Bracketology: Reigning NCAA Tournament champion Virginia, Wisconsin fall out of projected field of 68
The Cavaliers and Badgers aren't in the bracket and Indiana could get some home cooking
A new bracket projection is up, and while you are not likely to see great swings in bracket position from a Monday to a Friday, it can happen and is more likely to in January than in March.
For example, take a look at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights jumped up five lines to a No. 7 seed after beating No. 20 Penn State at home on Tuesday night. They did so in their first game without their best player, Geo Baker. That gives Rutgers a pair of wins over teams seeded fifth in this bracket. The only real blot on the Scarlet Knights' resume is a loss to St. Bonaventure. At some point, Rutgers is going to have to show it can beat good teams away from home, but beating Penn State without Baker is a good sign going forward.
Bracketology top seeds
Tough loss for Lumberjacks: At the other end of the spectrum, we see the fall of Stephen F. Austin. It was probably coming at some point. It wasn't likely that the Lumberjacks were going to get through Southland Conference play undefeated anyway, but a home loss to Texas A&M Corpus Christi, ranked No. 299 in the NET, is a killer. SFA is still a top seed among the automatic qualifiers, but no longer seeded like an at-large team. Iowa tumbled a couple of spots as well after a loss at Nebraska. The Hawkeyes are without Jordan Bohannon, who was lost for the season with a hip injury. Even trying to play through it, he was their fourth-leading scorer. Iowa is 2-2 in his absence and hosts No. 12 Maryland Friday.
Bracketing BYU isn't easy: Among the new teams to the bracket are BYU and St. Mary's, which played each other on Thursday night. That game was won by the host Gaels 87-84 in overtime. It just goes to show that in the bracket, sometimes a team can move up even when it loses. That is because it is not always about you. It is also about how teams around you perform.
One of the more difficult team to bracket is BYU. That is because the Cougars will not play on Sundays due to religious reasons. That means finding a Thursday-Saturday subregional in a Thursday-Saturday region. BYU is seeded to play Illinois in a First Four matchup in Dayton, Ohio, which if it happened, would be the Cougars' third time in the First Four. However, that matchup is supposed to be for a No. 11 seed in the main bracket but there are no sites BYU can play at as a No. 11 seed. So, I swapped that game with Liberty to get BYU a place where they can play.
Home cooking in Indy? You might also notice that Indiana is in the Indianapolis regional as a No. 8 seed. While that may not be much fun for the Hoosiers' opponents should they win the two games it would take to get there, no rules prohibit that. Of course, Butler is also in that subregional as the No. 1 seed and the Bulldogs call Indianapolis home, but the regional is not at Hinkle Fieldhouse, so that is not against the rules either.
Wahoos on outside looking in: BYU did not take a bad loss, unlike, say Virginia, which took yet another one in a 60-53 loss at Boston College on Tuesday and are not in this bracket projection. The Cavaliers are still ranked in the polls and I continue to be baffled as to why. OK, I know why. They are the reigning NCAA Tournament champion and they are 11-3, but none of those 14 opponents are in this bracket, In fact, none are particularly close. All three losses are ugly. I do not do Poll Attacks. That's Gary Parrish's thing, and he does not bash AP Top 25 voters' general judgement, but Virginia's NET ranking of No. 64 is much closer to what they are than their AP ranking of 18.
Badgers on bubble: Wisconsin dropped out of the bracket as well and are the first team out after a loss at home to Illinois, which replaced the Badgers in the field. Wisconsin has played a good schedule and has a few nice wins, including one at Ohio State last week, but the Badgers don't have enough good wins to overcome their 9-6 record. It does not get any easier for Wisconsin. It is not easy for anyone in the Big Ten this year. The Badgers' next three games are on the road at Penn State and Michigan State sandwiched around a home contest with Maryland.
There is no bracket next Monday due to the College Football Playoff championship game. We will have a new feature starting next week though, which I'll alert you to on Twitter when the time comes.
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