Bracketology update: Kansas still a No. 1 seed, but Duke is closing gap
The Jayhawks might have to win their conference tourney to hold off the Blue Devils
Saturday was the last day of the regular season for every conference that was still playing except for the American, which ends Sunday.
There are no bubble teams in action Sunday, but four conferences will decide their champions, including the Big Ten, where Michigan looks to repeat as champion when it faces Purdue. Also, Cincinnati travels to Wichita State to try to clinch an outright AAC regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the league tournament.
Kansas lost at Oklahoma State, giving the Cowboys a season sweep of the Jayhawks. The Cowboys are the first team in the Big 12 to sweep Kansas in the regular season since Bill Self arrived in Lawrence.
Naturally, Oklahoma State fans believe that sweep of Kansas means that the Cowboys should be in the NCAA tourney, but they still have a long way to go. Even with that sweep and a win at West Virginia, Oklahoma State is just 10-13 against teams in the top three quadrants. No team with that bad of a record against that group has ever received an at-large bid. Heck, the Cowboys are a quadrant-3 team themselves when they play on the road. Their RPI ranking as of Sunday morning is 87, which not only reflects that poor record against competent teams, but also five home losses and a dismal non-conference schedule. Teams with their positives get left out routinely. Teams with their negatives never get in. If they had just beaten Baylor at home, we could be having a different conversation.
The Jayhawks are still holding on to a No. 1 seed in CBS Sports' bracket projections, but they are being challenged by Duke, which came from behind to beat North Carolina and split the season series with the Tar Heels. Kansas is still on the top line because of the high number of quality wins, despite having one more loss than the Blue Devils. That gap is shrinking, though. Kansas may have to win the conference tournament to hold off Duke.
Auburn and Tennessee each celebrated an unlikely conference co-championship in the SEC. Not much was thought of either team before the season, for different reasons, but they each made improbable runs to the top of a much better SEC this season. Auburn is the top seed in the conference tournament due to a win in Knoxville to start conference play.
At the bottom of the NCAA bracket, Texas and Syracuse each picked up big wins to stay in the mix, at least for now. The Longhorns needed overtime to beat West Virginia at home and did so without Mo Bamba, who is still out with an injury. That win pushes the Longhorns to 18-13 overall and gives them a realistic chance to make the field without a crazy Big 12 tournament run. They will play last-place Iowa State, so that is a must-not-lose game.
Syracuse picked up its best win of the season, holding on to beat Clemson. The Orange still have work to do as well in the ACC tournament and will start off facing Wake Forest. A win over the Demon Deacons, which is a must, gives Syracuse a shot at North Carolina. The Orange may need to win that one, too.
Alabama, like Texas, started Saturday at 17-13, but unlike the Longhorns, lost its game to Texas A&M. At 17-14, the Crimson Tide will need to win at least twice in SEC tourney to get much of a discussion for an at-large bid, and even that may not be enough. They will face the Aggies again to open SEC tournament play, and if they win that, No. 1 seed Auburn awaits.
USC fell at home to UCLA, giving the Bruins a season sweep of the Trojans and putting USC on the brink of the NIT. The Trojans are still looking for some higher quality wins -- even another win against a potential tournament team. So far, they have neutral court wins over Middle Tennessee and New Mexico State, and a sweep of Utah. Despite that, USC is the 2-seed in the Pac-12 tournament and will face the winner of Washington and Oregon State. The Trojans may not see a team that can help them much until the tournament final.
Marquette knocked off Creighton to take the final spot in the bracket for the moment, but obviously, that position is precarious. The Golden Eagles swept Seton Hall and the Bluejays this season, but a win over Villanova in a second-round Big East tournament game would be huge. They need to beat DePaul first, the only team to beat Marquette in its last five games.
Butler lost again, this time at Seton Hall, giving the Bulldogs five losses in their last seven games. Butler is just 3-10 vs. Quadrant 1 teams, but two of those wins are at home to Villanova and against Ohio State on a neutral court. The Bulldogs will face the Pirates again to open the Big East tournament and a loss means a nervous selection Sunday.
Louisville lost at NC State in much less painful fashion than Thursday night against Virginia, but it is a damaging loss nonetheless. The Cardinals fell out of the bracket after dropping to 4-12 vs. Q1-2 squads. Even though they have no bad losses, their wins are not good enough to overcome that. Louisville enters the ACC tournament as a 9-seed and faces Florida State for the right to play Virginia. The Cards may need to win both of those games to get into NCAA tourney.
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