With the Super Bowl behind us, college basketball takes center stage. The Missouri Tigers grabbed the spotlight Saturday night in Columbia by beating Kansas. That victory, combined with an earlier win at Baylor, vaults Mizzou to No. 4 on the s-curve and into the final No. 1 seed position in our latest bracket. North Carolina is right behind, joining Baylor, Kansas and Duke as two-seeds. Syracuse (East), Kentucky (South), and Ohio State (Midwest) remain as top seeds.
The lower end of the bracket continues to be somewhat fluid. As we’re at or past the midpoint of conference play, league standings are becoming more important. We’re also beginning to distinguish between schedule strength within the conference. All of those factors are at play in today’s outlook. Xavier, Mississippi, NC State, and Miami (Fla.) are headed to Dayton as First Four participants. Those just missing: Northwestern, Arkansas, Pittsburgh, Colorado State, and Arizona.
Of those, Pittsburgh is the most interesting case. How much consideration will the Selection Committee give to the Panthers now that Tray Woodall is back from injury? Pitt has won four straight and is playing more like the team we expected. The Panthers have two winnable road games this week, in what figures to be a significant seven-day stretch. Miami is another team trending in the right direction, having won four straight as well – most notably Sunday’s victory at Duke. The Hurricanes are also one of the few teams under consideration without a sub-100 RPI loss.
Arkansas has quality home wins over Mississippi State, Michigan, and Vanderbilt, but the Razorbacks are 0-6 in road games. That’s the type of statistic that will show poorly on Selection Sunday.
With the exception of Temple, the Atlantic 10 has seen some of its best at-large hopefuls hit significant road bumps. Despite a series of good wins, Dayton has lost four straight and is below the horizon within the league. Xavier blew a late lead at Memphis is sits squarely on the bubble. Massachusetts – much like Dayton – lost a game to RPI-killing Rhode Island.
This week’s schedule includes a premium of important games. Sit back and enjoy.
UPDATED: Monday, February 6
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.
FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)
- Mississippi (14-8) vs. NC State (17-7) | Midwest Region
- Xavier (15-5) vs. Miami-FL (14-7) | West Region
- MISS VALLEY ST (11-11) vs. STONY BROOK (14-7) | East Region
- NC-ASHEVILLE (15-7) vs. UT-ARLINGTON (16-5) | Midwest Region
BRACKET PROJECTION …
|EAST – Boston||SOUTH – Atlanta|
|1) SYRACUSE (23-1)||1) KENTUCKY (23-1)|
|16) STONY BROOK / MS VALLEY ST||16) NORFOLK STATE (15-7)|
|8) TEMPLE (17-5)||8) Notre Dame (15-8)|
|9) HARVARD (18-2)||9) Iowa State (17-6)|
|5) Mississippi State (18-5)||5) Wisconsin (17-6)|
|12) BYU (18-6)||12) California (18-6)|
|4) Michigan (16-7)||4) FLORIDA STATE (16-6)|
|13) MID TENNESSEE ST (20-4)||13) CLEVELAND STATE (18-4)|
|6) Vanderbilt (16-7)||6) Wichita State (19-4)|
|11) Cincinnati (16-7)||11) St. Louis (17-5)|
|3) Michigan State (17-5)||3) Georgetown (17-4)|
|14) IONA (19-5)||14) AKRON (15-7)|
|7) ST. MARY’S (20-2)||7) Kansas State (16-6)|
|10) New Mexico (18-4)||10) Minnesota (17-7)|
|2) Kansas (18-5)||2) Duke (19-4)|
|15) BELMONT (16-7)||15) BUCKNELL (17-6)|
|MIDWEST – St. Louis||WEST – Phoenix|
|1) OHIO STATE (20-3)||1) MISSOURI (21-2)|
|16) NC-ASHEVILLE / UT-ARLINGTON||16) LONG ISLAND (17-7)|
|8) SO. MISSISSIPPI (18-3)||8) Connecticut (15-7)|
|9) Gonzaga (18-4)||9) Alabama (15-7)|
|5) SAN DIEGO ST (18-3)||5) Indiana (18-6)|
|12) Mississippi / NC State||12) Xavier / Miami-FL|
|4) Marquette (19-5)||4) CREIGHTON (21-3)|
|13) LONG BEACH ST (15-6)||13) ORAL ROBERTS (21-5)|
|6) Virginia (18-4)||6) MURRAY STATE (20-0)|
|11) WASHINGTON (16-7)||11) Purdue (15-8)|
|3) Florida (19-4)||3) UNLV (19-4)|
|14) DAVIDSON (16-5)||14) NEVADA (17-4)|
|7) Louisville (18-5)||7) West Virginia (16-8)|
|10) Illinois (16-7)||10) Memphis (16-7)|
|2) Baylor (19-4)||2) North Carolina (20-3)|
|15) WEBER STATE (16-4)||15) DREXEL (19-5)|
NOTES on the BRACKET: Kentucky is the No. 1 overall seed followed by Syracuse, Ohio State, and Missouri. Next in line are North Carolina, Baylor, Kansas, and Duke.
Last Five teams in (at large): Cincinnati, Xavier, Mississippi, NC State, Miami-FL
First Five teams out (at large): Northwestern, Arkansas, Pittsburgh, Colorado State, Arizona
Next Five teams out (at large): Seton Hall, Central Florida, St. Joseph’s, Colorado, Wyoming
Bracket adjustments: Illinois moves down a seed line (No. 10) and Harvard moves up a line (No. 9) to avoid conference conflicts. Illinois is a true 9-seed and Harvard and 10 seed. Cincinnati moves to an 11-seed and BYU to a 12-seed. BYU has to be placed in Thursday/Saturday sites only and in either the East or West Regions.
Here is the team breakdown by Conference …
Big Ten (8): Ohio State, Michigan State, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Purdue, Illinois, Minnesota
Big East (8): Syracuse, Georgetown, Louisville, Connecticut, Marquette, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Cincinnati
SEC (6): Kentucky, Florida, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Mississippi
ACC (6): North Carolina, Duke, Virginia, Florida State, NC State, Miami-FL
Big 12 (5): Baylor, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State
Atlantic 10 (3): Xavier, St. Louis, Temple
Conference USA (2): Memphis, Southern Mississippi
Mountain West (3): UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico
West Coast (3): Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, BYU
Pac 12 (2): Washingon, California
Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State
Sun Belt (1): Middle Tennessee State
Conference leaders/champions … Cleveland State (Horizon), Akron (MAC), Drexel (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)