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…
Selection Sunday is quickly approaching. While the bottom of the bracket remains highly volatile, the No. 1 seed contenders are taking shape. We have four front-runners with eight total teams remain in the hunt. Keep in mind that a team’s entire body of work is examined by the Selection Committee. So one good week in early March isn’t justification for a No. 1 seed. Here’s a look at the contenders …
Ohio State – The Buckeyes are a lock. OSU could potentially lose its spot in the East Region, but I can’t imagine a scenario in which the Buckeyes fall off the top line. OSU’s only two losses are at Wisconsin and at Purdue – both are in line for top-three seeds. The Buckeyes are 15-2 vs. the RPI Top 100 and beat Florida and Florida State on the road.
Pittsburgh – The Panthers lead the Big East and have been very consistent throughout the season. Pitt also has a non-conference victory over Texas on its resume and six Top 25 RPI wins. While not yet a lock, the Panthers control their path to a top seed in the East or Southeast. They may not have to win the Big East Tournament title, but they do need to avoid back-to-back losses to end the season. Their worst loss is Tennessee (neutral court).
Kansas – Kansas sits at No. 1 in the RPI (for what that’s worth) and has 17 wins vs. Top 100 teams – best in the nation. The Jayhawks also own the inside track to a Big 12 regular-season title. Why is Kansas not a lock? Only because there is the potential to be bumped should they lose a couple of games this next week and other teams below them excel. Kansas’ losses are to Texas at home and Kansas State on the road.
Duke – The Blue Devils close their regular season at North Carolina. A victory would give them the outright ACC title. A loss would leave Duke tied with Carolina pending the ACC Tournament. While Duke’s overall body of work is better to this point, if the Blue Devils were to lose twice to UNC in the next week, their odds to stay on the top line would certainly diminish. Duke is 14-3 vs. the Top 100. It’s best non-conference wins are Kansas State and Temple. Read more…
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for visiting Bracketville and for joining us on another road to Selection Sunday.
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 email@example.com. More to come. The regular season is just around the corner.
Defending champion Duke sits atop our first 68-team NCAA Tournament bracket for 2011. The other teams on the top line: Purdue, Kentucky, and Michigan State. With the Wildcats moving up (from our April look-ahead), Kansas now headlines a strong group of No. 2-seeds that include Ohio State, Texas, and Villanova.
UPDATE (8/3): Since this look-ahead was first published on July 24, Northwestern’s Kevin Coble has decided not to return to the Wildcats for the 2010-2011 season. With that information, I have updated the bracket, moving NC State into the Opening Round and Northwestern into the First Five out.
The first real question, however, is … which teams face off in the new Opening Round (considered the First Four). These four games will be played in Dayton, with winners moving into the traditional 64-team bracket design. The last four at-large teams are paired, along with teams seeded 65-68 on the S-curve. Our initial projection looks like this … St. John’s vs. NC State | St. Louis vs. Miami-FL | Lehigh vs. Vermont | Jackson State vs. SF Austin.
As I have time, I’ll be working on a graphic to showcase these pairings. For now, these teams are listed in the bracket with a “/” in between; the winner goes on the seed line indicated. The St. John’s-St.Louis winner becomes a 12-seed in the East, playing Missouri in Tampa. The Northwestern-Miami winner gets a 12-seed opposite national runner-up Butler (game in Tucson, Southeast Region). The other winners earn 16-seeds in the Southwest and West.
Enough talk for now. Several teams moved one seed line to accommodate bracketing issues. BYU always creates some chaos because the Cougars cannot be placed in Friday-Sunday sites. Have a different opinion? Send a rebound. The breakdown by conference and other teams considered are listed below the bracket.
Continue reading to see the bracket …
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.
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.
The biggest question for Purdue is … now what? An unfortunate knee injury to star Robbie Hummel means the Boilermakers must be re-evaluated over the course of three regular-season games and the Big 10 tournament. Purdue could still be a No. 1 seed, but the Boilers will have to demonstrate they can play – and win – big games without Hummel in the lineup. Just how Purdue will be viewed remains to be seen. Thanks to a solid team effort, the Boilers outlasted Minnesota and earned a better-than-you-think road win against the Gophers. For now, Purdue retains its No. 1 seed projection in our latest bracket update.
Hard to believe, but our next update will be in March (Monday, March 1). The official countdown has begun. Our only new addition is really a swap. Following a loss at Temple, Dayton falls to our first team out, replaced by Rhode Island as our last team in. The A-10 bubble is pretty flexible (with Charlotte), but the picture should clear over the next two weeks and at the A-10 tournament.
As for the No. 1 seeds … Kansas, Syracuse and Kentucky join Purdue on the top line. Our No. 2 seeds also remain the same from Monday. Georgetown vaults over Pitt to the No. 3 line as the Hoyas win at Louisville and the Panthers fall flat at Notre Dame. With so many Big East teams near the top, someone will be the odd team out – and have to be no better than a No. 4. Again, that should be more evident soon.
As several bubble teams continue to lose, teams like Florida, Illinois, Marquette, and Oklahoma State are looking more Dance-worthy. Nothing happens in a vacuum and teams can improve their position simply because contenders fall away. At the same time, I look for several upsets in conference tournaments that could throw current automatic bid teams into the at-large pool or onto the bubble. More on that as we prepare for conference tournaments next week. Rebounds are always welcome. Enjoy the hoops!