Category:NCAAB
Posted on: February 21, 2012 4:36 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2012 5:10 pm
 

Feb. 21 bracket: Big Ten loses some ground

Today's bracket is posted.  The top two lines remain the same.  A lot of shuffling happened below that.

The biggest news, I guess, is that I finally have a bracket with less than nine Big Ten teams in it.  Minnesota's most recent loss has the Gophers on the outside looking in.  Illinois is just a train wreck.  Nobody has looked less like an NCAA tournament team than the Illini in the last few weeks.

They were replaced by Iowa State and Washington.  Both teams are lacking in quality wins.  They each have only three RPI top 100 wins.  It's been nine years since the last time the committee took such a team, but of course, the season isn't over yet.  They have never taken a team with just three top 100 wins and none in the top 50, but that's Washington at the moment.  The field is bigger now.  They have to take somebody.

The team making the biggest move up the bracket lately has been New Mexico. The Lobos had a great week last week, beating San Diego State on the road and UNLV at home.  They now lead the Mountain West by two games.

Notre Dame continues its climb up the bracket as well.  The Irish extened their winning streak to eight games with an overtime win at Villanova.

It was a rough weekend in Conference USA as both Southern Miss and Memphis suffered their worst losses of the season.  The Golden Eagles fell at Houston, while the Tigers blew a big lead at home to UTEP.

Mississippi State is also falling apart at the wrong time.  The Bulldogs lost three in a row, including games to non-tournament teams Georgia and Auburn.  Those are their worst losses of the season.

The bracket buster took place last weekend, and as usual, no brackets were actually busted.  Murray State picked up an impressive win over St. Mary's, which will give the Racers a bit of a cushion should it need an at-large bid.  Long Beach State could have done the same, but couldn't hold on at Creighton.


Posted on: February 17, 2012 10:16 am
Edited on: February 17, 2012 10:53 am
 

Feb. 17 bracket

Today's bracket is posted.  There are virtually no changes at the top, thanks to Duke's comeback over North Carolina State last night.
There is some shuffling at the bottom though.  The First Four provides a post-season version of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.  Miami and Northwestern are bracketed for one game, and the Wolfpack faces Minnesota in the other.

There are still nine Big Ten teams in the bracket, but obviously, two are in serious trouble.

A second Pac 12 team (Arizona) is in for now and Washington is among the first four out.

Iowa State is out, not because they lost, but because the Cyclones haven't beaten anyone of any significance away from home.  That is an important thing for the committee.  It's also the problem for fellow conference mate Texas.

I will write in more detail about the bottom and off-the-bracket teams in Bubble Watch in a little bit.

However, here's a few helpful hints for those of you commenting on your teams.

Conference record is just a number.  Teams are evaluated on their entire seasons, not just the conference portion, which is only about 2/3 of a team's full schedule (and less than that with three weeks to go).  If all you have is conference record and/or position in the conference standings, you have nothing.

Head to head results are not decisive.  Teams are judged on their entire seasons, not one or two games.  Alabama fans know that well, after beating Georgia twice in the final week of the season last year, only to see the Bulldogs be selected ahead of them.

How teams finish the season has been deemphasized by the committee.  It has no bearing on how you do in the tournament.  VCU lost four of its last five last year.

Speaking of the Colonial league, people are asking if there is an at-large team in the trio atop the league (Drexel, VCU, George Mason).  They ask because the league usually has at-large quaity teams at the top of the league and has performed well in the tournament.  However, this is a down year.  Those three are rated betewen 80-100 in the RPI, or a good 50-60 spots below where the league's best team usually rates.    Those three teams have combined for three non-conference wins against top 100 teams.   There just isn't enough there to compete for at-large bids, so the Colonial will be a one-bid league.

I will be headed to the Murray State-St. Mary's game on Saturday, followed by the Michigan State-Purdue game on Sunday.  The SMC-Murray game is part of the bracket buster, which rarely, if ever, busts a bracket, but Murray can really help itself with a win over the Gaels in the event the Racers get upset in the OVC tournament and need an at-large big.

Another team that can boost its potential at-large hopes with a win is Long Beach, which travels to Creighton.  It would be their best win of the year.



Posted on: February 14, 2012 1:16 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2012 1:20 pm
 

Feb.14 bracket

Ohio State didn't last very long as a No. 1 seed.  The loss to Michigan State has knocked them back to the two line in today's bracket, replaced by Duke.  The biggest difference is that Duke has shown it can win away from home (Columbus excluded).  Its top four wins are all away from Cameron.

That said, I'm not optimistic for Duke long term unless they get their defense fixed.

Kansas is also pushing for the top line, but at the moment, the loss to Davidson separates them.

North Carolina and Michigan State could still get there as well.  It's a very competitive top of the bracket still for this late in the season.

Baylor is not likely to find itself as a one-seed again this season.  I have the Bears down to a three this week after they got smoked at Missouri over the weekend.

The SEC is a muddle.  Florida has now been swept by Tennessee and has only one of its eight top 100 RPI wins away from home.  The Gators are 2-5 in road games and have four of their next five on the road.

The first of those games is at Alabama.  Alabama's roster issues could give the committee fits.  With four starters suspended, the Tide lost at LSU over the weekend.  Two of those starters will return for the Florida game tonight, but leading scorer JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell are still out.

The committee does consider missing players when doing selections and (moreso) seeding.  A team has to have the credentials to get picked regardless of your roster situation during the season.  They won't take a 17-15 team that was missing its leading scorer for 10 games, even if they lost all 10.  The committee cannot assume a result would have been different if the roster was at full strength.  A team might get seeded a little higher in that situation if it is at full strength going into the tournament.

The opposite is also true.  A team losing a key player for the season might get seeded lower if it doesn't play as well without him, but still merits selection.  There are numerous examples of this in the past.   The most recent would be when Purdue was docked a little after Robbie Hummel's (first) knee injury in 2010.

The bottom of the Big Ten is still muddled as well.  Purdue picked up a key win over Northwestern over the weekend, completing the regular season sweep of the Cats.  Illinois continues to fade, now having lost six of seven after dropping a game at Michigan.  The Illini host Purdue tomorrow in what has to be considered a must win.  Illinois goes to Nebraska and Ohio St after that.

It would make sense that at some point, one of those Big Ten teams will fall off the bracket.  Maybe two.  Right now, nobody is really stepping up to take their spots.

The Pac 12 looks for all the world like a one-bid league this year.  That may or may not happen, but it's hard to build an at-large case when nobody can pick up a top 50 RPI win without beating league-leader Cal.  The league has five RPI top 100 teams, and none of them has a non-conference win over a team in the top 50 of the RPI, or over an at-large quality team in the bracket. 

Today's fun fact: All nine Big Ten teams in the bracket rate higher in the RPI than every Pac 12 team except Cal.


Posted on: February 13, 2012 7:47 am
 

Baylor bombs and other bracket notes

I think we can safely say, without fear of contradiction, that Baylor is the third banana in the Big 12.  The Bears got blown out at Missouri, dropping them to 0-4 against the Tigers and Kansas.  Only one of those four losses was competitive.

For Baylor, a profile that looked worthy of a top seed a week ago now looks closer to a 3-seed than a one.

The Bears figure to get at least one more shot at the top two in the conference tournament.

I had been reluctant to put Ohio State on the top line of the bracket because they have been the No. 1 seed version of a home court hero.  The Buckeyes had been nothing short of invincible in Columbus, but struggled to beat decent teams on the road.  Finally, last weekend, they got the road monkey off their backs with a win at Wisconsin, but suddenly this week, they looked mortal at home.  Purdue put a real scare in them Wednesday night, and then Michigan State took their lunch money on Saturday.  Ohio State's stay on the top line may be short.

The Spartans pulled into a tie for first in the Big Ten with the win.  The league may end up with a four-loss champion and without a No. 1 seed, but is still likely to put the most teams in the bracket in March.  Well, among conferences with fewer than 16 teams.

It looks like Florida may have let Kentucky beat them twice.  The Gators seemed a bit hungover from their trip to Lexington in a home loss to Tennessee.  They have now been swept by the Vols and play four of their next five on the road.

The first of those is against what's left of Alabama.  Three more of the Tide have been suspended indefintiely, including leading scorer JaMychal Green.  Bama is without four of its starters and its tournament hopes are in serious doubt.

It was a rough weekend for some of the better non-majors too.

Creighton got blown up at home by Wichita State and has now lost three in a row.

Iona lost a battle for first place at Loyola in the Metro Atlantic on Friday, but the Greyhounds gave it back by losing at home to Fairfield on Sunday.

In the Horizon, Cleveland State lost at home to Valparaiso on Thursday, putting the Crusaders a half-game up in the league standings.  On Saturday, Valpo lost to Youngstown State for the first time in 16 games, but Butler won at CSU, so the Crusaders are still up for now.
Posted on: February 10, 2012 11:48 am
Edited on: February 10, 2012 11:50 am
 

Feb. 10 bracket

Today's bracket is up, and for the first time in a couple weeks, there is a change at the top.  Baylor is gone after another blowout loss to KansasOhio State has moved up to take the Bears' place.

Duke's win over North Carolina has the Blue Devils making a push for the top line as well, but home losses to Florida State and Miami are still too much to overcome.

Murray State suffered its first loss of the season last night at home to Tennessee State.  That dropped them down to a five-seed in today's bracket.  Every Racers' loss, with the possible exception of one to St. Mary's, will have an increasing, negative effect on their seed.  It might only take three or four bad losses, including one in the Ohio Valley tournament, of course, to knock them out of the field altogether.

I think the best comparison to a past team right now is the 1998 Princeton team that went 25-1.  The fifth-seeded Tigers' only loss that year was to No. 1 North Carolina, so obviously, that is a much better loss than Murray's.  However Princeton beat only one top 50 RPI team that season, and nobody that made the tournament.

There is also a comparisons being made to the 2006 George Washington team that finished 26-2 and was an 8-seed, but their seed suffered because of an injury to star Pops Mensah-Bonsu.

The teams that were either a three or four seed in Tuesday's bracket went 1-5 since then.  Michigan State was the only winner, while Georgetown, Florida, Murray State, Creighton and St. Mary's all lost.

Florida State took a dive after losing at Boston College, dropping down to a 9-seed.  The Seminoles had been playing much better lately, but a third bad loss really hurts their tournament profile.
Cal replaces Washington again at the leader of the Pac 12, which still shows only one bid at the moment.  The Huskies got drilled at Oregon last night.

And finally, a reminder of how I make those conference leader decisions for the bracket.  The conference leader is designated as the team with the fewest conference losses.  Ties are broken by RPI.  As a Northwest Indiana guy, I'm as excited as anyone that Valparaiso beat Cleveland State last night to take a half-game lead on the Vikings in the Horizon League.  However, CSU still has a better RPI, so the Vikes are still listed as the leader and in the bracket.  I do it this way because it's the most likely way to get each league's best team into the projection.  Once conference tournament seeding is decided, I go with the top seed remaining.


Posted on: February 7, 2012 12:38 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2012 12:45 pm
 

Feb. 7 bracket

Today's bracket is up with very little change at the top.  The top two lines are the same, and only 3-seed Georgetown moved more than one-line up to join the top 16.  The Hoyas were a five-seed last week.  Florida also moved up one spot to a four-seed.  The Gators have a big opportunity to make a splash tonight at overall No. 1 Kentucky.

Ohio State continues to push for a spot on the top line.  The Buckeyes have some good wins, over a little better quality teams than Baylor, but has losses to Illinois and Indiana and just picked up their first win of any significance outside of Columbus last weekend when they beat Wisconsin.  Almost all of Baylor's best wins have come away from home, and the Bears worst loss came at Kansas.  That's Ohio State's best loss.  So, Baylor still holds on for now.

Marquette dropped a couple spots after getting blown out at Notre Dame.  The Irish continue their climb in the bracket.  They moved up to an 11-seed after being slotted in a First Four game last week.

I can't get Seton Hall out of the bracket yet, despite the Pirates' best effort to fall out.  Their six-game losing streak is troublesome, but they do not have a loss to a triple-digit RPI team yet (Villanova is close though).  The Hall needs to right the ship against Rutgers tomorrow.

Northwestern is also still in the bracket after a bounce-back week that included a win over Nebraska and also at Illinois.  That pick got a lot of criticism last week because at the time, the Cats were 2-6 in the league.  Keep in mind though that conference record and conference standings are not relevant to the selection process.  Teams are judged on their entire seasons, not just the conference part, and it doesn't get any special weight.  Conference record is just a number.  And with the unbalanced schedules most leagues play (ridiculously so in the Big East), standings aren't very useful.

I've been talking most of the last month or so about how if a team in the Big Ten is going to drop out of tournament contention, it would likely come from the group of Northwestern, Purdue or Minnesota, but keep an eye on the Fading Illini.  Illinois has lost four of its last five, including two at home, but get a load of their next five games: at Indiana, at Michigan, home vs Purdue, at Nebraska, which has beaten IU at home already, and at Ohio State.  ouchie.  The Illini have picked a bad time to slump.

Oklahoma's stay in the bracket was short lived after home losses to Iowa State and MissouriOle Miss is also gone.  Those two were replaced in the at-large pool by Miami, which won at Duke, and BYU, who crawls back in after beating Gonzaga.

Washington has taken over Cal's spot as the Pac 12 leader, and Drexel is in from the Colonial, in place of George Mason.

We're used to seeing the CAA produce at-large quality champions, and occasionally, multiple bids, but this is a down year for the league.  Only VCU and Drexel are in the RPI top 100, and just barely (86 and 85 respectively).  It's arguably the league's worse season since 1999-2000.  I have the Dragons as a 15-seed today.

The Pac 12 has only one time in the RPI top 50 -- for now.  Cal fell to 48th after losing at home to Arizona this week.  The league has struggled the last two years, but still ranked 7th.  This year, it's down to 10th, and is a miserable 1-31 vs the RPI top 50 (Stanford over Colorado State on Nov. 15).  It's hard to build a case for an at-large bid for anyone based on that performance.  The top three teams in the league are all on the road for two games this weekend, so we could have another mess come next week.


Posted on: February 6, 2012 11:18 am
Edited on: February 6, 2012 11:53 am
 

Weekend winners and losers

Here is a look at the teams that helped and hurt themselves significantly this weekend. 

Winners:

Missouri -- The big win over Kansas will be a big help in the battle to be a No. 1 seed.  Of course, those two will play again.  Maybe twice more.

Ohio State and Indiana -- Both teams picked up their first significant road wins of the season.  The Buckeyes won at Wisconsin and IU beat Purdue at Mackey.

Notre Dame -- The Irish continued their resurgance with a 76-59 pounding of Marquette, which had won seven straight.  Notre Dame's winning streak is up to four, and all four are quality wins.

Memphis -- After struggling against better non-conference foes, the Tigers picked up a big comeback win over Xavier.  That is arguably their best non-conference win.  However, the Tigers also won at Miami, a win that looks a lot better today...

Miami -- The Hurricanes won at Duke for their fourth straight win, and easily their best of the season.  It puts Miami squarely in the tournament chase.

Northwestern -- Just when you thought they were dead after losing at home to Purdue last weekend, they went to Champaign and beat Illinois yesterday.

Losers:

Seton Hall -- The freefall continues.  A 23-point loss at Connecticut is the Pirates sixth straight defeat.

Dayton -- Speaking of freefalling, it's an annual ritual for the Flyers.  Their loss to Saint Louis over the weekend was their fourth in a row.

Purdue -- Losing at home to Indiana is never good for the Boilers, but their inabilitly to defend the home floor against tournament quality opposition may send them to the NIT.

Arkansas -- Lost at LSU and still looking for its first win outside Fayetteville.

Xavier -- The Muskies lost an opportunity at Memphis and have now lost three of five with a difficult stretch of the schedule coming up soon.

Oklahoma -- The Sooners have been on thin ice at best, but a home loss to Iowa State means the climb back to tournament contention may be too big a task.

Nevada -- The Wolf Pack still leads the WAC, but a home loss to Idaho may mean they have to beat Iona in the bracket buster to resuscitate any at-large chances they may have had.



Posted on: February 1, 2012 1:18 pm
 

Feb. 1 bracket

It's February, the home stretch of the season, and today's bracket features a lot of teams going in the wrong direction.

West Virginia lost three times since the last bracket was posted, and fell six spots this week.  The Mountaineers lost at St. John's and at home to suddenly resurgent Pittsburgh, sandwiched around that controversial loss at Syracuse.

Seton Hall is also fading fast.  The Hall got off to a great start this season, but now has lost five in a row.  To make matters worse, the opponents that mark their best wins - UConn, West Virginia and Dayton - are also struggling.

The Huskies have lost three i row and five of their last seven.  The addition of Ryan Boatright should help, once he works his way into form.

It's not all bad news for the Big East, along with Pitt, Notre Dame is coming on and has crawled onto the bracket in the PIGs.  The Irish have very little margin for error though.  Despite a nice collection of wins (Syracuse at home, and at Louisville, UConn and Seton Hall), they are only 7-8 vs the top 200 teams in the RPI, and that's a very negative indicator for tournament selection.

Northwestern is stll hanging on by a thread after a loss to Purdue at home this week (a much needed win for the Boilers, by the way).  The best thing working for the Cats is that Purdue is the lowest rated team to beat them this year, and they have a couple good wins, although one of them -- Seton Hall -- looks worse every day.

Honestly, the fact that Notre Dame and Northwestern, along with Colorado State and Oklahoma, which round out the First Four, are in a bracket is reason enough to go back to the 64-team field.

Florida made the biggest move up this week by filling in a couple of holes in their tournament profile.  Their sweep of the Mississippi schools, including a win at Ole Miss, gave them two more top 50 RPI wins (three total now) and their first win of any consequence away from home.

Dropping off the bracket this week were BYU, Texas, Marshall, UCF and NC State.  Coming on were Notre Dame, Colorado State, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Saint Louis.  All ten belong in the NIT.

Dayton almost fell off too after losing twice this week, including a real head-scratcher at home to RPI No. 263 Rhode Island.

Michigan State lost more than a game to Illinois last night.  The Spartans' heart and soul, Draymond Green, limped off the floor late with an apparent knee injury.  If that is serious and causes him to miss significant time, that will be a big blow to Michigan State's chances of a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

The highest rated team in the RPI not in my bracket is No. 47 Arkansas.  The Hogs are the ultimate Home Court Hero, with a 16-1 home record.  The Hogs are 16-0 in Fayetteville, and lost to Houston in Little Rock, which the NCAA considers a home game.  They are the only team in college basketball with at least a .500 record that has yet to win off its home floor.

The next bracket will be posted on Tuesday as we move to a twice-a-week schedule.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com