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…
If we learned anything after Saturday’s sneak peak into the 2017 Selection Committee’s thinking – at least in mid-February – it’s this: Quality RPI wins still matter and the Atlantic Coast Conference is the top game in town. The road to Selection Sunday is far from over, but as of Noon this past Saturday, ACC teams gobbled up five of the 16 seed lines released (31 percent). The Big 12 and Pac-12 each took three (19 percent each). The Big East and SEC two each (12.5 percent). The Big Ten? A discussion point, but not worthy, and that was before Wisconsin lost at home Sunday night to Northwestern; a huge win for the Wildcats, by the way, who are poised to make their first-ever appearance in March Madness. Cincinnati and SMU (American) were also on the outside looking in at the top four lines.
Now, take a breath. If college basketball has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. Although the very top of the bracket is certainly taking shape, nothing is set in stone. Based upon the Committee’s seeding, three ACC teams (North Carolina, Louisville, Florida State) are still in play for a No. 1 seed. One could say the same for an eventual Pac-12 champion, especially if say Oregon or Arizona wins the regular season and P12 tourney titles. As for Gonzaga? With their trip to Saint Mary’s in the rearview mirror, it’s looking more and more likely the Bulldogs will wrap-up a perfect season. If they do, a No. 1 seed awaits. If they were to stumble, we’ll see. The Committee is not as enamored with their perfect record as compared to the number of power wins by say a team like Kansas or Baylor.
There’s nothing new to report along the bubble. It’s as messy as ever. Stay tuned.
If not before, the Indiana Hoosiers are officially in bubble trouble after Thursday’s home loss to Purdue. It’s not the individual defeat, it’s the collective profile IU has compiled since beating North Carolina at home on November 30. Since that point, the Hoosiers have beaten one team – Michigan State – that held an at-large spot in Thursday’s bracket. And the Spartans were among the last four teams with a bye. Whether you appreciate the RPI or not, Indiana’s RPI is hovering around 80 this morning. They are 5-7 in the Big Ten and 1-5 in road games (2-7 away from home overall). There’s time to re-right the ship, so to speak, but the Hoosiers finish with four of six games on the road.
The aforementioned Spartans have a better RPI, but a similarly mediocre profile heading into the home stretch. What they lack are IU’s marquee early wins; MSU beat Wichita State. Within the league, Michigan State owns a sweep of Minnesota and home wins over Northwestern and Michigan. If there’s an edge, it’s that MSU closes with four of seven at home. Could this be a year in which both Michigan State and Indiana miss the NCAA tournament? The answer is an uncertain, but possible, yes. Read more…
As we ushered in 2017, Syracuse could easily have been asking, what happened? A preseason Top 25 team, the Orange were mired in a streak that produced loses to Connecticut, St. John’s, and Boston College. Early January wasn’t much better, as the Orange’s early league road schedule took a toll. Fast forward to February. It’s amazing what a five-game winning streak in the ACC can do for a team’s resume, especially when the field around them remains quite average. Syracuse’s last-second heroics at Clemson have the Orange at 8-4 in the league and, at least for the moment, a few slots above the cutline. We’ll see how the final month plays out.
No changes on the No. 1 seed line today. Kansas and Baylor bounced back with road wins . Come Saturday, we’ll all get a sneak peak at how the actual Selection Committee views the Top 16 teams (on their Seed List), noted as the top four seeds in each region. Every Committee is a little different, so it will be interesting to see how they view things. Some of us would prefer to see their look at the bubble, too. Then again, deciphering and explaining those concepts would require a show that’s too long for network television. Come Monday, the middle and lower half of the bracket could look quite different – again.