Welcome to February! Only six weeks until selection Sunday and a lot can still happen in that time.
A couple of weeks ago, the NCAA announced that because the tournament was going to be held entirely in one location, the bracket would be driven by the S-Curve instead of geography. Because of conference separation rules though, it will still be impossible to avoid making changes that throw off the S-Curve. The bracket I posted Monday came closest to a pure S-Curve for the top four seeds. I only had to switch Texas Tech with Virginia Tech. Otherwise, the top 16 teams are perfectly snaked.
Bracketology top seeds
Big Ten and Big 12 account for 16 teams in bracket
The Big Ten still leads all conferences with nine teams in the bracket. That number has been steady for a couple of weeks now. The Big 12 has been pretty steady as well with seven. Thanks to a surge in play by Oklahoma, a No. 3 seed, all seven teams are in the top five seeds in the bracket. That is not sustainable over time though.
In particular, Kansas has hit the skids. The Jayhawks lost their fourth game in their last five outings on Saturday at Tennessee. Kansas got smoked 80-61 and dropped to a No. 5 seed. However, because all six losses are in Quad 1, along with four wins, all of which have come against other teams in the bracket, the Jayhawks slide down the bracket has been slow. Their 10 Quad 1 games are matched only by Maryland. At some point, and sooner rather than later, Kansas has to turn things around. Strength of schedule can only carry a team so far.
Another team inexplicably falling apart is Clemson. The Tigers got off to a 9-1 start this season with wins over Alabama, Purdue and Florida State. Their only loss came at Virginia Tech. However, after a week and a half off due to COVID, Clemson has lost four of their five games and got annihilated in each of those games. The one win came at home to Louisville, a team in the bracket, and the Tigers are a No. 8 seed in the latest bracket.
Somewhat like Kansas, Clemson is holding on due to the fact that while the margins are ugly, the teams that are beating the Tigers are not. Unlike Kansas though, two of those are at Georgia Tech and Duke. Those are Quad 1 losses, but neither team is in the bracket.
Three undefeated teams left
We are now down to just three undefeated teams after Winthrop took its first loss Friday at UNC Asheville. Gonzaga and Baylor have led the bracket since the start. The third team is Missouri Valley leader Drake. The Bulldogs are 14-0 after an overtime win against Illinois State on Sunday.
Drake is still a No. 10 seed in the bracket because its strength of schedule is poor, ranking at 269 in the NET. Half of The Bulldogs' wins have come against Q4 teams. They do have four Q2 wins, a pair each at Missouri State and Indiana State.
Most teams Drake will play in the MVC will not help that much, but it does host Loyola-Chicago for two games Feb. 13 and 14. The Ramblers are in the "first four out" in the latest update.
I am sure you have noticed that both of those teams are highly rated in the NET. Keep in mind that the NET is heavily influenced by margin of victory, but the committee does not focus on that much when it comes to selection and seeding. A team's individual ranking is not nearly as important as the ranking of its opponents. If all you have is a good ranking, you have nothing.
There are three more things to consider about the NET this season in particular. First, even though the 2019 tournament saw the debut of the NET as the NCAA's primary metric, this year's version has been modified from the one used that season. Also, there have been much fewer games played so far. We are almost four weeks behind compared to the number of games played in a normal season. Early January numbers, which are what these are comparable to, are not worth getting too excited about.
Finally, the NET and other formulas have a home/road/neutral consideration built in that may be thrown off some by games being played in front of few or no fans. That may not be able to be measured, but it is something the committee may have to consider.