(Image from the AP)
The Zags remained alone atop the AP Poll on Monday morning, amassing 59 of a possible 65 first-place votes.
Villanova remained at No. 2 and Kansas stayed steadfast at No. 3. Baylor dropped from fourth to ninth after a pair of losses, while Virginia went from 14th to 18th after losing to Duke and North Carolina in the same week.
Here is the entire poll:
1. Gonzaga (59 first-place votes)
2. Villanva (5)
3. Kansas (1)
8. North Carolina
12. West Virginia
19. Florida State
20. Saint Mary’s
21. Notre Dame
25. Wichita State
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 strong 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.
UPDATED: February 20, 2017
Regarding bracketing principles, can read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com. For example: teams from the same conference may now meet before a Regional final, even if fewer than eight teams are selected. The goal is to keep as many teams as possible on their actual seed line.
FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)
- Georgia Tech vs. Marquette | South Region
- Seton Hall vs. TCU | East Region
- NORTH DAKOTA vs. UC-IRVINE | Midwest Region
- MT. ST. MARY’S vs. NEW ORLEANSE | East Region
BRACKET PROJECTION …
|EAST – New York||MIDWEST – Kansas City|
|1) VILLANOVA||1) KANSAS|
|16) NEW ORLEANS / M.S. MARY’S||16) NO. DAKOTA / UC-IRVINE|
|8) Dayton||8) Minnesota|
|9) Miami-FL||9) Arkansas|
|5) Virginia||5) Notre Dame|
|12) UNC-WILMINGTON||12) ILLINOIS STATE|
|4) PURDUE||4) Butler|
|13) AKRON||13) UT-ARLINGTON|
|6) Saint Mary’s||6) Wisconsin|
|11) Seton Hall / TCU||11) Kansas State|
|3) Kentucky||3) Florida State|
|14) PRINCETON||14) BELMONT|
|Indianapolis||Salt Lake City|
|7) Northwestern||7) Iowa State|
|10) Wichita State||10) Michigan|
|2) Louisville||2) ARIZONA|
|15) BUCKNELL||15) NO. DAKOTA ST|
|SOUTH – Memphis||WEST – San Jose|
|Greenville||Salt Lake City|
|1) NORTH CAROLINA||1) GONZAGA|
|16) NC-CENTRAL||16) TX-SOUTHERN|
|8) Xavier||8) Virginia Tech|
|9) VCU||9) USC|
|5) Creighton||5) CINCINNATI|
|12) VALPARAISO||12) MONMOUTH|
|4) UCLA||4) West Virginia|
|13) NEVADA||13) VERMONT|
|6) SMU||6) Maryland|
|11) Georgia Tech / Marquette||11) MID TENNESSEE ST|
|3) FLORIDA||3) Duke|
|14) UNC-ASHEVILLE||14) FLA GULF COAST|
|7) South Carolina||7) Oklahoma State|
|10) California||10) Michigan State|
|2) Baylor||2) Oregon|
|15) FURMAN||15) CSU-BAKERSFIELD|
NOTES on the BRACKET: Villanova is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Kansas, Gonzaga, and North Carolina.
Last Four Byes (at large): California, Michigan State, Wichita State, Kansas State
Last Four IN (at large): Seton Hall, TCU, Marquette, Georgia Tech
First Four OUT (at large): Providence, Syracuse, Clemson, Tennessee
Next four teams OUT (at large): Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Indiana, Texas Tech
Breakdown by Conference …
ACC (9): NORTH CAROLINA, Louisville, Duke, Florida State, Virginia, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Miami-FL, Georgia Tech
Big 10 (7): PURDUE, Wisconsin, Maryland, Northwestern, Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State
Big 12 (7): KANSAS, Baylor, West Virginia, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, TCU
Big East (6): VILLANOVA, Butler, Creighton, Xavier, Seton Hall, Marquette
Pac 12 (5): OREGON, Arizona, UCLA, USC, California
SEC (4): FLORIDA, Kentucky, South Carolina, Arkansas
Atlantic 10 (2): VCU, Dayton
American (2): CINCINNATI, SMU
West Coast (2): GONZAGA, Saint Mary’s
Missouri Valley (1): ILLINOIS STATE, Wichita State
Mountain West (1): NEVADA
ONE BID LEAGUES: Monmouth (MAAC), Middle Tennessee State (C-USA), UT-Arlington (SBELT), Princeton (IVY), North Dakota (BSKY), Valparaiso (HORIZON), New Orleans (SLND), Furman (STHN), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Akron (MAC), Florida Gulf Coast (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), UNC-Wilmington (CAA), Winthrop (BSO), NC-Central (MEAC), North Dakota State (SUM), CSU-Bakersfield (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), Mt. St. Mary’s (NEC), Texas-Southern (SWAC)
Joe Ovies is a radio host at 99.9 The Fan WRAL in Raleigh, and he gives us some great insight into why and when Mark Gottfried was fired, as well as some discussion about the narratives being bandied about regarding State. Jesse Newell is the Kansas beat-writer for the Kansas City Star, and he drops by to discuss the streak and whether or not Kansas can win it all.
1. Jalen Brunson has been so good this year and no one’s talking about it: Maybe it’s because there are 6,000 quality point guards in college basketball this season. Maybe it’s because he’s been overshadowed by his teammate Josh Hart. Maybe it’s because he’s a sleepy-eyed, doughy land warrior-of-a-point guard and never, ever does anything flashy and simply cares more about winning than the attention that comes with it.
Whatever the case is, the improvement that Jalen Brunson has made this season has been one of the more overlooked story lines in college basketball this season. After a stellar, 22-point, 10-assists performance in a 22-point win at Seton Hall on Saturday – one that saw Brunson shoot a perfect 7-for-7 from the floor – the sophomore is averaging 14.6 points and 4.5 assists for the Wildcats this season.
He’s the engine that makes Villanova go. He’s the reason that the Wildcats haven’t missed Ryan Arcidiacono all that much this season. He’ll probably end up being the Big East Player of the Year at some point before his career comes to an end, and it’s all from a guy who looks like he’s moving about as quick as I do on a basketball court.
One NBA scout told me over the summer that Brunson is the “smartest player that I’ve ever scouted.”
And while he may not be the physical specimen that Dennis Smith Jr. or Lonzo Ball is, he’s pretty doggone talented, too.
2. There will be no team more battle-tested than Kansas in March: The Jayhawks have won 12 games in the Big 12, and at this point, that is basically enough to crown them the Big 12 champs for 13th straight season. Nine of them are by seven points or less. Seven are by five points or less. They came from 14 points down in the final three minutes to beat West Virginia. They won at Baylor in a game they trailed by 12. They beat Kentucky on the road by six points. They beat Duke by two. They lost to Indiana in overtime.
Some of that is luck – Svi’s travel against Kansas State, the legal illegal screen at Texas Tech – but a lot of it is some combination of talent, mental toughness and Bill Self. The bottom-line is this: No one will be more prepared to handle a close game in March than Kansas because no one has been through more this season than the Jayhawks.
3. Who you got in the ACC Player of the Year race?: Because it’s not easy to pick someone.
Let’s start with Luke Kennard, who is probably the most likely player from the league to earn a spot on an all-american team. But so much of his work was done early on in the season, before the start of conference play, which would bring us to Donovan Mitchell, who has been just sensational over the course of the last month, helping to buoy the Cardinals despite the fact that they spent quite a bit of time playing without both of the point guards on their roster. But then there is Justin Jackson, who has played the best basketball of his career in league play this year and is the best player on the team that currently looks primed to win the conference regular season title outright.
Those three are probably the favorites.
But what about Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson, whose ability to star at the four in the ACC despite standing just 6-foot-5 is astonishing. Or Wake Forest’s John Collins, who has gone for at least 20 points in ten straight games and has notched a double-double in six of those ten games. Or Dennis Smith Jr., who is putting up crazy numbers for a terrible team.
I’d lean Jackson over Mitchell and Kennard at this point, but I change my mind almost daily.
4. Tell me what to make of Wichita State: I’m at a loss.
On the one hand, they’re 25-4 on the season and straight steamrolling teams in the Missouri Valley. They beat Illinois State by 41 points. They beat Northern Iowa, who had won eight of nine entering the game, by 29 points. They’re rated 13th by KenPom.com, and they’re coached by a man named Gregg Marshall, maybe you’ve heard of him. That has cache.
But their only top 100 win on the season is Illinois State, whose only top 50 win on the season in Wichita State. The Shockers lost Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker to graduation, and the Valley, as a whole, isn’t the league that it’s been in the past.
So they’re good, right?
I think we can all agree on that.
But just how good? Try and find a way to cogently answer that question.
5. Injuries just keep piling up this season: On Saturday, it was Michigan State’s Eron Harris who suffered a nasty-looking knee injury that turned out to be a season-ender, joining a list that already includes teammates Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter. That happened about 90 minutes before Georgia star forward Yante Maten suffered what the team termed a knee sprain just 90 seconds into a game against Kentucky, a win the Bulldogs desperately needed. That happened the same week that Florida center John Egbunu went down for the season with a torn ACL and North Carolina announced that guard Kenny Williams will likely miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.
Oklahoma’s Jordan Woodard tore his ACL. Virginia Tech’s Chris Clarke tore his ACL. Kansas center Udoka Azubuike had season-ending surgery on his wrist. Villanova’s Phil Booth hasn’t played since the third game of the year. UConn lost Terry Larrier and Alterique Gilbert for the season.
Oh, there’s more.
It’s not just the volume of players. Look at these names: Indiana lost O.G. Anunoby to a season-ending knee injury. Creighton lost their all-american point guard Mo Watson to a torn ACL just a few weeks before Xavier star point guard Edmond Sumner tore his. Arizona’s Ray Smith tore his ACL for the third time in the preseason and retired. Harry Giles III had his third knee surgery in the preseason and still isn’t close to healthy.
And I guarantee that I missed some names.
Two weeks ago it looked like it was over, for both Arkansas and Mike Anderson.
The Razorbacks capped a stretch where they lost three of four games by getting smacked at home by Vanderbilt and losing to Missouri. They looked like a longshot to get into the tournament, not necessarily because they didn’t have the profile to earn an at-large bid at the time, but because any team that can lose at Missouri can lose to anyone, anywhere, any time.
Missing the tournament could very well be the end of Anderson’s tenure with Arkansas. There’s a reason he was on just about every hot seat list entering the season, and it looked like Arkansas was on the verge of fulfilling that prophecy.
Until this week.
On Wednesday, went into Columbia and knocked off No. 21 South Carolina in a win that should give them some breathing room on the right side of the bubble, following that up with a drubbing of Ole miss in Fayetteville.
Nothing is certain yet, not for a team capable of losing to Missouri, but as of today, the Razorbacks have gotten into the dance, likely, saved their coach’s job.
THEY WERE GOOD, TOO
- Kansas: The Jayhawks didn’t have themselves a bad week, coming back from 14 points down in the final three minutes to force overtime in a win over No. 9 West Virginia. They followed that up by coming back from six points down in the final three minutes to knock off No. 4 Baylor in Waco. Through it all, they managed to all-but lock up their 13th straight Big 12 regular season title.
- Minnesota: We might as well lock the Gophers into a tournament bid at this point, and they’ll probably end up getting a higher seed than you may realize, thanks to close wins over both Indiana and Michigan this week. We’ll know a lot more about them in the next two weeks, however, as they have to visit both Maryland and Wisconsin before the season is out.
- UCLA: The Bruins snapped a four-game losing streak against intra-city rival USC on Saturday, and they did it in statement fashion, winning by 32. UCLA put up 102 points on the Trojans, outscoring them by 22 points and doing a fair bit of showboating down the stretch. There was a point to be made in this game, and Steve Alford’s club accomplished that.
- UNC: The Tar Heels made a statement on Saturday night during Gameday, mollywhopping No. 14 Virginia to the tune of a 65-41 win that didn’t ever feel that close. Their defense showed up, Virginia did not. And if that wasn’t enough, they beat N.C. State bad enough on Wednesday that the Wolfpack fired their head coach.
- VCU: The Rams have now won eight straight games after beating Saint Joe’s and winning at Richmond, VCU’s intra-city rival, on Friday night. One of those wins was against St. Bonaventure, when they won thanks to a premature court storm, and one of those wins was against George Washington, when they won thanks to a questionable foul call with 0.4 seconds left, but it doesn’t matter. VCU has played their way into the tournament either way.