Hope you all had an enjoyable Super Bowl Sunday. Personally, I enjoyed the blackout. It meant more food and drink after my jaw dropped watching Beyonce. Frankly, it reminded me of my first love, hockey — where all our games have two breaks. More sports should adopt that. Anyway, here is the updated bracket. It’ll hopefully last longer than this week’s No. 1 team, Indiana.
1 Seeds: Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Duke
Michigan dominated Northwestern and played well in a very tough environment at Indiana. The Hoosiers, of course, won that game while Duke still has fabulous numbers. The real story here is that I have Florida as the overall number one seed in the tournament. I’m not first to love the Gators, nor rate them this highly; heck, during the UM-IU game, Dickie V said that Digger Phelps has Florida winning the whole freaking thing; but they were quietly building something and now there is a lot of hype building for this unit; let’s see how they fare with road trips to Missouri and Kentucky still on the slate. The Gators should win both but that target is never easy to have on your back.
2 Seeds: Kansas, Arizona, Gonzaga, Miami
Some absurd computer numbers in this group. In fact, Gonzaga has the worst numbers and yet they boast a top ten RPI and a top 50 SOS; oh, they also have 21 wins; the most of any team that made this week’s Big Board.
3 Seeds: Louisville, Syracuse, Ohio State, Michigan State
I have The Ville ahead of conference mate Syracuse (despite it being flipped in the standings) because the Cardinals have better computer numbers and since they beat Pitt (the team Syracuse lost to); of course, Syracuse knocked off Louisville when they were number one in the country. So, long story short, these four teams are all evenly matched and could easily end the season on the 1-line if they play up to their potential.
[Uni Blog >> Spartans sporting slick new alternate road jerseys]
4 Seeds: Kansas State, New Mexico, Butler, Creighton
It’s a mid-major bonanza in this group! First of all, major credit to KSU for winning at a good Oklahoma team … well, I still think they’re good, even with the blowout in Ames against Iowa State. The other three continue to be interesting stories. The Bulldogs lose to Saint Louis badly (on the road, though) as well as to La Salle a week earlier and yet Butler only slips five spots. New Mexico gains five spots after beating a depleted Wyoming team and a struggling Nevada team after that humiliating loss at SDSU last week. Creighton also jumped five spots after beating three cupcakes since that two-game losing streak. That much of a bump and that little of a slide; this tells me something about the AP poll: It respects all three of these schools. If the pollsters respect them, the committee will too. Expect a top five seed for these teams.
5 Seeds: Cincy, Georgetown, Minnesota, Oklahoma State
The Bearcats are hot again, winning five of their last six. Cincinnati’s lone loss recently was an overtime thriller against an equally good Marquette team. The Hoyas are also hot, winning six of their last seven, including games over Louisville and Notre Dame. Minnesota knocked off Nebraska and Iowa, but I’m still taking a wait-and-see with them … and then there are the Cowboys. With the win over Kansas, in Lawrence no less, I have them jumping Oregon. Not only was it that impressive win but OSU’s schedule is twice as hard as that of Oregon’s. The hits keep coming for the Ducks.
6 Seeds: Oregon, Missouri, Pittsburgh, Colorado State
The other three are probably self-explanatory so let me defend why I picked the Rams of Colorado State over Marquette, Notre Dame, Mississippi and NC State (all ranked above them/receiving more votes). CSU is 18-4 and their last two losses (in a 14-game span) both came on the road, against SDSU and New Mexico, and they were by a combined 13 points. One came in overtime. Marquette is 15-5 and 2-2 in their last four with a 19-point whipping their last time out. Notre Dame is 18-5 with four of those five losses coming since January 12. They got hammered at Syracuse on national television on Monday night. Ole Miss lost both of their games last week by a combined 34. NC State has lost four of their last six, including both last week. Finally, Colorado State’s RPI is the better than all of them. Whammy.
7 Seeds: Marquette, Wichita State, NC State, UNLV
The Wolfpacks’ struggles are alarming, but the five losses are by a combined six points … that’s crazy. They’ll be fine when it’s all said and done and I’m sure they’ll work their way back up to a better seed, especially since seven of their last nine are all winnable. I have the Rebs up higher than they should be according to the pollsters because of UNLV’s incredible numbers. RPI is always dicey but they have a 17-5 mark while playing the 21st-toughest schedule in the nation right now.
8 Seeds: Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Virginia Commonwealth, Iowa State
All I can say is watch out for the Cyclones. Winners of six out of their last eight and owning the nation’s longest win streak at home (you read that right), Iowa State appears to be peaking at the right time and last night’s dismantling of the Sooners shows that. They also boast some nice wins, including one over Kansas State. I think this team will continue to climb the seeding board as we head into the home stretch.
9 Seeds: Belmont, La Salle, SDSU, Wisconsin
What do these teams have in common? Fantastic strength of schedules. Belmont’s is the worst at 63rd; but all four have won their fair share of games and when the schedules are that tough you’ll have a good RPI. The lowest RPI of the four? Wisconsin’s, at No. 41-nationally. All four of these teams can do damage in the Tournament and I think at least two of them will.
10 Seeds: Colorado, North Carolina, UCLA, Baylor
Giving the Baylor Bears the slight nod over Kentucky because their schedule is much better; also Baylor beat those very Wildcats in Rupp.
11 Seeds: Kentucky, Middle Tennessee State, Oklahoma, Memphis
OU still has good computer numbers and I think they are a good team/have the potential to be, but the Sooners are really trying my patience. With Monday’s loss to Iowa State they are now 14-7 and just 5-4 in the Big 12. They are winless in four tries against ranked teams and have some real lopsided losses to go with some bad losses, none worse than Arkansas, who has a 104-ranked RPI.
12 Seeds: Louisiana Tech, UMass, Illinois, PLAY IN
The Illini’s remaining schedule: Indiana, @ Minnesota, Purdue, @ Northwestern, Penn State, @ Michigan, Nebraska, @ Iowa, @ Ohio State. Sitting at 2-7 in league, they have to go 7-2 down that stretch to hit .500. I see no way for them to beat Michigan or Ohio State on the road, which leaves them very little margin of error simply to break even. Can a team that wins the Maui Invitational and have a top 10 schedule strength go under .500 in a stacked league and make the tournament? I guess we’ll find out.
13 Seeds: Akron, Bucknell, North Dakota State, PLAY IN
Very interesting storyline coming out of NDSU’s league, The Summit. South Dakota State also boasts a top 68 RPI and a very nice record. Is there a chance they can pile up enough wins that both somehow make it? The MAAC had two teams last year, something I never thought would happen, so there is a very small chance. If it does happen though, watch out. Every team on the bubble will be glued to the screen the rest of Selection Sunday.
14 Seeds: Stephen F. Austin, Stony Brook, Harvard, Florida Gulf Coast
A few weeks ago I had Stephen F. Austin a lot higher, and yet they’ve slipped recently. Well, that’s the Southland for you. Their strength of schedule has slipped to 327th. I still like their win over Oklahoma, but the Sooner aren’t doing them any favors by losing games themselves. Unless they win out (27-2) and sweep the conference tournament, bringing their overall record to 30-2, its going to be hard for the Lumberjacks to make much headway.
15 Seeds: Valparaiso, Long Beach State, Northeastern, Niagara
Valpo’s woeful SOS hurts them here; while Northeastern’s RPI is terrible for a league like the CAA. Still, on paper, these look a lot stronger than the run-of-the-mill 15-seeds. I’m not sure any two-seed would sleep too comfortably with this as their opening round game when the opponent will be playing with house money.
16 Seeds: Davidson, Montana
Neither the SoCon nor the Big Sky usually have teams in this bad a position but their SOS rankings leave a lot to be desired. This is why (Davidson especially) is lower rated in my extremely humble opinion.
Play In 16: Bryant vs Norfolk State and Charleston Southern vs Southern
An interesting battle heating up in the MEAC. Norfolk is undefeated but North Carolina Central is hot on their heels. The little leagues that just want to be in the field sometimes make the most for the compelling basketball come conference tournament time.
Play In 12: BYU vs Southern Miss
It isn’t unprecedented for the committee to let two bubble-bursting teams square off in a First Four game. It is cruel that one of these teams will be sent home right away, but this way the committee looks good by letting more mid-majors in. Dumb, I know — enjoy both of these teams while you can.
Play In 13: Saint Louis vs Arizona State
These two teams get in over schools with better RPIs and SOS, why? Marquee wins. The Billikens have very good wins over New Mexico and Butler as well as a decent one over Texas A&M. None of their losses are bad either. ASU has knocked off Colorado and UCLA. They do have one bad loss (DePaul) but the other four aren’t deal breakers.
Last 5 In (in order of safety):
First 5 Out:
Charlotte – The 133rd ranked schedule is still too bad for me, but like I’ve been saying, if they are well over 20 wins and get one or two against the top A-10 teams, it’ll all work out.
St. John’s – Top 50 RPI and the No. 31-best schedule in the land. Just one or two wins from making the pool if it started today. They have to hold home court against USF and Connecticut as well as beat Providence on the road. Still, in one of their other five games this squad should be looking for an upset to flush out the resume.
Temple – If you thought I was worried about a Big 10 team’s chances when hovering around .500 in Illinois, then guess the level of concern I have for the Owls, who have now slipped to 3-4 in the A-10.
Villanova – Losing to teams like Providence is not good for bubble teams.
Alabama – The Tide are knocking on the door. Top 68 RPI and one of the better schedule strengths of the teams left on my board.
Next 5 Out:
Washington – The wins aren’t there yet but if they can scratch out a few more ‘W’s, folks will be impressed by that top 25 SOS.
Boise State – A 2-4 stretch has now put them under .500 in the Mountain West. Outside the New Mexico game, they’ve been lopsided losses. Five of the remaining nine are at home and the Broncos still boast that win at Creighton.
Saint Mary’s – Top 60 RPI but a SOS outside 160 won’t cut it. Need to find a way to win a lot down the stretch and knock off Gonzaga on Valentine’s Day. They also get Creighton on the Feb. 23. Plenty of time for the Gaels.
Maryland – 71 RPI and 107 SOS aren’t going to cut it. They do however have the win over NC State and a whopping seven of their final eight I would classify as winnable. They really do seem to control their own destiny if they play out this final string of games well.
Bay Area – Total cop out here, but Cal and Stanford are almost identical. Stanford is 14-8, 67 RPI, 51 SOS. Cal is 13-8, 69 RPI, 53 SOS. Both are knocking on the door. Cal has five of its final nine at home and Stanford has an even four and four split. It could come down to the final week of the season when the two rivals play each other in Berkley. Of course they also could make a run in the Pac-12 tournament like Colorado did a year ago.
Also on the Big Board:
Iowa – Going .500 in the Big Ten should be enough, but they have shot themselves in the foot in some close games, most recently at Minnesota. Knocking off a ranked Gophers squad would have been a nice addition to the resume.
Virginia – Got hot, winning four in a row before losing to Georgia Tech. In the streak they knocked off NC State for a huge win. However they still have horrible computer numbers, with a 107 RPI and 193 SOS. I think they need to go 6-3 in their final nine and have one of those wins be either @Miami or Duke to stand much of a chance. Realistically, however, they need to finish strong and win a couple games in the ACC tournament (if not the whole thing).
Rutgers – Fabulous computer profile but they have now lost four-straight and are just 12-8. Louisville and Georgetown come to the RAC in the next two games; if they stand any hope of making The Dance, they’ll win one of them.
Air Force/South Dakota St/Wyoming – All the RPIs are there (AF has the worst at 68th) but they don’t have great SOS and all could use more big wins. For SDSU, those victories will be a little harder to come by, being in the Summit. As for Wyoming, they haven’t been the same since the Martinez suspension.
Indiana State – I wasn’t high on them last week and losing to Drake cooled me even more. Still not sure why people (and the computers) are putting them at a 52 RPI and 55 SOS. Just don’t get it.
31 League Champions
27 “Power” At Larges
10 “Mid Major” At Larges
7 – Big 10, Big East
6 – Big 12
5 – Atlantic 10, Pac 12
4 – ACC, Mountain West, SEC
2 – C-USA, Missouri Valley, West Coast Conference
1 – 20 Others