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

January 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Welcome to Bracketville

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. Read more…

Notes and observations ahead of our first in-season bracket projection

December 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Welcome to Bracketville

Our first in-season bracket projection is due out Monday evening (Dec. 6).  With it will come a lot of debate (and some complaints).  Time to fire away with some notes and observations from a great first month of college hoops.

 The first note is to remind ourselves that a lot of meaningful basketball remains.  Things don’t necessarily end like they start.  Flashback: Georgetown opened the ’08-’09 season 11-1, including a win at Connecticut – an eventual No. 1 seed.  From there, the Hoyas stumbled through the Big East – finishing 7-11 in conference play and 16-14 overall – missing the NCAAs.   With that, here we go …

  • San Diego State and UNLV lead a quadrant of teams (BYU and New Mexico) from the Mountain West that could impact our final bracket in March.  SDSU opened with three true road games and two neutral-court affairs – including a win at Gonzaga.  It’s the type of schedule that should pay big dividends.  UNLV has already beaten Wisconsin (home) and Virginia Tech (neutral court).   BYU has victories over WAC-favorite Utah State and St. Mary’s.  If there’s a bubble team, it’s likely New Mexico.  The Lobos beat Arizona State, but lost a lopsided tilt at Cal. 
  • If Connecticut continues to get production from Alex Oriakhi, Shabazz Napier, and others, the Huskies are in line for a very good season.  Kemba Walker is a front-runner for Player-of-the-Year, and UConn already has three wins over NCAA-level teams: Wichita State, Michigan State, and Kentucky (Maui Invitational).
  • Who thought Notre Dame would win the Old Spice Classic in Orlando?  While beating Georgia, California, and Wisconsin isn’t quite like UConn’s feat in Maui, the Irish have certainly improved expectations – at least outside South Bend.
  • Georgetown is also off to a great start.  The Hoyas 111-102 OT win over Missouri ranks as the season’s best game to date.  The season-opening road win at Old Dominion is looking better all the time.
  • Pittsburgh is solid again – beating Maryland and Texas in New York.  A No. 1-seed hopeful, the Panthers’ real questions won’t begin until March.  Can they reach a Final Four?
  • Overall, the Big East is 17-6 vs. fellow BCS teams.
  • The Big Ten – fresh off its second straight ACC-Big Ten title – is 14-10 vs. BCS teams and 9-5 vs. the ACC overall.  In our preseason Power 24, we suggested that Ohio State would challenge Michigan State for league supremacy.  No team has two bigger true road wins (Florida, Florida State) than the Buckeyes.  That said, MSU was 4-2 at this juncture last season and the Spartans ended up in the Final Four.  Don’t quit on Tom Izzo’s bunch just because they lost to UConn and at Duke.  Read more…

Bracket Bits: Poor start will hurt Missouri Valley …

November 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Welcome to Bracketville

If you look at our preseason bracket projection, you’ll notice two teams from the Missouri Valley.  Looked good a month ago.  Now, not so much.  It hasn’t been a November to Remember for the MVC.

Through Tuesday (Nov. 23) Missouri Valley teams are 1-7 versus BCS conference opponents.  The lone win was Bradley over Southern Cal.  And while USC was a sleeper pick to sneak into the field – which isn’t looking good, either – the Braves’ one-point win over the Trojans is not the type of victory that figures to elevate how MVC teams are viewed next spring.

Wichita State and Missouri Statethe MVC’s highest projected teams – have yet to win an NCAA-level game.  The Shockers blew a late lead against Connecticut in Maui and Missouri State lost at Tennessee.  Neither was a bad loss, but both were missed chances.  And Missouri Valley teams don’t get that many chances for marquee out-of-conference wins.  Missouri State also lost at Tulsa – a potential bubble team from Conference USA.   Two other top-half MVC teams – Northern Iowa and Bradley – have lost games to TCU and Milwaukee.  Creighton lost Sunday to Iowa State, and the Cyclones aren’t projected to finish in the top half of the Big 12.

It’s still early and teams do not earn at-large bids in November and December.  But bids can be lost.  There are limited chances to make good impressions. 

Those remaining chances?  Wichita State heads to San Diego State (Dec. 4); Missouri State visits Oklahoma State (Dec. 11); Bradley hosts Utah (Dec. 4) and visits Duke (Dec. 8);  Northern Iowa heads to Indiana (Dec. 22); and Creighton goes to Northwestern (Nov. 28) and hosts BYU (Dec. 1). 

If the Missouri Valley hopes to send more than one team Dancing in March, the next three weeks are critical.  Have a different opinion? Rebounds are always welcome.

Bracket Bits: Next two weeks a key stretch

January 15, 2010 Leave a comment

BRACKET BITS

These next two weeks will help set the stage for March Madness.  In early February we reach the mid-point of conference play.  Why is that important?  Because conference standings are a big deal for NCAA selection.  Over the next two weeks we’ll find out which teams put themselves in position for at-large consideration.  We’ll have an idea about who appears “locked in” and who may appear on the “bubble.”  That in mind, here are some Bracket Bits and a look at some meaningful weekend clashes …

Conference RPI rankings (from collegerpi.com) are as follows: 1. Big East | 2. Big 12 | 3. ACC | 4. SEC | 5. Big 10 | 6. Atlantic 10 | 7. Mountain West | 8. Pac-10 | 9. Missouri Valley | 10. Colonial.  While teams earn bids, not conferences, the rankings still help give some indication of how bids could be handed out in two months.  Our January 11 bracket projection had at least  three teams from conferences ranked 1 to 7; while the others had two or one – along with a team or two also considered.

Resume building … No team helped it’s NCAA resume more this past week than Pittsburgh.  Winning three straight conference road games was quite an accomplishment.  It also set the Panthers up for top-tier finish in the Big East.  If Pitt simply wins its remaining home games, the Panthers would finish 12-6 in league play; nicely positioned for a potential protected seed.  That’s quite a climb for a squad that three weeks ago looked like a bubble team.  Then there’s Ohio State – which welcomed back Evan Turner.  How much better are the Buckeyes with a fully healthy Turner?  Ask Purdue.  Illinois opened Big 10 play by beating Northwestern, Iowa, Indiana, and Penn State (4-0).  The next four (@Michigan State, Purdue, @Northwestern, @Penn State) will tell us much more about the Illini’s NCAA chances. Read more…

Bracket Bits: Colonial turnovers and a busy weekend

January 7, 2010 Leave a comment

BRACKET BITS

One the night college football decides its champion based on polls and computers, we make some quick hoop updates and celebrate that the NCAA basketball championship is settled by a tournament.  On that note …

Colonial turnovers … losses by William & Mary and Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) created a turnover on the Colonial’s hope of a multi-bid March.  By dropping a game at Drexel, VCU finds itself at 1-3 in CAA play.  Despite wins over Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Richmond, the Rams now face an uphill battle to reclaim a spot in the CAA title chase.  The Tribe – which lost in OT at home to NC-Wilmington – can stay in the hunt for an at-large bid by avoiding further bad losses and putting together a strong CAA performance.  Elsewhere …

In the Missouri Valley … Northern Iowa continues its push toward the NCAAs – dominating a road game at Southern Illinois, one of the toughest venues in the MVC.  Wichita State improved it’s position by winning at Missouri State.  Shockers’ concern?  Their best non-conference win is at home vs. Texas Tech.  Illinois State will be hampered by another poor non-conference strength of schedule (currently No. 229). Read more…

Bracket Bits: A Holiday look at the NCAA picture

December 26, 2009 Leave a comment

BRACKET BITS

Fresh off a great Christmas with the family.  Hope you had a wonderful day, too.  As the slate of NCAA hoops games is light for the next few days, time for a quick glance at the NCAA picture – particularly some at-large scenarios.  It’s broken down by conference.  If you don’t see a conference listed, assume we expect a single-bid as of this post (Dec. 26, 2009).  Let’s get started …

Atlantic 10 – Dayton is still the favorite; so consider the Flyers an NCAA team.  Temple has put together a solid non-conference profile, followed by Richmond.  Teams in the hunt include: Xavier, Rhode Island, and Charlotte.  Of those, XU, R. Island and Charlotte have the most work to do in-conference.  Our guess is at least three A-10 teams make the field, most likely four.

Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) – Despite three early losses (all to Top 5 teams), North Carolina remains our favorite.  Duke, Clemson, and Florida State are solid NCAA teams at this point.  Others in the at-large picture: Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Miami-FL.  Maryland, Boston College and NC State all face a heavier workload. Read more…

Note to Big Ten: Send thanks to Illinois, Wisconsin …

December 3, 2009 Leave a comment

As teams in the Big Ten Conference celebrate their first-ever ACC-Big 10 Challenge title (it took, ironically, 11 tries), the league might want to consider sending quick thank-you notes to Illinois and Wisconsin.  For starters, the young Illini – fresh off two stumbles in Las Vegas – rallied from 23 points down on the road in the second half to nip Clemson.  It’s especially interesting given that Illinois gave up a 16-point halftime lead in Vegas to Utah.  For seconds, the Badgers – picked 9th in the Big Ten – upset Duke at home.  The Kohl Center is a tough venue for anyone, but remember that until Wednesday night, the Blue Devils had never lost a game in the series.  If you had tried to predict games – which we did – it would have been difficult to suggest that both Illinois and Wisconsin would claim victories given location and opponent.

In other quick notes … Michigan continues to struggle.  The Wolverines should have handled Boston College at home.  Minnesota is also hurting – both on and off the court.  Miami is performing better than expected.  Carolina will be tough if they continue to get good guard play.  Duke is still looking for a consistent inside presence. Ohio State will compete with Michigan State and Purdue.  The jury is still out on Florida State.  Same for Maryland, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech.  Maybe even for Penn State.  A weekend look-ahead on Friday.  As always, send a Rebound.