Posted on: January 27, 2011 1:51 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2011 1:52 pm

The States of Ohio and San Diego

by Jerry Palm

So, no sooner do I go and write that nobody has separated themselves from the rest of the pack at the top of the bracket , then Ohio State beats Purdue 87-64 in a game that wasn't as close as the score would indicate.  I felt going into that game that even if the Buckeyes lost, they would still be a No. 1 seed in the next bracket, perhaps even still the overall No. 1.  After that beatdown, they are the team that has stepped forward and staked claim to that seed in March as well.  Barring injury, there's no realistic reason to think Ohio State won't be on the top line on selection Sunday.

San Diego State lost last night to BYU 71-58 in the lastest episode of The Jimmer Show.  That game was acutally closer than the score would indicate, but it knocked the Aztecs from the ranks of the unbeaten, leaving only the Buckeyes.  It also likely knocked them from the top line of the bracket, and in fact, behind BYU on the S-Curve (the 1-68 ranking of teams in the tournament).

I realize Syracuse isn't a state (OK, neither is San Diego -- I studied math, not geography), but it would be wrong to ignore the slump the Orange find themselves in at the moment.  They are sliding fast down the brackt with every home loss.  They're at Marquette this weekend and at UConn after that.  That's not exactly what you'd call a slump-busting schedule.  Too many more losses and we'll soon be comparing them to Texas from last year.

Posted on: January 25, 2011 5:01 pm

Video: Breaking down the bracket (Jan. 25)

by Jerry Palm

Getting grilled about the Big East, Mountain West, Pac 10, Colonial, Gonzaga and Butler .

Posted on: January 25, 2011 11:39 am
Edited on: January 25, 2011 3:03 pm

Jan. 25 Bracket - Tight Battles at the Top

by Jerry Palm

Today's bracket has been posted.  The battle for No. 1 seeds is tighter this year than we have seen in a long time.

Usually, even by this time of the season, we'll have a pretty good idea who at least one or two of the No. 1 seeds are going to be in the final bracket on Selection Sunday.  Someone will be so dominant that nothing short of an injury would derail them.  This year, that's not really the case.  Here is a look at the contenders.

Duke -- The Blue Devils are back on the top line in this week's bracket and have the best chance of staying there.  The reason for that is because the rest of their league is at least a step-and-a-half behind them, so it will be a reasonably significant upset every time they get beat.  If that happens.

Ohio State -- The undefeated, top-rated Buckeyes have been playing with fire lately, with five of their last six wins coming by single-digit margins.  They still have plenty of landmines ahead, including home-and-homes with Purdue (starting tonight) and Wisconsin .

San Diego State
-- Undefeated and maybe under-respected, the Aztecs can start building some of that respect tomorrow at BYU .  Win or lose, they are likely to be favored every time they take the floor from here on out.

Kansas -- Texas knocked the Jayhawks off their perch in the Big 12 on Saturday.  They are 11-0 against NIT-quality teams (a few of which may end up in the NCAAs anyway) and 0-1 vs NCAA-quality teams.  They'll get some chances to make statements still against Missouri and Texas A&M .

Connecticut , Pittsburgh , Syracuse , Villanova -- The top of the Big East is loaded again.  Any of these could be No. 1 seeds, and it wouldn't be a big surprise if two of them are.  Which ones is harder to predict, but the Orange are behind the curve just slighly having already lost to Pitt and Nova.  Nobody has more top 25 RPI wins right now than UConn, which has five.  Pitt, Notre Dame and Texas have four each.  Maybe the Irish could play their way into this group too eventually.

BYU - It's hard to think of the No. 1 team in the RPI as a longshot for a No. 1 seed, but they probably are.  Like San Diego State, the Cougars don't have a high-quality non-conference win, and don't have too many chances to get them in the league, except against the Aztecs.  That means that for both of those teams, a gaudy record will be required to compete for a spot on the top line.

Purdue is up a couple of spots this week to a 3-seed after beating Michigan State and filling a hole in their tournament profile.  The Boilers can really make some noise if they knock off Ohio State tonight.

Cincinnati has crept up to a five-seed after winning at St. John's Xavier 's ascent to the top of the Atlantic 10 has helped too.  The Red Storm has dropped into the dreaded 8-9 game after an 0-2 week that also included at loss at Louisville .

Gonzaga would probably be happy to be in an 8-9 game, like they were in last week's bracket.  Now, the Zags are in a First Four game against Miami after losses at Santa Clara and San Francisco last week.

Nobody has fallen harder than UCF though, which just two weeks ago was undefeated and 14th in the RPI.  Now, they are on a four-game losing streak and down to 64th.  The Knights lost at home to East Carolina and Rice this week and fell from a 7-seed to out of the bracket entirely.

Posted on: January 22, 2011 9:32 am

Bracket Impact Games

by Jerry Palm

Everyone already has this week's big games on their radar: Texas-Kansas, Tennessee-Connecticut and Villanova-Syracuse.  Here are some other, under-the-radar games today that have potential bracket implications.

Michigan State at Purdue.  It's hard to call a game being played at the site of Gameday "under-the-radar," but this one can't be ignored.  Purdue doesn't have a quality win all year.  The Spartans are in danger of losing any realistic hope of the conference title.  Both teams need this one.  Badly.

Arizona at Washington State.  These two were in my First Four last week, and the Wildcats are coming off a loss at Washington.  They are a team with a gaudy record, but very little accomplishment.

Boston College at Florida State.  Show of hands -- who circled this on their calendars back in November as a battle for first place in the ACC?  Me neither.  Neither is a sure at-large team yet, so a win today will really help.

Cincinnati at St. John's.  The Bearcats have yet to beat a sure tournament team, and winning today wouldn't change that, but it would still be their best win of the season.

Temple at Xavier.  Temple is the A-10 favorite, but the Owls will fall two games back in the league if they don't win today.  Xavier probably needs the win more than Temple does for its tournament resume.

BYU at Colorado State.  The Cougars better not get caught looking ahead to Wednesday's San Diego State game because the Rams are coming off a win at UNLV and pushing for a spot in the field.

St. Mary's at Vanderbilt.  The Gaels have quietly climbed to 17-2.  It's been a quiet climb because their only win of note came at home over St. John's.  They haven't won a road game like this in their recent run of success, so a win today isn't just a statement to the committee, it's a statement for the program.

Oklahoma State at Baylor.  If Baylor is ever going to make a run for the NCAA tournament, and start playing to the leve of its talent, today is the day to start.  The Bears are 0-5 vs the RPI top 100.   They have a lot of catching up to do.  The Cowboys' tournament status is far from solid also, so they cannot afford to let down.

Kansas State at Texas A&M.  The Wildcats were the preseason favorite in the Big 12, but now they are just trying to hang on and get into the NCAA tournament.  They don't have a RPI top 50 win yet.  Getting one on the road today would be big.

VCU at Old Dominion.  ODU is the best at-large candidate in the Colonial, but probably needs to win the league to have a shot.  VCU and Hofstra are a game ahead of the Monarchs at the moment.

Memphis at UAB.  If C-USA is going to be a two-bid league, that second bid is coming from either Memphis or UCF.  The Tigers need to win today or those hopes are in trouble.

Creighton at Missouri State and Indiana State at Wichita State.  MSU and ISU are co-leaders in the Valley after the Sycamores beat the Bears earlier this week.  The Shockers were the preseason favorite though.  For the Valley to put two teams in the field, there probably needs to be a clear champion.  MSU probably has the best chance of getting that doesn.

Posted on: January 18, 2011 10:07 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2011 10:27 pm

What about Wichita St., Colorado?

by Jerry Palm

Most of the comments about this week's bracket have to do with teams I did not include: Wichita State and Colorado.

Wichita State has a huge, gaping hole in its tournament resume.  The Shockers have yet to beat a top 100 RPI team.  Not one.  Their best win at the moment is over 112th ranked Tulsa.

History shows you need at least 3 top 100 RPI wins to get in the field, and if you only have three, you need at least one top 50 win.  It's January, so expecting at least three right now might be a little much, but I don't think one is too much to ask.  Teams without at least one don't even get on my board.  So, the Shockers and their 42nd-ranked RPI didn't even rate a spot "on the fence."

Northwestern -- same thing.

The MVC may not give them as many chances as it normally might either.  Missouri State and Northern Iowa are the only other top 100 RPI teams in the Valley at the moment.

Colorado is a different story.  Quality wins aren't a problem.  They beat Mizzou and Oklahoma State at home, and won at Kansas State.  One of the Buffaloes' problems (prior to tonight's loss to Nebraska, which was not a factor in this week's bracket) is that they are only 5-4 against the top 200 of the RPI, which is just mediocre, and includes losses to San Francisco and New Mexico.  A bigger issue is the 300th-ranked non-conference strength of schedule.  If you are going to take the first two months of the season off, you have to be WAY in the bracket otherwise because even with a more bloated field, the committee is going to leave teams like that out if they can.  Colorado is going to have to do very well in the conference to make up for that.

Posted on: January 18, 2011 2:14 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2011 3:29 pm

January 18 Bracket - Changes at the Top

by Jerry Palm

A new bracket is available again this morning.

There is a change at the top.  Losses by Duke and Syracuse have dropped them down from the top line.  They have been replaced by Pitt, which beat the Orange on Monday, and San Diego State.

There is actually a case for Syracuse to keep that fourth spot.  Certainly, its loss to Pittsburgh is better than the Panthers' loss to Tennessee in Pittsburgh (but not on their home floor).  The Orange were also without their leading scorer, Kris Joseph, which is something the committee would consider.  However, Pitt has a better collection of wins (4 top 20 teams), so for now, the Panthers rate a slight edge.

Arizona cracked the top 25 of the coaches poll this week because of a gaudy record and a name program, but the Wildcats have only just barely cracked the bottom of my bracket.  They have only three top 100 wins, all at home against teams not a threat to make the bracket as at-large teams.  They also managed to lose to one of the worst teams in a major conference, Oregon State.  It's a very similar profile to Florida State's, despite a big RPI difference.  FSU is 67th and Arizona is 28th.  The biggest difference is that the Seminoles played a handful of 200-250 RPI teams, while Arizona played several in the 150-200 range.  Those two are bracketed to play each other in the First Four.

Purdue and Washington are teams that are not living up to their rankings.  The Boilers lost twice on the road last week, although they did manage to pick up a their first top 50 RPI win of the season.  Valparaiso, which Purdue beat back in December, has crawled up to 49th.  Purdue was competitive in both losses at Minnesota and West Virginia, but it's about time for the Boilers to start racking up quality wins.

Fortunately for them, they're in the Big Ten, where they get a chance at quality wins pretty much ever week.  Washington isn't as lucky.  Although the Pac 10 isn't quite as bad as it was a year ago, there is still only two top 50 RPI teams, the Huskies and Arizona.  Also, Washington didn't pick up any quality non-conference wins (Portland at home is the best), which means it's tougher to build a case for a good seed, or if things go a little badly, selection.

Posted on: January 16, 2011 1:51 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2011 1:55 pm

WAC Automaic Bid Will Survive

by Jerry Palm

New NCAA legislation that passed this week will ensure that the WAC will retain its automatic bid to the NCAA tournament in basketball.  It was in danger of being stripped after the many defections from the WAC to the Mountain West because of a lack of "continuity of membership."  The new rules that were passed this week relax those restrictions.  A conference must now have at least seven active members that sponsor men's basketball, as well as six that sponsor at least five other men's sports.

The WAC loses Boise State to the Mountain West after this season, and Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii will depart after the 2011-12 season.  The league has already announced the addition of Texas State, Texas-San Antonio and Denver (non-football member) for the 2012-13 season, giving it seven members, assuming nobody else defects.

That's not a given, which is why commissioner Karl Benson isn't standing pat.  The San Antonio Express-News reported this week that the league was likely to add more teams from a list of candidates that includes Cal-Davis, Cal Poly, Cal St Bakersfield, Lamar, Louisiana-Lafayette, Portland State, Sam Houston State, Seattle and Utah Valley State.  Only UL-Lafayette currently plays Division I-A football.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 14, 2011 8:46 am
Edited on: January 14, 2011 9:37 am

FSU, SEC and Purdue

by Jerry Palm

Florida State, which somehow, some way, managed to lose to Auburn earlier this season, also somehow, some way, managed to beat Duke on Wednesday.  So, does this mean the Seminoles are tournament worthy?  Not necessarily.

That is the one and only top 100 RPI win for Florida State in five tries.  Although, Baylor may eventually get back into the top 100.  The Seminoles also played a poor non-conference schedule.  They have a long way to go to prove that Duke game wasn't just a blind pig finding an ear of corn.

Speaking of Auburn, they are a major part of what is quite possibly the worst division ever in a major conference.  The Tigers themselves are on pace to become the lowest-rated RPI team ever from one of the Big Six leagues.  Oregon State finished 269th in 2008, but Auburn is sitting at 310th this morning.  And since the Tigers are in the SEC West, it's going to be difficult to improve much on that RPI, even if they somehow get lucky and win a few games.  If the West were a league by itself, it would rank 15th in conference RPI, right below the Ivy League.  It will be a surprise if any team in that division manages to snag an at-large bid.

I get a lot of questions about Purdue's seed in my bracket because I have the Boilers in the 4-5 range despite their top 10 ranking.  I have been reluctant to get on the Boiermaker Special because they have yet to even play a top 50 RPI team, let alone beat one.

Purdue got its chance last night, and although the Boilers played well, they came up short at Minnesota.  At least everyone got on the bus to go home with their ACLs in one piece.   Purdue will get another chance on Sunday at West Virginia.

Their seven top 100 RPI wins is enough to merit a top 25 seed for now, but until they start beating some top 50 teams, it's hard to justify putting them among the elite.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or