Bracketology: Duke, Virginia headed opposite ways as Selection Sunday nears

A new bracket is up this morning, and as we approach three weeks until selection Sunday, I want to feature a few teams that are trending one way or the other. 

Moving Up

Duke Blue Devils

The Blue Devils have won six in a row and have gone from a No. 6 seed just a few weeks ago to a No. 3 seed in Friday’s updated bracket.  Duke was the preseason No. 1 team in the polls, but has struggled to live up to those expectations, largely due to injuries.  It has only been a few weeks since the Blue Devils had everyone healthy who would have been expected to be part of the regular rotation.  

It hasn’t always been pretty, but it now looks like Duke is starting to round into form.  That is bad news for the rest of the ACC.  The Blue Devils have a schedule that gives them an opportunity to still make a run at a No. 1 seed, but there is not much of a margin for error in that chase.  Regardless, it looks now like Duke will be a threat to win it all no matter where it ends up being seeded.

Michigan Wolverines

The Wolverines have won three straight, all against teams that have helped their tournament resume.  While the win on Thursday against Wisconsin is their highest quality win, the most important one came at Indiana on Sunday.  That was Michigan’s first road win of the season, and the Wolverines are going to need more of those if they are to stay in the bracket.  They play four of their last five games on the road, including games at Minnesota and Northwestern.  The one home game is against Purdue, so even that will not be easy.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

The Irish lost four in a row during a difficult stretch of their ACC schedule, but have now bounced back to win three straight.  That includes a home win over Florida State, which is Notre Dame’s sixth top-50 win.  The upcoming schedule for the Irish gives them a pretty good chance to extend that streak to six before they visit Louisville in the regular season finale.

Moving Down

Virginia Cavaliers

Remember when Virginia was a No. 3 seed in the selection committee’s bracket on Saturday?  The Cavaliers have lost twice since, at Virginia Tech and at home to Duke.  They have now lost four of their last six games.  Obviously, those last two losses are not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but in a competitive part of the bracket, they have caused Virginia to drop a couple of lines.  Things don’t get any easier for the Wahoos.  They are at North Carolina next in the first of a home-and-home.

South Carolina Gamecoscks

USC-East seems intent on playing the middle of the SEC into the bracket.  The Gamecocks have lost consecutive home games to Alabama and Arkansas, sandwiched around a win on the road at league bottom-feeder Mississippi State, and that was only a four-point win.   The wins for the Tide and Hogs have breathed new life into otherwise pedestrian tournament profiles.  Arkansas is actually in the bracket as of now.  Alabama can consider itself on the bubble.  Meanwhile, South Carolina is sliding down the bracket.

Dayton Flyers

Movement up and down the bracket is never based solely on what a team does.  What other teams do also matters.  Sometimes, it has to do with what other teams around you in the bracket do, and sometimes, it has to do with what teams you have played previously do.  Dayton has dropped in the bracket some due to things that are not of their own doing.  

The Flyers keep winning and are still tied with VCU atop the Atlantic 10, but some teams around them have picked up some big wins lately, notably Michigan and Seton Hall.  Also, the best team Dayton has beaten this season, Rhode Island, just took a horrible loss at home to Fordham, which knocked the Rams out of the bracket.  That damaged Dayton’s profile too.  The Flyers cannot control what other teams do, but it will be hard to move up on its own accord because they only have one team left on their schedule that helps them in any significant way – VCU.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Jerry Palm started writing about sports on the Internet right after Al Gore invented it. He was the first to bring RPI out in the open and is one of the pioneers of predicting the March Madness bracket.... Full Bio

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