Welcome to Championship Week.
Duke rejoins the top line as a No. 1 seed in the West in our latest bracket update – largely due to the loss and surrounding uncertainty with BYU. The Cougars will be re-evaluated between now and Selection Sunday. How much their seeding is effected will depend on how BYU plays this weekend and in the Mountain West Tournament. Butler and Washington State rejoin the bracket today and are part of the First Four in Dayton. Butler largely backed its way in with the declining bubble landscape, but the Bulldogs will take a Dance ticket and run.
We still have 11 spots available in the bracket. That’s an amazing number. Usually it’s more like four or five. Great time to like college hoops with conference tournaments underway and some huge matchups on tap this weekend. Send a rebound if you like. There’s nothing like March Madness. We’ll have more frequent updates this entire next week.
Even without playing a true road game, Syracuse moves up and claims the final No. 1 seed in our latest Bracket Projection. With three of their next four away from the Carrier Dome, we’ll have a better idea soon if the Orange can maintain top-line status. Most important, Syracuse has handled its best three opponents (Notre Dame, Michigan State, Drexel) in convincing fashion. The other No. 1 seeds are unchanged – Duke, Ohio State, and Kansas.
Kentucky jumps up to the two-line this week, joining Pittsburgh, Connecticut, and San Diego State. UK dominated Louisville on the road and has again positioned itself as the team to beat in the SEC. A strong run through the conference would put the Wildcats in position for another No. 1 seed.
Cincinnati is an interesting case. The Bearcats are 14-0 (D-I games), but haven’t been tested. Their best win is at home vs. Dayton – albeit a dominating performance. UC’s non-conference strength of schedule ranks No. 335. It couldn’t be much worse. Considering history (Virginia Tech last year, for example), Cincinnati has significant work ahead in the Big East. They open 2011 as a 10-seed. Overall, nine Big East teams find a home this week. That would be a record. Check back in late January and we’ll have a better idea of contenders and pretenders.
Last Five In: West Virginia, Drexel, Cleveland State, Georgia, Oklahoma State. First Five Out: Dayton, New Mexico, USC, Richmond, Rhode Island.
Have an different opinion? Rebounds always welcome. Thanks for your interest and for visiting Bracketville. Follow us on Twitter at BracketguyDave.
Through games played December 19, we seem to have a Big 3 in college hoops – Duke, Ohio State, Kansas. Who belongs (and in what order) in the next six spots is more heavily debated. In our latest Power 24 (Dec. 20), Connecticut takes spot No. 4 and projects as the final No. 1 seed. By winning a top-heavy Maui Invitational, the Huskies have a solid non-conference profile. How the Big East plays out remains to be seen. Note: Power 24 reflects games through December 19 only.
Three more Big East teams – Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Syracuse – arrive next. No real argument if you have a different order. Georgetown has done the best work overall, reflected in its No. 1 RPI ranking (through Dec. 19). Part of the Power 24 also projects ahead, so Pitt remains a slight step in front looking forward. Syracuse has yet to play a true road game; we have to consider that point.
Reaching No. 8 is San Diego State – putting the Aztecs in line for a No. 2 seed in the West Region. SDSU would love games in Tucson and then Anaheim. In comparison, San Diego State has won four true road games and played six total games away from home – opening with five straight outside San Diego. Wins at Gonzaga and over Wichita State and St. Mary’s look to be NCAA-caliber. Their next two are in Las Vegas – making it eight road/neutral games in non-conference play. That type of challenge will pay big dividends in March. When you factor in the overall strength of the Mountain West – especially at the top – there’s no reason to think SDSU can’t earn a No. 2 seed. A No. 1? That may depend more on what happens in the Big 10, Big East, and Big 12. What the Aztecs also need is for BYU, UNLV and New Mexico to continue playing well. As of December 20, the Mountain West ranks No. 6 in conference RPI (according to CollegeRPI.com).
Weekly bracket updates return January 3. Other than some seeding evaluations, not a lot of changes from the December 6 bracket. Drexel is one new arrival, replacing Butler. We’ll have a much better feeling about the Bulldogs’ at-large chances after the Diamond Head Classic this week in Honolulu. The field includes Baylor, Florida State, Washington State, and Mississippi State. Oklahoma State is the other new addition. The once-beaten Cowboys (10-1) may not survive the Big 12, but they have done more than Cincinnati (No. 329 non-conference schedule). The Bearcats may well regret a two-month hiatus to start the season. With no marquis wins out-of-conference, it’ll take some hefty work in the Big East to be in the discussion on Selection Sunday.
Other teams who are just on the doorstep: Xavier, Southern Mississippi, Mississippi, VCU, Maryland, Virginia Tech, UCLA, and South Carolina. We also can’t sleep on Marquette, Iowa State, and Missouri State. Have a different opinion? Rebounds always welcome. E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter at twitter.com/BracketguyDave.
Duke and Ohio State remain 1-2 in our latest Power 24. Kansas moves up to No. 3. The Jayhawks put together an impressive second-half against Memphis in New York, and now await the arrival of Josh Selby on Saturday.
This is where it gets a bit more tricky. Fresh off a virtual road win against Pittsburgh, Tennessee vaults into the No. 4 spot, followed closely by Connecticut. Both the Vols and Huskies have impressed – and surprised. Tennessee because of all the off-court issues surrounding head coach Bruce Pearl. Connecticut because few of us anticipated Kemba Walker would carry his team to a Maui championship and beyond.
View our December 13 edition of Power 24.
Any number of teams could claim spots this week. The only changes: Temple returns following its win over Georgetown, and Washington leaves after falling a point short at Texas A-M. It’s not a bad loss, but the Huskies (Washington variety) have missed on most of their “good win” chances – beating only Virginia in Maui.
Louisville sits at No. 25 – one spot out of the rankings. Good win last weekend over UNLV, but like all of the Cardinals’ wins to date, it was at home. Louisville hasn’t yet left its new KFC Yum! Center surroundings. That changes on a Dec. 23 trip to Western Kentucky. By comparison, UNLV (No. 17 this week) has played just four home games; winning five away from Vegas, including two true road games and three at the 76 Classic. At this point, UNLV’s overall body of work is more impressive.
Rebounds always welcome. Next Power 24 update and bracket update will be Monday, December 20.
Our first in-season bracket projection is due out Monday evening (Dec. 6). With it will come a lot of debate (and some complaints). Time to fire away with some notes and observations from a great first month of college hoops.
The first note is to remind ourselves that a lot of meaningful basketball remains. Things don’t necessarily end like they start. Flashback: Georgetown opened the ’08-’09 season 11-1, including a win at Connecticut – an eventual No. 1 seed. From there, the Hoyas stumbled through the Big East – finishing 7-11 in conference play and 16-14 overall – missing the NCAAs. With that, here we go …
- San Diego State and UNLV lead a quadrant of teams (BYU and New Mexico) from the Mountain West that could impact our final bracket in March. SDSU opened with three true road games and two neutral-court affairs – including a win at Gonzaga. It’s the type of schedule that should pay big dividends. UNLV has already beaten Wisconsin (home) and Virginia Tech (neutral court). BYU has victories over WAC-favorite Utah State and St. Mary’s. If there’s a bubble team, it’s likely New Mexico. The Lobos beat Arizona State, but lost a lopsided tilt at Cal.
- If Connecticut continues to get production from Alex Oriakhi, Shabazz Napier, and others, the Huskies are in line for a very good season. Kemba Walker is a front-runner for Player-of-the-Year, and UConn already has three wins over NCAA-level teams: Wichita State, Michigan State, and Kentucky (Maui Invitational).
- Who thought Notre Dame would win the Old Spice Classic in Orlando? While beating Georgia, California, and Wisconsin isn’t quite like UConn’s feat in Maui, the Irish have certainly improved expectations – at least outside South Bend.
- Georgetown is also off to a great start. The Hoyas 111-102 OT win over Missouri ranks as the season’s best game to date. The season-opening road win at Old Dominion is looking better all the time.
- Pittsburgh is solid again – beating Maryland and Texas in New York. A No. 1-seed hopeful, the Panthers’ real questions won’t begin until March. Can they reach a Final Four?
- Overall, the Big East is 17-6 vs. fellow BCS teams.
- The Big Ten – fresh off its second straight ACC-Big Ten title – is 14-10 vs. BCS teams and 9-5 vs. the ACC overall. In our preseason Power 24, we suggested that Ohio State would challenge Michigan State for league supremacy. No team has two bigger true road wins (Florida, Florida State) than the Buckeyes. That said, MSU was 4-2 at this juncture last season and the Spartans ended up in the Final Four. Don’t quit on Tom Izzo’s bunch just because they lost to UConn and at Duke. Read more…
With tip-off for the 2010-11 college basketball season upon us, we seem to know two things: Duke and Michigan State are strong favorites to make return trips to the Final Four. After that, there’s a lot of debate. Which is great, of course, because none of us knows how the season will unfold.
Here’s our SEASON-OPENING Bracket Projection.
The No. 1 seed line features … Duke, Michigan State, Pittsburgh and Ohio State. The Buckeyes move up to replace Purdue after the Boilermakers lost star Robbie Hummel to another season-ending knee injury. The Boilers still have a lot of talent and experience in West Lafayette, and open as a projected No. 3 seed in the Southwest Region. A solid No. 2 line features Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, and Syracuse. Both KU and UK are still awaiting elibility status on star recruits (Selby, Kanter). My guess is both play this season; how much we dont’ know.
What about the First Four? The opening games in Dayton will match the last four at-large teams and the four lowest-rated teams on the S-curve. In our projection those matchups are … New Mexico vs. Dayton | USC vs. Maryland | Maine vs. Winthrop | Jackson State vs. SF Austin. The winners advance into the traditional 64-team bracket to play Thursday or Friday. Our Last 5 in: Northwestern, Maryland, New Mexico, USC, and Dayton. Our First 5 out: UNLV, UCLA, Connecticut, St. John’s, Mississippi.
We have a great opening month ahead with lots of bracket-building matchups in early-season tournaments. Our next bracket update will be Monday, December 6.
Rebounds are always welcome. Leave a comment or e-mail me at email@example.com. Thanks for visiting Bracketville and for joining us on another road to Selection Sunday.
Welcome back, college hoops. Time for a little pre-season fun, Midnight Madness style.
After a rather interesting off-season – my Top 5 story lines here – let’s take an updated look the new 68-team bracket. Quick note of caution … selecting and seeding teams for a bracket projection in March is easier than estimating what might happen over the next five months. So consider this effort what it is: a mix of what we know, what we expect, and a lot of guesswork.
UPDATE (11/6/2010): The Midnight Madness edition is now longer available. It has been replaced with our Season-Opening edition – a few minor tweaks/updates included. Below is the rest of the column regarding the Midnight Madness edition.
If there is common ground, it’s that defending champ Duke should open the season as the No. 1 team. No exception here as the Blue Devils remain the overall top seed. From there, we start tweaking. Joining Duke on the top line are: Purdue, Michigan State and Pittsburgh. The Panthers made the biggest leap, but coach Jamie Dixon is bullish on his team and we’ll buy it. The uncertainty surrounding star recruits at Kentucky (Enes Kanter) and Kansas (Josh Selby) are also considerations. Both the Wildcats and Jayhawks lead a group of solid No. 2 seeds along with Ohio State and Kansas State. Syracuse, Villanova, Florida and Memphis fall into the three-line. Talk about powerhouse names.
First Four: The new format begins with four games in Dayton. Projected matchups … New Mexico vs. Dayton | Louisville vs. USC | Lehigh vs. Vermont | Jackson State vs. S.F. Austin. In this scenario, New Mexico, Dayton, Louisville and USC are the last four at-large teams in the field. Lehigh, Vermont, Jackson State and S.F. Austin are projected as the lowest four ranked teams on the S-curve.
Last 5 IN: Northwestern, New Mexico, USC, Louisville, Dayton. First 5 OUT: Maryland, Connecticut, Northern Iowa, St. Louis, Notre Dame.
We all know there will be a surprise or two along the way – especially in conference tournaments. One could easily argue that Illinois and Virginia Tech missed last year’s tournament because New Mexico State (WAC) and Houston (C-USA) won their league tournaments. It happens almost every year and teams on the bubble this March will face the same fate – even with the expanded field. Someone will always be the first team out.
For those new to Bracketville, links for the Schedule (upcoming key games), Bubble Banter, and Conference Tourneys will be updated as warranted. Team Capsules highlights key wins and losses for schools under consideration. If you want to know how we did last season, check out 2010 Projection Results.
Take a look. Send a rebound. Differences of opinion are part of the fun. Follow college hoops on www.nbcsports.com; I’m excited about our second year of partnership. Follow along on Twitter and e-mail us a firstname.lastname@example.org. More to come. The regular season is just around the corner.