A new year means time for a new projected NCAA Tournament bracket. Beginning Friday, January 13th, new brackets will be posted at least every Monday and Friday through the rest of the season. A few notes from this latest one:
Baylor stands alone at the top
The Baylor Bears are the last remaining undefeated team from a power conference, and with a set of wins that include Louisville, Xavier and Oregon, they are the clear choice for the overall No. 1 seed.
Villanova, which suffered its first loss this week at Butler, is still a strong No. 2. UCLA and Kansas are also out in front of what should be a very competitive race for the top line of the bracket throughout the season.
Here is my latest No. 1 seed Power Rankings, factoring in a projection for the remainder of the season.
Gonzaga is also still unbeaten, but with only West Coast conference teams left on the Bulldogs' schedule, they will have a very small margin for error if they hope to eventually end up as a 1-seed.
The Big Ten is a mess
Because of a combination of indifferent play and bad luck, the Big Ten is going to struggle to send a lot of teams to the NCAA tournament this year. When you look for high quality non-conference wins, you won't find many. Indiana has the two biggest wins, which came over Kansas and North Carolina, and Purdue beat Notre Dame in Indianapolis. That's pretty much it. It's hard to determine the league's next best victim. Iowa State? Iowa? Dayton? Nebraska and Northwestern? Middle of the bracket teams, at best.
Wisconsin lost to its two best opponents, Creighton and the Tar Heels. Michigan State, which has had some significant injury issues, played several good teams and beat none of them. What this means is that it is going to be harder to resume build. The ratings of the teams in the league, the number of teams the league gets into the tournament, and their seeds could end up being lower because of this.
And speaking of low ratings...
The strange case of Indiana
The Hoosiers have one of the strangest profiles I've seen in quite some time. They have the aforementioned two great wins. Indiana has also played and lost to three other top 25 teams. Despite that, they have an RPI of 134.
After Kansas and UNC, the next five best teams the Hoosiers have played have beaten them. Losing to Wisconsin, even at home, Louisville and Butler (both in Indianapolis) isn't a big deal. Losing to Nebraska at home is, and moreso losing at Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne. Indiana's next best win after the Tar Heels is Houston Baptist. Their other seven wins have all come to teams in the bottom 75 of the RPI.
That's how you get an RPI that low with two big wins. They played four top 25 teams outside the league and still have not cracked the top 200 in the non-conference strength of schedule rankings. If the Hoosiers continue to play hit-and-miss basketball, they will be a threat to miss the tournament entirely.