Bracketology: Big 12 has 2 No. 1 seeds, places 6 teams in NCAA Tournament field
The ACC has eight teams in Jerry Palm's bracket, but the Big 12 has four No. 3 seeds or better
After the chaos of the last couple of weeks in college basketball, it was nice to have a relatively stable weekend. A matchup of a two of the top teams in the Big 12 caused a switch on the top line of Monday's bracket, but that was the only change at the top. Texas Tech came back at home to defeat West Virginia and switched spots with the Mountaineers. The Red Raiders are now the fourth overall No. 1 seed, while West Virginia dropped down to the No. 2 seed line.
Here's a look at some of the top conferences and which teams they have in the latest projected bracket.
Big 12 (6)
Oklahoma, Kansas, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia
It's been a great season for the Big 12, which is arguably the best and deepest conference. The league places four teams on the first three lines of the bracket. Oklahoma, led by freshman phenom Trae Young, is also a No. 1 seed in the current bracket. Kansas, which has won a dozen straight league regular season titles, is a No. 3 seed despite three surprising home losses. There are very good teams beyond those four though.
TCU is having a great year, but struggling to find wins in conference play. The Horned Frogs have already played three overtime games in Big 12 action and are 1-2 in those games. They lost their other two league contests by a total of 5 points. TCU could just as easily be 5-0 as 1-4.
Virginia, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Louisville, Miami, North Carolina, Notre Dame
The ACC has the most bids with eight and a top seed in Virginia. Duke and Clemson are both No. 3 seeds for the moment. Both teams only have two losses, but each of them is to a non-tournament team. Clemson's win over Big Ten leader Ohio State looks better every week, while the Blue Devils' win over Michigan State looks worse. North Carolina also has a win over the Buckeyes.
There is a gap between those four teams and the rest of the league. Notre Dame, in particular, is suffering with its two best players out of the lineup. The Irish are hoping to get senior Matt Farrell back shortly, but preseason all-American candidate Bonzie Colson may not be back before March, if at all. Louisville, Miami and Florida State are also in the bracket and NC State is making a push for consideration.
Big East (7)
Villanova, Butler, Creighton, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, Xavier
The Big East is every bit as deep as the Big 12, but not quite as strong at the top. Nobody seems ready to challenge overall No. 1 seed Villanova for the conference title, but there are some pretty good, if not great teams behind the Wildcats. Xavier, Creighton and Seton Hall are all top 25 level teams, with Butler not far behind. Marquette and Providence are also in the bracket, running the conference's total to seven teams out of its ten. That is the greatest percentage of members in the bracket of any league.
The SEC is one of the deeper leagues, but does not have the strength at the top of these other leagues. Auburn has the nation's longest winning streak at 14 and is a No. 2 seed in this bracket, but is not yet getting the respect of pollsters. The Tigers have a win at Tennessee, which is pretty good, but they lack the elite win that will grab everyone's attention. That may not be possible to obtain in the SEC this year.
That said, the league is much improved over the past few years and could put half the teams in the NCAA Tournament. The question will be whether any of them will be able to make a deep tournament run. Kentucky and Tennessee are No. 4 seeds, but no other team is seeded higher than No. 7. The league also has three of the first four teams out, so there figures to be a lot of shuffling in and out of the bracket by several of the conference's teams over the last couple of months. Texas A&M is one of those first four out and is another team struggling with missing starters. If the Aggies get back to full strength, they have shown that they are capable of beating anyone.
Arizona, Arizona State, Southern California, UCLA, Washington
The Pac-12 is struggling to match the numbers of the other major conferences. The Pac-12 has five teams in the bracket, but none seeded higher than No. 5 Arizona. Arizona State, which has dropped back after a hot start to the season, is the only other team in the top half of the bracket. UCLA, USC and Washington are each a short losing streak from falling out. There are not many other contenders for bracket positions beyond the five teams that are already in it.
Big Ten (4)
Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State
The Big Ten has a team pushing for a No. 1 seed, but it is not the team that was expected to when the season started. Purdue has been on a roll since a Thanksgiving siesta in the Bahamas, winning 13 in a row, and is the top No. 2 seed in the latest bracket. Michigan State, a preseason Final Four choice of many, has lost two of three and looked bad doing it. Even the win, which came over Rutgers in OT at home, was underwhelming. Ohio State and Michigan have been coming on strong, but beyond that, it's hard to find tournament candidates. Maryland is the next best, but has not played well against better opposition. The Terps get a crack at Michigan on Monday.
American Athletic Conference (3)
Wichita State, Cincinnati, Houston
The only other league with more than two teams in the bracket – and the only other one with a realistic chance of having that also be true in March – is the American Athletic Conference. The addition of Wichita State, plus better depth overall, has improved the league's tournament prospects this season. Last year, the conference had six teams in the top 100 of the RPI, but the other five were ranked below 200. This season, eight teams start today in the RPI top 100 and only two are below 125. That shows in the bracket, where the Shockers are solidly on the two-line and Cincinnati comes in at a No. 5 seed. Houston is also in the bracket and UCF is not far away. Temple has the No. 1 overall schedule and wins over Auburn and Clemson, but at 8-9, the Owls are a long winning streak from making a run at the field.
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