If we learned anything after Saturday’s sneak peak into the 2017 Selection Committee’s thinking – at least in mid-February – it’s this: Quality RPI wins still matter and the Atlantic Coast Conference is the top game in town. The road to Selection Sunday is far from over, but as of Noon this past Saturday, ACC teams gobbled up five of the 16 seed lines released (31 percent). The Big 12 and Pac-12 each took three (19 percent each). The Big East and SEC two each (12.5 percent). The Big Ten? A discussion point, but not worthy, and that was before Wisconsin lost at home Sunday night to Northwestern; a huge win for the Wildcats, by the way, who are poised to make their first-ever appearance in March Madness. Cincinnati and SMU (American) were also on the outside looking in at the top four lines.
Now, take a breath. If college basketball has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. Although the very top of the bracket is certainly taking shape, nothing is set in stone. Based upon the Committee’s seeding, three ACC teams (North Carolina, Louisville, Florida State) are still in play for a No. 1 seed. One could say the same for an eventual Pac-12 champion, especially if say Oregon or Arizona wins the regular season and P12 tourney titles. As for Gonzaga? With their trip to Saint Mary’s in the rearview mirror, it’s looking more and more likely the Bulldogs will wrap-up a perfect season. If they do, a No. 1 seed awaits. If they were to stumble, we’ll see. The Committee is not as enamored with their perfect record as compared to the number of power wins by say a team like Kansas or Baylor.
There’s nothing new to report along the bubble. It’s as messy as ever. Stay tuned.
It’s a busy week on the Bubble. For Rhode Island, it’s a double-dip of fun. The Rams, a member of Monday’s First Four OUT, travels to Massachusetts tonight (Tuesday) and hosts Dayton on Friday. If URI can handle UMass, it sets up an important resume building opportunity against the Flyers. The Rams lost a close one at Dayton in early January. Heading into the week, Rhode Island was 3-7 vs. Top 100 teams, with one NCAA-level (at-large) win: Cincinnati (in November). It won’t be easy, but a 2-0 week would certainly help the Rams’ positioning.
More of this week’s biggest Bubble games (Bubble teams in Bold): 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.
As the race for top seeds continues, Kansas showed its mettle in recent days – backing up road win at Kentucky with a home victory against Big 12 rival Baylor. That’s a strong two-game parlay, and keeps KU firmly entrenched as the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region. By a slim margin, Villanova holds the overall No. 1 seed position. Baylor and unbeaten Gonzaga also reside on the top line.
Bubble Update: This year’s collection of bubble teams remains quite fluid. It’s also about 30-teams deep as we begin the February push. How long will teams be able to circumvent poor road records and sub-.500 league records? It’s a valid and good question. The answer is unknown. Teams do not play in a vacuum. We’ll see how the landscape looks next week and next month.
The Bubble picture is particularly intriguing and volatile in the Big 12 and ACC. A collection of teams continues to bounce around the cutline. Previous Big Ten bubble teams Illinois, Ohio State, Penn State, and even Nebraska have fallen off the pace. Tennessee might be one of the year’s biggest surprises. I don’t know if the Volunteers can stay the course in February, but they’ve done enough to be firmly in the conversation – at least with the current batch of contenders.
For Duke, this season hasn’t followed the designated script. With a handful of top-flight recruits and a host of returning talent, the Blue Devils were a preseason favorite to dominate college hoops and cut down the nets in April. Then came the injuries, a one-game suspension for Grayson Allen, and the loss of Coach K to back surgery. And then came Monday night, when the Blue Devils lost at home to NC State for the first time since 1995. Moreover, it was Duke’s third loss in five games, dropping the Blue Devils to 3-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Up next? A two-game road swing through improved Wake Forest and Notre Dame. For what it’s worth, Duke is a surprising 0-3 in true road games this season. Without a win in Winston-Salem or South Bend, the Blue Devils will return home with a 3-6 record in conference play and a date with rival North Carolina on the docket soon after.
It’s way too early (even in late January) to write off the Blue Devils; they could four in a row and make us forget about this unDuke-like stretch. But these next two weeks are an important stretch for the crew from Durham. Duke has just three wins against current at-large teams (Florida, Michigan State, Rhode Island), and the Rams are currently among the Last 4 IN. Time to see how the Blue Devils respond. Read more…
Allonzo Trier returned from suspension on Saturday and the Arizona Wildcats looked the part of a potential No. 1 seed while beating UCLA on its home floor. In its first game with Maurice Watson, Jr., Creighton fell at home to Marquette, giving up over 100 points to the Golden Eagles. These are single games on each team’s resume. But two important questions arise for Selection Committee members: How do they evaluate Arizona (with Trier back) and Creighton (with Watson, Jr. out for the season)?
The first consideration is two-fold. One, Trier was suspended, not injured. Thus, Arizona’s resume will stand on its merits – meaning the Wildcats will likely not receive consideration for Trier’s absence in their two losses (Butler, Gonzaga). Two, Watson, Jr. is injured, sadly, and will miss the rest of the season. Thus, Committee members will have to evaluate Creighton’s performance from here to Selection Sunday. They’ll have a month or so monitor the Bluejays as it relates to possible seeding. 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…