The final Saturday of the regular season is upon us. Which means Championship Week is officially here. Were it not for NCAA tournament itself, this would arguably be one of the best weeks in sports. So much rides on every outcome, especially for those teams fighting for dance tickets. Friday night gave us a glimpse of the perils ahead, as Ohio Valley Conference favorite Belmont was bounced in the OVC tournament semifinals. With that, here are the latest updates:
As this is Quick Takes, we won’t go in-depth. But here are a few highlights and questions regarding the next eight days… Read more…
March is here. Madness awaits. The next ten days will be filled with hope, excitement, and anxiety as teams and fans await their 2017 NCAA Tournament bracket on Selection Sunday. Between now and then, we still have several things to sort out. Here’s what we know: Kansas, fresh off yet another Big 12 title, sits atop the bracket, followed closely by Villanova. Both the Jayhawks and Wildcats look fairly entrenched on the top line. The other two spots remain in play. Will Gonzaga hold on? Will a Pac-12 team make a jump to the one line? Can North Carolina survive the ACC tournament and keep its perch in the South?
Each of those story lines should be fun to watch. And we haven’t even talked about the bubble. Illinois, Wake Forest, and Kansas State all helped themselves Wednesday. USC and California are trying to hold on and state their case. Xavier continues to struggle, its NCAA outlook now unclear. Next week’s conference tournaments loom large for final seeding and selection. If a few bid stealers emerge, hold on.
Even with a weak bubble that features a host of double-digit loss resumes, a couple of surprising bubble teams have re-emerged: Illinois and Vanderbilt. With improved play and strong SOS numbers, neither should be discounted if they keep up momentum. This morning, both have nine (9) Top 100 wins and Top 20 schedules. In fact, Vandy owns the nation’s No. 5 overall schedule and No. 1 non-conference SOS. Historically, such numbers have given teams a little more leeway when it comes to losses. The question is exactly how much? A team with 15 losses has never received an invitation (unless winning their conference tourney).
Editor’s note: A reader noted my original statistic was derived pre-2011 data, which is correct. It used to be rare for 14-loss teams to receive at-large bids (prior to 2011, it only happened six times). More recently, in 2011, as an example, five teams received at-large bids with 14 losses. Sorry for the confusion. Read more…
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…