Feb 7, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT
The bubble is much like a recent weather forecast for the Midwest or East Coast: unpredictable and generally less than welcoming. So instead of debating the final few teams IN our OUT in today’s bracket, let’s look at the No. 1 seed contenders. We have just over a month until Selection Sunday.
Syracuse, Arizona, Kansas, and Florida retain No. 1 seeds (same as Monday). Syracuse is in the strongest position to hold its post – although road trips through Pittsburgh, Duke, and Virginia remain. Arizona’s biggest question isn’t RPI numbers or quality wins, it’s a notable injury: how will the Wildcats play without Brandon Ashley? He’s out for the season with a foot injury. The Selection Committee will be watching how Arizona responds. Kansas owns the top spot in the RPI and has played the nation’s top-rated schedule. Will that offset five (or more) losses? If the Jayhawks claim an outright Big 12 title and win the Big 12 tournament, history would suggest that, yes, KU would be a top seed given its profile. Florida’s biggest advantage – and disadvantage – is its schedule. Once again, the SEC isn’t particularly deep. With Missouri and Tennessee hovering around the bubble, Kentucky is the Gators’ top resume-builder. That said, Florida is among the most talented teams in the nation when healthy. It’s conceivable the Gators could enter the SEC Tournament with a record of 29-3. That would be hard to ignore.
Here are some other contenders:
- Michigan State – if the Spartans heal up and win the Big Ten, they will push for the top line. Keep in mind, MSU has not lost a game when playing at full strength.
- Wichita State – after winning at Indiana State, the Shockers will be favored to enter the Missouri Valley Tournament with a perfect record. Although the MVC isn’t as strong as it’s been in recent years, one could easily argue that WSU has earned a No. 1 seed.
- Villanova – the Wildcats are in the chase but may need help. The new-look Big East doesn’t carry the same fortitude. Other than a trip to Creighton, there’s not a truly high profile game left on Nova’s schedule.
- San Diego State – Victories over Kansas and Creighton highlight a strong profile. But much like the issues facing Villanova, is the Mountain West strong enough to carry the Aztecs to the top of the bracket?
- Michigan – the Wolverines are right there with Michigan State in the battle for the Big 10 title. An outright crown and trip to the Big 10 tourney title game would certainly place UM squarely in the No. 1 seed debate – depending on how the season plays out. If there’s a ding on the resume, it’s a couple of early losses when the team was still learning to play without Trey Burke.
- Duke – it’s never wise to count out the Blue Devils. They will need some help, but a fair number of quality wins remain in the ACC.
- Cincinnati – reaching the top line is probably a long shot for the Bearcats. But a two or three seed is there for the taking. With some help, however, we could be looking at UC more closely a month from now.
- Creighton – The Bluejays have a great win at Villanova. Will that be enough to carry them? The odds are against it. Creighton played a good, but not great non-conference schedule, and some of the top competition on that schedule hasn’t performed as expected (Marquette, St. John’s, for example). Of course, Creighton could win out and end the regular season 27-3. That would turn a few heads.
UPDATED: February 7, 2014
Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid based on current standings with RPI as a tiebreaker for teams with the same number of losses. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UCLA, BYU, etc).
Several new bracketing principles were introduced after last year’s tournament. You can read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com. For example: teams from the same conference may now meet before a Regional final, even if fewer than eight teams are selected. The goal is to keep as many teams as possible on their actual seed line.
FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)
- BYU vs. Arizona State | West Region
- SMU vs. Georgetown | East Region
- SOUTHERN vs. HIGH POINT | East Region
- ROBERT MORRIS vs. CHATTANOOGA | Midwest Region
BRACKET PROJECTION …
|EAST – New York||WEST – Anaheim|
|1) SYRACUSE||1) ARIZONA|
|16) SOUTHERN / HIGH POINT||16) UTAH VALLEY|
|8) VCU||8) Memphis|
|9) Xavier||9) Kansas State|
|5) Oklahoma||5) Wisconsin|
|12) SMU / Georgetown||12) BYU / Arizona State|
|4) Kentucky||4) Iowa State|
|13) CANISIUS||13) MERCER|
|6) Louisville||6) Iowa|
|11) Tennessee||11) Missouri|
|3) MICHIGAN||3) CREIGHTON|
|14) BELMONT||14) UC-SANTA BARBARA|
|7) Massachusetts||7) Connecticut|
|10) California||10) Florida State|
|2) Villanova||2) SAN DIEGO STATE|
|15) STONY BROOK||15) NC-CENTRAL|
|SOUTH – Memphis||MIDWEST – Indianapolis|
|1) FLORIDA||1) KANSAS|
|16) WEBER STATE||16) CHATTANOOGA / ROB MORRIS|
|8) North Carolina||8) UCLA|
|9) Stanford||9) George Washington|
|5) Texas||5) Ohio State|
|12) GREEN BAY||12) HARVARD|
|4) SAINT LOUIS||4) Virginia|
|13) DELAWARE||13) TOLEDO|
|6) Oklahoma State||6) GONZAGA|
|11) Providence||11) SOUTHERN MISS|
|3) Duke||3) CINCINNATI|
|14) S.F. AUSTIN||14) GEORGIA STATE|
|7) New Mexico||7) Pittsburgh|
|10) Minnesota||10) Colorado|
|2) WICHITA STATE||2) Michigan State|
|15) AMERICAN||15) IPFW|
NOTES on the BRACKET: Syracuse is the overall No. 1 seed followed by Arizona, Kansas, and Florida.
Last Five teams in (at large): Tennessee, Arizona State, SMU, Georgetown, BYU
First Five teams out (at large): LSU, Oregon, Indiana, Clemson, Richmond
Next five teams out (at large): Dayton, Ole Miss, Baylor, Louisiana Tech, Saint Mary’s
Breakdown by Conference …
Big 12 (7): Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas
Pac 12 (6): Arizona, Colorado, UCLA, California, Stanford, Arizona State
Big Ten (6): Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota
ACC (6): Duke, Syracuse, North Carolina, Florida State, Pittsburgh, Virginia
American (5): Louisville, Memphis, Connecticut, Cincinnati, SMU
Big East (5): Creighton, Villanova, Xavier, Providence, Georgetown
SEC (4): Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, Tennessee
Atlantic 10 (4): Massachusetts, VCU, Saint Louis, Geo Washington
Mountain West (2): New Mexico, San Diego State
West Coast (2): Gonzaga, BYU
Missouri Valley (1): Wichita State
Conference Automatic Qualifiers … Southern Miss (C-USA), Belmont (Ohio Valley), Georgia State (Sun Belt), American (Patriot), IPFW (Summit), Green Bay (Horizon), Chattanooga (Southern), Utah Valley (WAC), Canisius (MAAC), Stephen F. Austin (Southland), Toledo (MAC), Mercer (A-Sun), Harvard (IVY), UC-Santa Barbara (Big West), Delaware (Colonial), Stony Brook (American East), Weber State (Big Sky), NC-Central (MEAC), UNC-Asheville (Big South), Robert Morris (NEC), Southern (SWAC)
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