Aaron Gordon

College Basketball Talk Bracketology: Arizona, Syracuse headline first bracket of the year

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The countdown to March Madness has officially arrived.  We begin the trek toward Selection Sunday with Arizona and Syracuse as the top two seeds in the opening bracket of 2014.  Joining the Wildcats and Orange on the top line … two teams from the Big Ten: Wisconsin and Michigan State.  Villanova and Ohio State are close behind.

If you’re new to bracket watching or are returning for the new year, a couple of quick housekeeping notes:

  • The NCAA Selection Committee implemented new bracketing procedures designed to keep more teams on their true seed line (from the seed list or s-curve).  If you want all the details, visit http://www.ncaa.com.  Today’s bracket is a fitting example.  In the South Region, Saint Louis is the No. 8 seed – which puts the Billikens in the same half of the bracket as Massachusetts, the No. 5 seed.  Both reside in the Atlantic 10 conference.  In previous years, Saint Louis would have had been bumped a seed line higher or lower – or moved out of its geographic region – to avoid two teams from the same conference (unless more than eight were selected) meeting before a Regional Final.   That bump would have affected more than Saint Louis, perhaps dropping another team from a seven seed to an eight.  The new configuration is allowable in part because SLU and UMass are scheduled to meet only once during the A10 regular season.  Without going into detail, you’ll also notice Florida and Tennessee engaged in a similar scenario.  If those two happened to meet in the SEC tourney (which would be their third meeting), the set-up in this bracket would not be possible.  But since we don’t know whether that will occur, it’s accurate for today.
  • Teams are selected and seeded based on their overall body of work (now and moving forward).  Just because Team A beat Teams B doesn’t necessarily mean Team A’s overall body of work – such as quality wins, strength of schedule – is superior to Team B’s.  Teams lose games.  If overall accomplishments weren’t considered, we would rank Belmont ahead of North Carolina and Northern Colorado ahead of Kansas State.  But that would not be an accurate way to assess either team’s overall performance.
  • It’s too early to be overly concerned about the bubble or cutline.  Conference play us just beginning.  Try not to overreact to a team being one of the last few in or first few out.  We have a long way to go.  Some teams currently in the bracket will miss the tournament and others will climb into the bracket come March.
  • Teams earn bids, not conferences.  Although it’s unlikely the Big 12 will earn seven bids on Selection Sunday, it worked out that way through games played on January 5.  Next week, it could be different.

College hoops is entering its annual March to Madness.  Enjoy the journey to Selection Sunday.

UPDATED: January 6, 2014

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid based on current standings. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UCLA, BYU, etc). While conference play has begun, not all teams have yet played conference games. You may see a few “projected” champions that have not played a game, or that team remains favored to win the automatic bid at this point. We will adjust as the standings progress.

Several new bracketing principles were introduced after last year’s tournament. You 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)

  • Virginia vs. Texas | Midwest Region
  • Oklahoma vs. California | South Region
  • E. TENNESSEE ST vs. UNC-ASHEVILLE | Midwest Region
  • NO COLORADO vs. SOUTHERN | West Region

BRACKET PROJECTION:

WESTAnaheim EAST New York                            
San Diego Buffalo
1) ARIZONA 1) SYRACUSE
16) NO COLORADO / SOUTHERN 16) ALBANY
8) Florida State 8) Illinois
9) GONZAGA 9) Xavier
San Diego Orlando
5) LOUISVILLE 5) Memphis
12) UAB 12) TOLEDO
4) Kansas 4) Kentucky
13) UC-SANTA BARBARA 13) MANHATTAN
San Antonio Spokane
6) Michigan 6) Missouri
11) Notre Dame 11) HARVARD
3) WICHITA STATE 3) Oregon
14) BELMONT 14) NEW MEXICO ST
San Antonio Buffalo
7) New Mexico 7) Pittsburgh
10) Connecticut 10) Kansas State
2) BAYLOR 2) Ohio State
15) DREXEL 15) BOSTON UNIVERSITY
SOUTH – Memphis MIDWEST – Indianapolis
Milwaukee Milwaukee
1) MICHIGAN STATE 1) WISCONSIN
16) DAVIDSON 16) E. TENN ST / NC-ASHEVILLE
8) Saint Louis 8) UCLA
9) Georgetown 9) Dayton
Raleigh Spokane
5) MASSACHUSETTS 5) SAN DIEGO ST
12) Oklahoma / California 12) Virginia / Texas
4) Duke 4) Colorado
13) GREEN BAY 13) NORTH DAKOTA ST
St. Louis St. Louis
6) Iowa 6) North Carolina
11) Tennessee 11) Minnesota
3) Oklahoma State 3) Iowa State
14) S.F. AUSTIN 14) WESTERN KENTUCKY
Orlando Raleigh
7) Creighton 7) Cincinnati
10) VCU 10) Arkansas
2) FLORIDA 2) VILLANOVA
15) NC-CENTRAL 15) BRYANT

NOTES on the BRACKET: Arizona is the overall No. 1 seed followed by Syracuse, Wisconsin, and Michigan State.

Last Five teams in (at large): Tennessee, Virginia, California, Oklahoma, Texas

First Five teams out (at large): George Washington, LSU, Stanford, Boise State, Butler

Next five teams out (at large): SMU, Arizona State, Purdue, BYU, Saint Mary’s

Breakdown by Conference …

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

Big 12 (7): Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas

ACC (7): Duke, Syracuse, North Carolina, Florida State, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Virginia

Pac 12 (5): Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, UCLA, California

SEC (5): Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee

Atlantic 10 (4): Massachusetts, VCU, Saint Louis, Dayton

American (4): Louisville, Memphis, Connecticut, Cincinnati

Big East (4): Creighton, Georgetown, Villanova, Xavier

Mountain West (2): New Mexico, San Diego State

Missouri Valley (1): Wichita State

West Coast (1): Gonzaga

Conference Automatic Qualifiers … UAB (C-USA), Belmont (Ohio Valley), Western Kentucky (Sun Belt), Boston University (Patriot), North Dakota State (Summit), Green Bay (Horizon), Davidson (Southern), New Mexico State (WAC), Manhattan (MAAC), Stephen F. Austin (Southland), Toledo (MAC), East Tennessee State (A-Sun), Harvard (IVY), UC-Santa Barbara (Big West), Drexel (Colonial), Albany (American East), Northern Colorado (Big Sky), NC-Central (MEAC), UNC-Asheville (Big South), Bryant (NEC), Southern (SWAC)

Five Things We Learned This Week: Gonzaga’s a talking point, Monk’s a terror, Duke hasn’t changed

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 9: #5 Nigel Williams-Goss of the Gonzaga Bulldogs drives past #10 Brandon Brown and #15 Stefan Jovanovic of the Loyola Marymount Lions, on his way to the basket at Gersten Pavilion on February 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
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1. Gonzaga is going to be the team that we spend the most time arguing about for the next two weeks: That was probably already going to be the case given that the Zags get no credit for their record as a member of the WCC, but losing at home in a game where they led by 16 points is going to throw that argument into overdrive.

Can Gonzaga win a title? Is this a team you can trust in March? Do the Zags deserve a No. 1 seed? Are they nothing but a bunch of frauds?

I tried to warn you that this was coming six weeks ago.

Guess what: it’s here.

2. UCLA beat another elite team with some clutch defending: A little more than two weeks ago, Oregon went into Pauley Pavilion, opened up a 19-point lead and looked like they were ready to cruise to a blowout win over the Bruins, that is until UCLA finally decided to stop defending like a CYO team that just found out their postseason pizza party was canceled.

The same thing happened on Saturday night in Tucson.

Only this time, the Bruins switched to a 3-2 with 15 minutes left in the game, crashed the offensive glass and totally took the air out of the ball and Arizona out of their rhythm. For 25 minutes, the Wildcats got whatever they wanted offensively against UCLA. For the final 15 minutes, they looked like they had never practiced zone offense.

The concern with the Bruins is always going to be how well they defend. As good as they are offensively, they have to be able to get some stops if they’re going to be the elite teams across the country. They’ve down that the last two times they’ve faced an elite team in conference play and now own wins at Kentucky and at Arizona, and, if it wasn’t for Dillon Brooks hitting a buzzer-beating three, they’d have a win at Oregon, too.

The Bruins have their flaws, but man, this team still looks pretty dangerous.

RELATED: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Takeaways | Top 25

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3. Is North Carolina the best team in the country?: That’s the argument that I made when the Tar Heels picked off Louisville at home on Wednesday. Where is their weakness? Is it Joel Berry II’s consistency? Because that’s less of a concern with Justin Jackson playing the way that he has been playing.

Is it their health? Theo Pinson and Isaiah Hicks have battled injuries this year and the Tar Heels need both of them on the floor because it’s unclear just how good they actually are defensively. Hicks is also always in foul trouble, which is never a good thing in a single-elimination tournament, and neither is a team that doesn’t have a multitude of great shooters.

But when compared to the rest of the elites in college hoops, those question marks seem relatively minor. Kentucky is too often a one-man team. Gonzaga’s guards might not be good enough. Duke and Kansas have no inside depth. Louisville’s scorers can’t score. Arizona doesn’t have a point guard. Oregon has had some issues with consistency. UCLA doesn’t defend.

We can play this game with everyone.

The issues that are brought up with the Tar Heels, however, just seem relatively minor in comparison.

4. Malik Monk is the scariest player in college basketball: It’s not like this is breaking news or anything. Monk has been lighting up defenses all season long. He’s been single-handedly winning games for Kentucky since the start of the season. He had 47 points in the win over North Carolina. He had 31 points in the second half and overtime to help the Wildcats avoid an upset loss to Georgia. He had 33 points against Ole Miss.

This is just kind of what he does.

But Saturday’s performance felt different because before Monk went for 30 second half points to help lead the De’Aaron Fox-less Wildcats to a win over No. 13 Florida, a win that gives them the inside track to an SEC regular season title, he played one of the worst halves of his career. He was 1-for-5 from the floor with three points, five turnovers and two fouls. That came after he had just 11 points in a closer-than-it-should-have-been win at Missouri.

Monk turned it on like that in a game where Florida, a top five defensive team in the country, spent 20 minutes executing the “Stop Malik Monk” game-plan to perfection.

You don’t want to see a guy that can do that on your side of the bracket.

LEXINGTON, KY - FEBRUARY 14: Malik Monk #5 of the Kentucky Wildcats shoots the ball against the Tennessee Volunteers at Rupp Arena on February 14, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Malik Monk (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

5. Duke is exactly who they were a week ago: I’m done trying to tell people what to think of Duke. You all made up your minds weeks or months ago. If you’re like me, you see a roster that includes Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen and you pick them to win most of the games they play in. But if you look at their lack of interior defense, their depth issues, the injuries that won’t go away and the point guard question marks and worry about a team like that making a run, you’re certainly not wrong.

Duke is beatable.

We saw that this week, when they fell on a banked-in, buzzer-beating 23-footer at Syracuse and lost by five at Miami.

What I will tell you, however, is that if you let those two losses change the way you felt about Duke prior to Wednesday’s tip, you’re being silly.

Winning on the road in the ACC is hard. There’s a reason there are people talking about the conference as maybe the best ever. There’s a reason that only one team in the league has less than five league losses with two games left in the regular season. These are two road games to likely tournament teams decided by a total of eight points.

Losses like that are the kind of thing that happen in college basketball.

Team of the Week: Miami Hurricanes

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - FEBRUARY 20: Bruce Brown #11 of the Miami Hurricanes shoots the ball over Devon Hall #0 of the Virginia Cavaliers during a game at John Paul Jones Arena on February 20, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Chet Strange/Getty Images)
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Believe it or not, Miami actually entered this week without having an NCAA tournament bid locked up.

They had just two wins over tournament-caliber teams on the season and four loseable games left on their schedule.

Well, things change fast in college basketball, and now we’re looking at a situation where the Hurricanes might be able to climb their way up as high as a No. 5 seed. It started with an overtime win at No. 18 Virginia, where the Hurricanes matched Virginia stop-for-stop in a 54-48 overtime win. (You didn’t misread that score.)

They followed that up by picking off No. 10 Duke at home as Bruce Brown played like the best freshman in the ACC and the Hurricanes once again looked like one of the nation’s best defensive teams, holding the Blue Devils to 50 points and Jayson Tatum and Luke Kennard to a-combined 10-for-36 shooting.

The Hurricanes may now find themselves ranked in the top 25 this week.

Not bad for a team that was still in doubt of being in the tournament at this time last week.

RELATED: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Takeaways | Top 25

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THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Butler: The Bulldogs just keep winning. For a team that has already amassed wins over the likes of Villanova at home and Arizona on a neutral floor, this was probably their best week of the season. Not only did they hand Villanova’s player their first-ever loss at The Pavilion, but they also picked off Xavier in Cincinnati.
  • UCLA: The Bruins made a statement on Saturday night, as they went into Tucson and beat Arizona, making a run in the second half that was built around their defense and ability to crash the glass. UCLA now has the best pair of road wins — they won at Kentucky as well — of any team in the country.
  • Providence: The Friars have just about played their way into the NCAA tournament, assuming they don’t find a way to lose to St. John’s or DePaul in the last week of the regular season. They picked off Creighton and Marquette this week after beating Xavier and Butler last week.
  • UNC: The Tar Heels clinched at least a share of their eighth regular season title in the last 13 years this week when they beat Louisville and won at Pitt. The Tar Heels also staked their claim to being the best team in college basketball.
  • Iowa State: The Cyclones have turned things around since they slotted Solomon Young in the post in their starting lineup. They’ve won five straight games, and this week alone they won at Texas Tech and picked off Baylor at home.

Player of the Week: J.J. Frazier, Georgia

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 21:  J.J. Frazier #30 of the Georgia Bulldogs drives toward the basket as Yuta Watanabe #12 of the George Washington Colonials defends during the CBE Hall of Fame Classic game at the Sprint Center on November 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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J.J. Frazier deserves more credit and more attention than he has gotten this season, and there’s no better time to give it to him than this week.

In two games — two wins that keep Georgia’s minuscule hopes of getting an at-large bid alive — Frazier averaged 28.5 points and 4.5 assists, leading the Bulldogs to wins at Alabama and over LSU at home despite the fact that they are playing without Yante Maten, who sprained his knee in last Saturday’s game against Kentucky.

Frazier, by the way, had 36 points in that game against the Wildcats.

All told, he’s gone for at least 28 points in four of his last five games and has spent the better part of February as arguably the best guard in the SEC. Yes, that includes Malik Monk.

The unfortunate part of this is that the J.J. Frazier takeover happened too late. The Bulldogs are likely going to end up on the wrong side of the bubble because they have six losses in league play by six points or less or in overtime. They lost at Florida in OT. They lost at Kentucky in OT. They lost to Kentucky at home by five. They lost to South Carolina twice by a combined eight points. They lost at Texas A&M because the clock stopped running on the final possession, meaning that they didn’t get their final shot off in time despite the fact that there were 5.6 seconds listed on the clock when the shot was taken.

It’s been brutal.

The least we can do is give the kid his shine.

RELATED: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Takeaways | Top 25

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THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Bam Adebayo, Kentucky: Adebayo is starting to play his best basketball of the season. It started with a 22-point, 15-rebound performance in a win at Missouri on That was followed up by the 18 points and 15 boards he put on Florida, damn-near finishing with a first half double-double that kept Florida from being able to open a lead Kentucky couldn’t bounce-back from.
  • Eric Mika and Elijah Bryant, BYU: The best performance from a Cougar that we saw this week was the 29 points and 11 boards that Mika had when BYU won at No. 1 Gonzaga and ended their undefeated season. But Bryant, who had 14 points in that win, also went for 39 points during the week as BYU beat Portland.
  • Justin Jackson, UNC: Jackson seems to have taken control of the race for ACC Player of the Year thanks for the 21 points he scored in UNC’s emphatic win over Louisville on Wednesday. He followed that up with 23 points in a win at Pitt.
  • Monte’ Morris, Iowa State: Morris had 23 points and six assists in an overtime win at Texas Tech on Monday night, following that up with 17 points and seven assists as the Cyclones picked off No. 9 Baylor in Hilton Coliseum on Saturday. They’ve now won five straight games.
  • Bruce Brown, Miami: The Hurricanes scored 109 total points in wins at Virginia  (in overtime!) and over Duke at home this week, and Brown had 39 of them, scoring a team-high 14 points against the Wahoos before popping off for 25 against the Blue Devils.

College Basketball Talk Top 25: Kansas, North Carolina vault past Gonzaga, Villanova

AUSTIN, TX - FEBRUARY 25: Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks drives around Andrew Jones #1 of the Texas Longhorns at the Frank Erwin Center on February 25, 2017 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
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With Gonzaga taking their first loss of the season on Saturday night, it’s time for a reshuffle at the top of the top 25 standings.

We went with Kansas in the top spot, although I’m not sure if they’re actually the best team in the country.

I think North Carolina may be more complete, and while the Jayhawks have some serious front court depth concerns, if you were to give me the choice of a top seven vs. top seven, I would probably pick Kansas.

Anyway, here is the rest of this week’s top 25:

1. Kansas (26-3, Last Week: No. 3)
2. North Carolina (25-5, 6)
3. Gonzaga (29-1, 1)
4. Villanova (27-3, 2)
5. Oregon (26-4, 5)
6. UCLA (26-3, 8)
7. Louisville (23-6, 4)
8. Arizona (26-4, 7)
9. Kentucky (24-5, 11)
10. West Virginia (23-6, 10)
11. Baylor (23-6, 9)
12. Butler (23-6, 24)
13. Duke (22-7, 12)
14. Florida (23-6, 14)
15. SMU (25-4, 17)
16. Purdue (23-6, 13)
17. Notre Dame (22-7, 18)
18. Saint Mary’s (26-3, 19)
19. Florida State (23-6, 20)
20. Iowa State (19-9, 21)
21. Cincinnati (25-4, 16)
22. Wisconsin (22-7, 15)
23. Wichita State (27-4, 25)
24. Oklahoma State (20-9, UR)
25. Miami (20-9, UR)

DROPPED OUT: No. 22 Virginia, No. 23 Northwester
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 24 Oklahoma State, No. 25 Miami

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