New Podcast

Just a heads up that USA Today bracketologist Shelby Mast and I are teaming up on a new podcast. Listen to our Bracket Talk pod by searching for “BracketWAG” in Apple’s podcast app or on iTunes.

Wednesday Bracket / Thoughts

St Mary’s in the 8-9 game:

The most recent AP poll has the St Mary’s Gaels at 13th in the country while riding a whopping 16-game winning streak, but that isn’t enough to keep St Mary’s from a current spot in the 8-9 game. St Mary’s finds themselves down at an eight seed because of this profile:


Look at that non-conference strength of schedule; 184th in the country. While they did get a home win over New Mexico State, they also lost on a neutral court to Georgia. More costly, they were beaten by a hapless Washington State squad on a neutral floor. Yes, 21-2 is a great record. But Randy Bennett didn’t do his team any favors by scheduling a weaker non-conference slate than a team like St Mary’s should be playing.

Nebraska isn’t in the field, and they aren’t that close:

Some Huskers fans are dumbfounded that their team is 8-4 in the Big Ten, but still out of the bracket. Frankly, they aren’t that close to being in right now. Let’s take a look at the resume:


From just a quick glance, there is a glaring lack of Tier 1 victories. The Huskers haven’t won a Group 1 game at any point this season. Obviously, the lack of bad losses is good. But on Selection Sunday, it comes down to beating quality teams. And the Huskers simply haven’t been able to do that at the rate of an NCAA at-large team. An even bigger issue may be the lack of quality win opportunities in the future. Even if Nebraska wins all of their remaining regular season games, they still project to have zero Group 1 wins entering the Big Ten tournament in Madison Square Garden. If the Huskers can go 13-5 in the Big Ten or better, they will get a strong look from the committee. Anything less (even 12-6), and it’s likely the NIT. As mentioned regarding St Mary’s, the Huskers weren’t done any favors by their OOC SOS (a horrid 268).

EAST

1 Virginia
16 Arkansas Pine Bluff / New Orleans

8 Arkansas
9 Providence

5 Seton Hall
12 Buffalo

4 Kentucky
13 ETSU

6 Miami
11 Marquette / S Carolina

3 Oklahoma
14 Louisiana

7 Florida
10 Syracuse

2 Xavier
15 Wagner

WEST

1 Kansas
16 NC A&T / Long Beach St

8 St Mary’s
9 Houston

5 Wichita State
12 Loyola-Chicago

4 Michigan State
13 Wright State

6 Louisville
11 Texas A&M / Kansas St

3 Arizona
14 Bucknell

7 TCU
10 Michigan

2 Clemson
15 Charleston

SOUTH

1 Villanova
16 Harvard

8 Texas
9 USC

5 N Carolina
12 Mid Tenn

4 Tennessee
13 Belmont

6 Arizona St
11 Butler

3 Texas Tech
14 Rider

7 Florida State
10 Washington

2 Duke
15 FGCU

MIDWEST

1 Purdue
16 UNC Asheville

8 Nevada
9 Gonzaga

5 Ohio State
12 New Mexico St

4 W Virginia
13 S Dakota St

6 Creighton
11 Georgia

3 Cincinnati
14 Vermont

7 Rhode Island
10 NC State

2 Auburn
15 Montana

Sunday Bracket / Thoughts

 

 

The One Line:

Everyone knew Saturday would be a big day for the one seed race, and it delivered. Virginia went on the road to Cameron Indoor and stifled Duke’s offense to pick up a huge road win. That moves the Cavaliers up to number one overall and puts UVA in commanding position to win the ACC regular season title. One-loss Villanova remains a strong candidate for one overall, but hasn’t played quite as tough of a schedule as Virginia. And Purdue is a solid one. The final one seed is a bit of a toss up, but Big XII leading Kansas gets a very slight nod over Duke. While the Blue Devils have one less loss, they only have seven Group 1/2 wins, compared to Kansas’s 11. And the Jayhawks have ten wins over RPI top 75 teams. Duke has only five. Of those top 75 wins, Kansas has four true road wins. Duke has one. It is close, but the Jayhawks deserve the nod.

West Virginia is in a Free-fall:

A couple of weeks ago, WVU was on the one line. Now, they’re down at a five seed following four losses in five games. While they have some great wins and excellent efficiency ratings, their OOC SOS numbers aren’t great. The potential to rise up the bracket is obviously still there, but a one seed is all but out of the question now.

EAST

1 Virginia
16 NC A&T / Harvard

8 Nevada
9 Providence

5 West Virginia
12 New Mexico St

4 Cincinnati
13 Wright State

6 Miami
11 Butler / Texas A&M

3 Texas Tech
14 Vermont

7 Louisville
10 Houston

2 Xavier
15 Montana

WEST

1 Kansas
16 Wagner

8 Arizona State
9 Michigan

5 Wichita State
12 Middle Tenn

4 Michigan State
13 Belmont

6 Florida
11 Syracuse

3 Arizona
14 Hawaii

7 Arkansas
10 Gonzaga

2 Clemson
15 Bucknell

SOUTH

1 Villanova
16 Ark Pine-Bluff / New Orleans

8 Alabama
9 St Mary’s

5 Ohio State
12 Loyola-Chicago

4 Tennessee
13 ETSU

6 Florida State
11 Marquette / S Carolina

3 Oklahoma
14 Louisiana

7 Rhode Island
10 Kansas State

2 Duke
15 Charleston

MIDWEST

1 Purdue
16 UNC-Asheville

8 Texas
9 USC

5 Seton Hall
12 Buffalo

4 UNC
13 S Dakota St

6 Creighton
11 NC State

3 Kentucky
14 Rider

7 TCU
10 Washington

2 Auburn
15 FGCU

Friday Bracket / Thoughts

 

Arizona is up to a three:

The Pac-12 leading Wildcats have gone from a three-game losing streak in the Bahamas to a three seed in the bracket.  Here is a look at the resume they got them there (available at Warren Nolan):

While there are only two Group One wins, they have zero bad losses, only four overall losses, five Group Two wins, and only four games against Group Four teams.

New Mexico State’s Spot in the Bracket:

Talking about an automatic qualifier 12 seed is a bit off the beaten path, but it’s worth it for a quick look at New Mexico State’s at-large chances.

On the one hand, they only have one win against Group One or Two teams.  That seems like a sure way to have no shot at an at-large bid.  But they are 8-1 against Group 3 and they have a win over Miami on a neutral floor.  While a home loss to San Diego definitely hurts, there is no shame in losing to St Mary’s or USC away from home.  In addition, Utah Valley is within striking range of a spot in the RPI top 75. That means there is a slim chance NMSU’s home win over Utah Valley becomes a Group Two win and their upcoming road game against Utah Valley could become a Group One win.  It’s an uphill battle, but if NMSU can go unbeaten in WAC play before losing in the conference tournament, then they’ll get a serious look.

EAST

1 Villanova
16 Bethune Cookman / Nicholls St

8 Florida St
9 Alabama

5 Ohio St
12 Buffalo

4 Texas Tech
13 ETSU

6 Kentucky
11 Houston

3 UNC
14 William and Mary

7 Creighton
10 Kansas St

2 Auburn
15 Canisius

WEST

1 Purdue
16 Arkansas Pine Bluff / FGCU

8 Arkansas
9 USC

5 TCU
12 New Mexico St

4 Cincinnati
13 Belmont

6 Florida
11 Syracuse

3 Clemson
14 Hawaii

7 Nevada
10 Washington

2 Oklahoma
15 Montana

MIDWEST

1 Duke
16 Radford

8 Texas
9 Providence

5 Seton Hall
12 Vermont

4 Tennessee
13 Louisiana

6 Louisville
11 Marquette / Missouri

3 Arizona
14 Wright St

7 Arizona St
10 Gonzaga

2 Kansas
15 Bucknell

SOUTH

1 Virginia
16 Wagner

8 Michigan
9 Texas A&M

5 Miami
12 Loyola-Chicago

4 Michigan St
13 Old Dominion

6 Wichita St
11 Butler / S Carolina

3 West VA
14 S Dakota

7 Rhode Island
10 St Mary’s

2 Xavier
15 Penn

Tournament Picture

We are just over a week from the Super Bowl, which means we are under two months from Selection Sunday. With that in mind, the bubble has now trimmed itself and we have five distinct categories of teams: Tourney Bound, Cruise Control, Looking Good, Truly Bubbly, and Longshots.

Let’s break down each category.

TOURNEY BOUND – These 4 teams are going to the NCAA Tournament:

Villanova, Duke, Kansas and Purdue

CRUISE CONTROL – These 7 teams are all but going dancing, but they just need another quality win or two to cement their spot:

UNC, Xavier, Virginia, Clemson, Auburn, Oklahoma and West Virginia

LOOKING GOOD – These 17 teams should be dancing, but they’re a long ways away from locking up a bid:

Tennessee, Ohio State, Miami, TCU, Arizona, Kentucky, Louisville, Texas Tech, Seton Hall, Cincinnati, Arkansas, Michigan State, Creighton, Wichita State, Arizona State, Florida and Texas

TRULY BUBBLY – These teams represent the “true bubble.” Some will play themselves in comfortably, some will play themselves out, and some will stay on the bubble all the way through the Selection Show:

Rhode Island, Nevada, Butler, Providence, Alabama, Michigan, USC, St Mary’s, Texas A&M, Syracuse, Boise St, Florida State, New Mexico State, Western Kentucky, Missouri, Marquette, Houston, South Carolina, Washington, SMU, Kansas State, Georgia, Utah, Gonzaga, UCLA, Colorado, Notre Dame, NC State, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State, Oregon and LSU

LONGSHOTS – These teams aren’t totally out of it, but their bubble is on the verge of being popped:

Middle Tennessee, Buffalo, Temple, St Bonaventure, Maryland, Wyoming, Loyola-Chicago, Nebraska, UCF, Boston College, BYU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, UConn, Iowa State, Baylor, Stanford, Memphis, Minnesota, Penn State and Indiana

If you were keeping count, 28 teams from 7 conferences are Tourney Bound, in Cruise Control, or Looking Good. That means there are only fifteen bids available for teams that are Truly Bubbly or Longshots.

And if your favorite school isn’t listed anywhere, there’s always the conference tournament. Otherwise, better luck next year.

Thursday Bracket

EAST

1 Villanova
16 Bethune Cookman / Nicholls St

8 Florida St
9 Alabama

5 Tennessee
12 Buffalo

4 Texas Tech
13 ETSU

6 Kentucky
11 Gonzaga

3 UNC
14 William and Mary

7 Creighton
10 Kansas St

2 Auburn
15 Canisius

WEST

1 Purdue
16 Arkansas Pine Bluff / FGCU

8 Arkansas
9 USC

5 TCU
12 New Mexico St

4 Arizona
13 Belmont

6 Arizona St
11 Butler / S Carolina

3 Clemson
14 Hawaii

7 Nevada
10 Washington

2 Oklahoma
15 Montana

MIDWEST

1 Duke
16 Radford

8 Texas
9 Providence

5 Seton Hall
12 Vermont

4 Cincinnati
13 Louisiana

6 Louisville
11 SMU / Missouri

3 Ohio St
14 Wright St

7 Florida
10 Houston

2 Kansas
15 Bucknell

SOUTH

1 Virginia
16 Wagner

8 Michigan
9 Texas A&M

5 Miami
12 Loyola-Chicago

4 Michigan St
13 Old Dominion

6 Wichita St
11 Syracuse

3 West VA
14 S Dakota

7 Rhode Island
10 St Mary’s

2 Xavier
15 Penn

One Seed Contenders

The Super 10: The Top Ten Contenders for a One Seed

It’s almost February, so we are getting far enough into the season to start determining which teams are the biggest threats to land on the one line.

MORE LIKELY THAN NOT

Villanova – The Wildcats are already clearly on the one line and there’s no reason to believe they won’t run away with the Big East. They might land the overall one seed for the second consecutive season.

Duke – The Blue Devils are so explosive offensively, and they are getting more experienced by the day. With four Group 1 wins and a 17-2 record to go along with top ten overall and non-conference schedule strength numbers, Duke looks slightly more likely than not to land on the top line.

BORDERLINE ONE SEEDS

 Purdue – The Boilermakers are 19-2 and undefeated in the Big Ten. Still, their RPI is only ninth in the country, as the Big Ten isn’t providing many opportunities for quality victories. Looking at Purdue’s remaining schedule, their only regular season game remaining that is likely to be a Quadrant 1 game is at Michigan State. The Boilers might need to be unbeaten in the Big Ten to land on the one line, as they are sure to get passed in the quality win department.

Kansas – The Jayhawks currently have sole possession of first in the Big XII after winning at West Virginia, their biggest competition for the Big XII Championship. But following three home losses this season (Washington, Arizona State, and Texas Tech), even an outright Big XII Championship might not be enough to land a one seed. More importantly, the Jayhawks simply don’t “look” like a one seed. They keep scraping by bottom-tier Big XII teams at Allen Fieldhouse (Iowa State, Kansas State, Baylor), while West Virginia “looks” like a one seed. If the Jayhawks can’t hold off the Mountaineers, then their Big XII rival will likely overtake them for the one line.

West Virginia – As just stated, WVU is still a very serious threat to unseat Kansas atop the Big XII for the first time in fourteen seasons. If they’re successful in doing that, it will likely be enough for a one seed, as they lost just one game in OOC play and they pair that with a win over fellow one seed contender Virginia. A bit of a hindrance to their one seed bid, though, is a non-conference SOS in the 200s.

Virginia – The Wahoos are in sole possession of first in the ACC, and they have a good win over UNC in Charlottesville. That said, you’d expect a one-loss ACC team to have a better overall resume than the Cavaliers have at this point. They are just 3-1 against the current field. Two of those wins are Rhode Island and Syracuse (currently 7 and 11 seeds) at a neutral site and at home. That means UVA has ZERO true road wins over a tournament team. That’s why they currently find themselves on the two line despite only one loss. Alas, opportunity abounds. They have FIVE remaining ACC road games against teams currently in the field. It’s going to be put up or shut up time for UVA.

LONGER ODDS

Oklahoma – The Sooners lost a heartbreaker to rival Oklahoma State in overtime yesterday, but Trae Young’s squad can still move up to the top line quite feasibly. They get Kansas and West Virginia in Norman, and they already have five Quadrant 1 victories. Don’t count the Sooners out yet.

Texas Tech – Despite a blowout loss at Iowa State yesterday, the Red Raiders still have seven games left to go that would currently qualify as Quadrant 1 games. With huge wins at Kansas and home over West Virginia already in the books, the opportunity to fly up to the one line remains.

North Carolina – This doesn’t look like a vintage Heels squad, but they already five Quadrant 1 wins and four additional Quadrant 2 wins. Although the loss in Chapel Hill to Wofford will remain a deadweight all the way through Selection Sunday, the Heels will likely end up on the one line if they can find a way to win the ACC outright.

Ohio State – The Buckeyes are playing great basketball right now, and that’s why they are the last team to make this list (just above Arizona and Xavier). Ohio State is unbeaten in Big Ten play and they get 6 of their last ten at home. While going to Purdue is daunting, it’s also a huge opportunity to put an exclamation point on a one seed resume. It’s not crazy to think Ohio State can lose only 1, or even 0, in Big Ten play. If so, the Big Ten tournament is played a week earlier than normal because Jim Delaney insisted on playing it at Madison Square Garden. That means OSU could have both a Big Ten regular season title and tournament title in their pocket by the time the Selection Committee first meets.

Sunday Bracket / Thoughts

A Wabash Welcome – Kansas State’s Rise:

K-State is a newcomer on the eleven line of the bracket after defeating TCU in Manhattan on Saturday.  The ‘Cats are a bit of a controversial selection, but the eye test is too strong to deny them.  Let’s breakdown the resume from Warren Nolan:

The Pros:

  • victory over an elite Oklahoma squad
  • only beaten easily once (at Texas Tech)
  • very easily could’ve beaten Arizona State and Kansas, showing their efficiency

The Cons:

  • OOC SOS is 333 out of 351.
  • Only three wins over quadrants 1 and 2
  • Lost to Tulsa in Wichita, which counts as a home game

Adding it all up, it is a tough call.  But they have a winning record in the undisputed top league in America, and they just plain look like an NCAA tournament team.  The resume isn’t great, but it will do for now.

EAST

1 Villanova
16 Wagner / NC A&T

8 Florida St
9 Alabama

5 Tennessee
12 Belmont

4 Texas Tech
13 ETSU

6 Miami
11 Butler / Houston

3 Ohio State
14 William and Mary

7 Michigan
10 Missouri

2 UNC
15 Iona

WEST

1 Kansas
16 Arkansas Pine Bluff / SE Louisiana

8 Creighton
9 Arkansas

5 Michigan State
12 Buffalo

4 Arizona
13 Wright St

6 TCU
11 Georgia

3 Clemson
14 Hawaii

7 Nevada
10 Washington

2 Xavier
15 Montana

SOUTH

1 Duke
16 Penn

8 Texas
9 Providence

5 Arizona St
12 New Mexico St

4 Cincinnati
13 Louisiana

6 Louisville
11 Kansas State

3 Auburn
14 Vermont

7 Wichita State
10 Gonzaga

2 West Virginia
15 Radford

MIDWEST

1 Purdue
16 FGCU

8 Texas A&M
9 St Mary’s

5 Seton Hall
12 S Dakota St

4 Florida
13 Old Dominion

6 Kentucky
11 SMU / Syracuse

3 Oklahoma
14 Drake

7 Rhode Island
10 Marquette

2 Virginia
15 Bucknell

Friday Bracket / Thoughts

Three-loss Kansas to the One Line:

Kansas is universally regarded as having a down year. Yet the Jayhawks find themselves fourth overall following a huge road win at West Virginia. The Hawks are in sole possession of first in the top conference in the country, they have four wins away from home over the RPI top 40, and their nine Group 1/2 wins are as many as any team has. We cannot ignore the difficulties or the losses, but we have to recognize a great resume that now has an elite true road win to go along with it. As hard as it is to not put one-loss Virginia on the one line, the Cavaliers simply are not in the same ballpark as the Jayhawks when it comes to quality wins.

Ohio State is a four seed:

Did anyone think Ohio State would be racing towards a Big Ten Championship? Even now, it seems a little far-fetched. But the Buckeyes really seem to be coming together, and they are tied atop the Big Ten with Purdue at 7-0. They have a blowout victory over Michigan State to go with five Group 2 victories. It may not be the strongest resume out there, but it is good enough to land the last four seed. And that’s pretty great for year one of a rebuild.

EAST

1 Villanova
16 FGCU / NC A&T

8 Missouri
9 Florida St

5 Tennessee
12 MTSU

4 Ohio State
13 Vermont

6 Miami
11 Butler

3 West Virginia
14 William and Mary

7 Florida
10 Providence

2 UNC
15 Penn

WEST

1 Kansas
16 Jackson State / Nicholls St

8 Nevada
9 Arkansas

5 TCU
12 Buffalo

4 Arizona
13 Wright St

6 Louisville
11 St Bonaventure / USC

3 Clemson
14 Montana

7 Michigan St
10 Washington

2 Xavier
15 CS Fullerton

SOUTH

1 Duke
16 Robert Morris

8 Texas
9 Texas A&M

5 Arizona St
12 New Mexico St

4 Seton Hall
13 S Dakota St

6 Wichita St
11 Gonzaga / Syracuse

3 Auburn
14 Louisiana

7 Michigan
10 Marquette

2 Oklahoma
15 Radford

MIDWEST

1 Purdue
16 Iona

8 St Mary’s
9 Alabama

5 Creighton
12 Loyola-Chicago

4 Cincinnati
13 ETSU

6 Kentucky
11 SMU

3 Texas Tech
14 Murray State

7 Rhode Island
10 Georgia

2 Virginia
15 Bucknell

Tournament Picture

The season is moving right along, and the path to at-large selections is starting to emerge. While some teams will see huge swings in their profiles, most teams are already grouping themselves into positions that they will remain in for some time based on both resume and actual ability.

With that in mind, here are the teams that are seriously in the at-large tournament picture:

AMERICAN ATHLETIC

>95% Chance: N/A
Good Bet: Wichita State, Cincinnati
The Extended Bubble: Houston, UCF, Temple, UConn, SMU

ACC

>95% Chance: Duke, UNC, Virginia
Good Bet: Clemson, Louisville
The Extended Bubble: Miami, Florida State, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, NC State, Boston College

Big 10

>95% Chance: Purdue
Good Bet: Michigan State
The Extended Bubble: Ohio State, Michigan, Maryland, Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana

Big XII

>95% Chance: Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, West Virginia
Good Bet: N/A
The Extended Bubble: TCU, Texas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State

Big East

>95% Chance: Villanova
Good Bet: Xavier, Seton Hall
The Extended Bubble: Creighton, Butler, Providence, Marquette

PAC-12

>95% Chance: N/A
Good Bet: Arizona, Arizona State
The Extended Bubble: UCLA, USC, Washington, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Stanford

SEC

>95% Chance: N/A
Good Bet: Auburn, Kentucky, Tennessee
The Extended Bubble: Arkansas, Texas A&M, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Ole Miss, LSU

OTHERS

>95% Chance: N/A
Good Bet: N/A
The Extended Bubble: Rhode Island, Nevada, Gonzaga, St. Bonaventure, St. Mary’s, Boise State, Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky, San Diego State, BYU, South Dakota State, Missouri State, Loyola-Chicago