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…
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.
Since losing to San Diego State, the Kansas Jayhawks have put together a five-game surge that includes victories over its biggest competitors in the Big 12 conference – Oklahoma, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and Baylor. Two of those (Oklahoma, Iowa State) were on the road. Add in victories over Duke and New Mexico in non-conference play, and KU has notched eight Top 50 RPI victories. That’s two more than Syracuse, four more than Arizona, and three more than Michigan State – the other members of today’s No. 1 seed club. It’s also worth noting that Kansas has played the nation’s toughest schedule and currently sits atop the RPI. That’s a pretty strong profile (despite four losses – all to Top 25 RPI Teams), and the primary reason why the Jayhawks received the No. 4 slot on this week’s seed list (s-curve). When evaluating KU’s overall body of work, it’s pretty strong.
We still have two months to go and several other teams could reach the No. 1 seed line by March. Teams like Florida and Wichita State are building strong resumes, as is San Diego State. And it’s too early to count out Iowa, Michigan, or Wisconsin from the Big Ten title chase. The final contenders will be much more clear by mid-February.
On the flip side, January hasn’t been a good month for teams like Ohio State, Baylor, and North Carolina – or Georgetown for that matter; as the Hoyas are among the First Five OUT today. Through the first third of conference play, the Buckeyes, Bears, and Tar Heels own a combined 4-12 record (in league play). Some of that is due to scheduling and some of it has been inconsistent play. Either way, it would be a good time for those squads to reverse course. By the time we reach mid-February, a seriously sub-par conference record will not be endearing to the Selection Committee.
One of the best things about college basketball is that we never know what will happen. Enjoy the hoops.