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Inside the Bracket: Stretch run key for several teams

February 23, 2014 Leave a comment

dave1It’s not a surprise to say the current NCAA Tournament bubble is soft.  While we most often focus  on the cutline (last teams in, first teams out), a few notable programs may not be as secure as it seems.  With Selection Sunday only three weeks away, the stretch run could make a huge difference.  Here are a four teams (of several) that could be on that list …

Memphis – The Tigers needed overtime at home to survive Temple on Saturday night which kept a truly bad loss off of their resume.  Here’s the concerning part: a 4-6 record against Top 100 RPI teams – which actually extends to the Top 150.  This could be one of those years when a team with a losing record against the top half of Division I  earns an at-large bid, but it certainly leaves some doubt about the Tigers’ overall standing.  Part of that is due to a weak bottom half of the American Athletic Conference. Part of it is losses against league leaders – save victory at Louisville in early January.  Memphis is 1-4 against American contenders (Cincinnati, Louisville, Connecticut, SMU).  Three of their remaining games are against those same squads.  If the Tigers were to finish 1-7 (or 2-6) against that target, it could bring some stressful moments come league tournament time.

Kansas State – While it’s hard to envision a team with eight Top 100 wins missing the NCAA Tournament right now, it’s worth nothing that the Wildcats are 1-6 in true road games (their only win was at TCU). K-State has remaining road trips to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, neither of which will be easy.  If they were to lose both and drop a home game to either Baylor or Iowa State down the stretch, an early exit from the Big 12 tourney could create some few tense moments in Manhattan. Read more…

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Inside the Bracket: At-Large picture – Part II

December 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Just in time for Christmas, here’s Part II of the at-large landscape.  This version focuses on teams from the BCS conference along with those from the Mountain West, Conference USA, and Atlantic 10.  As we noted in Part I, conference season begins in full force next week, and a lot of basketball remains.  The goal is to provide a quick peek into the at-large picture ahead of Bubble Banter in February.

It’s too early to lock any teams into the NCAA Tournament.  For the purposes of time and space, however, we’re not going to dwell on the at-large possibilities for teams like Kentucky, North Carolina, Syracuse, Duke, etc.  If January turns sour, then we’ll catch up on those teams in February.  Let’s go Inside the Bracket:

Kansas State – The Wildcats play Long Beach State on Sunday for the Diamond Head Classic title in Honolulu.  A victory would add LBSU to a win list that includes Alabama and Virgina Tech (road).  K-State lost a neutral court game to West Virginia.  While the rest of the non-conference resume is light, the Wildcats enter Big 12 play in pretty good position.  West Virginia and Virginia Tech are both potential bubble teams, so a split is okay.  The key will be finding victories against Kansas, Baylor, and Missouri and finishing among the top four or five in conference play.  Kansas State opens at rival KU on January 4.  After that, it’s Missouri and Baylor at home.  So the Wildcats can set an NCAA footprint early.

Texas AM – If you take a closer look at the Aggies, one thing becomes apparent: an NCAA bid is in serious jeopardy.  The Aggies non-conference schedule strength (No. 337) is dreadful, and TxAM’s best win is St. John’s.  Furthering the issue is a lopsided loss at Florida and follow-up home loss to Rice.  It will take some serious work in the Big 12 to overcome the Aggies’ start.  That work begins at Baylor on January 2.  Flashback: Colorado (last March).  The Buffaloes won some big games in the Big 12 but were left home on Selection Sunday thanks to a non-conference SOS that mirrors the Aggies’ in 2011-12. Read more…

Categories: Current Updates, Team News

Inside the Bracket: Importance of quality wins

January 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Welcome to Bracketville

Within our latest bracket projection – January 24 Bracketology – seeding remains very fluid in the middle and lower part of the bracket.  It’s not uncommon at this point in the season – as a lot of teams have remarkably similar profiles.  That’s why quality wins are an important resource used to identify and separate teams most worthy of at-large selection.   Many other tools such as road wins, strength of schedule, and “bad” losses are valuable as well.  For right now, let’s look at quality wins.  We credit CollegeRPI.com for the RPI information.

Within the context of our current bracket, the following at-large teams have yet to win a game versus a Top 50 RPI opponent: 

  • Washington State (0-4)
  • Arizona (0-3)
  • Wichita State (0-3)
  • Kansas State (0-6)

That’s one reason why all four are 10 seeds or lower.  All of these teams have played Top 50 competition and have the scheduling resources to create opportunities.  To be in the bracket a month from now, they likely need to win one or more of these games and/or move (stay) at the top of their conference standings.  Even as weak as the Pac-10 is this season (again), it’s hard to image a BCS conference failing to place at least two teams in the Field of 68.  For now, that helps Arizona. Read more…

Categories: Current Updates, Team News

Notes and observations ahead of our first in-season bracket projection

December 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Welcome to Bracketville

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…

Season-Opening Bracket: Duke, Michigan State lead the way

November 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Welcome to Bracketville

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 bracketville.hoops@gmail.com. Thanks for visiting Bracketville and for joining us on another road to Selection Sunday.

Categories: Current Updates

Pre-season Bracket Projection: Midnight Madness edition

October 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Welcome to Bracketville

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 bracketville.hoops@gmail.com.  More to come.  The regular season is just around the corner.

Categories: Current Updates

March 1 Bracket: Madness begins with the Big East …

March 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Welcome to Bracketville

March Madness has begun.  Just look at this past weekend in college hoops – and that was late February.  With just under two weeks until Selection Sunday, Duke replaces Purdue as our final No. 1 seed.   No change in the other top positions:  Kansas remains No. 1 overall followed by Syracuse and Kentucky.  The gap between KU and ‘Cuse is closing, however, and Kansas State is nipping at Duke’s heels.  What else is new?  For starters … nine (9) Big East teams currently project in the Field – meaning it’s possible two conference foes would meet before a Regional Final.   In this bracket, Louisville is an 8-seed and Notre Dame a 12-seed in the Midwest.

March 1 Bracket Projection.

The lower end of the bracket continues to be filled with teams resembling Swiss cheese.  Take a look at our Last Five IN … Illinois, St. Mary’s, UAB, Notre Dame, Dayton.  Anyone feel truly confident that all five will stay?  That said, their prospects are slightly better than our First Five OUT … Charlotte, Rhode Island, Mississippi State, San Diego State, and Minnesota.  Dayton makes it in primarily on its strength of schedule.  The Flyers challenged themselves with non-conference games against … Villanova, Kansas State, New Mexico and Georgia Tech – beating the Yellow Jackets, losing at UNM by two, and playing both Wildcats to single digits.

What other teams still have work to do?  Consider these … Virginia Tech, Florida State, Connecticut, and Georgia Tech.  You can also throw in Clemson and Florida.  No gliding to the finish.  Outside looking in … of San Diego State’s 18 (D-1) wins, 15 have come to teams outside the RPI Top 100.  Mississippi State has beaten just one projected (at-large) NCAA team.   Both Charlotte and Rhode Island chose bad times to lose games they should have won. 

Our next bracket update will be Thursday, March 4.  As conference tournaments get underway this week, check out the Conference Tourney’s page.  I’ll have some updates as they progress.  Also … a new Bubble Banter will be posted Wednesday night.   Expect lots of changes.  Rebounds are always welcome.  Should be quite a ride these next two weeks.

Categories: Current Updates