Latest NCAA tourney projections a seeding mess in middle


source: AP

With Valentine’s Day arriving on Tuesday, the Missouri Tigers will find a lot to love about our latest bracket projection.  Mizzou moves up to No. 3 on the s-curve – behind Kentucky and Syracuse – which positions the Tigers for a little home cooking in St. Louis via the Midwest Region.  If Missouri fans are so inclined, they can send a kind word to East Lansing.  Michigan State knocked off Ohio State in Columbus and bumped the Buckeyes out West.  Kansas is right behind OSU and the two teams are slotted 1-2 in the West Region.  If you have a different order, that’s fine.  It was a very close call.  After that, it’s Duke, Michigan State, and North Carolina on the two-line.

The middle of the bracket is a seeding nightmare.  It’s hard to find a lot of differences between a 6 to 8 seed in this bracket, or for that matter, an 8 to 11 seed.  You could slot them several ways.  Hopefully, a few of these things will become more clear over the next three weeks.  Other than Kentucky, it wasn’t a particularly good week for the SEC.  Florida lost to Tennessee (again), Mississippi State lost to Georgia, and Alabama suspended several key players.  Thus, the Tide take a little sharper hit this week, falling to an 11-seed in the East.  That might be a tad low, but let’s see how the team comes back together if players are reinstated.

We still have a very weak bubble.  That makes it easier for teams like Illinois, West Virginia, and others to work through losing streaks.  When you start comparing resumes, quality wins help separate pretenders from contenders.  Remember, a team’s record in it last 12 games is no longer an official criteria used by the Selection Committee.

I’ll be at the NCAA’s Mock Selection exercise later this week in Indianapolis.  It will be fun to see how the group works through some of the selection and seeding issues with this year’s landscape.  Enjoy a great week of hoops.

UPDATED: Monday, Feb. 13

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UTEP, BYU, etc). Records are for games against Division I teams only.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Miami-FL (14-8) vs. Minnesota (17-8) | West Region
  • Xavier (16-9) vs. Seton Hall (17-8) | South Region
  • MISS VALLEY ST (13-11) vs. STONY BROOK (15-8) | East Region
  • NC-ASHEVILLE (16-7) vs. UT-ARLINGTON (18-5) | Midwest Region


EASTBoston SOUTHAtlanta
Pittsburgh Louisville
1) SYRACUSE (25-1) 1) KENTUCKY (25-1)
8) St. Louis (19-5) 8) Memphis (18-7)
9) Kansas State (16-7) 9) Connecticut (15-9)
Portland Nashville
5) San Diego State (18-4) 5) WICHITA STATE (21-4)
12) NC State (18-7) 12) Xavier / Seton Hall
4) Indiana (19-6) 4) Wisconsin (18-6)
13) MID TENNESSEE ST (22-4) 13) DAVIDSON (18-6)
Albuquerque Louisville
6) Creighton (21-5) 6) TEMPLE (19-5)
11) Alabama (16-8) 11) CALIFORNIA (20-6)
3) Baylor (20-4) 3) Marquette (21-5)
14) NEVADA (19-4) 14) IONA (20-6)
Columbus Greensboro
7) Virginia (19-5) 7) Mississippi State (19-6)
10) HARVARD (20-3) 10) Purdue (16-9)
2) Michigan State (19-5) 2) North Carolina (21-4)
15) BELMONT (18-7) 15) BUCKNELL (19-6)
MIDWEST – St. Louis WEST – Phoenix
Omaha Omaha
1) MISSOURI (23-2) 1) OHIO STATE (21-4)
8) Notre Dame (17-8) 8) SO. MISSISSIPPI (19-4)
9) New Mexico (19-4) 9) Iowa State (18-7)
Portland Nashville
5) Gonzaga (20-4) 5) ST. MARY’S (21-3)
12) Washington (17-8) 12) Minnesota / Miami-FL
4) Michigan (18-7) 4) Louisville (20-5)
13) LONG BEACH ST (17-6) 13) ORAL ROBERTS (23-5)
Columbus Albuquerque
6) Florida (19-6) 6) Florida State (17-7)
11) Texas (16-9) 11) BYU (19-6)
3) Georgetown (18-5) 3) UNLV (20-4)
14) DREXEL (21-5) 14) AKRON (17-7)
Greensboro Omaha
7) MURRAY STATE (21-1) 7) Vanderbilt (17-8)
10) Illinois (16-9) 10) West Virginia (16-10)
2) DUKE (21-4) 2) Kansas (20-5)
15) VALPARAISO (16-9) 15) WEBER STATE (18-4)

NOTES on the BRACKET: Kentucky is the No. 1 overall seed followed by Syracuse, Missouri, and Ohio State. Next in line are Kansas, Duke, Michigan State, North Carolina.

Last Five teams in (at large): Washington, Minnesota, Seton Hall, Miami-FL, Xavier

First Five teams out (at large): Northwestern, Arizona, Mississippi, Dayton, Cincinnati

Next Five teams out (at large): Colorado State, UCF, Oregon, Arkansas, Colorado

Bracket adjustments: There are several one-line adjustments to accommodate both conference conflicts, bracketing principles, and efforts to avoid regular-season rematches.

Here is the team breakdown by Conference …

Big Ten (8): Ohio State, Michigan State, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Purdue, Illinois, Minnesota

Big East (8): Syracuse, Georgetown, Louisville, Connecticut, Marquette, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Seton Hall

ACC (6): North Carolina, Duke, Virginia, Florida State, NC State, Miami-FL

Big 12 (6): Baylor, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Texas

SEC (5): Kentucky, Florida, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Alabama

Atlantic 10 (3): Temple, St. Louis, Xavier

Mountain West (3): UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico

West Coast (3): Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, BYU

Conference USA (2): Memphis, Southern Mississippi

Pac 12 (2): California, Washington

Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State

Sun Belt (1): Middle Tennessee State

Conference leaders/champions … Valparaiso (Horizon), Akron (MAC), Drexel (CAA), Nevada (WAC), Murray State (OVC), Iona (MAAC), Weber State (Big Sky), Davidson (Southern), Oral Roberts (Summit), Long Beach State (Big West), Long Island (NEC), Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Harvard (Ivy), NC-Asheville (Big South), Norfolk State (MEAC), Bucknell (Patriot), Stony Brook (America East), UT-Arlington(Southland), Mississippi Valley State (SWAC)

Skal Labissiere has not been cleared by the NCAA

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Kelly Kline/Under Armor
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While the timeline surrounding Cheick Diallo’s eligibility has made headlines for months now, another elite recruit at a blue blood program is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be allowed to play college basketball this season.

Kentucky center Skal Labissiere, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2015 and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has not yet been cleared to play this season. His guard, Gerald Hamilton, confirmed as much to ESPN earlier today.

“Not yet,” Hamilton said. “We’re just trying to get everything squared away. They are asking a few questions.

“They haven’t cleared him, but we’re sticking with our faith. There’s no real concern about anything from the Kentucky compliance people.”

Labissiere has more red flags than you can count, almost all of them pertaining to Hamilton. It was the worst kept secret in high school basketball that Hamilton more or less had Labissiere for sale. It’s why he played three different AAU programs and two different high schools in four years. Hamilton runs a non-profit called Reach Your Dream and, after a transfer rendered him ineligible for his senior high school season, Labissiere played for a team called ‘Reach Your Dream Prep’, which Hamilton founded simply to ensure Labissiere had a place to play.

Here’s how CBSSports.com summarized things back in November:

Multiple coaches who have recruited Labissiere told CBSSports.com Hamilton either directly indicated or strongly suggested pursuing Labissiere would mostly be a waste of time if they couldn’t offer assistance in helping fund his foundation. One coach from a prominent staff said: “We couldn’t even get in the door.” Another added: “We recognized what it was about early on and decided not to get involved.”

In other words, no one is surprised that the NCAA is looking into Labissiere’s situation, and it’s not hard to look at Kentucky bringing in Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard as a sign that they’re not completely certain that Labissiere will make it through this. The surprise is in how quiet that investigation has been over the course of the last few months.

The shame in all of this is that Labissiere is a sweet kid with an incredible back-story. He survived the devastating earthquake in Haiti despite having a house collapse on him. If he can get through this investigation, he’ll easily be one of the biggest and most likeable stars in the sport this season.

Xavier commit to enroll early, redshirt

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Xavier landed a commitment on Wednesday from four-star big man Eddie Ekiyor, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

Ekiyor, who picked the Musketeers over Miami and Florida, is a borderline top 100 recruit. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-8 post that shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to the pace and physicality of the game, although he needs to continue to develop offensively to be more than a catch-and-dunk big man down the road.

In other words, on paper, Ekiyor isn’t much different from the majority of high major big men. But what’s different about this situation is that Ekiyor will be enrolling at Xavier for the start of the spring semester, technically making him a member of the Class of 2015. Xavier won’t be rushing him through the process — he’ll redshirt the second half of the 2015-16 season — but getting him on campus early will allow him an extra six months of learning the Xavier system, developing in collegiate practices and working out with the Xavier strength coaches.

That should help him limit the adjustment phase as he transitions from high school. That’s important for the Musketeers, because there’s a chance that they could lose their starting front line — James Farr (graduation) and Jalen Reynolds (early entry) — after this season.