Keith Appling

Michigan State grabs No. 1 seed in latest bracket projection

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Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans are at it again.  The Spartans have lost just once in 2013 (at Indiana), and they play the Hoosiers tonight in a heavy-weight tilt in East Lansing.  IU and MSU are tied at the top of a strong Big Ten conference.  All this considered, Michigan State joins IU, Miami-FL, and Florida as a No. 1 seed in today’s bracket.  Duke, Michigan, Gonzaga, and Louisville (among others) are chasing. Those four fall into spots five through eight on the current s-curve.  Kansas and Syracuse could also re-enter the No. 1 seed debate over the next few weeks.  Arizona has fallen off a bit, but it’s not impossible for the Wildcats to regain some traction if they win out.

Kentucky is among our first five out.  Bottom line: UK is 0-1 without Nerlens Noel, and that was a lopsided loss at Tennessee.  The Wildcats have time to re-establish their NCAA position, but they have to show the Selection Committee they can win without one of their most important players.  North Carolina is among the last five in today.  The Tar Heels still have just one Top 50 RPI win (UNLV).  Villanova, Arizona State, Temple, and Virginia join UNC as the final teams in the bracket. They are paired in the First Four.  Teams just missing today? St. John’s, Maryland, Charlotte and Indiana State – along with aforementioned Kentucky.

While things are starting to settle some, we still have a fair amount of fluidity in the middle and bottom of the bracket.  We also have a couple of procedural bumps today.  Illinois – which has played its way off the bubble – is a true eight seed, but moves up to the No. 7 spot in the Midwest because of conference conflicts.  UCLA is the team that falls a line, dropping from a true seven to an eight.  Those things happen on a fairly regular basis.  The Selection Committee tries to follow its s-curve (now referred to as Seed List) as closely as possible, but exceptions have to be made.

Geography also plays a factor.  Gonzaga is rewarded with the No. 2 seed in the West Region even though they are behind Duke and Michigan on the s-curve rankings.  Again, this can – and does – happen.  The region is re-balanced later.  Kansas, the top three-seed today, is moved West.  These are tweaks the Committee uses to create balance based on its Seed List.  Enjoy another great week of hoops.
UPDATED: February 19, 2013

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid based on current standings. 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)

  • Temple vs. Arizona State | East Region
  • Villanova vs. Virginia | South Region
  • NORFOLK STATE vs. SOUTHERN | Midwest Region
  • HIGH POINT vs. WAGNER | South Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EASTWashington, DC                MIDWESTIndianapolis
Philadelphia Dayton
1) MIAMI-FL 1) INDIANA
16) NORTHEASTERN 16) SOUTHERN / NORFOLK STATE
8) Minnesota 8) UCLA
9) Missouri 9) Creighton
Salt Lake Austin
5) Colorado State 5) Pittsburgh
12) Temple / Arizona State 12) BELMONT
4) Marquette 4) Oklahoma State
13) LOUISIANA TECH 13) DAVIDSON
Philadelphia Salt Lake
6) OREGON 6) NC State
11) MID TENNESSEE ST 11) California
3) SYRACUSE 3) NEW MEXICO
14) VALPARAISO 14) STONY BROOK
Auburn Hills Lexington
7) VCU 7) Illinois
10) Oklahoma 10) La Salle
2) Michigan 2) Louisville
15) HARVARD 15) S.F. AUSTIN
SOUTH – Dallas WEST – Los Angeles
Auburn Hills Lexington
1) Michigan State 1) FLORIDA
16) HIGH POINT / WAGNER 16) MERCER
8) UNLV 8) MEMPHIS
9) WICHITA STATE 9) Saint Louis
Kansas City Austin
5) Butler 5) Wisconsin
12) Villanova / Virginia 12) Iowa State
4) KANSAS STATE 4) Georgetown
13) AKRON 13) BUCKNELL
San Jose Kansas City
6) Ohio State 6) Notre Dame
11) Baylor 11) North Carolina
3) Arizona 3) Kansas
14) MONTANA 14) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
Dayton San Jose
7) Cincinnati 7) San Diego State
10) Mississippi 10) Colorado
2) Duke 2) GONZAGA
15) NIAGARA 15) LONG BEACH

NOTES on the BRACKET: Indiana is the No. 1 overall seed followed by Miami-FL, Michigan State, and Florida. They are followed by Duke, Michigan, Gonzaga, and Louisville on the s-curve as two-seeds.

Last Five teams in (at large): North Carolina, Villanova, Arizona State, Temple, Virginia

First Five teams out (at large): St. John’s, Maryland, Kentucky, Charlotte, Indiana State

Next Five teams out (at large): St. Mary’s, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Air Force

Breakdown by Conference …

Big East (8): Louisville, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Villanova

Big Ten (7): Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois

Big 12 (6): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Oklahoma, Iowa State

Atlantic 10 (5): Butler, VCU, Temple, La Salle, Saint Louis

ACC (5): Duke, NC State, North Carolina, Miami-FL, Virginia

Pac 12 (6): Arizona, Colorado, UCLA, Oregon, California, Arizona State

SEC (3): Missouri, Florida, Mississippi

Mountain West (4): San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico, Colorado State

Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State

West Coast (1): Gonzaga

Conference USA (1): Memphis

Conference Automatic Qualifiers … BELMONT (Ohio Valley), BUCKNELL (Patriot), MIDDLE TENNESSE ST (Sunbelt), SOUTH DAKOTA STATE(Summit), VALPARAISO (Horizon), DAVIDSON (Southern), LOUISIANA TECH (WAC), NIAGARA (MAAC), STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (Southland), AKRON (MAC), MERCER (A-Sun), HARVARD (IVY), LONG BEACH (Big West), NORTHEASTERN (Colonial), STONY BROOK (American East), MONTANA (Big Sky), NORFOLK STATE (MEAC), HIGH POINT (Big South), WAGNER (NEC), SOUTHERN (SWAC)

PHOTO: Nevada wearing pink jerseys to honor Coaches vs. Cancer this week

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Nevada announced that they’ll be wearing special pink uniforms for the next two games to promote cancer awareness.

The Wolf Pack will wear the jerseys on Wednesday (Jan. 25) on the road against Boise State and at home on Saturday (Jan. 28) against New Mexico.

“We are extremely excited and honored to release our new Pink “Cancer-Awareness” Jerseys. It was apparent very early in our time here, that many members of our Nevada Wolf Pack Basketball Program and in our Pack community have been affected or are currently being affected by cancer,” Nevada head coach Eric Musselman said in the release. “We could not be more proud to help support the cause and unite to fight this horrible and devastating disease.”

 

UCLA is no longer a Final Four contender if their defense doesn’t improve

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 03: Lonzo Ball #2 of the UCLA Bruins reacts after making a three-point basket against the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half of the game at Rupp Arena on December 3, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. UCLA defeated Kentucky 97-92. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Saturday’s win over No. 8 UCLA was massive for No. 7 Arizona for a number of reasons.

They got Allonzo Trier back into the fold. They remained undefeated atop the Pac-12 standings, keeping pace with an Oregon team that’s dealing with another Dillon Brooks foot injury and getting ready to make the nightmarish trip to the Mountain schools, Utah and Colorado, this weekend. They took a two game lead over the Bruins in the Pac-12 standings.

Perhaps more importantly, the Wildcats certified themselves as a legitimate threat to get to the Final Four. Their 17-2 record entering Saturday was pretty. A win at Pauley finally gave that résumé some substance.

So good for Arizona.

But that wasn’t the biggest story line coming out of Pauley Pavilion on Saturday afternoon.

UCLA’s defense, or lack thereof, was.

Ever since the Bruins went into Rupp Arena and knocked off then-No. 1 Kentucky, UCLA has been considered one of the very best teams in the country. Villanova’s up there, too. So is Kansas, and Gonzaga, and those Kentucky Wildcats. North Carolina probably should be in that conversation as well. Maybe Baylor, maaaybe Florida State.

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You get my point. The Bruins, for better or worse, were one of the handful of teams that everyone thought would enter the NCAA tournament as a favorite to win the national title, but it’s time for us to question whether or not that is actually the case. That’s how bad the UCLA defense has been this season, particularly of late.

Against Arizona, the Bruins were a train-wreck. They gave up 96 points on 1.315 points-per-possession, which, for those of you who aren’t into advanced stats, is atrocious. That game was the culmination of a four-game stretch where UCLA’s defense had gone from concerning-but-good-enough to a major red flag. In those four games – road trips to Colorado and Utah and home games against Arizona and Arizona State – the Bruins allowed an abysmal 1.153 PPP. For comparison’s sake, the 2015 Kentucky team that went 38-1, the best defense we’ve seen in the KenPom era, gave up 0.847 PPP. UCLA averages 75 possessions a game, which is a difference of 23 points over 40 minutes.

That’s a big deal.

And on the season, UCLA has fallen the way to 125th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric.

That’s a bigger deal.

For those that don’t know, KenPom.com is a website that ranks teams based on how many points they score and allow per possession, adjusted for schedule strength. It’s widely considered the best way to determine who the best offensive, the best defensive and the best overall teams are.

It’s been around since 2002.

And since 2002, given where UCLA’s defense is today, they would be the second-worst defensive team to ever get to a Final Four.

In 2011, VCU ranked 138th in defensive efficiency as of Selection Sunday*, and they are the only team to ever rank outside the top 80 in defensive efficiency and make it all the way to the Final Four. Only three other teams have ranked outside the top 50 and made it to the final weekend of the season: Marquette in 2003 (76th), Butler in 2011 (72nd) and Michigan in 2013 (66th). Two others ranked outside the top 40 and won at least four games in the Big Dance: Texas in 2003 (46th) and Wisconsin in 2014 (50th):

screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-3-16-43-pm

*(All of this info is via KenPom.com and as of Selection Sunday in those given seasons. That’s important to note, because winning games against good teams in the tournament changes those stats.)

The precedent is there.

UCLA, unquestionably, has to get better defensively if they want to win a national title.

But all hope is not lost.

The two teams with the lowest defensive efficiency entering the NCAA tournament to win the national title – North Carolina in 2009 and Duke in 2015 – both had top three offenses nationally.

UCLA leads the nation in offensive efficiency.

AP Poll: Villanova, Kansas neck-and-neck for No. 1

VILLANOVA, PA - DECEMBER 13: Head coach Jay Wright and Jalen Brunson #1 of the Villanova Wildcats congratulate Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats in the second half against the Temple Owls at The Pavilion on December 13, 2016 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The Villanova Wildcats defeated the Temple Owls 78-57. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Villanova maintained a slim lead over Kansas for the No. 1 spot in this week’s AP poll, with Gonzaga being the only other program to receive any first place votes.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBCSports Top 25

After losing to Arizona at home, UCLA dropped to eighth as the Wildcats vaulted them into No. 7 in the poll.

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1. Villanova (35 first-place votes)
2. Kansas (28)
3. Gonzaga (2)
4. Kentucky
5. Baylor
6. Florida State
7. Arizona
8. UCLA
9. North Carolina
10. Oregon
11. Butler
12. Virginia
13. Louisville
14. Notre Dame
15. Wisconsin
16. Creighton
17. Duke
18. West Virginia
19. Cincinnati
20. Purdue
21. Saint Mary’s
22. Maryland
23. South Carolina
24. Xavier
25. Florida

Coaches Poll: Kansas remains No. 1, Villanova No. 2

LAWRENCE, KS - JANUARY 21: Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks drives to the goal against Andrew Jones #1 of the Texas Longhorns in the first half at Allen Field House on January 21, 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Kansas remained No. 1 in the Coaches Poll this week, getting 18 of the 32 first-place votes.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBCSports Top 25

Villanova sits at No. 2 in the poll, with Gonzaha in third, the only other team to receive a first-place vote.

After beating UCLA in Pauley Pavilion, Arizona jumped up to No. 9 but still sits two spots behind UCLA at No. 7.

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1. Kansas (18 first-place votes)
2. Villanova (11)
3. Gonzaga (3)
4. Kentucky
5. Baylor
6. North Carolina
7. UCLA
8. Florida State
9. Arizona
10. Oregon
11. Butler
12. Notre Dame
13. Virginia
14. Louisville
15. Wisconsin
16. Creighton
17. Duke
18. West Virginia
19. Cincinnati
20. Purdue
21. Sainy Mary’s
22. Xavier
23. Maryland
24. South Carolina
25. Florida

College Basketball Talk Top 25: It gets muddy after a clear-cut top four

VILLANOVA, PA - DECEMBER 03: Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in front of Lamarr Kimble #0 of the Saint Joseph's Hawks in the first half at The Pavilion on December 3, 2016 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The Villanova Wildcats defeated the Saint Joseph's Hawks 88-57. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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This week’s rankings were probably more difficult to put together than any week so far this season.

The top four, frankly, seem pretty obvious. I have Villanova No. 1, but I would have no qualms with ranking any of Kentucky, Kansas or Gonzaga in that No. 1 spot. I expect those to be the four teams that get votes for No. 1 in the AP and Coaches Polls this week.

After that, however, is when it gets difficult. Are you going to rank North Carolina above Florida State? UNC beat the Seminoles when they squared off this season but that was the Seminoles lone loss in a six game run against ranked teams. I went with Carolina over them because, simply, I think UNC is a better team.

Then there’s the question of what to do with the top three teams in the Pac-12. Arizona just won at UCLA and they got Allonzo Trier back. Oregon also owns a win over the Bruins, but there’s came at home on a buzzer-beater from Dillon Brooks, who is dealing with a foot injury again. And while UCLA has consistently proven to be one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the country, they are a nightmare defensively right now.

Where does West Virginia slot in after a pair of losses? What about Creighton without Mo Watson Jr.? Butler’s profile looks great but their performance on the floor has been less than stellar since their win over Villanova. Is Duke actually back?

You can find the rankings below. What did I get wrong?

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1. Villanova (19-1, Last Week No. 1)
2. Kentucky (17-2, 2)
3. Kansas (18-1, 4)
4. Gonzaga (19-0, 5)
5. North Carolina (18-3, 5)
6. Baylor (18-1, 7)
7. Florida State (18-2, 8)
8. Arizona (18-2, 16)
9. UCLA (19-2, 3)
10. Oregon (18-2, 10)
11. Louisville (16-4, 11)
12. Wisconsin (16-3, 13)
13. Purdue (16-4, 15)
14. Notre Dame (17-3, 17)
15. Cincinnati (17-2, 18)
16. Duke (15-4, 19)
17. West Virginia (15-4, 10)
18. Butler (17-3, 14)
19. Creighton (18-2, 12)
20. Saint Mary’s (17-2, 20)
21. Virginia (16-3, 22)
22. South Carolina (15-4, 24)
23. Maryland (17-2, 25)
24. Kansas State (15-4, NR)
25. Iowa State (12-6, NR)

DROPPED OUT: No. 21 Xavier, No. 23 Florida
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 24 Kansas State, No. 25 Iowa State