March is here. Madness awaits. The next ten days will be filled with hope, excitement, and anxiety as teams and fans await their 2017 NCAA Tournament bracket on Selection Sunday. Between now and then, we still have several things to sort out. Here’s what we know: Kansas, fresh off yet another Big 12 title, sits atop the bracket, followed closely by Villanova. Both the Jayhawks and Wildcats look fairly entrenched on the top line. The other two spots remain in play. Will Gonzaga hold on? Will a Pac-12 team make a jump to the one line? Can North Carolina survive the ACC tournament and keep its perch in the South?
Each of those story lines should be fun to watch. And we haven’t even talked about the bubble. Illinois, Wake Forest, and Kansas State all helped themselves Wednesday. USC and California are trying to hold on and state their case. Xavier continues to struggle, its NCAA outlook now unclear. Next week’s conference tournaments loom large for final seeding and selection. If a few bid stealers emerge, hold on.
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…
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…