Given this year’s rather unimpressive Bubble, there’s been ample opportunities for so-called “mid-majors” to cash in. But as the calendar turns to March, Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley) is the only one to really take advantage: the Panthers will be Dancing. Old Dominion was in a similar position in mid-January until some unsightly Conference USA losses clouded their horizon. The Monarchs can still make it, but not without a strong finish, and maybe a little help.
Which brings us to the next question: Are there any other potential mid-major teams who could make a late push toward at-large consideration? Here are the leading candidates (records are D1 only) …
Wofford (21-6) | (Southern) – The Terriers might be the leading candidate thanks to a Top 20 non-conference schedule that includes a victory at NC State. Wofford’s other Top 100 wins include Iona and Sam Houston State. The biggest hang-up, and it sticks out like a 300-pound gorilla, is a loss at The Citadel, which stands at No. 310 on the RPI rankings as of this posting. It would also be a bit unusual for a six-loss team in Wofford’s situation to gain momentum on the At-Large Board. Assuming the Terriers would lose only to Chattanooga in the SoCon tourney finale, there’s an outside chance, but it’s just that. Read more…
As the calendar turns to March, Kentucky has entrenched itself as the No. 1 overall seed. Unless the Wildcats lose multiple times between now and Selection Sunday – which is highly unlikely – they will stand atop the bracket when the official Field of 68 is unveiled on March 15. UK’s proverbial “march” will begin in Louisville and head through Cleveland in the Midwest Region.
As for the remaining No. 1 seeds, Virginia has a firm grasp on the East. After that, there’s still a bit of a race. If Gonzaga loses, Villanova is next in line to ascend to the top line. We also can’t exclude Wisconsin, Arizona, or even Kansas – although the Jayhawks will need help from the others in front of them. While winning both Big 12 regular season and tournament titles (if it happens) would be mighty impressive, the Jayhawks’ loss total might be too great to push KU ahead of the other three if those teams continue to win.
The bubble/cutline remains a hodge-podge of rotating resumes. The week ahead – leading into conference tournaments – figures to be huge. And it might be Friday or Saturday of Championship Week before the final Field comes into focus.
By now you know that the lower half of the bracket is wide open. The bubble? Well, it’s wide open, too. There are some highly questionable profiles near the cutline, and that may not change. Written off for the NIT at the end of its non-conference season, UCLA is among the teams back in the at-large picture. Same for Boise State, riding an eight-game winning streak in Mountain West play. And what about the ACC … no league is stronger at the top, but there’s a steep decline once you exit the upper tier.
There are some big-time programs currently on the outside looking in – including aforementioned UCLA, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, and Pittsburgh. There are also traditionally strong leagues – such as the Atlantic 10 – that could put just two teams into the field. Read more…
Welcome to the Revolving Door – otherwise known as this year’s NCAA tournament bubble. Teams come and go, enter and leave. It reminds one of Black Friday shoppers, moving in and out of stores at a brisk pace. They’re in search of a victory with the right shape and size. Finding those gifts can be elusive, and in the bustle of the moment, they stumble. Between Monday and today, a variety of teams passed through the bracket. A few others had the opportunity and missed the gate. If it gives you a better idea, most teams seeded on the 8-line or lower are a part of the bubble; to varying degrees. Buckle up, another weekend awaits.
What we do have is stability at the top of the bracket. Kentucky may have used up another of its lives this week, but the Cats survived at Florida. In search of a perfect season, it’s a good thing UK has nine. Virginia, Gonzaga, and Duke remain entrenched as top seeds – with Kansas, Wisconsin, Villanova, and Arizona next in line.
There will be 68 teams announced on Selection Sunday. That much we know. Which 68? We have a pretty good idea about 15 to 20 at this point. After that? There’s a lot of uncertainty. It’s shaping up to be a wild Championship Week – one in which the Selection Committee may use (or need) results to separate teams with similar profiles.
For the past couple of weeks, Duke and Kansas have been battling for the final No. 1 seed position. With Kansas losing at Oklahoma State this past weekend, Duke and KU flip-flop on the Seed List and the Blue Devils now sit atop the South Region. Not that it’s a huge difference, Kansas is the No. 2 seed in the same region. The other No. 1 seeds remain the same: Kentucky, Virginia, and Gonzaga. It’ll be interesting to see how the Selection Committee ultimately handles Gonzaga. If the Bulldogs win out and enter Selection Sunday with only one loss, it’s tough to imagine a scenario in which they are not a No. 1 seed in the West. But on paper, one could clearly make a case that both Duke and Kansas have superior resumes.
Elsewhere, the Big Ten benefits from its bunching of teams. Illinois, Purdue, and Michigan State are all among the last six teams in today’s bracket – giving the B10 eight representatives. It’s doubtful that will hold up over the next month; five to six bids is much more likely.
A final thought … given the current landscape, Championship Week may become more like Tiebreaker Week for the Selection Committee. Conference tournament results could well determine the final few teams in and out of this year’s NCAA tournament.
Enjoy another week of hoops. Next bracket update is Friday.
Headlined by unbeaten Kentucky, eight teams enter the stretch run toward Selection Sunday as No. 1 seed contenders. Based on the Seed List for today’s bracket, those contenders in order are: Kentucky, Virginia, Gonzaga, Kansas, Duke, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Villanova.
Notre Dame and Louisville could potentially enter the mix, although the Irish, in particular, have a major hurdle to overcome: a non-conference schedule ranked among the worst in college basketball (No. 326). That type of non-league schedule likely won’t be rewarded by the Selection Committee unless the Irish win the Atlantic Coast Conference (season and tourney).
With the Super Bowl behind us, March Madness begins to grab headlines. So if you’re just settling back into college hoops, here’s one other thing you need to know about the bracket and overall landscape of the projected NCAA tournament field, as of today. There’s a lot of mediocre teams and resumes. The proverbial bubble? It basically includes teams seeded 8th or lower, and some of the 7-seeds have question marks. Which means that much of the bracket will ebb and flow over the next month. Much like the weather, if you’re not satisfied, wait a couple of days – it’s likely to change.
Quality wins have largely eluded the Texas Longhorns, and the ensuing holes have created an NCAA tournament resume that today (Feb. 3) would generate a lot of bubble discussion.
The Longhorns’ current RPI (29), BPI (36) and KenPom (26) ratings are plenty good enough. Texas is also 5-4 away from Austin (road/neutral games), and has an overall schedule ranked No. 12 in the country. Everyone of the Longhorns’ seven losses has come to a quality opponent. In fact, Texas has not lost to a team that today would not be a projected at-large team in the NCAA Field of 68. So where’s the problem?
If you look at the other side of the ledger, Texas is 1-7 vs. Top 50 RPI teams and just 3-7 vs. the Top 100. The Longhorns’ best wins are West Virginia (home) and Iowa (Neutral). Unfortunately for UT, early wins against California and Connecticut haven’t held up well. And within the deep Big 12, Texas has limped to a 3-5 start.
With three of the Longhorns’ next four at home, it’s time to make a move. Two of those home games are against Texas Tech and TCU. Those are games UT really needs to win. The closing stretch includes road games at Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Kansas, and home dates with Iowa State, Baylor, and Kansas State.
The Big 12 offers plenty of opportunities – but wins won’t come easy, and to this point, Texas has missed on most of its high profile chances. That will need to change in the next month or there could be some nervous Longhorns on Selection Sunday.