March Madness Bracketology: 2/8
What a week! While expected, there were several top-ranked teams to go down in the first week of February, forcing several changes to the projected NCAA Tournament bracket.
The top line did not change, but Villanova does become my projected overall No. 1 seed. While Kansas State is a much better team than their record indicated and Oklahoma was only a five-point favorite on the road, it’s a bad enough loss that I slid them down a spot given what’s left on their’s and Nova’s schedules. It’s by a very slim margin, but just enough.
The biggest news of the week though came on Friday when Louisville self-imposed a postseason bad for the year, something I am very strongly against. The NCAA should not allow a school to dictate what and when a punishment should take place regardless of what violations occured. The NCAA should be punishing schools in the future with fines, scholarship reductions and allowing players to transfer to immediately be eligible to play the following season.
Anyways, this opened up a spot. Check out this week’s bracketology to see who made it this week.
Remember, this is a projected bracket. This includes projecting how the rest of the season will go along with what has already happened.
Were you too busy with Super Bowl coverage? Watching the Golden State Warriors dominate? No problem. Here are the best games and some crazy finishes.
Monday, February 1
#19 Louisville 71, #2 North Carolina 65
The first of two bad outcomes for the Tar Heels this week. This game was played before Louisville announced the postseason ban.
Houston 71, #12 SMU 68
Like Louisville, SMU is banned from the postseason, but this came down from the NCAA. Houston isn’t realistically on the bubble, but a good win for Kelvin Sampson’s club, who ironically ran into NCAA violations of his own in the past.
Texas 67, #15 Baylor 59
I’m a huge Shaka Smart fan. Yet, I am still amazed that the Longhorns are turning the corner this quickly. Yes, it’s early, but Texas will be a Big 12 hoops contender as long as Smart is there.
Loyola 68, Colgate 65 (best finish of the day)
Tuesday, February 2
#14 West Virginia 81, #13 Iowa State 76
While Kansas and Oklahoma went down at Hilton, West Virginia joins Baylor as the two teams to get a win in Ames. I didn’t see this one coming, especially since the Mountaineers didn’t even go back to Morgantown after getting beat down at Florida over the weekend. Heck of a bounce back as both of these teams are fighting for a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament. Devin Williams was tremendous with 17 points and 18 boards.
Tennessee 84, #20 Kentucky 77
Rick Barnes, the man Smart replaced at Texas, is the man in charge at Tennessee. He has a bigger hill to climb, but wins like this are great in a mediocre SEC. Kentucky should have won at Kansas and beat up on some bad teams before that, but it looks like they are still a ways out from being a real Final Four contender.
Georgia 69, #25 South Carolina 56
Georgia gets a much needed quality win to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive. South Carolina only loses its third game of the year, but still doesn’t have an RPI Top 50 win.
Butler 87, Georgetown 76
Neither team could really afford a loss here when it comes to the bubble, but it’s especially bad for Georgetown. The Hoyas are now 13-10, their only win against a lock NCAA Tournament team is at Xavier, and they have two bad losses to UNC Asheville and Radford.
Syracuse 68, Virginia Tech 60 OT
Virginia Tech has made a lot of strides since the start of the season and Buzz Williams has something going in Blacksburg. Still, Syracuse absolutely couldn’t lose this game at home and were in extreme danger of doing so. However, Michael Gbinije’s deep three tied the game late in the second half, and the Orange survived in extra time.
#22 Indiana 80, Michigan 67
Michigan joins North Carolina as having one of the worst weeks. The Wolverines were in great position to sneak up on some people with only two losses in the Big Ten, but they allowed a 25-0 run to Indiana to end the first half and never recovered. Indiana looks like a real Big Ten contender … for now.
DePaul 77, #11 Providence 70
I’ve thought for a while that Providence is a bit overrated despite getting a win at Villanova. However, this is a legit upset and shocking. Myke Henry was outstanding.
Duke 80, Georgia Tech 71
Duke has been reeling and really needed to stop the bleeding. Amile Jefferson is still out and Georgia Tech is a lot better than their record. Thanks to Grayson Allen catching fire, the Blue Devils rallied into a solid road win and the Yellow Jackets’ at-large hopes are nearly gone.
San Diego State 69, Colorado State 67 (best finish of the day)
A bit off the radar here since the Mountain West is down this year, but amazingly San Diego State is still undefeated in league play and could possibly get into the dance as an at-large. But the Aztecs need to protect their homecourt and barely ended up doing so.
Wednesday, February 3
#17 Miami 79, Notre Dame 70
Miami is a team I’m higher on than most. They’re a very balanced and efficient squad who I believe will pile on some very noteworthy wins down the stretch. In fact, I think they’re the best team in the ACC. This is hardly a bad loss for Notre Dame.
Florida 87, Arkansas 83
Arkansas needs to win these games if it wants any hope at the dance. Meanwhile, Florida is beginning to look like one of the best teams in the SEC.
#4 Maryland 70, Nebraska 65
Maryland somehow keeps finding ways to survive the close ones.
Illinois 110, Rutgers 101 3OT (best OT finish of the day #1)
Yeah, these athletic departments are a mess. This was one of Rutgers’ best chances at a Big Ten win. Illinois has another season season of injuries and bad shot selection. But this was remarkably entertaining.
Texas Tech 63, Oklahoma State 61 OT (best OT finish of the day #2)
Not very relevant for the bubble picture (maybe Texas Tech can go on a crazy run), but OTs and buzzer beaters are fun!
Washington 95, Arizona State 83 OT (best OT finish of the day #3)
Definitely a bubble game here for both squads. Great job by the Pac-12 Network for showing the live-ball stuff, because the real analysis of this game was, “You get a foul, and you get a foul, and you get a foul …”
Thursday, February 4
Vanderbilt 77, #8 Texas A&M 60
This is the Vanderbilt we’ve been expecting all year. This loss essentially eliminates A&M from a No. 1 seed possibility, but they’re still in good shape for a place on the top-four line.
Wisconsin 79, Ohio State 68
There’s no such thing as an elimination game in early February, but given that these are the two real bubble teams in the Big Ten (unless Michigan really collapses), it sort of felt like it. Wisconsin is playing a lot better under Greg Gard and fewer mistakes are being committed. Nigel Hayes had another great night and Ethan Happ will be one of the best big men in the Big Ten for the next few seasons.
Temple 83, Tulsa 79 OT
Same type of game. Two teams who really need to go on a run to be on the right side of the bubble.
BYU 70, Saint Mary’s 59
This game slipped through the cracks. This was a monstrous game as it pertains to the West Coast Conference and both teams wanting to make the NCAA Tournament. BYU is now 2-1 vs Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga, but can they avoid losses to the other teams? That was a loss Saint Mary’s could afford as it pertains to both the WCC standings and NCAA Tournament, but they can’t stumble against anyone else.
USC 80, UCLA 61
I don’t think the 2015 NCAA Tournament committee can even save this UCLA squad. The Trojans swept the Bruins in hoops and beat their rival in football to win the Pac-12 South. It’s a year for the gentlemen who Fight On and the Men of Troy will be dancing this year.
Oregon State 71, Utah 69 (best finish of the entire week)
This finish was just absurd …
Saturday, February 6
George Washington 72, VCU 69
This win couldn’t have come at a better time for the Colonials. After losing a double OT game at home to Richmond, they responded with three-straight wins with by far the most important coming at VCU, who suffered its first loss in Atlantic 10 play. I think both teams will make the NCAA Tournament, but neither are a lock by any means of the imagination.
Memphis 63, Cincinnati 59
This is the exact type of loss that Cincinnati always seems to put themselves on the bubble. Memphis still isn’t realistically in the conversation for the bubble, but it’s a nice win.
#9 Virginia 64, Pittsburgh 50
This was the first chance for Pittsburgh to get a Top 25 RPI win, let alone a Top 10. Virginia has stubbed its toe a few times on the road against mediocre ACC competition. The Cavaliers winning isn’t a surprise, but by two touchdowns is very noteworthy.
#6 Xavier 90, Marquette 82
Marquette has a lot of good young talent, but they’re still trying to put the pieces together. Xavier was in trouble for a while, but Trevon Bluiett did his thing. I still don’t see Xavier getting a No. 1 seed despite only having two losses at this point. Their last seven Big East games are against the top seven teams in the league and I see Nova coming out on top. Still, a No. 2 seed is very likely with several quality wins.
#10 Michigan State 89, Michigan 73
The second part of Michigan’s bad week. Two big opponents at home = two blowout losses. Meanwhile, the Spartans are rolling, Matt Costello is all over the place, Denzel Valentine looks 100 percent and Michigan should feel free to guard Bryn Forbes. Spartans are still in contention for a No. 1 seed and Michigan is now looking at the bubble.
#11 Iowa State 64, Oklahoma State 59
Everything leading up to this game pointed toward an Oklahoma State win. Jameel McKay was suspended indefinitely, Iowa State plays a very short rotation and Oklahoma State had already knocked off Kansas at home. Nevertheless, the Cyclones prevailed and avoided what could have been a very disastrous week.
Texas 69, Texas Tech 59
If Texas Tech wants any shot at the dance, they have to find a way to get a couple road wins in league play versus the top six teams in the league. The Longhorns wanted no part of that. I nearly put Texas as a No. 5 seed, but I don’t want to overreact too much even though I really like how this team is playing, particularly on the defensive end.
#3 Villanova 72, #11 Providence 60
Villanova had the best week of any team in the country. They took care of business at home against Seton Hall and won by double digits at Providence in revenge fashion. Villanova is now #1 in the polls and my new No. 1 overall seed. Meanwhile, Providence had a bad week losing at DePaul and now at home against Nova, which ultimately gives them no shot at the Big East title. Providence is still fine as far the tournament is concerned, but this week they are at Marquette and at home against Georgetown. Those are games that are more in the category of “everything to lose, nothing to gain.” They need to be careful and not do what Michigan did this past week.
California 76, Stanford 61
Another bubble vs bubble game in the Pac-12. Oregon, Arizona, Utah and USC have somewhat separated themselves from the rest of the field (for now), but California is the best of the bunch after that. Stanford has their backs completely against the wall from this point forward.
Virginia Tech 60, Clemson 57
You knew Virginia Tech was going to start spoiling NCAA Tournament hopes sooner or later. Clemson has been rolling in ACC play, but on the road against a quickly improving VA Tech squad, it was a showdown right to the end. Clemson, much like Stanford, can’t afford another loss like this and must pick up a few more quality wins.
Pacific 77, BYU 72
Just when you think BYU might get to the right side of the bubble again, they falter at the hands of Pacific. This is an atrocious loss. Pacific is now 7-15 on the season and ineligible for postseason play. Even though the Cougars are 2-1 vs Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga and could go to 3-1 since they still hosts the Bulldogs a second time, they likely need to win the WCC Tournament to make to the dance.
#25 South Carolina 81, #8 Texas A&M 78
This was the shocker of the weekend. A&M was favored by double digits and South Carolina’s best win to this point was at home against Vanderbilt or at Clemson. Well guess what, a weak schedule doesn’t mean you aren’t a good team. It just means you have yet to prove it. The Gamecocks proved they can not only beat a top-ranked team, but go on the road to do so. As for A&M, I thought they had a perfect path to the SEC title and was the best team in the conference. I still thought this even after the loss at Vanderbilt. But this game changed a lot in the conference.
#20 Kentucky 80, Florida 61
I think we all knew Kentucky would bounce back at home against a good team like Florida, but this was all Wildcats from the start. Thanks to a bad week by Texas A&M, Kentucky is still in excellent position to win the SEC.
#4 Maryland 72, #18 Purdue 61
This game was a lot closer than the final score indicates. Maryland needs more wins like these to justify its ranking. Can they take their game on the road and win? I say this because Maryland’s home versus neutral/away record and three-point defense percentage are incredible different over the past few seasons (pro sports bettors know about the Under Armour balls). I think Purdue is better than its record indicates as all of their losses have been to quality teams and just haven’t quite finished in some close games. Their size and balance is still very scary, and I think Purdue is still in line for a top-four seed.
#23 Arizona 77, Washington 72
A much needed win for Arizona in keeping its Pac-12 hopes alive. A missed opportunity for Washington to add to its bubble resume.
Kansas State 80, #1 Oklahoma 69
This wasn’t as jaw-dropping as it appears. While Kansas State is still probably on the wrong side of the bubble, they are significantly better than their record. They’ve had a ton of close losses and the Big 12 is a very tough league. It was an off night for Oklahoma from distance and K-State controlled the glass. K-State can certainly play its way into the tournament with a few more wins like this, but it’s still an uphill climb. Oklahoma is still a No. 1 seed in my book.
Notre Dame 80, #2 North Carolina 76
A ton of the top-ranked teams were on the road on Saturday as slim favorites against unranked foes. This was shaping up to be a pretty boring day, but after Kansas State took care of Oklahoma, Notre Dame joined the fun by dealing the Tar Heels their second loss of the week. UNCs resume is not as strong as you think. Maryland at home is their only Top 25 RPI win, and their best win outside of that is at Florida State (a bubble team). Yes, they have a bunch of okay or decent wins, but they now have five losses on the season with no elite wins outside of Chapel Hill. Carolina does have some big games coming up, but I’m also not sold on this team as much as most are. There is talent, but the shooting and defense of this team is questionable. As for the Irish, this gives them their third Top 25 RPI win to with a road win at Duke and a neutral site victory against Iowa. Barring a horrible collapse, this team should be just fine in making the dance and is a sleeper to make a deep run.
#14 West Virginia 80 #15 Baylor 69
You can officially call West Virginia a lock to make the dance as they join Villanova as having the best weeks in the nation. Last week I had the Mountaineers as a No. 4 seed given their gauntlet of a schedule, but they’ve certainly earned a No. 3 spot now. They now have six RPI Top 50 wins and their four losses are all to teams ranked 22nd or higher in the RPI. This was a bad week for the Bears after losing on their home floor to Texas and now at West Virginia. Baylor should be fine, and they have a ton of big games left. But I wouldn’t mess around too much down the stretch either. The biggest story though is the Big 12 race is incredibly wide open.
Ole Miss 85, Vanderbilt 78
This is the worst timing for a game like this if you’re Vanderbilt. You get back on track with a big win against A&M, but then you have to travel to go against an Ole Miss team that is better than their record indicates. Ole Miss still isn’t realistically a bubble team, but Vanderbilt is essentially 50/50 at this point in making the dance. I still have them in though.
Penn State 68, #22 Indiana 63
Just when you thought the day was over and you turned over to the Thunder vs Warriors game, chaos happens in State College. Indiana had survived against mediocre competition a few times, but they also had just blown out Michigan in Ann Arbor. Meanwhile, Penn State got its butt kicked by Iowa with Pat Chambers apologizing to Fran McCaffery after the game for his team’s effort that night. So naturally, Penn State rallies and downs Tom Crean’s team. All of a sudden, Indiana hosts Iowa and goes to Michigan State this week. Indiana did slide up to a #5 seed for me despite this loss with their win at Michigan and that Louisville’s postseason ban opened up a spot, but if the Hoosiers aren’t careful, they could find themselves in bubble territory.
Oregon State 60, Colorado 56
Two big home wins for Oregon State this week against Utah and now Colorado. The Buffaloes lost to both Oregon and the Beavers. Both teams are definitely on the bubble moving forward.
Seton Hall 69, Georgetown 61
Even though both games were on the road, Georgetown is now in deep trouble at 13-11. Yes they are 6-5 in Big East play, but they have to win at minimum another five Big East games and play well in the Big East Tournament to have a chance come selection Sunday. Seton Hall is improving and certainly on the right side of the bubble, but outside of Villanova and Xavier, no one is safe.
Illinois State 58, #21 Wichita State 53
With so few games on Sunday, I had started doing my bracketology as soon as the Seton Hall vs Georgetown game was wrapping up. Oops. The Missouri Valley Conference is one of the most underrated leagues historically, even though they are a bit down this year and won’t be getting any at-large bids unless it’s Wichita State. My projection of Wichita State last week factored in one loss to a team like Illinois State. The Red Birds, Northern Iowa, Evansville and Southern Illinois can knock off just about anyone on their home floor. But if the Shockers lose another one like this, then their bubble situation gets scary. They don’t have anymore opportunities for a Top 100 RPI win since they’ve already faced Evansville twice.
Temple 62, UCF 60 (best finish of the day)
Had Temple lost this game, their bubble chances were gone. But A.J. Davis saved the day.
Sunday, February 7
#17 Miami 75, Georgia Tech 68
Miami is my pick to win the ACC.
#5 Iowa 77, Illinois 65
Early tip on the road, Super Bowl Sunday, trap game? Nope. Iowa still in line for a No. 1 seed with already having seven Top 50 KenPom wins (most in the nation) and six Top 50 RPI wins.
#16 Oregon 76, Utah 66
Not the best week for Utah suffering two losses, but I still think they are one of the best teams in the Pac-12. Having said that, Oregon is the best in the league. Some thought I jumped the gun with putting them as a No. 2 seed last week, but they are now 8-2 against the RPI Top 50 and 4-0 against the RPI Top 25. That’s pretty darn good.View all posts by Nick Juskewycz