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)

Syracuse’s Tyus Battle to test NBA draft waters

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Syracuse announced on Friday afternoon that sophomore guard Tyus Battle will be declaring for the NBA draft without signing with an agent, giving him until the NCAA’s May 30th deadline to withdraw from contention and return to school.

Battle averaged 19.2 points as a sophomore for the Orange, who made a surprising run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

He is a projected late-first round or early-second round pick given his size, shooting ability and skill with the ball in his hands.

Losing Battle would be a massive blow to a Syracuse team that is already going to be without Matthew Moyer, who transferred out of the program, and Dareus Bazley, who is heading to the G League instead of enrolling in college.

Maryland’s Kevin Huerter declares for NBA draft, won’t hire agent

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Maryland wing Kevin Huerter announced on Friday afternoon that he will be declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, giving him the option of returning to school by May 30th.

“This will be a great experience for Kevin to get honest feedback from NBA teams and executives,” said head coach Mark Turgeon. “Taking advantage of this opportunity will allow Kevin and his family to make an informed decision about his future.”

Huerter is a 6-foot-7 wing known for his ability to shoot from the perimeter. He averaged 14.8 points and shot 42 percent from three as a sophomore.

He is also the third player from Maryland to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft. Justin Jackson, a borderline first round pick who missed time last season with a shoulder injury, has signed with an agent while Bruno Fernando is testing the waters. Maryland, who has an excellent recruiting class coming in, will be a preseason top 20 team if Huerter and Fernando both return to school.

Huerter is a borderline first round pick.

Michigan’s Charles Matthews to test NBA draft waters

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Michigan guard Charles Matthews announced on Friday that he will be declaring for the NBA draft, but that he does not intend to sign with an agent, meaning he has until May 30th to withdraw from the draft and return to school.

“After careful consideration with my parents and coaching staff, I am excited to announce that I will be declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft without hiring an agent,” said Matthews. “I give thanks to the Lord for this amazing opportunity, as well as the entire University of Michigan for their support. Go Blue!”

Matthews, a redshirt sophomore that averaged 13.0 points and 5.5 boards for the national runners-up, was a four-star prospect coming out of Chicago and spent his freshman season at Kentucky.

Matthews is a likely second round pick with the potential to climb into the first round should he prove to be a more consistent three-point shooter. He shot just 31.8 percent from beyond the arc this past season.

Virginia’s Hunter to return to school for sophomore season

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De’Andre Hunter announced on Friday afternoon that he will not be entering his name into the NBA draft and will return to Virginia for his redshirt sophomore season, a decision that will have as much of an impact on the 2018-19 college basketball season as any that is made this spring.

Hunter, now a potential top ten pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, was one of the breakout stars of the 2017-18 season. A 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Hunter averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 boards while shooting 38.2 percent from three in just under 20 minutes a night for a Virginia team whose pace severely limits the kind of numbers a player like him can put up.

Throw in his ability to defend on the perimeter and in the paint, and Hunter is precisely the kind of player that NBA teams are looking to land as basketball becomes more and more built on positional versatility and the ability to space the floor.

And it’s that versatility that will make Hunter so important for the Cavaliers next season.

Let’s go beyond the simple fact that he is going to be the only guy on the Virginia roster that can create his own shot against length and athleticism and that there is a chance that he could end up being an all-american next season if things play out the right way. What makes Hunter so important to Virginia his that his defensive versatility is what allows Virginia to matchup with teams that want to try and play small-ball against them.

That’s precisely what UMBC did in the first round of the NCAA tournament, a game that Hunter missed with a broken wrist. We all know how that played out, and I’m not even dumb enough to pin all the blame of a 20-point loss to a No. 16 seed on a guy that played less than 20 minutes a night.

Virginia choked once they realized that there was a chance this could happen, but I would argue that a major reason they couldn’t ever truly assert their dominance was because they were unable to matchup with UMBC’s four-guard lineup without Hunter.

With Hunter back, Virginia is the No. 6 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25. If he had declared for the draft and signed with an agent, I’m not sure I would have had the Wahoos in the top 20.

He takes Tony Bennett’s club from simply being good to once against being a contender for the ACC regular season title.

Vanderbilt the sixth Kentucky player declares for the NBA draft

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Jarred Vanderbilt is now the sixth Kentucky Wildcat to declare for the NBA draft this spring, joining P.J. Washington and Wenyen Gabriel in testing the waters without signing with an agent.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo have all declared for the draft and signed with an agent.

Vanderbilt announced his decision on Friday afternoon.

“This season wasn’t easy for me,” Vanderbilt said. “At the end of the day, my goal has always been to make it to the NBA.”

“I know I have more to my game to show, but now I’ve got to figure out if the time is right for me to do it at the next level or if I would be better to return to school.”

Vanderbilt missed the first 17 games of his freshman season with a left foot injury, a foot that he had injured twice before during his high school career. He then missed all four of Kentucky’s postseason games with a left ankle injury, and there is a chance that he could end up needing surgery to correct this issue this offseason.

All told, the 6-foot-9 Vanderbilt played in 14 games as a freshman, averaging 5.9 points and 7.9 boards in just 17 minutes a night. But issues with his ability to shoot from the perimeter and a lower left leg that has proven to be extremely problematic, there is a good chance that Vanderbilt would go undrafted should he decide to turn pro.