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)