NBCSports.com Bracketology: Kansas, Iowa, and San Diego State climb bracket ladder

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Kansas is among the top movers in this week’s bracket projection.  The reasons are pretty clear: two quality road wins and an overall schedule ranked No. 1 in the nation. Those types of statistics always play well on Selection Sunday.

In the span of a week, the Jayhawks won road games at Oklahoma and Iowa State – sandwiched with a lopsided home victory over improved Kansas State.  It’s mid-January and KU already has seven wins against Top 50 teams (RPI – through Monday, January 13).  Thus, Kansas finds itself as a No. 2 seed in today’s update.  Also worth noting: the Jayhawks’ four losses are by a combined 17 points and only one of those – San Diego State – occurred in the past month.

Which brings us to SDSU – another of the recent seed climbers.  San Diego State followed up its monumental victory at KU by handling Boise State at home and Air Force on the road.  The Aztecs are 5-0 away home.  None bigger than the one in Lawrence.

Iowa vaulted up the seed list after an impressive win at Ohio State.  The somewhat undervalued Hawkeyes are 12 points from a perfect season – having lost only on a neutral court to Villanova, at Iowa State, and at Wisconsin.  If there is a knock on the Hawkeyes’ resume, it’s an overall weakish non-conference schedule.  How that affects Iowa’s final seeding remains to be seen.  Continuing to win league road games will erase much of the concern.

Let’s also mention Cincinnati.  The Bearcats have won eight straight.  The most impressive victory in that streak was a 16-point road win at Memphis.  UC has moved from a potential bubble team to No. 19 on the current s-curve.

Other than rising Virginia – and to some extent Oklahoma after its home win over Iowa State – there hasn’t been a lot of movement around the bubble.  If you check last week’s bracket, the names appear much the same – perhaps in a slightly different order.  Arkansas is the first team out in today’s update.  The Razorbacks continue to struggle on the road – a problem that has plagued them in recent years.

It’s still a little early to be overly concerned with conference standings but there are some potential pitfalls ahead.  Take, for example, North Carolina.  The Tar Heels are 0-3 in ACC play after their loss at Syracuse.  This week’s game with Boston College is huge – which is followed by a trip to Virginia and a home date with Clemson.  It’s time for UNC to make a u-turn or risk falling out of the Field.  Despite three quality wins, a 1-5 league mark would put UNC on an uphill climb toward tourney selection.

UPDATED: January 14, 2014

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid based on current standings with RPI as a tiebreaker for teams with the same number of losses. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UCLA, BYU, etc).

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)

  • Stanford vs. Texas | Midwest Region
  • George Washington vs. Tennessee | South Region
  • WAGNER vs. UNC-ASHEVILLE | East Region
  • SOUTHERN vs. HAMPTON | West Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

WESTAnaheim EAST New York                              
San Diego Buffalo
1) ARIZONA 1) SYRACUSE
16) HAMPTON / SOUTHERN 16) WAGNER / NC-ASHEVILLE
8) Virginia 8) California
9) Dayton 9) Kansas State
Spokane Raleigh
5) Michigan 5) MASSACHUSETTS
12) GREEN BAY 12) HARVARD
4) SAN DIEGO ST 4) Ohio State
13) BELMONT 13) AKRON
Orlando San Antonio
6) Pittsburgh 6) New Mexico
11) VCU 11) Illinois
3) Iowa 3) Baylor
14) DELAWARE 14) NO COLORADO
St. Louis Buffalo
7) Creighton 7) Missouri
10) GONZAGA 10) Connecticut
2) KANSAS 2) VILLANOVA
15) IPFW 15) MERCER
SOUTH – Memphis MIDWEST – Indianapolis
Milwaukee Milwaukee
1) MICHIGAN STATE 1) WISCONSIN
16) DAVIDSON 16) STONY BROOK
8) Florida State 8) Xavier
9) UCLA 9) North Carolina
San Diego Raleigh
5) CINCINNATI 5) Memphis
12) LOUISIANA TECH 12) Stanford / Texas
4) Colorado 4) Kentucky
13) NEW MEXICO ST 13) MANHATTAN
Spokane San Antonio
6) Oregon 6) Duke
11) Tennessee / Geo Washington 11) Georgetown
3) Iowa State 3) WICHITA STATE
14) S.F. AUSTIN 14) UC-IRVINE
Orlando St. Louis
7) Saint Louis 7) Louisville
10) Oklahoma 10) Minnesota
2) FLORIDA 2) Oklahoma State
15) BOSTON UNIV 15) GEORGIA STATE

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

Last Five teams in (at large): Georgetown, Tennessee, Geo Washington, Stanford, Texas

First Five teams out (at large): Arkansas, SMU, NC State, Arizona State, Wake Forest

Next five teams out (at large): LSU, Indiana State, Notre Dame, Indiana, Providence

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

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

ACC (6): Duke, Syracuse, North Carolina, Florida State, Pittsburgh, Virginia

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

Atlantic 10 (5): Massachusetts, VCU, Saint Louis, Dayton, Geo Washington

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 … Louisiana Tech (C-USA), Belmont (Ohio Valley), Georgia State (Sun Belt), Boston University (Patriot), IPFW (Summit), Green Bay (Horizon), Davidson (Southern), New Mexico State (WAC), Manhattan (MAAC), Stephen F. Austin (Southland), Akron (MAC), Mercer (A-Sun), Harvard (IVY), UC-Irvine (Big West), Delaware (Colonial), Stony Brook (American East), Northern Colorado (Big Sky), Hampton (MEAC), UNC-Asheville (Big South), Wagner (NEC), Southern (SWAC)

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.