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…
With the Super Bowl behind us, Selection Sunday awaits, along with the Madness of March. Between now and then, college basketball is sure to provide us enough plot twists to hold our attention. Exhibit A is this past Saturday … when eight of the top 16 teams on the Seed List added a loss to their resume. Meanwhile, teams along the cutline meander like a river without direction, and the bubble club numbers 30-plus members. In other words, fasten your seat belt and enjoy what should be a wild four-week ride.
If you’re returning for the first time post-football, reigning NCAA champion Villanova remains entrenched as the overall No. 1 seed. Regarding the rest of today’s No. 1 seeds, Selection Committee member value a team’s full profile over a single result (or two). Although in a different order from last Thursday, Gonzaga, Kansas, and Baylor continue to lead the West, Midwest, and South regions. That said, the margins for the Jayhawks and Bears are waning.
It would take hours of conversation and pages of words to wrangle through the bubble and the process in making the final decisions for at-large spots this morning. From eight seeds on down, every resume has holes to fill and issues to solve ahead of Championship Week.
In early November, we contemplated when Dillon Brooks would return and how good the Oregon Ducks might be without him. He returned in Maui, during a loss to Georgetown. Since then, the Ducks have won 11 straight, including a home sweep of UCLA and USC, both of whom arrived in Eugene without a loss. It appears that Oregon is finding its Mojo at the perfect time. If they can navigate a trip through Washington next week, the Ducks could be 7-0 in the Pac-12 heading into road trips to Utah and Colorado. With Brooks back, Oregon’s position as a protected seed in March looks pretty safe.
Arizona is also hot, winning 10 of 12, with those two losses being to Butler and Gonzaga. And it’s worth noting the Wildcats are doing it without Allonzo Trier, arguably their most talented player. We still don’t know if, or when, he’ll return. Final note on the Pac-12 … it’s looking like a four-bid league right now. The question is whether a team like California or Colorado (or someone else) can join the conversation. Read more…
It’s New Year’s weekend. Conference play has started. The race toward March is upon us, and with it, the race for No. 1 Seeds. Today, those slots belong to Villanova, Kansas, Baylor, and UCLA. Villanova’s survival against DePaul, and UCLA’s last-second loss at Oregon do not change those team’s positions. Opinions vary, of course, but the next four spots on the Seed List look like this: Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Gonzaga. If you have a different order, that’s fine. For me, UCLA’s win at Kentucky still trumps a one-loss Duke team, whose best win is Florida on a neutral court.
Indiana and Texas AM take the biggest slides. When the Hoosiers are good, they’re really good – as noted by wins over Kansas and Carolina. But IU has also been inconsistent and played a rather ugly non-conference schedule for a team with its roster and pedigree. The result? IU has an RPI of 122 (as of this posting), with the loss at Fort Wayne and then at home to Nebraska. The Hoosiers are too talented to be concerned, but a protected seed has to be earned. With that in mind, Louisville awaits on Saturday. Read more…
If you’re a team that plays in a power conference you can survive an average (or even below average) non-conference slate and still earn an at-large bid. Last year’s Purdue team is a good example. The Boilermakers dropped non-conference decisions to Kansas State, North Florida, Vanderbilt, and Gardner-Webb. What Purdue was able to do, however, was win 8 of 9 Big Ten games during a mid-season stretch and finish 12-6 in league play en-route to a 9-seed in the Midwest Region.
If you’re a team from outside the power conferences, non-conference results become much more critical. Opportunities for resume-changing wins are more limited. With that thought in mind, here are five opening weekend games with March in mind … Read more…
Today’s bracket update includes this very scenario, as the Flyers are the final at-large team in the projected Field of 68. They are matched against Tennessee in one First Four pairing; Baylor and Providence square off in the other grouping. Given the overall bubble picture, it’s hard to ignore Baylor’s non-conference wins over Colorado (when the Buffaloes were at full strength) and Kentucky. Plus, the Bears’ are riding a three-game winning streak. If we’ve learned anything, though, it’s that the bubble picture changes quickly. Case in point: Baylor visits West Virginia and Texas in its next two games and the Bears have not thrived away from home. Dayton also has a closing schedule that can help or hinder their NCAA chances. It starts with trips to Duquesne and Saint Joseph’s.
No changes today on the No. 1 seed line despite Syracuse’s unexpected home loss to Boston College. We’ll see how the Orange respond at Duke on Saturday night. It should be a game where two feisty teams try to undo an unpleasant result (the Blue Devils are coming off a defeat at rival North Carolina on Thursday).
One housekeeping note … BYU is a true 11-seed after beating Gonzaga. However, accommodating BYU’s bracketing requirements (Thursday-Saturday sites only) forced the Cougars down a seed line (12-seed in South Region). The projected good news: they open in Spokane.
Enjoy a stellar weekend of college hoops.