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)

Nevada’s Jordan Caroline pulls out of 2018 NBA Draft

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Jordan Caroline has opted to pull his name out of the 2018 NBA Draft as he will return to Nevada for his senior season, he announced on Saturday.

The 6-foot-7 Caroline put together a strong season for the Wolf Pack as he averaged 17.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as Nevada made the Sweet 16 behind one of the most talented offenses in the country.

Caroline’s return is a huge boost for Nevada as they still await the NBA draft decisions of Caleb and Cody Martin.

Currently ranked No. 17 in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25 (without the Martin twins), the Wolf Pack will still have a ton of talent around Caroline next season. Five-star freshman center Jordan Brown recently committed to Nevada. The program also a number of talented transfers entering the mix, including Tre’Shawn Thomas, Nisre Zouzoua and Ehab Amin.

If the Martin twins return to school (and that is a big if) then Nevada could have a potentially elite offense next season. But even if the Martin twins go pro, Nevada should still be the favorite in the Mountain West and a threat to once again make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Dewan Huell returning to Miami for junior season

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Miami received some positive news on Saturday afternoon as the school announced the return of forward Dewan Huell for his junior season.

After testing the NBA draft waters without an agent, the 6-foot-11 Huell will be back for the Hurricanes. Starting all 32 games for the program last season, Huell averaged 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 57 percent from the floor.

“After getting feedback from NBA teams and talking it over with my family and coaches, I would like to announce that I will be returning to Miami for my junior season,” Huell said in the release. “I’m really excited to get back to work with my brothers so we can accomplish more than ever during the 2018-19 season.”

A former McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, Huell’s return gives the Hurricanes stability in the front court for next season as he’ll play with other returning players like Sam Waardenburg and Ebuka Izundu. With Miami losing both Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown early to the 2018 NBA Draft, Huell could be expected to provide more offensive production as a junior.

Bruce Weber receives contract extension at Kansas State

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Kansas State and head coach Bruce Weber have agreed to a two-year contract extension, according to a release from the school.

After leading the Wildcats to a surprising Elite Eight appearance in March, Weber will be the head coach at Kansas State through the 2022-23 season, which gives him another five seasons to work with. Weber will be paid $2.5 million in 2018-19 and he’ll receive a $100,000 increase to his salary in each remaining contract year.

Weber had already signed a two-year extension in August 2017, but this move gives the veteran head coach more job security (and positive recruiting perception) for the next few seasons.

“We are very fortunate to have not only such an outstanding basketball coach but also a man in Coach Weber who conducts his program with integrity and class and is widely respected across the nation,” Kansas State Director of Athletics Gene Taylor said. “Certainly last season was one of the most memorable postseason runs in our program’s history, and we are excited for next season and the years ahead under Coach Weber’s leadership.”

With Kansas State returning most of its roster from last season, including the return of guard Barry Brown from the 2018 NBA Draft process, expectations are sky-high for Weber and the Wildcats this season. Currently ranked as the No. 8 team in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25, Kansas State’s veteran club could give Kansas a serious run for a Big 12 regular season title this season.

Northwestern loses incoming freshman point guard

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Northwestern and incoming freshman point guard Jordan Lathon are parting ways. The 6-foot-4 Lathon was viewed as a potential candidate to replace Bryant McIntosh at lead guard for the Wildcats this season, but Northwestern has reportedly revoked his offer of admission and basketball scholarship.

It is unclear why Lathon was unable to be admitted into Northwestern, but the school’s VP for University Relations, Alan Cubbage, gave a statement to Inside NU’s Davis Rich and Caleb Friedman.

“Northwestern University has revoked its offers of admission and an athletic scholarship for Jordan Lathon, a recruit for the Northwestern men’s basketball team,” the statement said. “Out of respect for the privacy of the student, the University will have no further public comment.”

Lathon later acknowledged the situation in a tweet explaining to fans that he will no longer be attending Northwestern.

While it is unclear why Lathon and Northwestern are parting ways, other high-major programs are already very interested in bringing in Lathon for next season. Oklahoma State immediately jumped in with a scholarship offer. There is also speculation that Lathon, a native of Grandview, Missouri, could also hear from the in-state Tigers as well.

It’ll be interesting to see where Lathon lands, and how this also affects Northwestern’s point guard situation. The loss of a four-year starter like McIntosh will be tough to fill, especially since Lathon was committed to Northwestern since last June. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Wildcats and head coach Chris Collins seek out a veteran point guard graduate transfer to try and get some immediate help.

Nebraska’s James Palmer Jr. returning to school

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Nebraska received some important news on Friday night as senior guard James Palmer Jr. will be back for next season.

The 6-foot-6 Palmer had tested the NBA draft waters, but he decided to return to the Cornhuskers. After putting up 17.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season, Palmer is expected to be an All-Big Ten candidate once again this season. Palmer shot 44 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three-point range last season.

After transferring in from Miami, Palmer became the Huskers’ go-to scorer last season in helping Nebraska to a 22-win season and NIT appearance.

With Palmer back, Nebraska will have some legitimate expectations for the upcoming season, especially if the team’s second-leading scorer, Isaac Copeland Jr., also returns from the NBA draft process.