What a Saturday in college hoops – and it’s February!
Four of the top eight teams on Saturday morning’s Seed List lost, two at home and two in blowout fashion on the road. Another two lost in slots 9-12, and another two in slots 13-16. Simple math equates to eight of the top 16 teams on the Seed List losing Saturday. The flip side, of course, is that eight other teams (the winners) posted signature or marquee victories on their resumes. My initial takeaways are that Florida and three Big 12 “States” benefitted most from a wild Saturday.
Florida’s win over Kentucky added an important piece to the Gators’ otherwise solid profile: a victory over a sure-fire NCAA team. Prior to Saturday, Florida had nice wins against Arkansas, Seton Hall, and Miami-FL, among others. But are you confident all of those teams will reach the final Field of 68? See bullet-point below about the Razorbacks loss at Missouri. On a related note … with South Carolina’s win over Georgia, the SEC title chase is up for grabs. Read more…
For different reasons, St. Bonaventure and Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) join the Field of 68 in today’s Seed List update. In the case of VCU, the Rams own the Atlantic 10 lead and thus have a reserved spot as an automatic qualifier (AQ). As for the Bonnies, their win at Saint Joseph’s moved them ahead of Tulsa. Alabama falls out following its home loss to Arkansas. It’s worth noting that Tulsa was actually bumped by VCU regaining the AQ, as it took one at-large spot away. It’s a good illustration of how the process works during Championship Week.
Joining St. Bonaventure in the First Four: Butler, Cincinnati, and Michigan. The four just above them (final byes) are Vanderbilt, USC, Oregon State, Connecticut. The margin (if any) between these eight is very small. It remains true: teams from the 7-line on down still have work to do to reach a safety zone.
The SEC tournament figures to be huge for Vanderbilt, Alabama, Florida, and LSU. It’s unlikely that more than two from that group will make the final bracket. On a similar note, the Atlantic 10 tourney could prove decisive for St. Bonaventure, VCU, George Washington, and even Saint Joseph’s. Without a “bad” loss on their resume, the Hawks are in overall better shape, but if they were to lose to Duquesne and also their first A10 tourney game, it could get a little more interesting. We’ll see.
Of all the bubble results on Saturday, Florida’s loss at LSU is one of the most notable. And it’s not because losing to a wildly inconsistent group from Baton Rouge is particularly bad. In between their pile of head-wrangling losses to middling teams, this is a Tigers’ team that has won at Vanderbilt and beaten Kentucky and Texas AM. LSU can be pretty good – we just don’t see that team enough. The Gators problem is a serious lack of quality wins, as a 2-9 record against Top 50 RPI teams indicates. And one of those wins is against Saint Joseph’s in November. Since then, Florida has beaten exactly one (1) team – West Virginia at home – that would be an at-large team in the Field today. Their remaining Top 100 wins are Georgia and Ole Miss twice and the aforementioned LSU outfit at home. If there’s a remedy, it’s a visit from Kentucky this coming week before a trip to Missouri. The Gators really need to win both of those ahead of the SEC tournament.
Elsewhere, it was a pretty good day for bubble teams along the cutline. Vanderbilt helped itself the most by beating Kentucky in Nashville. We’ll see if they can keep building on a three-game winning streak. Alabama and Cincinnati won the games they had to (Auburn, East Carolina) …. On the outside looking in … VCU, St. Bonaventure, and Butler all put victories on the slate, with VCU taking down fellow-bubbler George Washington. And Gonzaga won at BYU – keeping their at-large hopes in tact.
Sunday’s Bubble Action
It’s a bit odd to look at the Seed List (on Jan. 31) and find Syracuse, Connecticut, and Florida below the projected NCAA tournament at-large cutline – well below when it comes to the Huskies and Gators. It’s even more odd given that Florida, in particular, was projected to be a top four seed back in November.
The reasons – for all three teams – are pretty obvious. Combined, Florida (0-7), Connecticut (2-7), and Syracuse (1-3) are 3-17 against current Top 50 teams (RPI). The Gators and Huskies have had their chances and largely whiffed. Syracuse beat Iowa in November, but couldn’t sustain anything, dropping decisions to California, Michigan, and St. John’s (non of which were in the Jan. 30 bracket).
So the question becomes – can Syracuse, UConn, or Florida make a run in February? It won’t be easy. Here’s a quick look at each team’s chances … Read more…
We’re not picking on Florida, but the first month of the college basketball season has left the Gators – and several other preseason bracket teams – with work to do. Florida opened as a projected No. 3 seed on November 10. Since then, the Gators have lost to Miami, Georgetown, North Carolina, and Kansas. Although none are bad losses, the results have left the Gators’ win column a bit bare. And non-conference opportunities are fading – only Florida State (a stretch at this point) and Connecticut remain before SEC play begins, unless you count Yale among the opportunities – ask the aforementioned Huskies before answering.
Which brings us to the current Seed List (s-curve) update. Florida is among the First Five Out – alongside other preseason bracket picks Pittsburgh and Kansas State. It’s also worth noting that BYU, SMU, Boise State, Xavier, George Washington, Georgia, Colorado, Memphis, and Florida State have also been passed (or slid) during the first month. None would be “IN” a bracket today. Read more…
Following NCAA tournament victories over Wichita State, Louisville, and Michigan, there’s an obvious question to ask about Kentucky: Are the Wildcats the favorite to cut down the nets in North Dallas?
For starters, the Kentucky team we’ve seen against the Shockers, Cardinals and Wolverines resembles – at least in part – the team we expected to see when preseason rankings were released last October . Most projections considered UK a Top 5 team and potential No. 1 seed. While the regular season had its share of bumps and bruises, few doubted the Wildcats’ ability. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by UK’s ultimate arrival at the Final Four.
But what ignited the charge?
Most notably, the improved play from guard Aaron Harrison. Look beyond the late-game heroics and you’ll find an impressive stat line. In the three games against Wichita State, Louisville, and Michigan, Harrison averaged 15 points a game and committed just five (5) total turnovers. Against Louisville and Michigan, he had only one turnover in each game.
While improved shooting (UK made 7 of 11 3-pointers against Michigan) has been important, Kentucky has done much of its damage on the backboards, out-rebounding its NCAA opponents 144-104 in four games. Those numbers pay huge dividends. Read more…
Florida held off Kentucky to complete an amazing regular season run. The Gators will be rewarded with the top overall seed in the 2014 NCAA tournament and the No. 1 seed in the South Region. Expect Florida to be joined on the top line by Arizona, Wichita State, and either Michigan, Virginia, or Villanova. It was a race to the finish.
Bracket Projection | Final 2014
Besides a couple of minor seeding adjustments, the rest of the Field remained in tact from the Sunday morning bracket.
Now, it’s time to put away the projections and await the spectacle that is March Madness. If Championship Week has show us anything it’s that the upcoming Road to the Final Four should be a great ride. Thanks for following along. It’s been fun!