The final Saturday of the regular season is upon us. Which means Championship Week is officially here. Were it not for NCAA tournament itself, this would arguably be one of the best weeks in sports. So much rides on every outcome, especially for those teams fighting for dance tickets. Friday night gave us a glimpse of the perils ahead, as Ohio Valley Conference favorite Belmont was bounced in the OVC tournament semifinals. With that, here are the latest updates:
As this is Quick Takes, we won’t go in-depth. But here are a few highlights and questions regarding the next eight days… Read more…
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.
We can identify teams like SMU, South Carolina, and Virginia Tech as recent casualties of weak non-conference strength of schedule (NC SOS) numbers on Selection Sunday. The Selection Committee has repeatedly sent messages to teams who schedule heavy doses of non-conference games against the bottom third of the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI): stay clear of the bubble or risk being left out.
With that as a backdrop, here are six teams currently on the Bubble with either potential NC SOS trouble and/or a large number of non-conference games against the bottom end of Division 1. As part of the exercise, each of these team’s record minus those 200-plus NC RPI wins is noted in parenthesis … Read more…
Quality wins have largely eluded the Texas Longhorns, and the ensuing holes have created an NCAA tournament resume that today (Feb. 3) would generate a lot of bubble discussion.
The Longhorns’ current RPI (29), BPI (36) and KenPom (26) ratings are plenty good enough. Texas is also 5-4 away from Austin (road/neutral games), and has an overall schedule ranked No. 12 in the country. Everyone of the Longhorns’ seven losses has come to a quality opponent. In fact, Texas has not lost to a team that today would not be a projected at-large team in the NCAA Field of 68. So where’s the problem?
If you look at the other side of the ledger, Texas is 1-7 vs. Top 50 RPI teams and just 3-7 vs. the Top 100. The Longhorns’ best wins are West Virginia (home) and Iowa (Neutral). Unfortunately for UT, early wins against California and Connecticut haven’t held up well. And within the deep Big 12, Texas has limped to a 3-5 start.
With three of the Longhorns’ next four at home, it’s time to make a move. Two of those home games are against Texas Tech and TCU. Those are games UT really needs to win. The closing stretch includes road games at Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Kansas, and home dates with Iowa State, Baylor, and Kansas State.
The Big 12 offers plenty of opportunities – but wins won’t come easy, and to this point, Texas has missed on most of its high profile chances. That will need to change in the next month or there could be some nervous Longhorns on Selection Sunday.
Kansas finds itself in familiar territory heading into Super Bowl weekend. Thanks to a resume that includes 11 Top 100 RPI wins and the nation’s top-rated (overall) strength of schedule, the Jayhawks claim the final No. 1 seed in today’s bracket. KU also leads the Big 12, arguably the deepest conference in college basketball.
Kentucky and Virginia remain firmly entrenched as the top two seeds. And Gonzaga keeps it’s hold on the West, but will be challenged for that spot as we march toward Selection Sunday. Those also pushing the top line: Arizona and Wisconsin. Notre Dame continues its climb. But it’s worth noting that a weak non-conference SOS could ultimately impact the Irish’s final landing spot.
As for teams around the cutline, it’s a muddled mess. Resumes resemble Swiss cheese; in other words, it’s not difficult to find the holes. It’s also a bit odd to find teams such as Syracuse, Michigan, Connecticut, and Florida on the outside looking in. Will one of them make a February run? The clock is ticking.
If anything, Friday complicated an already complicated bubble picture. The SEC could end up with five teams or two. Both are in play at this point. How will the NCAA Selection Committee handle Middle Tennessee State and Saint Mary’s? And how will they compare those teams against La Salle, Boise State, and even Oklahoma? These are questions we can try to answer, but none of us has a vote that matters.
Heading into action on Saturday, there are three particular wildcards in play: Southern Mississippi, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Any of those could still earn automatic bids to the Field of 68. And that might be what it takes. Vanderbilt is more of a longshot, but the Commodores are a victory over Ole Miss from playing for an SEC title. We’ve seen this type of mayhem before. We also can’t completely forget about Akron should the Zips lose in the Mid-American championship game to Ohio. Clear as mud, right?
March 16 Bracket update | 10:50 a.m.
March 16 Bubble Banter update | 9:00 a.m.
March 16 s-curve update | 11:30 a.m.
We’re going to start here for now: the Last 5 IN today are Boise State, Tennessee, La Salle, Saint Mary’s, and Middle Tennessee. The First Five OUT are Ole Miss, Kentucky, Alabama, Massachusetts, and Virginia. All of these resumes have issues. Which issues the collective Committee values more could help shape the final at-large spots. Tomorrow is a new day. We’ll review everything again and see how it looks.
Enjoy the games. Selection Sunday is almost here.
Conference tournaments start next week. Championship Week is straight ahead. Heading into action on Saturday, March 2, below are some quick updates and notes for the weekend. Updates to the s-curve (seed list) and bracket will start to become more frequent.
By quick count, we have about 15 bubble games worth tracking on Saturday. There’s another three on Sunday. Given the up-and-down cycle we’ve witnessed for the last month or so, this weekend – and the next two weeks – are likely to be unpredictable. With upsets possible in conference tournaments, teams ultimately headed to the First Four in Dayton may change numerous times. The Selection Committee will be especially challenged if teams like Akron, Middle Tennessee, and even Belmont fail to win their conference tournaments. It would add candidates to the at-large field.
Saturday bracket-tracker games:
Connecticut at Cincinnati, Wichita State at Creighton, Alabama at Florida, Maryland at Wake Forest, Iowa State at Oklahoma, Tennessee at Georgia, Massachusetts at Xavier, Arizona State at USC, Kentucky at Arkansas, Colorado at California, Charlotte at St. Bonaventure, Iowa at Indiana, Colorado at Boise State, St. John’s at Providence, Santa Clara at Saint Mary’s.
Sunday’s bracket-tracker games:
Villanova at Pittsburgh, Florida State at North Carolina, Virginia at Boston College.
As for the No. 1 seed race, it’s still wide open. As many as 10 or 11 teams have a realistic shot for consideration. Not only does the final week provide several huge matchups among the contenders, we’ll see even more during conference tournament play. The Committee may not make final decisions on those top seeds until the Friday or Saturday before Selection Sunday. Typically, there’s only one or two spots open at that point. We’ll see how the next two weeks play out.