A bit quietly, at least on the national scene, the Iowa Hawkeyes are putting together a resume worthy of No. 1 seed consideration. Their last loss was a one-point decision at Iowa State. Since then, the Hawkeyes have beaten both Michigan State and Purdue twice, and also taken down a pretty good Michigan squad. As such, Iowa joins the top seed line in today’s bracket update – alongside Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Kansas.
Elsewhere, teams like Butler, Gonzaga, and UCLA are struggling to hold onto bracket spots, each is among the final teams with a bye – meaning they are just above the First Four grouping. Clemson is in that group too, trying to overcome a non-conference scheduled ranked above 300. It’s a tall order, for sure.
Although the pool of at-large candidates is starting to dwindle a bit, the movement among teams remains very much a work in progress. Even at this late January date, there isn’t much room between seed lines and teams just in the field and those just out. Enjoy your week of college hoops.
This should not come as a surprise: Oklahoma is the No. 1 overall seed in today’s bracket. After dispatching Oklahoma State and West Virginia last week, the Sooners own the top spot in the RPI, their only blemish a triple-overtime classic at Kansas.
The rest of the top line is as follows: Kansas, North Carolina, and Villanova. Elsewhere, the carousel continues. Between Saturday morning and Sunday night, all but two teams (Maryland and Texas AM) ranked between No. 9 and No. 16 on the Seed List suffered defeats. We should probably be used to that by now, and it’s likely to continue.
Clemson is this week’s biggest mover. While there are certainly question marks on the Tigers’ resume (including a rather horrid non-conference SOS number), the Selection Committee would not ignore a team with a 5-1 mark in the ACC that includes five straight victories over Florida State, Syracuse, Louisville, Duke, and Miami. Four of those five games were at home and Clemson now embarks on a journey that includes four of five games on the road. We’ll see how the Tigers handle prosperity. Read more…
Fresh off back-to-back victories over Michigan State and Purdue – the latter on the road – the Iowa Hawkeyes vaulted to a four-seed in today’s updated bracket.
Ahead of tonight’s monumental tilt between Kansas and Oklahoma, a quick housekeeping note – we’ve reached the part of the season where we begin weekly bracket updates. Twice-a-week updates begin in mid-February.
It’s still too early to form any firm conclusions, but January should help separate the contenders and drain the bubble pool (maybe). Then again, this season has been anything but predictable. We’ll see.
For a list of this week’s bracket games, visit the Schedule page.
What a weekend for college hoops – headlined by a matchup of Big East contenders who are coming off losses on New Year’s Eve – Butler and Xavier. The Cintas Center in Cincinnati will be rocking.
Given the New Year’s Day bracket – and weekly updates to follow – here’s a quick peek at this weekend’s action as it relates to the current “bracket” landscape:
Seeding Games (based on where we stand at time of writing) …
- Butler at Xavier
- Baylor at Kansas
- Iowa at Purdue
- Iowa State at Oklahoma
- Louisville at Wake Forest
- Arizona at Arizona State
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…
If you’re already looking for a couple of mid-majors to keep an eye on next March, consider Valparaiso and Stephen F. Austin. If those names sound familiar, they should. Both the Crusaders and Lumberjacks have been in this position before, and both are heavy favorites to again win their respective leagues. Each team might also be better this go-around. Considering Valpo nearly upset Maryland a year ago, that’s noteworthy.
Valparaiso – Head coach Bryce Drew welcomes back a host of talent, including Horizon League Player-of-the-Year candidate Alec Peters. In all, the Crusaders return nine players who logged significant minutes. Valparaiso is balanced, experienced, and confident. Those traits generally bode well for teams in search of March Magic. Nothing is certain once the ball is tipped, but expect the Crusaders to push for a 30-win season. Valpo has non-conference games against MAAC favorite Iona, improving A-10 power Rhode Island, and Pac-12 teams Oregon and Oregon State. If the Crusaders can win at least two of those they have a chance to bump their seed line and possibly contend for an at-large berth. Read more…
Although not as a media member, I attended open practices on Final Four Friday in Indianapolis. Indy is a great host city. As many have noted, everything surrounding Lucas Oil Stadium is close by; and considering the large crowds (over 25,000 in attendance, per the NCAA), local fans embrace the event.
Here are a few quick notes and takeaways:
- Kentucky has a forest of trees. When all four teams come out to practice – one after another – you notice certain things. UK’s size is one of those things. Duke’s Jahlil Okafor is mammoth, but as an overall team, the Blue Devils aren’t that big
- Tom Izzo loves March Madness. Not only is the Spartans’ head coach wildly successful this time of year, he seems to relish the experience. Michigan State had the most energetic practice, with Izzo directing the fun while smiling and waving to the crowd. He allowed his players to go through a slam dunk event in the final minutes, bringing the crowd to its feet when they finished.
- Bo Ryan of Wisconsin also made it a fun affair; as two sets of Badgers squared off in a half-court shot contest to wind up UW’s session. Each squad made at least five; so if Saturday’s semifinal comes down to a 50-foot heave, you’ve been forewarned.
- Based on the above two notes, Michigan State and Wisconsin appeared to be the most “relaxed” teams at the open practices.
- Duke ran some rather intense full-court drills and has obvious speed on the wings. The Blue Devils will be one of the smaller teams on the floor, so you have to think they will try to speed up the game, score in transition, and create open space for shooters.
- Kentucky kept its practice short. Despite having the largest contingent of fans on Friday, the Wildcats only practiced for about 30 of their allotted 50 minutes, and a good five minutes or so was free-throw rotations. It was a very business-like approach. Maybe that’s what John Calipari believes is best for his team on the verge of history. At 38-0, they are trying to become the first team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to complete an undefeated season.
- On an ironic note, unbeaten UNLV arrived in Indianapolis for the 1991 Final Four (at the former Hoosier Dome). That was the year Duke upset the Rebels in the national semifinals