AP Photo/Phil Sandlin

Bracketology: Florida, Arizona battle for No. 1 overall seed

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AP Photo/Phil Sandlin

We’re two weeks from Selection Sunday and we’ve got a long way to go.

Championship Week is going to be fun and tension-filled.  As this juncture, as many as 15 at-large spots remain uncertain.  That’s a high number entering March.  Here’s what we do know.  Barring an unexpected turn of events, Florida and Arizona will be No. 1 seeds.  Although the Gators retain their overall No. 1 seed today, the Wildcats may pass them soon.  Either way, it’s about time to lock them in to the South and West regions.

Today’s bracket is also quite unsettled when it comes to the seed list.  The first four lines (s-curve spots 1-16) are pretty solid.  The middle tier could fluctuate greatly depending on conference tournament results.  Teams are that tightly bunched.  As for the bubble, it continues to move and shift.  Depending on which resume criteria or metrics you prefer, the final teams in and first teams out could be ranked in a variety of orders.  Every Selection Committee member will have his or her own viewpoint.  Hopefully, a few things will clear between now and March 16.

It’s also worth mentioning the potential for bid thieves – a surprise team winning its conference tournament.  For example, if Wichita State were to lose in the Missouri Valley tourney, there would be one less at-large bid available.  We saw this happen at the SEC tournament a year ago.

Buckle up, it’s going to be a fun ride.

UPDATED: March 3, 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)

  • Missouri vs. Oregon | Midwest Region
  • Colorado vs. Tennessee | West Region
  • ALABAMA STATE vs. FLA GULF COAST | South Region
  • WEBER STATE vs. HIGH POINT | Midwest Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

SOUTH – Memphis WEST Anaheim                                  
Orlando San Diego
1) FLORIDA 1) ARIZONA
16) FLA GULF COAST / ALABAMA ST 16) UTAH VALLEY
8) SMU 8) VCU
9) Stanford 9) Baylor
Spokane San Diego
5) Oklahoma 5) Louisville
12) SOUTHERN MISS 12) HARVARD
4) North Carolina 4) Michigan State
13) DELAWARE 13) NORTH DAKOTA ST
Buffalo San Antonio
6) Connecticut 6) NEW MEXICO
11) BYU 11) Colorado / Tennessee
3) VILLANOVA 3) Iowa State
14) S.F. AUSTIN 14) BOSTON UNIVERSITY
Milwaukee Raleigh
7) Kansas State 7) Massachusetts
10) Pittsburgh 10) GONZAGA
2) MICHIGAN 2) VIRGINIA
15) DAVIDSON 15) UC-IRVINE
EAST – New York MIDWEST – Indianapolis
St. Louis St. Louis
1) KANSAS 1) WICHITA STATE
16) ROBERT MORRIS 16) WEBER ST / HIGH POINT
8) Iowa 8) Arizona State
9) George Washington 9) Xavier
Orlando Spokane
5) UCLA 5) Texas
12) GREEN BAY 12) Missouri / Oregon
4) CINCINNATI 4) San Diego State
13) TOLEDO 13) BELMONT
San Antonio Raleigh
6) Kentucky 6) SAINT LOUIS
11) Oklahoma State 11) California
3) Creighton 3) Duke
14) IONA 14) GEORGIA STATE
Buffalo Milwaukee
7) Ohio State 7) Memphis
10) Saint Joseph’s 10) Arkansas
2) Syracuse 2) Wisconsin
15) VERMONT 15) NC-CENTRAL

NOTES on the BRACKET: Florida remains the overall No. 1 seed followed by Arizona, Wichita State, and Kansas.

Last Five teams in (at large): BYU, Colorado, Missouri, Oregon, Tennessee

First Five teams out (at large): Dayton, Providence, Georgetown, Nebraska, Minnesota

Next five teams out (at large): Florida State, St. John’s, LSU, Clemson, Marquette

Breakdown by Conference …

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

Pac 12 (7): Arizona, UCLA, California, Stanford, Arizona State, Oregon, Colorado

Big Ten (5): Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin

Atlantic 10 (5): Massachusetts, VCU, Saint Louis, George Washington, Saint Joseph’s

ACC (5): Duke, Virginia, Syracuse, North Carolina, Pittsburgh

American (5): Louisville, Memphis, Connecticut, Cincinnati, SMU

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

Big East (3): Creighton, Villanova, Xavier

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), North Dakota State (Summit), Green Bay (Horizon), Davidson (Southern), Utah Valley (WAC), Iona (MAAC), Stephen F. Austin (Southland), Toledo (MAC), Florida Gulf Coast (A-Sun), Harvard (IVY), UC-Irvine (Big West), Delaware (Colonial), Vermont (American East), Weber State (Big Sky), NC-Central (MEAC), High Point (Big South), Robert Morris (NEC), Alabama State (SWAC)

Johnson, Paige help No. 9 Tar Heels roll past Panthers 85-64

North Carolina's Isaiah Hicks (4) dunks against Pittsburgh during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP Photo/Gerry Broome
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Brice Johnson scored 19 points to lead a dominating offensive performance that helped No. 9 North Carolina beat Pittsburgh 85-64 on Sunday.

Marcus Paige added 15 points for the Tar Heels (21-4, 10-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who shot 59 percent to stay atop the league ahead of the next renewal of their fierce rivalry with Duke.

UNC had plenty of balance, shared the ball and got out in transition in arguably their best performance in weeks, using a 13-0 second-half burst to blow the game open. UNC finished with 26 assists on 32 baskets, 24 points off turnovers and scored 16 fast-break points after managing a combined five in the past two games.

Michael Young and James Robinson each scored 15 points to lead Pitt (17-7, 6-6). But the Panthers shot 37 percent and committed 19 turnovers, and a strong effort on the glass did little to offset their troubles.

The Tar Heels were playing their first home game in two weeks after a difficult three-game road trip that started with losses at Louisville and Notre Dame. Then came Tuesday’s game at Boston College, where the Tar Heels struggled against a winless league team then had a scare when Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams briefly collapsed in a second-half huddle after an attack of vertigo and had to leave the sideline for the rest of the game.

Williams was back in the office on Wednesday’s off day, returned to practice Thursday and told reporters Friday he was fine and even cracked jokes about a two-decade history with vertigo dating to his Kansas years.

Getting back home certainly helped everyone feel better. After wrestling with shooting struggles for much of the past month, UNC’s offense kicked back into an efficient and balanced gear, while Paige – the player the Tar Heels are practically begging to jolt free from a prolonged shooting slump – looked more like his old self against the Panthers.

That included one second-half play in which he caught a crosscourt pass from Theo Pinson in transition and made sure to step back behind the arc before burying a 3-pointer.

The Panthers had lost three of four since a 5-2 league start coming in, including 65-63 on a late tip-in at No. 12 Miami on Tuesday. And Pitt again had trouble getting their offense going, failing to crack 70 points for the third straight game.

TIP-INS

Pittsburgh: Second-leading scorer Jamel Artis scored five points on 2-for-8 shooting. … Pitt finished with a 41-29 rebounding advantage. … Pitt made 9 of 21 3-point attempts.

UNC: Justin Jackson scored 14 points. … UNC made 8 of 15 shots from 3-point range and 13 of 15 free throws. … Jackson and Pinson had six assists each. … UNC managed just one offensive rebound.

UP NEXT

Pittsburgh hosts Wake Forest on Tuesday.

UNC hosts Duke on Wednesday.

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Denzel Valentine dominant as No. 8 Michigan State whips Indiana

Michigan State's Denzel Valentine (45) shoots over Indiana's Kevin Yogi Ferrell during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
AP Photo/Al Goldis
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Trailing by one point at the half, Indiana appeared to be in good shape at No. 8 Michigan State. However the fact that they were unable to slow down Denzel Valentine, who scored 15 first-half points, was a major concern for Tom Crean’s Hoosiers. Sure enough the national Player of the Year candidate continued on his tour de force in the second half, scoring another 15 points and dishing out seven assists as the Spartans rolled to an 88-69 victory.

For the game Valentine finished with 30 points, five rebounds, 13 assists and just one turnover. Of Michigan State’s 48 second half points, Valentine had a hand in 29 of them with all seven of his assists resulting in Michigan State layups. It was a dominant performance from one of the nation’s best players, a versatile guard whose four games missed due to injury may have led to some overlooking him when it comes to those national Player of the Year conversations.

When Valentine’s on everything else flows smoothly for Tom Izzo’s team, as his ability to both score and create results in quality looks for teammates who would struggle if they had to get that part of the job done themselves.

The biggest beneficiary Sunday afternoon was forward Matt Costello, who finished the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Of Costello’s ten made field goals (10-for-12 FG) five were assisted by Valentine, and he accounted for 13 points and seven rebounds in the second half. As a team Michigan State shot 63.3 percent from the field and assisted on 16 of their 19 made field goals in the second half, turning a tight contest into a blowout.

Tum Tum Nairn returned the court for the first time in seven games, but he played just two minutes and his time on the court will be managed carefully by Izzo moving forward. For many teams not having your point guard at full strength would represent a crippling blow, but that hasn’t been the case for Michigan State thanks in large part to Valentine. Michigan State went 4-3 in those seven games without Nairn, but the three losses were by a total of three points.

Valentine’s ability to make his teammates better will be a key factor down the stretch for Michigan State, and that skill was what led to the Spartans blowing out Indiana on Sunday.