With less than six weeks remaining until Selection Sunday, there were some interesting decisions to be made when putting together this week’s bracket.
On the top line, Syracuse and Arizona are entrenched as two of the one seeds, and I don’t look for that to change unless Arizona really struggles after losing Brandon Ashley for the season due to a foot injury.
At this point, the other two will almost certainly come from the quartet of Florida, Kansas, Michigan State, and Wichita State.
With Chris Walker now in the mix for Florida, the Gators are finally at full strength following a rash of injuries (and a suspension or two) early in the season. Their only losses came at Wisconsin when they were short-handed and at UConn on a last-second miracle from Shabazz Napier. Unfortunately, the SEC doesn’t offer many chances for marquee victories, so the Gators just need to keep piling up wins.
Michigan State is currently battling injuries of its own, but when the Spartans are at full strength, they may well be the nation’s best team. Since it’s unclear when (or if) they will be back at full strength, I slotted them on the two line for now.
That leaves Kansas and Wichita State. The Shockers are currently 23-0, and if they can navigate road trips to Indiana State and Northern Iowa this week, they have a great chance to end the regular season unbeaten. But while Wichita State attempted to go out and play a tough schedule, it’s tough to compare the Shockers’ profile to that of the Jayhawks, who have played the nation’s toughest schedule by a wide margin.
The Shockers have one Top 40 win. Kansas has seven. Wichita State has five top 100 victories. The Jayhawks have 14. KU does have five losses, but all to teams in the RPI Top 25. For now, I am leaving Kansas as the final one seed, but I wouldn’t be the least bit shocked (no pun intended) if Wichita State wound up with a top seed a la Saint Joe’s in 2004.
The picture at the back end of the bubble is just as muddy, but it’s a lot less fun to look at. To some extent, you could draw teams out of a hat and not really be wrong. I’ll give my reasoning for my last four in and last four out below the bracket.
Here are my projections through the games from February 4.
|WEST (ANAHEIM)||EAST (NEW YORK)|
|1) Arizona||1) Syracuse|
|16) Weber State||16) Coastal Carolina / Southern|
|8) North Carolina
|9) New Mexico||9) Kansas State|
||5) Ohio State|
||12) Green Bay
|4) Virginia||4) Texas|
|13) Mercer||13) Toledo|
|6) UCLA||6) Massachusetts|
|11) Florida State||11) Southern Miss|
|3) Iowa State||3) Cincinnati|
|14) Canisius||14) UC Santa Barbara
|7) Louisville||7) Pittsburgh|
|10) Stanford||10) Tennessee|
|2) San Diego State||2) Villanova|
||15) Georgia State|
|MIDWEST (INDIANAPOLIS)||SOUTH (MEMPHIS)|
|1) Kansas||1) Florida|
|16) Davidson / Robert Morris||16) Stony Brook|
|8) Gonzaga||8) George Washington|
|9) VCU||9) Minnesota|
|5) Wisconsin||5) Oklahoma State|
|12) Baylor / SMU||12) Arizona State / Missouri|
|4) Kentucky||4) Duke|
|13) Delaware||13) Belmont|
|6) Oklahoma||6) Connecticut|
|3) Michigan||3) Creighton|
|14) New Mexico State||14) Stephen F. Austin|
|7) Memphis||7) Saint Louis|
|10) Xavier||10) Colorado|
|2) Wichita State||2) Michigan State|
|15) NC Central||15) American|
Last Four In
The Sun Devils have picked up both of their top 50 wins over the last two weeks, including a solid road win at Cal. ASU is 11-1 at home, where they will be for their next three games, which include a matchup with rival Arizona and fellow bubble dweller Oregon.
On the one hand, the Bears are an ugly 2-7 in the Big 12, which is arguably the nation’s top conference. On the other, they have two top 25 wins and road/neutral wins over Colorado, Kentucky, Dayton, and Oklahoma State. Ultimately Baylor has to find a way to get close to .500 in the league for those to matter in the long run.
The Mustangs don’t have a top 25 win, but they do have a pair of solid home victories against UConn and Memphis to go with a 6-5 road/neutral record. With a bland non-conference profile, SMU can’t afford to slip up and take bad losses.
It was down to Missouri and Oregon for the last spot, and I ultimately gave the Tigers the nod based on their win over UCLA. Sadly, showing the ability to beat one tournament-caliber team is enough to get in at this point.
First Four Out
The Ducks are off to a 3-6 start in Pac-12 play and have no top 40 wins. This team isn’t short on talent, and with five of their final seven games at home, a late run isn’t outside of the question.
There was a pretty steep drop off from the first and second teams out. The Cougars challenged themselves in non-conference play and have a pair of top 50 wins to show for it. Unfortunately, four sub-100 losses work to offset the positives on BYU’s profile.
Saturday’s neutral court win over Michigan State has the Hoyas back in the conversation for now. They also boast wins over Kansas State and VCU, but some questionable losses (especially the one to Northeastern) have left very little margin for error.
Outside of a home win over Duke and a road victory against Florida State, there isn’t much to get excited about for the Tigers. They have just one other top 100 win, and seven of their 15 wins have come against sub-200 squads.
Here is how the bids broke down by conference:
Big 12 (7): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas
ACC (6): Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia
Big Ten (6): Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Pac-12 (6): Arizona, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Stanford, UCLA
American (5): Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Memphis, SMU
SEC (5): Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Missouri, Tennessee
Atlantic 10 (4): George Washington, Massachusetts, Saint Louis, VCU
Big East (4): Creighton, Providence, Villanova, Xavier
Mountain West (2): New Mexico, San Diego State
America East: Stony Brook
Atlantic Sun: Mercer
Big Sky: Weber State
Big South: Coastal Carolina
Big West: UC Santa Barbara
Conference USA: Southern Miss
Horizon: Green Bay
MEAC: North Carolina Central
Missouri Valley: Wichita State
Northeast: Robert Morris
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
Sun Belt: Georgia State
WAC: New Mexico State
West Coast: Gonzaga
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