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…
Given what we’ve seen this season, we shouldn’t be overly surprised to find a six and ten seed in the Elite 8. We also shouldn’t be surprised to find six power-heavy teams. At various points during the 2016 campaign, Kansas, North Carolina, Virginia, Oklahoma, and Villanova all grabbed spots along the No. 1 seed line. Oregon was among the Top 8 for the better part of February and ended at No. 5 on our list. They were the final No. 1 seed on the NCAA Board, which fits the theme.
If you believe in destiny (or maybe redemption), then you embrace Notre Dame and Syracuse. The Irish needed a miraculous tip-in to beat Stephen F. Austin and a pair of late steals/turnovers to upend Wisconsin. Syracuse was undoubtedly helped by an incredible performance from Middle Tennessee that ousted Michigan State in the opening round. The Orange deserve all the credit for reaching the Regional Final; they beat the teams they faced. We can say that and still acknowledge that reaching the Elite 8 required beating a seven seed, 15 seed, and 11 seed. Good fortune is important in March.
So … heading into the Regional Finals, how would you rank the remaining eight teams? Based on what I’ve seen the past two weeks, here’s my list: Read more…
In three short, dramatic weeks, a familiar anthem will play. You can almost hear One Shining Moment in the background. If our Journey to Houston is as good as Championship Week – buzzer beaters, overtimes, half-court heaves – it’ll be another event for the ages.
By now you’ve likely read hundreds of previews and tossed a couple of practice brackets in the trash. Which upsets to pick? Who’ll reach the Final Four? Will Cinderella emerge? So rather than simply provide you a list of picks (boring at best, wrong at worst), let’s take a peek at the possibilities – first as a whole, and then Region-by-Region. Along the way, I’ll give you my selections for the Final Four. It’ll give you something to throw in my face next November.
Tournament Questions …
Will a 16-Seed win? Start with an easy question. No. Although it would be a fun to go Dunk City after FGCU’s dominant win over Fairleigh-Dickinson, let’s remember that the Eagles finished behind North Florida in the Atlantic Sun standings and that Hampton is the only 16-seed to win its league’s regular-season title. Asking the Pirates to beat Virginia in Raleigh is a tall order. Read more…
As we settle in for the final push toward Selection Sunday, the race for No. 1 seeds is as open as it’s been in several years. With its victory at Oklahoma on Saturday, Kansas resides in today’s Pole Position. The aforementioned Sooners are close behind, followed by Villanova and North Carolina.
Within that group of four, Villanova has the easiest path to retain a No. 1 seed. If you look at the Wildcats’ remaining schedule, they should be favored in every game – with the exception of their trip to Xavier. As such, Nova could be 27-4 (assuming just one more loss – which is a dangerous thing this season) heading into the Big East Tournament. Given the likelihood that a few of the other No. 1 contenders will also lose another game or two, it leaves Villanova in prime position to be a top seed next month. It may or may not be in the East Region.
Who are the other No. 1 seed contenders? Today’s two-line includes Virginia, Xavier, Iowa, and West Virginia. We would also have to include Maryland, Michigan State, and Miami-FL. Could someone else sneak in? It’s possible, but not as likely – given the teams ahead of them. Even so, the fact that we have 11 teams in play at this point in February is quite remarkable.
The bubble remains an on-going merry-go-round and that’s unlikely to change. Championship Week is shaping up to be an important separator for the final at-large positions.
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.
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.