March Madness Bracketology: 2/15
Another bonkers week of college hoops. We have a ton of changes in this week’s bracketology. Here we go.
We are going to do things a little differently to recap the week for everyone. Instead of just mini summaries of all the main games, we will go through each conference’s biggest winners and losers of the week. Plus, a nice little rant at the end.
Biggest Winner: Duke
Be honest, were you really worried about Duke? Okay, yes, they aren’t last year’s team and probably won’t win the national title. However, four of their six losses were by five points or less. The other two losses were to Kentucky on a neutral court and at Miami. Some bad luck in close games, a couple losses against good teams and some injuries. They’re back on track in the public’s eye after beating Louisville on Monday night and following that up with a thrilling buzzer-beating victory against Virginia. Yes, Grayson Allen should have been called for an up-and-down, but it could’be been a foul as well. Plus, that up-and-down was very difficult to pick up live and a very unusual situation. So yes, even though I absolutely agree there are times where the brand-name programs get calls, this wasn’t one of them. Duke is in great position for a top-four seed.
Biggest Loser: Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh has had a great record all year, but their resume has really been lacking quality wins. A win at Notre Dame is their only Top 25 RPI victory. The other two inside the Top 50 are against Syracuse and at Florida State. But their biggest issue is that their nonconference SOS is 160th and their best win outside of ACC play is against Davidson (NIT team at best) on a neutral court. A win at Miami would have gone a long ways in giving them some breathing room down the stretch, but the Hurricanes had other ideas with their late-game heroics. Then with an early tip on Sunday, North Carolina blasted the Panthers. If the tournament started today, would Pittsburgh be dancing? Probably. But Pittsburgh really needs a couple more quality wins without suffering any more bad losses to ensure it’ll be in the Tournament.
Biggest Winner: Texas Tech
The Red Raiders aren’t dead yet. In fact, they are very much alive. After suffering four losses in a five-game stretch, Texas Tech seemed destined for the NIT at best. However, a tough schedule means opportunities. Beating Iowa State at home wasn’t the biggest surprise in the world since Jameel McKay was suspended and the Cyclones have been questionable away from home, but then going on the road and winning by 18 at Baylor? This was arguably the biggest stunner of the entire weekend. All of a sudden, Tech is 32nd in the RPI with two wins against the RPI Top 25 and four versus the Top 50. The Red Raiders are definitely right in the middle of the bubble. Their remaining schedule is Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State, TCU, at Kansas, at West Virginia and Kansas State. If Tech can win avoid the bad losses (including the Big 12 Tournament) and beat the Sooners, Jayhawks or Mountaineers, I think the Red Raiders will be dancing. Their nonconference SOS of 39 really helps.
Biggest Loser: Kansas State
After Kansas State finally got a marquee win against Oklahoma, they lost by 10 at home to Baylor and fell on the road to Oklahoma State in OT. This is the last thing the Wildcats needed, especially with so many bubble teams having strong weeks. What’s also not good is that K-State still faces TCU twice, which are games where you have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Their other four games are at home against Kansas and Texas while they travel to Iowa State and Texas Tech. The Wildcats are one bad loss away from essentially being eliminated from at-large contention, and they have to win at minimum two of those games against stronger opponents to have any chance at hearing their name called on Selection Sunday.
Biggest Winner: Creighton
If Creighton is going to make the dance, it basically can only afford one more conference loss given their weak RPI and the 294th nonconference SOS. After getting an impressive win against Xavier at home, they found a way to win at an improving Marquette. They still have a lot of work to do, but they have plenty of opportunities for big wins.
Biggest Loser: Georgetown
The Hoyas were really starting to rack up the losses, but with some quality wins and the 34th nonconference SOS, they weren’t exactly dead. After taking care of St. John’s the hole was too big for Georgetown to climb out of against Providence. It’s not an awful loss, but the problem is Georgetown now has 12 of them. They’ve got Seton Hall, Xavier, Butler, at Marquette and at Villanova. That’s not easy. Yes, opportunities, but with 12 losses already, this will be very tough to do.
Biggest Winner: Wisconsin
After Wisconsin took care of Nebraska earlier in the week, the Badgers took their six-game win streak to Maryland. Per Jim Polzin at Madison.com, Nigel Hayes criticized the NCAA for allowing schools to use different brands of basketballs leading up to Maryland’s Under Armour balls (yes, this does make a difference and a part of why the Terps win/loss differential in home vs away/neutral games has been so drastic since making the change, not to mention three-point defense in home vs away/neutral games). Nevertheless, the Badgers knew what they were getting into since they played at College Park last season in a loss where they shot 27.3% from distance and drained 46.2% of their three-pointers, by far the best of any Big Ten team this season at Maryland. Wisconsin blasted 70-57. In what looked like a lost season after Wisconsin lost at Northwestern, they’ve won seven in a row with wins at Maryland and against Michigan State at home. Wisconsin has tough ones left at Michigan State, at Iowa and at Purdue. The others are Illinois, Michigan and at Minnesota. As long as they don’t lose any of the three they are supposed to win, Wisconsin should be dancing.
Biggest Loser: Maryland
According to TeamRankings.com, the odds for winning the Big Ten regular season before Saturday’s games were Iowa at 41.5%, Maryland 31.8% and Indiana at 25.4%. After the weekend games, Iowa is 57.9%, Indiana 24.6% and Maryland at 16.3%. Maryland still has to play at Purdue and at Indiana. The other three are at Minnesota and back home for Michigan and Illinois. Furthermore, as you see in the video above, Diamond Stone absolutely should have been ejected from this game. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if the Big Ten decides to suspend Stone for at least one game. If that’s the case, their next game is at Minnesota. While the Gophers are 0-13 in Big Ten play, they are much better than their record indicates (I know that sounds stupid, but they’ve had a ton of close losses to the best teams in the conference and are astronomically better than Rutgers). Sure, the Terps could win the Big Ten Tournament, but their regular-season title hopes took a monstrous hit and their No. 1 seed hopes are very slim.
Biggest Winner: Arizona
It’s remarkable that Arizona’s victory over USC was only the Wildcats’ second win over an RPI Top 25 team. However, now that they beat both the Trojans and held off UCLA on Friday night, Zona now has 11 wins against the RPI Top 100. The Mountain West is down (three games in the nonconference), Gonzaga isn’t the Gonzaga of last year and the Pac-12 is a jumbled mess. But, thanks to Oregon falling twice last week, the Wildcats are in great position to win the Pac-12 regular season once again and possible move up as high as a No. 2 seed by the end of the year. Although, I think a No. 4 or No. 5 seed is more likely given that 268th nonconference SOS.
Biggest Loser: Oregon
I’ve had Oregon as a No. 2 seed for a while. I thought they would trip up in a road game eventually and the one at Cal makes sense. The one at Stanford is shocking. Oregon is now tied with Arizona in the loss column in the Pac-12. This was a bad week since they lost their cushion in the conference. However, the big differences between Oregon and Arizona are that the Ducks won in Tuscon in their only meeting and Oregon’s nonconference SOS is 14th. Plus, despite the two losses, they are fourth in the RPI. I think Oregon wins their next three home games, splits the LA road trip and wins the Pac-12 Tournament to grab the No. 3 seed.
Biggest Winner: Kentucky
Arizona is back at the top of the Pac-12, Kansas is back on top of the Big 12, so might as well put Kentucky back on top of the SEC. Not surprisingly Kentucky spanked Georgia in Lexington, but perhaps surprisingly given the Wildcats’ road troubles, John Calipari’s squad obliterated South Carolina on the road. Kentucky is now in the driver’s seat to win the SEC and is looking at a top-four seed.
The craziest thing about this though? Check out what happened in the beginning moments of the early contest between the Wildcats and Gamecocks.
Biggest Loser: Texas A&M
That’s four-straight losses and five out of the last six. A&M is running incredibly bad in close games all of a sudden as four of those five recent losses have all been by five points or less. A&M’s schedule is favorable the rest of the way with their biggest opponents in Kentucky and Vanderbilt at home to go with two more games in College Station versus Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Their two road games are against the two worst teams in the conference in Missouri and Auburn. A&M’s seeding has taken a hit and are probably looking at a West Coast trip as a No. 4 or No. 5 seed, but I really wouldn’t panic if I’m an Aggie fan and would chalk this up as playing some good teams and running bad in close games. Remember, they still have four RPI Top 50 wins and eight inside the RPI Top 100.
Biggest Winner: St. Joseph’s
The Atlantic 10 is a mess, but St. Joseph’s is undoubtedly the winner this week after winning at George Washington and taking care of La Salle at home. This is only the Hawks’ second win inside the RPI Top 50 and third inside the RPI Top 100, but they are now 21-4 and somewhat surprisingly have the 94th SOS. If St. Joe’s can beat Dayton this week, they are essentially a lock, but they are certainly on the right side of the bubble right now.
Biggest Loser: VCU
This is exactly what VCU couldn’t do. The Rams only have two RPI Top 50 wins and four inside the RPI Top 100. They’re only 18-7. Now they suffered a bad loss at UMass. VCU was undefeated in Atlantic 10 play and seemed destined to win the regular-season title, but now with losses to George Washington and at UMass, the Rams are definitely back on the bubble. Their schedule: Rhode Island, Richmond, at George Mason, at George Washington, Davidson, at Dayton. VCU needs to win at minimum four of those games, more likely five to put themselves in decent position moving into the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
Biggest Winner: Temple
There have been two things really working against Temple – the 197th SOS and only 16-8 overall. However, after beating UConn and South Florida, Temple has four RPI Top 50 wins and six inside the Top 100. This also includes a season sweep of both UConn and Cincinnati. Their only two bad losses are at East Carolina and at Memphis. Temple gets to host a nonconference game against #1 Villanova on Wednesday. If they can win that, the NCAA Tournament becomes a legit possibility for the Owls.
Biggest Loser: UConn
UConn is still fine and that win versus Tulsa was a must-win, but they need to be careful. They only have two wins inside the RPI Top 50 and are now 8-4 in the league. Plus, UConn is 1-4 versus Temple, Cincinnati and Tulsa (won by two against Tulsa). UConn still has SMU twice and Cincinnati on the road. If UConn fails to win all of those and they don’t have a great American Tournament, their resume will look very dicey.
Biggest Winners: Monmouth, Stony Brook, Hawaii
Monmouth – Whew, the Hawks stormed back to beat Rider over the weekend. They remain the one mid-major (maybe Wichita State and Valparaiso too) that can make the Tournament as an at-large team.
Stony Brook – Survived a scare at home against New Hampshire, but are now 13-0 in conference play and have a 99% chance to win the regular season, via TeamRankings.com. Why is this relevant? The better-seeded team gets home-court advantage throughout the tournament. Stony Brook has been very close to dancing the last couple years, but they’ve never been to the Tournament before.
Hawaii – I don’t think Hawaii can make it as an at-large team, but they thumped UC Irvine by 22 earlier this week and easily took care of Cal State Fullerton over the weekend. They still have a tough conference road ahead, but they are easily the favorites to win the regular season and that’s important in keeping UC Irvine and Long Beach State on the other side of the bracket in the Big West Tournament.
Biggest Losers: Wichita State, St. Mary’s, San Diego State
Wichita State – Oh boy, this got scary for the Shockers all of a sudden. Once Wichita State got healthy, it was blowing out its opponents in Missouri Valley play. A loss at Illinois State wasn’t the worst thing in the world given they were due for an off game on the road, but now to lose the longest home-game winning streak to Northern Iowa. Nothing against UNI who has some good wins earlier in the year, but they’ve been very average in conference play. I think the Shockers are still in, but if they lose one more, they could very easily be out.
St. Mary’s – Usually, it’s absolutely particularly critical to win the regular season in the West Coast Conference. St. Mary’s, Gonzaga and BYU are often for all intents and purposes on another level than the rest of the teams. However, Pepperdine is quietly crashing the party who now swept St. Mary’s, split with BYU and nearly got Gonzaga once. St. Mary’s RPI has plummeted to 72nd with no wins inside the RPI Top 50. Yes, they have four inside the Top 100, but their only big game left is at Gonzaga and they only have “everything to lose, nothing to gain” games left in the regular season. The Gales also have the 226th nonconference SOS. It’s now 50/50 for St. Mary’s in terms of dancing.
San Diego State – Since SDSU was undefeated in Mountain West play, they were quietly making a case for an at-large big, but with a loss now at Fresno State, those chances are probably gone. They need to win the Mountain West Tournament to join the Madness.
Great, what did the NCAA get wrong this time?
Syracuse – Solid week for the Orange. Protected home court against Florida State and there was no sleep walking in their easy victory at Boston College. I launched Syracuse up in my bracketology quite a bit.
However, it’s more for this reason.
Syracuse will be evaluated for the NCAA Tournament based on what it will have shown under Jim Boeheim, per the NCAA. #MockSelection
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 11, 2016
I absolutely hate this. This is one of my biggest pet peeves in all of sports. WHY ARE YOU REWARDING A PROGRAM THAT COMMITTED VIOLATIONS?
I believe this was a setup back in December. Remember, on December 3rd just before the Orange were getting ready to play Georgetown, the NCAA upheld the nine-game suspension for Boeheim, BUT agreed to move the suspension up to include non-conference games.
The Orange proceeded to go 4-5 in this nine-game stretch. They lost at Georgetown (NIT team at best), at St. John’s (RPI 204), at Pittsburgh (bubble team), at Miami (ACC contender) and at Clemson (likely NIT team). They defeated Colgate, Cornell, Montana State and Texas Southern. Cornell was the best of the bunch as their RPI currently sits at 177. All others are over 200.
Now look, the Orange do deserve credit for playing well and racking up some quality wins, They defeated UConn and Texas A&M on a neutral court, won at Duke and stomped Notre Dame at home. There are some good wins in there, and I believe the Orange are on the right side of the bubble as of now either way.
But If Boeheim’s suspension was only in ACC play, he would have missed both the Duke and Notre Dame contests. Their remaining schedule at what would have been the time of him returning to action would have been Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Florida State, at Boston College, at Louisville, Pittsburgh, NC State, at North Carolina and at Florida State. Even though this decision was made early December, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that’s a fairly weak finish to the schedule and few opportunities for key wins. At Louisville and at North Carolina are the two that stand out.
Okay, now this obviously doesn’t prove anything whatsoever. Plus, I understand Syracuse wanting to get the punishment out of the way and this specific Syracuse team does not deserve to be punished. I am a firm believer in future punishments for a program for past violations and I absolutely HATE self-imposed postseason bans (this opens up another can of worms, so we’ll save it for a different article).
However, it is completely unfair to all the other schools who are following the rules to essentially reward a program that cheated and look the other way for a portion of the schedule. This is essentially a pass for Syracuse, or more accurately saying, the games Syracuse played without Boeheim are everything to gain but nothing to lose. Remember, every game on a schedule has some element of risk no matter how good or bad the opponent is. But, you can’t tell me that if Syracuse had gone 9-0 without Boeheim that the committee would look the other way and say “nope, we aren’t evaluating you in particular for those games.”
By moving the suspension up, it gave Syracuse its head coach back for some of the bigger conference games and could look the other way on some of their early losses. The committee also has more games to use the “eye-test” (another term I absolutely hate) and use the “how are they playing as of late” motive as the Orange has more games down the stretch with Boeheim.
Syracuse self-imposed a postseason ban last season when they were basically already eliminated from making the NCAA Tournament (besides winning the ACC Tournament to get the auto-bid). Now, the NCAA’s decision here to evaluate on Syracuse on what they have done only under Boeheim could ultimately save the Orange from missing March Madness two years in a row.
Just to be clear, this has nothing to do with CBS’ Jon Rothstein, who is merely reporting this from the mock selection last week. In fact, he’s one of college basketball’s best in the media and deserves more air time. This is directed at the NCAA.
Oh, and if you think they would keep this consistent with all other programs, guess again …
Wisconsin will be judged for the NCAA Tournament with Greg Gard similar to the way it would have with Bo Ryan, per the NCAA. #MockSelection
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 12, 2016
So, we reward a program that cheats, but a coach retires midseason and they are evaluated like everyone else. Cheating > Retiring. Got it.View all posts by Nick Juskewycz