Could the Big Ten place nine teams in the Big Dance?

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source: AP

Kentucky and Syracuse remain No. 1 and No. 2 on the s-curve in this week’s bracket.  That scenario may not change when the actual Field of 68 is announced on Selection Sunday.  Wildcat fans can start making plans to watch their team in nearby Louisville during Rounds 2 and 3 of March Madness.

It would take a mighty February fall for UK to leave the Commonwealth.  Syracuse is most likely headed to Pittsburgh as the top seed in the East Region. Ohio State remains entrenched as the No. 1 seed in the Midwest.

Which leads us West, where the race includes five teams: Baylor, Kansas, Duke, Missouri, and North Carolina.  Those are the teams ranked 4 to 8 on the s-curve today.  Baylor gains the edge with its seven (7) Top 50 RPI wins and 8-1 record away from home (road + neutral).  By comparison, Kansas has six (6) Top 50 wins and Missouri four (4).  Kansas is 6-3 away from home and Missouri is 7-2.  Duke has five (5) Top 50 wins and is 8-2 away from home.  Baylor has lost only to Kansas (road) and Missouri (home).  If you prefer a different order, that’s fine.

Could we have a surprise No. 1 seed?  It would take a team like Vanderbilt, Florida, or Michigan State winning a regular-season and/or conference tournament title.  The Mountain West and Missouri Valley are strong leagues, but neither UNLV or Creighton is in position to reach the top line.  There simply aren’t enough power victories on their schedules.

How many bids for the Big 10?  With the No. 1. RPI rating and no teams ranked below 150, the Big Ten could easily garner bids from teams that finish 9-9 in conference play.  Even an 8-10 finish wouldn’t eliminate a team – depending on the eight wins.

If in doubt, look at the resumes of the current bubble teams.  Because of the Big Ten’s overall strength, quality wins are more available.  Think back to the 11 bids captured by Big East teams in 2011.  The scenario is similar.  That doesn’t mean Big Ten teams will dominate the tournament, but the odds of seven to nine teams making the final bracket is pretty good.

Cincinnati is this week’s ultimate test case (again).  Riding a three-game losing streak, the Bearcats have fallen to No. 101 in the RPI (at collegerpi.com). That would be a very dangerous place to be on Selection Sunday.  Looking past the RPI number, we find UC with a 2-3 record against Top 50 teams (good wins at Georgetown and Connecticut).  They are 6-4 vs. the Top 100 and have a 5-3 mark in true road games.  UC has losses to teams ranked 135, 148, and 229 in the current RPI.  Then there’s the albatross of a non-conference SOS ranked No. 330.  Now, let’s look at Colorado’s numbers from 2011 … four Top 25 RPI wins (beat K-State three times), five Top 50 wins and losses to RPI teams ranked 120, 126, and 138.  The Buffaloes also had a non-conference SOS over 300.  The Selection Committee chose not to invite Colorado with those numbers – despite its quality wins.  The Bearcats are one of the final teams IN today.  But the odds won’t be in UC’s favor if the current trend continues.

Enjoy another week of hoops.  After Super Bowl Sunday, we being updating the bracket twice a week.  Bubble Banter returns soon.

UPDATED: Monday, January 30

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UTEP, BYU, etc). Records are for games against Division I teams only.  Bracket is based on games through Sunday, January 29.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Cincinnati (15-7) vs. Massachusetts (16-5) | Midwest Region
  • St. Louis (15-5) vs. Mississippi (14-7) | South Region
  • MISS VALLEY ST (9-11) vs. STONY BROOK (12-7) | East Region
  • NC-ASHEVILLE (113-7) vs. UT-ARLINGTON (14-5) | Midwest Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EASTBoston SOUTHAtlanta                                  
Pittsburgh Louisville
1) SYRACUSE (22-1) 1) KENTUCKY (21-1)
16) STONY BROOK / MS VALLEY ST 16) LONG ISLAND (15-7)
8) Wichita State (17-4) 8) Minnesota (16-6)
9) TEMPLE (15-5) 9) Notre Dame (14-8)
Portland Louisville
5) Mississippi State (17-5) 5) Virginia (17-3)
12) Iowa State (15-6) 12) St. Louis / Mississippi
4) Wisconsin (16-5) 4) Georgetown (15-4)
13) ORAL ROBERTS (20-4) 13) CLEVELAND STATE (17-4)
Columbus Columbus
6) Kansas State (15-5) 6) Florida State (14-6)
11) New Mexico (16-4) 11) CALIFORNIA (17-5)
3) Michigan State (16-4) 3) Marquette (18-4)
14) IONA (17-5) 14) GEORGE MASON (18-5)
Greensboro Omaha
7) West Virginia (15-7) 7) ST. MARY’S (19-2)
10) Memphis (15-6) 10) Purdue (15-7)
2) North Carolina (18-3) 2) Missouri (19-2)
15) AKRON (13-7) 15) BELMONT (14-7)
MIDWEST – St. Louis WEST – Phoenix
Pittsburgh Omaha
1) OHIO STATE (19-3) 1) Baylor (18-2)
16) NC-ASHEVILLE / UT-ARLINGTON 16) NORFOLK STATE (15-5)
8) Gonzaga (17-3) 8) Connecticut (14-6)
9) HARVARD (17-2) 9) SO. MISSISSIPPI (17-3)
Nashville Nashville
5) MURRAY STATE (18-0) 5) Michigan (15-6)
12) Massachusetts / Cincinnati 12) Dayton (14-7)
4) Vanderbilt (16-5) 4) Florida (17-4)
13) DAVIDSON (14-5) 13) MID TENNESSEE ST (19-3)
Portland Albuquerque
6) San Diego State (16-3) 6) Indiana (17-5)
11) Xavier (14-7) 11) Washington (14-7)
3) CREIGHTON (20-2) 3) UNLV (18-3)
14) LONG BEACH (14-6) 14) NEVADA (16-3)
Omaha Greensboro
7) Illinois (15-6) 7) Louisville (17-5)
10) Seton Hall (15-6) 10) Alabama (14-7)
2) KANSAS (17-4) 2) DUKE (18-3)
15) WEBER STATE (14-4) 15) BUCKNELL (16-6)

NOTES on the BRACKET: Kentucky is the No. 1 overall seed followed by Syracuse, Ohio State, and Baylor. Next in line are Kansas, Duke, Missouri, and North Carolina.

Last Five teams in (at large): Iowa State, Massachusetts, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Mississippi

First Five teams out (at large): Colorado State, BYU, Arkansas, NC State, UCF

Next Five teams out (at large): Marshall, La Salle, Oregon, Oklahoma, Wyoming

Bracket adjustments: Several adjustments in seed lines 7-10 to accommodate bracketing principles: Illinois and Wichita State switch; Notre Dame and Purdue switch. Illinois is a true 8 seed. Notre Dame is a true 10 seed. Wichita State is a true 7 seed; Purdue is a true 9 seed.

Here is the team breakdown by Conference …

Big East (9): Syracuse, Georgetown, Louisville, Connecticut, Marquette, West Virginia, Seton Hall, Cincinnati, Notre Dame

Big Ten (8): Ohio State, Michigan State, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Purdue, Illinois, Minnesota

SEC (6): Kentucky, Florida, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Mississippi

Big 12 (5): Baylor, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State

Atlantic 10 (5): Xavier, St. Louis, Dayton, Temple, Massachusetts

ACC (4): North Carolina, Duke, Virginia, Florida State

Mountain West (3): UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico

Conference USA (2): Memphis, Southern Mississippi

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, St. Mary’s

Pac 12 (2): California, Washington

Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State

Sun Belt (1): Middle Tennessee State

Conference leaders/champions … Cleveland State (Horizon), Akron (MAC), George Mason (CAA), Nevada (WAC), Murray State (OVC), Iona (MAAC), Weber State (Big Sky), Davidson (Southern), Oral Roberts (Summit), Long Beach State (Big West), Long Island (NEC), Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Harvard (Ivy), NC-Asheville (Big South), Norfolk State (MEAC), Bucknell (Patriot), Stony Brook (America East), UT-Arlington(Southland), Mississippi Valley State (SWAC)

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

purdue basketball
Junfu Han/USA TODAY NETWORK
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.

 

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.

No. 12 Iowa State holds on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
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AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes matched his season high with 23 points as No. 12 Iowa State held on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76 on Tuesday night.

The Cyclones (15-4, 6-2 Big 12) moved into a three-way tie atop the conference standings with the Wildcats and Texas.

Gabe Kalscheur added 19 points for Iowa State. Osun Osunniyi finished with 16.

Markquis Nowell led Kansas State (17-3, 6-2) with 23 points.

A 3-pointer from Holmes gave Iowa State a 59-49 advantage with 8:12 remaining. Kansas State responded with a 10-1 run to trim the margin to 60-59.

Caleb Grill’s 3-pointer steadied the Cyclones and pushed the lead back to 63-59 with five minutes left.

Free throws by Osunniyi, Grill and Holmes sealed the victory in the final 24 seconds.

The first half featured eight lead changes and ended with Kansas State up 33-31.

A 3-pointer by Kalscheur ignited an early 9-0 run for the Cyclones and helped them build a 19-14 lead. Iowa State made just one of nine 3-point tries in the first 20 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State was trying to extend its best start to a season since 1961-62.

Iowa State improved to 11-0 at home. The Cyclones have not lost back-to-back games this season.

UP NEXT

Kansas State hosts Florida on Saturday as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Iowa State travels to Missouri on Saturday.

Georgetown snaps 29-game conference losing streak

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON – Primo Spears scored 21 points and Georgetown snapped a 29-game conference losing streak with an 81-76 victory over DePaul on Tuesday night.

Georgetown (6-15, 1-9) won its first Big East game since March 13, 2021, ending the longest skid in the history of the conference. The Hoyas also ended a 10-game losing streak this season.

Spears also contributed six assists for the Hoyas. Akok Akok scored 12 points and added six rebounds and four blocks and Brandon Murray recorded 12 points.

Umoja Gibson led the Blue Demons (9-12, 3-7) in scoring, finishing with 24 points, four assists and three steals. Javan Johnson added 13 points.

Spears scored nine points in the first half and Georgetown went into the break trailing 37-36. Georgetown used a 10-0 run in the second half to build a 12-point lead at 75-63 with 1:39 remaining.