Great Alaska Shootout, Dayton at home, and Memphis on the road.  Those were the three biggest challenges on Murray’s non-conference slate.  The victory at Memphis figures to hold the most weight, although the Tigers have not looked much like a Top 20 team this season.  Road Bumps: The Ohio Valley Conference isn’t very strong and will certainly be an anchor to Murray’s RPI and overall strength-of-schedule.  The Racers have also played three non-Division I opponents – two of those scheduled at home.  If Murray can finish its non-conference slate unbeaten, the Racers should be able to absorb a loss or two in the OVC.  Any more than that, plus a loss in the OVC tournament, would make it interesting.  How Southern Miss, Dayton, and Memphis finish the season will also be a factor.

Creighton – The Bluejays’ victory at San Diego State could pay big dividends in March.  Beating Northwestern (Dec. 22) will be important, too.  That would leave Creighton 2-1 against its best non-conference opponents (CU lost at St. Joseph’s).  Given the Bluejays status as Missouri Valley favorite, the outlook for an at-large bid is favorable if the scenario above unfolds.  Road Bumps: Playing on the road in the Valley is never easy, but it will be important for Creighton to avoid “bad losses” along the way.  It will also help if CU separates itself with or above Northern Iowa and Wichita State at the top of the standings.

Northern Iowa – While the Panthers are off to a strong start – including a 4-1 record away from home, they lack a marquee victory.  UNI’s win at Old Dominion was solid but the Panthers followed it up with a double-digit loss at St. Mary’s – another potential bubble team.  The game with Ohio (Dec. 20) figures to be huge for both schools.  Road Bumps: Northern Iowa will need to keep pace – and beat – both Creighton and Wichita State during the Missouri Valley season.  Much like Creighton, UNI will need to avoid “bad losses” to those at the bottom of the league standings. Read more…

Big Ten dominates the latest Power 24 update

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment
Welcome to Bracketville

By most statistical measures, the Big Ten is the No. 1 conference through the first month-plus of the season.  The league is first in the RPI, first in overall winning percentage, and its teams have compiled wins over top teams in other BCS conferences.  Thus, it’s no real surprise the Big Ten has six teams in this week’s Power 24 – led by Ohio State, which stays at No. 2.  Yes, the Buckeyes lost at Kansas but Jared Sullinger didn’t play.  Winning at KU is tough at full strength, so not having a potential first team All-American on the floor is a valid consideration.

December 12 – Power 24

Kentucky stays at No. 1.  Even though the Wildcats played a rather poor first half in Bloomington, they fought back and nearly pulled out a huge road victory.  No reason to drop UK for a one-point loss in an extremely hostile environment.  Syracuse holds firm at No. 3.  It would have been easy to move the Orange into the No. 1 spot once UK and OSU lost.  Syracuse may well prove to be the best team.  As of Monday, however, the Orange had yet to play a true road game.  We’ll re-evaluate the order once ‘Cuse plays at NC State this weekend.

Indiana and Illinois join the rankings this week.  Memphis and Arizona fall out.  Arizona remains close thanks to a tight road loss at Florida.  Memphis has tossed aside most of its non-conference chances, and will have a difficult time challenging for a Top 5 seed in March.  Congratulations to Murray State on its win at Memphis Sunday.  The Racers begin the week at No. 32 on the S-curve.  That would be an 8-seed.  Quite an accomplishment for a team from the Ohio Valley Conference.

 

Kentucky grabs overall No. 1 seed in first bracket projection

December 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Welcome to Bracketville

While there are several surprises in our first bracket projection of the 2011-2012 season, there’s no surprise about which team is the overall No. 1 seed: Kentucky.  Fresh off a thrilling victory over North Carolina on Saturday, the Wildcats take their place as the top seed in the South – going to Atlanta.  The remaining No. 1 seeds are Ohio State, Syracuse and Duke.  One could easily make the case for North Carolina to stay on the one-line based on talent and expectations.  No one will be surprised to see the Tar Heels in New Orleans.  For today, however, Duke’s overall resume is superior and Carolina has lost two games.  Let’s just remember, it’s very early.

DECEMBER 5 – BRACKET PROJECTION

DECEMBER 5 – POWER 24

The rest of the bracket is quite interesting.  Several major conference teams have been less than stellar through the first month of the season.  That’s opened the door for the mid majors and today’s bracket reflects some quality non-conference work by teams from the Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt, Conference USA, and Missouri Valley.  All have multiple teams in the field.

We’ve played a little less than a quarter of the season.  There are certain to be a lot of changes in the coming weeks.  The journey to Selection Sunday is here again – let’s enjoy the ride.  More to come soon.

Categories: Current Updates

Inside the Bracket: Take-aways from the Big Ten/ACC

December 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Welcome to Bracketville

The Big Ten won its third straight Big Ten-ACC Challenge.  While that may help the league’s overall perception, teams earn NCAA bids, not conferences.  Here are a few bracket-related observations from this year’s Challenge:

Ohio State is playing like a No. 1 seed.  While the Buckeyes have yet to leave Value City Arena, they dominated Duke by 22 points.  This was the same Duke team which defeated Michigan and Kansas enroute to another Maui title.  The Blue Devils had also compiled wins over Michigan State and Belmont.  When you add in OSU’s victory over Florida on November 15, the Buckeyes begin December with eyes on a No. 1 seed.  A trip to Kansas on December 10 will be OSU’s first true road test.

Indiana could be an NCAA team.  The Hoosiers’ schedule hasn’t featured any heavyweights (yet), but IU has a balanced attack that creates problems for opposing defenses.  Pulling out a tough road win at NC State is a promising sign for a team that didn’t win a single road game last year.  The Hoosiers host Kentucky on December 10.  Beating the Wildcats would likely allow IU to enter Big Ten play without a loss.

So could North Carolina State.  The Wolfpack were supposed to be a year away, but as witnessed against Indiana, NC State has the talent to be an NCAA contender.  They rank 18th in the nation in assists, a great sign of team play, as is a team field goal percentage of .417 – also a Top 50 stat.  With non-conference games at Stanford and vs. Syracuse still on the schedule, the Wolfpack have the chance for a resume-building win ahead of ACC play.

Illinois has found a floor leader.  Bradley tranfer Sam Maniscalco has given the Illini the type of leadership and mental toughness missing the past couple of seasons.  The senior leads Illinois in scoring (13.3 ppg),  FT percentage (88%), and 3-point percentage (41.9).  He scored 24 in a comeback win at Maryland.  There are a lot of new faces in Champaign, and the Illini won’t challenge for a Big Ten title, but there’s no reason to think a Top 6 finish and NCAA bid is out of reach. Read more…

Categories: Current Updates, Team News