A new bracket is up with no change at the top or the bottom. The top three seeds in each region are the same as on Monday with no major upsets this week and no big wins to move teams around. The last four in the field are also the same as on Monday, although there are some new names among the first four out.
However, three teams fell two seeds in the middle of the bracket. Two of those have been steadily dropping, while the third cannot seem to find any consistency.
That third team is Alabama. The Crimson Tide is relying largely on two highly regarded freshmen in Collin Sexton and John Petty, so it is no surprise that consistency is hard to come by. The Tide have been something of a home court hero in that all of their best wins have come on the home floor. The most recent of those was against Oklahoma on Saturday in the SEC-Big 12 challenge. However, they also have three home losses to teams that they should be able to beat. Missouri knocked them off at Coleman Coliseum on Thursday night and that has pushed Alabama down the bracket again.
Alabama is only 1-4 on the road, with that win coming at LSU on Jan. 13. The Crimson Tide have a very daunting schedule ahead of them that includes four out of six on the road. Three of those road opponents are Florida, Auburn and Kentucky. One of the two home games is against Tennessee. Alabama is going to have to navigate this part of the schedule well or the Tide may fall off the bracket entirely.
Arizona State has been a surprise team all season long. The Sun Devils took college basketball by storm in the early going, winning their first 12 games, including a neutral court win over Xavier and a victory at Phog Allen Fieldhouse over Kansas. The new surprise from ASU is that it has struggled mightily in Pac-12 play. The Sun Devils sit at 4-6 in the league after a loss at Washington on Thursday night. They have been trading losses and wins over the last nine games, which is bad news for their next opponent, Washington State. The Sun Devils finish with five out of seven games at home, so they have a chance to put together a strong end to the season. This is a team that shows that you can make your case for selection and seeding by what you did early as opposed to what you are doing lately.
Wichita State has found life in the American Athletic Conference to be challenging. The Shockers picked up their third league loss at Temple on Thursday night. Temple, by the way, is only 12-10, but has wins over Auburn, Clemson and WSU. Go figure, but I digress. The Shockers tournament resume this season bears some similarities to last year's, when they finished 29-4 and received a No. 10 seed, which is what they deserved. Last year, Wichita lost out of conference to the three best teams they played, all of which were NCAA Tournament teams and did not have a win better than Illinois State, which the Shockers beat two out of three and was an NIT team.
This season, the Shockers are 0-3 in Tier 1 games, plus have a neutral court loss to full-strength Notre Dame, which would likely be a top tier game as well. Unlike last year, Wichita State has eight games in the second quadrant, which is partially due to a better non-conference schedule and partially due to playing in a better league. The Shockers have a win over a team in the bracket -- at home to Houston. They also have a neutral court win over Marquette, which just dropped out of the bracket and may come back. So, while being in the AAC has made it harder to put together a gaudy record, it has afforded Wichita State the chance to build a better tournament resume, and in this case, improve one that is suffering. The Shockers still have two regular season games left with league leader Cincinnati. Games like that were not available to them in the Missouri Valley.