The bank was open Wednesday night in Syracuse. John Gillon’s three-pointer at the buzzer lifted Syracuse over Duke at the Carrier Dome and back (again) into the bracket. It’s been a wild month for the Orange who now need to close the deal. It was also a big night for Providence, who used a Kyron Cartwright trey to knock off Creighton in Omaha. And then Dillon Brooks nailed a long-distance dagger to beat California and leave the Bears teetering for bracket survival as February comes to a close. Are we ready for March yet?
No changes on the No. 1 seed line. By a whisker, Villanova holds onto the overall No. 1 seed after its second loss to Butler, a team whose profile is far better than its AP ranking. Kansas, North Carolina, and Gonzaga round out the group. UNC moves up to No. 3 after dispatching Louisville.
If last night was any indication, it’s going to be a fun late-season ride to Selection Sunday.
Road wins are like gold, especially in late February, especially when you’ve spent portions of the season hovering around the bubble. Monday night, Miami and Iowa State grabbed slivers of gold, and in the process, inched closer to wrapping up NCAA tournament bids.
After winning at Texas Tech, ISU is 10-5 in the Big 12 and 8-7 vs. Top 100 RPI teams. This month, the Cyclones have road wins at Kansas, Kansas State, and Texas Tech. With Baylor, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia still on the schedule, the road isn’t easy. But it would likely take an unexpected U-turn for ISU to miss the Field of 68.
Miami’s victory at struggling Virginia was perhaps even more important, regardless of the visual carnage at times. Here’s why: The Hurricanes’ non-conference schedule ranked 250-plus, with their best NC win being Stanford … the win guarantees Miami at least a 9-9 finish in the ACC … and the ‘Canes closing schedule includes Duke at home, followed by trips to Virginia Tech and Florida State. For all those reasons, Miami is now in a better position to either hold on or make a move into the top half of the bracket. Read more…
If today were Selection Sunday, and North Carolina was the ACC champion, the Selection Committee would likely be inclined to reward the Tar Heels with a No. 1 seed over a very good Baylor team whose profile is equally impressive but lacks a conference title. In the world of splitting hairs, we just did. On that note, two interesting twists await. First, UNC hosts Louisville on Wednesday, and the Cardinals are No. 6 on the Seed List. If Louisville wins in Chapel Hill, the Cards could make a strong case for the top line on Thursday. Second, the Tar Heels close with an incredibly tough slate, going to Pittsburgh and Virginia before finishing at home with Duke. Baylor can easily play its way back up.
In the race for No. 1 seeds, Villanova and Kansas are sitting in strong positions as the regular season comes to a close. Should Gonzaga finish unbeaten, it would hard to drop the Zags from their No. 1 perch in the West. Which leaves, at least for now, one top seed up for grabs, and it could go any number of ways.
Another meh and blah weekend along the cutline. Should we lose solid mid-major programs like Middle Tennessee State, UNC Wilmington, and say, Monmouth or Illinois State during their conference championships, the Committee will have to heavily weigh a bunch of mediocre power teams versus some solid programs who have fewer chances for marquee wins.
North Carolina is pushing for a No. 1 seed. So is Louisville, for that matter. And Baylor remains firmly in the mix despite four losses in six games, the most recent a two-pointer at home to Kansas in one of Saturday’s best games. If you’re up for Round 3 of KU-Baylor in the Big 12 tournament, raise your hand. I thought so. We also have to keep track of the Pac-12 race.
Bubble Talk debuted on Saturday morning. We’ll update it again next Saturday, if not before. There’ll be a new bracket on Monday, along with a Seed List update.
More Quick Takes from Saturday … Read more…
In the spirit of March, congratulations to the Monmouth Hawks, the first NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball team to clinch a regular-season conference title (MAAC). By do so, the Hawks guarantee themselves a post-season berth. They narrowly missed the NCAA tournament last year as an at-large team. Motivation will be high at the MAAC tournament with another Dance card at stake.
Quick Takes from Thursday:
- Michigan grabbed a critical home win against Wisconsin. The Wolverines close with 4 of 5 on the road, where they’ve managed a 1-6 record.
- Wisconsin likely needs to find wins over Maryland and Purdue down the stretch (including B10 tourney) to secure a Top 5 seed. Otherwise, the Badgers’ top-end profile could relegate them to a slightly lesser seed on Selection Sunday.
- Smooth night out West as Gonzaga, Oregon, and Arizona all roll to wins.
After a home loss to NC State in late January, it was fair to wonder if this year’s talented group of Duke Blue Devils were ever going to reach the pinnacles set before them in November. Most preseason bracket projections established Duke as the No. 1 overall seed, a prohibitive favorite to win another National Championship. Then the injuries mounted, on the court and on the bench. Following the NC State defeat, Duke had lost three of four games and looked more like a middle-of-the-pack ACC group than a title contender.
Now, turn the page. Since that loss to the Wolfpack, the Blue Devils have reeled off six straight ACC wins, including three on the road – at Wake Forest, at Notre Dame, and last night at Virginia. In less than a month, Duke has risen to 9-4 in the ACC, back among league contenders. They’ve also taken a climb on today’s Seed List – claiming a No. 3 seed in the bracket, opening in Greenville. If you fell asleep on the Blue Devils, it might be time to wake up. It looks like Duke is back in play for a top-three seed on Selection Sunday.
Bubble Picture …
In the absence of distinct separating factors along the cutline, it was time to reconvene some advanced metrics. Those models continue to favor the likes of Clemson, Wichita State, and Kansas State – despite the Wildcats’ recent streak of Big 12 losses. For now, take your pick among the final 8 teams (Last IN, First OUT). You can make cases for and against each of them. Championship Week could well turn into a series of play-in games unless two or three teams from the group (or elsewhere) separate themselves in the next couple of weeks.
We can identify teams like SMU, South Carolina, and Virginia Tech as recent casualties of weak non-conference strength of schedule (NC SOS) numbers on Selection Sunday. The Selection Committee has repeatedly sent messages to teams who schedule heavy doses of non-conference games against the bottom third of the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI): stay clear of the bubble or risk being left out.
With that as a backdrop, here are six teams currently on the Bubble with either potential NC SOS trouble and/or a large number of non-conference games against the bottom end of Division 1. As part of the exercise, each of these team’s record minus those 200-plus NC RPI wins is noted in parenthesis … Read more…