Bracketology: Strong profile pushes Kansas to top line

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Since losing to San Diego State, the Kansas Jayhawks have put together a five-game surge that includes victories over its biggest competitors in the Big 12 conference – Oklahoma, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and Baylor.  Two of those (Oklahoma, Iowa State) were on the road.  Add in victories over Duke and New Mexico in non-conference play, and KU has notched eight Top 50 RPI victories.  That’s two more than Syracuse, four more than Arizona, and three more than Michigan State – the other members of today’s No. 1 seed club.  It’s also worth noting that Kansas has played the nation’s toughest schedule and currently sits atop the RPI.   That’s a pretty strong profile (despite four losses – all to Top 25 RPI Teams), and the primary reason why the Jayhawks received the No. 4 slot on this week’s seed list (s-curve).  When evaluating KU’s overall body of work, it’s pretty strong.

We still have two months to go and several other teams could reach the No. 1 seed line by March.  Teams like Florida and Wichita State are building strong resumes, as is San Diego State.  And it’s too early to count out Iowa, Michigan, or Wisconsin from the Big Ten title chase.  The final contenders will be much more clear by mid-February.

On the flip side, January hasn’t been a good month for teams like Ohio State, Baylor, and North Carolina – or Georgetown for that matter; as the Hoyas are among the First Five OUT today.  Through the first third of conference play, the Buckeyes, Bears, and Tar Heels own a combined 4-12 record (in league play).  Some of that is due to scheduling and some of it has been inconsistent play.  Either way, it would be a good time for those squads to reverse course.  By the time we reach mid-February, a seriously sub-par conference record will not be endearing to the Selection Committee.

One of the best things about college basketball is that we never know what will happen.  Enjoy the hoops.

UPDATED: January 21, 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)

  • BYU vs. ArkansasMidwest Region
  • VCU vs. Providence South Region
  • SAVANNAH ST vs. UNC-ASHEVILLE East Region
  • SOUTHERN vs. CHATTANOOGA South Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

WEST – Anaheim                            EAST New York                   
San Diego Buffalo
1) ARIZONA 1) SYRACUSE
16) SOUTH DAKOTA 16) SAVANNAH ST / NC-ASHEVILLE
8) Baylor 8) Xavier
9) GONZAGA 9) UCLA
San Diego Raleigh
5) Duke 5) Oklahoma
12) GREEN BAY 12) HARVARD
4) Kentucky 4) Michigan
13) S.F. AUSTIN 13) MANHATTAN
Spokane Spokane
6) Kansas State 6) Memphis
11) Stanford 11) Dayton
3) SAN DIEGO STATE 3) Iowa State
14) UC-IRVINE 14) GEORGIA STATE
Milwaukee Buffalo
7) Connecticut 7) Ohio State
10) Missouri 10) Florida State
2) Wisconsin 2) Villanova
15) UTAH VALLEY 15) BOSTON UNIVERSITY
SOUTH – Memphis MIDWEST – Indianapolis
St. Louis Milwaukee
1) KANSAS 1) MICHIGAN STATE
16) SOUTHERN / CHATTANOOGA 16) ROBERT MORRIS
8) Oregon 8) Colorado
9) Minnesota 9) New Mexico
Raleigh Orlando
5) Pittsburgh 5) CREIGHTON
12) SOUTHERN MISS 12) BYU / Arkansas
4) MASSACHUSETTS 4) CINCINNATI
13) TOLEDO 13) MERCER
San Antonio San Antonio
6) Louisville 6) Saint Louis
11) VCU / Providence 11) North Carolina
3) Iowa 3) Oklahoma State
14) DELAWARE 14) BELMONT
Orlando St. Louis
7) Virginia 7) California
10) Texas 10) George Washington
2) FLORIDA 2) WICHITA STATE
15) STONY BROOK 15) NO COLORADO

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

Last Five teams in (at large): Dayton, VCU, Providence, Arkansas, BYU

First Five teams out (at large): SMU, Tennessee, Clemson, Boise State, Georgetown

Next five teams out (at large): Purdue, LSU, Saint Mary’s, Ole Miss, Illinois

Breakdown by Conference …

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

Big Ten (6): Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota

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

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

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

SEC (4): Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, Arkansas

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

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

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

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, BYU

Missouri Valley (1): Wichita State

Conference Automatic Qualifiers … Southern Miss (C-USA), Belmont (Ohio Valley), Georgia State (Sun Belt), Boston University (Patriot), South Dakota (Summit), Green Bay (Horizon), Chattanooga (Southern), Utah Valley (WAC), Manhattan (MAAC), Stephen F. Austin (Southland), Toledo (MAC), Mercer (A-Sun), Harvard (IVY), UC-Irvine (Big West), Delaware (Colonial), Stony Brook (American East), Northern Colorado (Big Sky), Savannah State (MEAC), UNC-Asheville (Big South), Robert Morris (NEC), Southern (SWAC)

No. 19 Wichita State upends No. 5 Cincinnati 76-72

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HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (AP) — Dave Stallworth was running the show the last time Wichita State beat a Top 5 team on the road. Landry Shamet took the lead as the Shockers did it again 54 years later.

This one, too, will be a reference point, given all that was at stake.

Shamet scored 19 points, and No. 19 Wichita State ended the nation’s longest home-court winning streak, beating No. 5 Cincinnati 76-72 on Sunday to leave the American Athletic Conference race wide open.

The Shockers (21-5, 11-3) beat a Top 5 team on the road for the first time since 1964. They led most of the way, building an 11-point lead midway through the second half and holding on. Shaquille Morris’ dunk with 5 seconds left finished it off.

The Shockers ran onto the floor for congratulatory chest bumps. Coach Gregg Marshall got a celebratory dunking in the locker room, leaving his light-colored shirt clinging to him.

“It’s tremendous,” Marshall said. “Look at my shirt. College basketball has such tremendous parity. The games are decided by great players making great plays. Landry is a tremendous player.”

The Bearcats (23-4, 12-2) had won their last 39 home games. In their first real home challenge of the season, they wound up playing catch-up and coming up short. Cincinnati hasn’t beaten a ranked team all season, falling to 0-3 with losses to Xavier and Florida.

Cincinnati and Wichita State were expected to contend for the title in the Shockers’ first season in the AAC. Wichita State gave itself a chance with a solid all-around game led by its point guard. Shamet had 16 points in the first half, when the Shockers shredded the nation’s second-ranked defense to take control.

Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin was bothered by his team’s “gross, mind-boggling defensive breakdowns,” including allowing the Shockers to get open for those two late layups. Wichita State shot 53 percent from the field, getting open 3-pointers in the first half and layups in the second half.

“We’re just not in a good place right now,” Cronin said. “I hadn’t slept much. We’re not in a good place for a lot of reasons.”

Wichita State closes the regular season by hosting Cincinnati on March 4. Houston (21-5, 11-3) also is in the running for the league title after beating Temple on Sunday.

The Shockers hit seven of eight shots during a 17-3 run that gave them a 34-23 lead. Cincinnati responded by turning up its full-court defense, forcing three quick turnovers, and going on a run that cut the deficit to 42-40 at halftime.

The Shockers showed a little defense of their own, forcing five turnovers while rebuilding their lead to 59-48 with 11 minutes left, matching its biggest of the game. Cincinnati closed to 72-70 on Trevon Scott’s dunk with 13 seconds left, but the Shockers scored on a pair of inbound passes by Landry, the last a full-court heave to Morris for a dunk that provided the final margin.

“This is what we do,” said Austin Reaves, who made the first of the two decisive layups. “We stick together on the road.”

BIG PICTURE

Wichita State: The Shockers needed a win to maintain their chances of a regular season title, and they got it with another good showing on the road. The Shockers are the most successful road team in the nation over the past five years at 47-8, including 7-2 this season.

“This is like our 50th red-out or white-out or black-out,” Marshall said. “We feel comfortable when that happens.”

Cincinnati: The Bearcats moved into the Top 5 even though they hadn’t beaten a ranked team all season. Losses at Houston and at home to Wichita State left them prepared for a plummet.

“As it gets later in the season, every team is better,” said Jacob Evans III, who had 16 points. “It’s not the beginning of conference or the season. Every team knows us well. We’ve got to be able to go to second options when they take away the first ones.”

NO LONGER A SWEET HOME

The Bearcats hadn’t lost at home since a 77-70 defeat against Temple on Dec. 29, 2015. They went 18-0 at Fifth Third Arena last season and were 13-0 at Northern Kentucky’s BB&T Arena, where they’re playing this season while their on-campus arena is renovated.

LONG TIME NO SEE

The Shockers and Bearcats played regularly as members of the Missouri Valley Conference from 1958-70, but it was their first game since 1981.

TOP 5 HISTORY

It was only the fourth time the Shockers have beaten a Top 5 team on the road. They beat No. 5 Oklahoma A&M in 1954 and topped No. 3 Loyola in 1963 and again in 1964 behind Stallworth.

TOUGH WEEKEND IN CINCY

Cincinnati had two teams in the Top 5, and both of them lost at home over the weekend. No. 4 Xavier lost to No. 3 Villanova 95-79 on Saturday at Cintas Center.cincinnati

Andy Kennedy resigns from Ole Miss effective immediately

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Andy Kennedy announced that, effective immediately, he will be stepping down as the head coach at Ole Miss. Tony Madlock will serve as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

The reason is simple: Kennedy wanted to “relieve any external pressure being felt by our current players” and he did not believe that last week’s announcement that this would be his final season in Oxford accomplished that.

“It has become readily apparent to me that my continued presence as the head coach is proving detrimental to these players finishing the season in a fashion that is representative of The Standard for this program that has been clearly established and maintained for over a decade,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Yherefore, I believe that it is in everyone’s best interest that I exit my role as head coach effective immediately. We all know that “clean breaks” are always best, and I should have realized this last Monday. My apologies.”

On Saturday, Ole Miss lost by 17 points at Mississippi State. That came two days after Kennedy went viral for a brutally honest criticism of what his team was going through.

“I can’t get to them,” he said. “I can’t reach them.”

It’s sad that this is the way that it had to end for the best basketball coach that Ole Miss has ever had. But it had to be done.

No. 12 Duke beats No. 11 Clemson as defensive resurgence continues

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Grayson Allen finished with 19 points, four assists and four steals, scoring 17 of his points in the first half, and Wendell Carter added 15 points, 10 boards and three blocks as No. 12 Duke won their fourth straight game without Marvin Bagley III, 66-57.

No. 11 Clemson was short-handed as well, and that’s something that needs to be noted. Not only are they playing without Donte Grantham, who tore his ACL earlier this year, but Shelton Mitchell was not in the lineup after suffering a nasty concussion at Florida State on Wednesday.

The Tigers were a No. 3 seed when the bracket reveal occurred last Sunday, but like Ohio State and Oklahoma, they have now lost back-to-back games; 11 of the top 16 teams have lost a game in the last week.

But the story here more than anything is Duke.

Yes, Allen finished with 19 points and continues to play well without Bagley on the floor. Getting him into a rhythm is critically important for this team. He was averaging 14.7 points in 24 games with Bagley. He is averaging 22.3 points in the last three games that Bagley has missed, and that does not include the 37-point outburst he had when Bagley went down with an injury against Michigan State.

Coach K also has had a chance to develop some confidence in his bench. Javin DeLaurier had 10 boards on Sunday. Marques Bolden didn’t play a done of minutes, but he still finished with five points, three boards and a pair of blocks. He was, generally speaking, a positive influence on the game.

But here is the most important and perplexing nugget: Duke, for the third straight game, was excellent defensively. They’ve now allowed fewer than 1.0 points-per-possession in each of the last three games. They are clearly not the same time offensively without Bagley’s presence on the floor, but it is impossible to ignore what they have been defensively in the last 10 days without him.

To put it into context: For all the talk about how much of a problem Duke’s defense has been, the Blue Devils are now ranked 43rd in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. They were 79th after they lost to North Carolina, the last game that Bagley played. Villanova, who many believe is the best team in the country when healthy, is 42nd.

The question we need to ask is whether or not that will continue once Bagley makes his return.

Because the only thing standing between Duke and a Final Four is their inability to defend.

No. 8 Ohio State falls at No. 22 Michigan, Michigan State moves into first in Big Ten

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After all of the drama and the speculation about whether or not Ohio State or Purdue was the best team in the Big Ten, water has seemingly found its level.

On Sunday afternoon in Ann Arbor, No. 8 Ohio State lost their second straight game, falling 74-62 at No. 22 Michigan and allowing No. 2 Michigan State — who had one of college basketball’s greatest comebacks on Saturday at Northwestern — to slide into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with just one week left of the regular season.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led the way with 17 points while Jordan Poole added 15 off the bench in the win.

The Wolverines did a good job of slowing down Ohio State’s all-american forward, Keita Bates-Diop. KBD finished with 17 points and seven boards, but he shot just 5-for-17 from the floor. Jae-Sean Tate led the way with 20 points and 15 boards for the Buckeyes.

There was a special moment before this game even started as Austin Hatch, a two-time survivor of plane crashes that killed his entire immediate family, took part in the team’s Senior Day.

VIDEO: Michigan celebrates plane crash survivor Austin Hatch’s Senior Day

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If you don’t know the story of Michigan senior Austin Hatch, you should.

He’s survived two plane crashes in his life. The first, in 2003, robbed him of his mother, 11-year old sister and five-year old brother. In 2011, to celebrate his commitment to the Wolverines, Hatch’s father flew them up to the family’s vacation home, but the plane crashed into a garage killing Hatch’s dad and his stepmom and leaving Austin critically injured.

He had a severe brain trauma, a punctured lung, broken ribs and a broken collarbone, and in order to manage the swelling in his brain, he was put into a medically-induced coma for eight months.

He managed to return and even played for the Wolverines during the 2014-15 season, but he eventually made the decision to retire from basketball at the end of the year. He did, however, remain a part of the program and on Sunday, during Michigan’s Senior Day, he warmed up with the team and was introduced to the crowd as a starter and no, I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying: