Monday, February 19, 2018

Bracketology: Bonnies score big win, Jayhawks back to top line

For most of the season, the Atlantic 10 conference was looking like a one-bid conference, dominated by Rhode Island. But thanks to their win over the Rams during weekend, St. Bonaventure has climbed into the top 30 of the RPI and into today's bracket projection.

If you recall, two seasons ago, the Bonnies finished the season among the RPI top 30. But they're lack of non-conference success likely held them out of the field. This season, they're in the top 30, but have non-conference road victories over MAC leader Buffalo, who is also in the top 30, as well as, and maybe more importantly, Syracuse, who is also in today's projection after their win at Miami. The Bonnies are among the last four byes in this update, while Syracuse is projected for Dayton.

Also in the field is LSU. Sure, their RPI is low (No. 75), but they have time to improve that. Their inclusion is due to the fact that it is very hard to ignore their seven quadrant one victories, including season-sweeps of Arkansas and Texas A&M. Their win over Houston is also looking better and better. They do have a quadrant three loss against Stephen F. Austin, but the seven quadrant one wins and eight quadrant one and two wins will outweigh that loss. As long as the Tigers stay the course, they could sneak into the field.

Auburn surprisingly dropped one at South Carolina over the weekend. That, coupled with Kansas' come-from-behind victory over West Virginia, puts the Jayhawks and their nine quadrant one wins back on the top line, along with Virginia, Villanova and Xavier..

Kansas also has more combined quadrant one and two wins than any other team, with 16. Kansas is 9-4 against quadrant one and 7-1 against quadrant two. And they've pulled back to a tie with Texas Tech atop the Big 12 standings, with both at 10-4. The Red Raiders won in Lawrence, but the teams meet again in Lubbock on Saturday. Kansas hosts Oklahoma tonight.

Here now is your full bracket update.

Last Four Byes: Butler, North Carolina State, Baylor, Providence
Last Four In: St. Bonaventure, Washington, Syracuse, LSU
First Four Out: UCLA, Kansas State, USC, Temple
Next Four Out: Georgia, Louisville, Utah, Marquette

Conference Breakdown

ACC - 9
SEC - 9
Big 12 - 7
Big East - 6
Big Ten - 4
American - 3
Pac-12 - 3
Atlantic 10 - 2
West Coast - 2
One-bid leagues - 23

Friday, February 16, 2018

Bracketology: Auburn moves to top line

The surprising season for the Auburn Tigers has now brought them to yet another lofty height. Bruce Pearl's team is now sitting as our final No. 1 seed in the latest bracket update.

Auburn has not made the NCAA Tournament since 2003, where they advanced to the Sweet 16. That drought will obviously end this season. Now they have a chance to do something the school has achieved just one other time in their basketball history. Auburn earned a No. 1 seed in 1999, a run that also ended in the Sweet 16. Thanks to Purdue's loss to Wisconsin, adding to their recent slump, the Tigers now move into the last spot on the top line, headlining the West Regional.

Auburn is 6-3 against quadrant one and is 11-3 against quadrants one and two. It also helps that they've won seven true road games, plus another three on a neutral court. The Tigers are on their way to their just their second SEC regular season title, and first since 1999, as they have a two-game lead on Tennessee, with the tiebreaker, and have two games against South Carolina among their final five games.

The double-dip, regular season and tournament titles, should secure a top spot come Selection Sunday.

The Big 12 is getting some more love on the other side of the bracket, as Baylor has made a nice comeback and is now among the last four in, along with Kansas State. The Big 12 has been a competitive conference all season and the committee may very well take that into consideration when talking about the final few spots. This now gives the Big 12 eight teams in the field, tied with the ACC and SEC.

Here is your full bracket update.

Last Four Byes: North Carolina State, Arkansas, Houston, Washington
Last Four In: UCLA, Baylor, Temple, Kansas State
First Four Out: USC, Louisville, Syracuse, Georgia
Next Four Out: Marquette, Notre Dame, St. Bonaventure, Utah

Conference Breakdown

ACC - 8
Big 12 - 8
SEC - 8
Big East - 6
American - 4
Big Ten - 4
Pac-12 - 4
West Coast - 2
One-bid leagues - 24

Monday, February 12, 2018

Bracketology: Committee releases top 16 teams

The College Football Playoff found their footing in the debate scene by producing six weekly rankings, releasing them every week starting around late October, leading up to their version of Selection Sunday in early December. While college basketball does not go that far, they've dipped their toes into making their process more transparent. Sunday, the selection committee released their current top 16 teams for the NCAA Tournament, along with how the four regions would be set up with those 16 teams.

Today's bracket update will use those regional set-ups, essentially finishing the puzzle that the committee started. But before that, let's look at the committee's top 16.

1. Virginia
2. Villanova
3. Xavier
4. Purdue
5. Auburn
6. Kansas
7. Duke
8. Cincinnati
9. Clemson
10. Texas Tech
11. Michigan State
12. North Carolina
13. Tennessee
14. Ohio State
15. Arizona
16. Oklahoma

The committee is clearly going to look at quadrant one wins pretty heavily, as evidenced by Kansas sitting at No. 6. The Jayhawks have nine wins against the top RPI group and 14 wins against groups one and two.

As a reminder, in case you are new and haven't seen the new RPI groupings, the committee will divide wins into four quadrants that favors wins away from home.

Group 1: Home games vs. RPI 1-30, neutral games vs. RPI 1-50, road games vs. RPI 1-75
Group 2: Home vs. RPI 31-75, neutral vs. RPI 50-100, road vs. RPI 76-135
Group 3: Home vs. RPI 76-160, neutral vs. RPI 101-200, road vs. RPI 136-240
Group 4: Home vs. RPI 161-351, neutral vs. RPI 201-351, road vs. RPI 241-351

The committee also now will have a host of metric rankings for teams right on the team sheet, such as KPI, Jeff Sagarin and Ken Pomeroy, among others, which Kansas is high on as well, including No. 3 in KPI and No. 6 in Sagarin.

Kansas does have six losses, but only one in group two and one in group three. The loss to Oklahoma State could be holding them back right now, but all those tier one and tier two wins, plus already sitting at No. 6, shows that Kansas is very much in play for a No. 1 seed and probably will get it if they win Big 12, and especially if they pull the double-dip of regular season and tournament titles.

One team many thought would be in the top 16 but did not show up was Rhode Island. URI is currently No. 5 in RPI, but their lack of top wins (just 1-3 vs. group one and 6-3 vs. groups one and two) plus some of their low computer ranks (27th in Pomeroy, 34th in Sagarin) are the likely factors to not being a current top-4 seed. Our projection does have them as a No. 5 seed.

On the other side of the bracket, it was close between Syracuse and Louisville for the last spot in the field. Louisville has two group one wins to Syracuse's one, but the Orange have six wins against groups one and two, while Louisville has just three. And Syracuse won at Louisville. The Orange get the nod for the last spot. Syracuse is also among the RPI top 40. Only one Power 5 top-40 RPI team has been left out of the field since the formula change in 2005.

With that, here is your full bracket update.

Last Four Byes: Providence, Arkansas, Houston, UCLA
Last Four In: Temple, North Carolina State, USC, Syracuse
First Four Out: Louisville, LSU, Georgia, Marquette
Next Four Out: Notre Dame, Kansas State, Baylor, St. Bonaventure

Conference Breakdown

ACC - 9
SEC - 8
Big East - 6
Big 12 - 6
Pac-12 - 5
American - 4
Big Ten - 4
West Coast - 2
One-bid leagues - 24

Friday, February 9, 2018

Bracketology: Louisville now on outside looking in

The latest bracket update here in the corral doesn't see too much change at the top, other than Virginia now sitting as the overall No. 1 seed after Villanova surprisingly fell against St. John's, who had themselves quite a week after also defeating Duke. Purdue and Xavier also remain atop the bracket

On the other side of the bracket, a rival of Duke's now finds itself on the wrong side of the cut line. With just one RPI Group 1 win and just three against the top two groups, Louisville is now in position to sweat on Selection Sunday, unless their fortunes turn around soon.

Louisville will be an interesting case for the committee. Their computer and metric numbers are not all that bad.

RPI: 43
KPI: 44:
Pomeroy: 34
Sagarin: 28

However, the Cardinals are just 1-6 against the top RPI group. The lone win was at Florida State. The losses came home against Seton Hall and on the road against Virginia, Clemson, Purdue, Kentucky and Miami (FL). Louisville is also just 2-2 against Group 2, beating Virginia Tech at home and at Notre Dame, with home losses to Syracuse and Florida State,

A non-conference strength of schedule rank of 83 looks good at first, but Louisville's best win in that part of action came against Southern Illinois. They're also just 3-5 in games away from home, the wins being at Florida State and Notre Dame, plus a neutral-court win over Memphis.

The committee has said they will use the metric numbers more, so it'll be interesting how they would view the Cardinals, should that event arise.

Three ACC teams, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Louisville, make up what are essentially at-large teams Nos. 36, 37 and 38. That's also helped by the fact that the Mountain West now has two teams in the field with Boise State currently the auto-bid, meaning Nevada would steal a bid.

Syracuse is joined by yet another ACC team, North Carolina State, along with UCLA and Houston in the First Four.

Here's your updated bracket.

Last Four Byes: Michigan, Providence, USC, Temple
Last Four In: North Carolina State, Houston, UCLA, Syracuse
First Four Out: Virginia Tech, Louisville, LSU, Georgia
Next Four Out: Marquette, Notre Dame, Kansas State, Mississippi State

Conference Breakdown

ACC - 8
SEC - 8
Big East - 6
Big 12 - 6
Pac-12 - 5
AAC - 4
Big Ten - 4
Mountain West - 2
West Coast - 2
One-bid leagues - 23

Monday, February 5, 2018

Xavier moves to top line after Duke and Kansas fall

It was just another Saturday in college basketball. Purdue escaped with a two-point victory at Rutgers, while Kansas lost at home to Oklahoma State and Duke went up to Madison Square Garden and lost to St. John's. That's the St. John's that is currently 0-11 in Big East play.

The beneficiary of the Jayhawks and Blue Devils losing? That would be Xavier. The Musketeers are 21-3, No. 3 in RPI, 5-3 against RPI Group 1 and 10-3 against Groups 1 and 2. They have the edge right now on SEC leader Auburn, who is currently No. 5 on the board. Kansas and Duke are both on the No. 2 line, along with Clemson.

On the other side of the bracket, a team that has really struggled of late and is now on the outside looking in is Notre Dame. The Irish are now just 12-10 overall and fell to 3-7 in ACC play after Saturday's loss to North Carolina State, who is among the last four in. No team has finished more than two games under .500 in conference play and received at at-large bid since 1998. Notre Dame sits among the first four out entering the week, along with UCLA, Georgia and Marquette. Along with the Wolf Pack, Virginia Tech, Houston, and LSU are your current last four in.

Here is your full updated bracket with roughly five weeks left before Selection Sunday.

Last Four Byes: Providence, Arkansas, USC, Temple
Last Four In: North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Houston, LSU
First Four Out: UCLA, Georgia, Notre Dame, Marquette
Next Four Out: Western Kentucky, South Carolina, SMU, Kansas State

Conference Rundown

ACC - 9
SEC - 9
Big 12 - 6
Big East - 6
AAC - 4
Big Ten - 4
Pac-12 - 4
West Coast - 2
One-bid leagues - 24

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Finally, a bracket update!

Apologies for this being so late. I think this is the latest I've ever posted the first in-season bracket update, but a lot has gone on and posting here ended up on the back burner a bit. But fear no more, I bring to you, finally, the first update of this season. And what a crazy season it has been so far.

As of now, I feel pretty good that Villanova, Virginia and Purdue are sitting atop the bracket, with Big 12 leader Kansas joining them on the top line for the moment. And how about the seasons Clemson and Auburn are having? Auburn currently sits on the No. 2 line, while Clemson is a three right now.

And once again, the bubble debate is interesting. As of now, the last four in include a few familiar teams. In fact, a rematch from last year's First Four was set up in this bracket between USC and Providence, while Washington and SMU are also currently slated for Dayton. Virginia Tech, LSU, UCLA and South Carolina are currently the first four out. We'll get deeper into the bubble at a later time. For now, here is your first 2018 bracket update.

Last Four Byes: North Carolina State, Missouri, Notre Dame, Providence
Last Four In: Providence, Washington, USC, SMU
First Four Out: Virginia Tech, LSU, UCLA, South Carolina
Next Four Out: Houston, Kansas State, Syracuse, St. Bonaventure

Conference Breakdown

ACC - 9
SEC - 9
Big East - 7
Big 12 - 6
Big Ten - 4
Pac-12 - 4
AAC - 3
West Coast - 2
One-bid leagues - 24

Remember, check out Bracket Matrix to see how I stack up against the other bracketologists, as I enter my seventh year in the matrix. How will I finish? Stay tuned and find out.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Recapping the first month of the regular season

November is just about in the books and it was an action-packed month with surprises and early disappointments all around. Teams are already building their tournament resume, while others have a lot of work to do. Let's look back at the month that was in college basketball.

The SEC is more than just Florida and Kentucky

One of the biggest surprises of the early portion of the season was the quick rise of Texas A&M, who vaulted into the AP Top 10 this week thanks to their impressive 6-0 start, which includes a dominant win over West Virginia in Germany and a 16-point win at USC. The Aggies are making it very well-known that they will be a force in the SEC. Five Aggies currently average double-digit points and they're shooting almost 42 percent from 3-point range. A very impressive start. One more quality non-conference game awaits them on Tuesday when they take on Arizona in Phoenix.

Trouble in Tuscon?

Speaking of Arizona, what a rough start for Sean Miller's team. After three blowouts to start the season, the Wildcats went down to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, where the prevailing thought was they would meet up with Villanova in the championship round. Oops. That didn't exactly happen. Arizona dropped a 90-84 decision to North Carolina State in the opening round, then lost 66-60 to SMU before being hammered by Purdue, 89-64, to finish 0-3 in the tournament. That result dropped them from No. 2 in the AP Poll to out of the poll entirely.

They just bounced back with a whipping of Long Beach State and can build their profile right back up with a road game at UNLV and then meetings with Texas A&M and Alabama after that. Plus, the Pac-12 will provide more chances for good wins.

By the way, Villanova defeated Northern Iowa in the championship.

Power Plays aren't just for hockey

In one of the weirdest scenes we've seen in sometime, the Alabama Crimson Tide played the final ten minutes of their game against Minnesota shorthanded. A brawl during the game led to Alabama players coming off the bench and getting in the middle of the action. Five players were ejected from the game and the technical called on Dazon Ingram was his fifth personal, so he fouled out. Then John Petty left the game with an ankle injury. That left Alabama to play 5-on-3. And they almost won.

After trailing by as many as 14, freshman Collin Sexton nearly did the impossible and almost rallied the team back. The rally fell short, but the fact that Alabama only lost by five, behind a 40-point performance from Sexton, is nothing short of amazing. In fact, the Tide moved up one spot in the AP Poll, even after that loss, from No. 25 to No. 24.

PK80 is major success

After years of planning, the Phil Knight Invitational was a rousing success. 16 Nike-sponsored schools were split into two eight-team brackets (since NCAA rules prohibit multiple teams from a conference to play in the same bracket). It was one of the most star-studded fields we've seen and it saw a pair of championship games that gave Portland, Oregon a Final Four-like atmosphere. Even before the two championship games, we saw a thriller between Florida and Gonzaga, a 111-105 double-overtime victory for the Gators.

As for the Championship Rounds, Michigan State's defense completely shut down North Carolina, as the Tar Heels didn't even reach 50 points in the game and shot under 25 percent from the floor, as the Spartans won, 63-45, to claim the Victory Bracket Championship. Over in the Motion Bracket, Florida led by as many as 17 with under ten minutes to play before Duke made a ferocious comeback to defeat the Gators, 87-84. Marvin Bagley III had 30 points and 15 rebounds to lead the charge.

With wins over Michigan State and Florida already under their belt, Duke is already making a charge at the overall No. 1 seed in March. And Michigan State followed up their PK80 championship with an 81-63 beating of No. 5 Notre Dame (who defeated Wichita State to claim the championship in Maui) in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Speaking of which...

ACC Dominates Big Ten in annual get-together

Michigan State beat up on Notre Dame to claim a victory for the Big Ten. Unfortunately for the conference, that was one of only three victories the Big Ten scored in this year's challenge, as the ACC dominated the three-day event. The other two victories were Purdue over Louisville (a nice bounceback for the Boilermakers after their showing in the Bamahas) and Nebraska over Boston College.

The other 11 games went in favor of the ACC including Georgia Tech's buzzer-beater to defeat Northwestern (who is off to a slow start at 4-3, missing opportunities for wins, having also lost to Creighton and Texas Tech), Virginia using their stingy defense to beat Wisconsin, holding them under 40 points, North Carolina over Michigan, Duke over Indiana (who hung in tough for a while with the Blue Devils) and Miami with a very good resume-building win over Minnesota.

Getting through November unscathed

As the calendar turns to December, 17 teams remain undefeated. Those teams are Arizona State, Cincinnati, Colorado, Duke, Florida State, Georgetown, Kansas, Miami, Mississippi State, Nevada, Syracuse, TCU, Texas A&M, Valparaiso, Villanova, Virginia and Washington State.

Among this group, another surprise resides in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun Devils' 6-0 start includes a 16-point win over Xavier in Las Vegas. Early on, the Sun Devils look like they could compete with the upper echelon of the Pac-12. The Sun Devils will really be tested on December 10 when they invade Lawrence, Kansas to take on the Jayhawks.

Fellow Pac-12 member Washington State claimed the Wooden Legacy, defeating Saint Mary's and San Diego State along the way. (Saint Mary's also lost to Georgia in a consolation game.) The Cougars also host Kansas State on December 20 before conference play begins.

Also keep an eye on Nevada. The Wolf Pack have been very impressive early, including defeating a good Rhode Island team. They've got two big games upcoming at Texas Tech and against TCU in Los Angeles. They've got a chance to build themselves a solid at-large case, in case things go awry in the Mountain West.

A look ahead

December looks to be another good month of action, starting Friday when Gonzaga takes on Creighton in a battle of AP Top 25 teams. Then Saturday sees the old rivalry in Cincinnati as the Bearcats host Xavier, Wichita State visits Baylor and USC is at SMU. You've also got a battle of unbeatens in Miami as Kansas takes on Syracuse. Sunday will see Seton Hall, fresh off their win over Texas Tech, visit Louisville.

And due to the tournament being pushed up, Big Ten play actually begins today with Purdue at Maryland and Illinois at Northwestern. Then tomorrow, it's Indiana at Michigan, Penn State at Iowa and Ohio State at Wisconsin. On Sunday, Northwestern at Purdue, Nebraska and Michigan State, Rutgers at Minnesota and Maryland at Illinois. Monday, you have Michigan at Ohio State, Wisconsin at Penn State and Iowa at Indiana. Finally on Tuesday to wrap up the first week before the action gets back at it later this month, Michigan State at Rutgers and Minnesota at Nebraska.

Other notable non-conference games to look forward to: Louisville at Kentucky (Dec. 29), Villanova vs. Gonzaga in New York (Dec. 5), UCLA vs. Kentucky (Dec. 23), Texas at VCU (Dec. 5), Kentucky at West Virginia (Jan. 27), Cincinnati vs. Florida (Dec. 9), Cincinnati at UCLA (Dec. 16), Virginia Tech at Kentucky (Dec. 16), Virginia at West Virginia (Dec. 5), SMU at TCU (Dec. 5), Oklahoma vs. USC in Los Angeles (Dec. 8), Oklahoma at Wichita State (Dec. 16), Florida State at Florida (Dec. 4), Georgia Tech at Georgia (Dec. 19), Baylor at Florida (Jan. 27), Alabama vs. Texas in Birmingham (Dec. 22)