Chris Dobbertean, editor of Blogging The Bracket, presents the first of his bracket projections for SB Nation.
As if a busy New Year's week, featuring the start of Big East, Big Ten and Pac-10 play, and a few remaining non-conference battles wasn't enough, two big off the court stories impacted this week's bracket (seed list, trends), and perhaps the rest of the season. (Click image to see larger; continue reading for more analysis)
On New Year's Day, hours after Tennessee beat Memphis to close out 2009, four of the Vols' top eight players -- led by Tyler Smith and Cameron Tatum -- were arrested on misdemeanor drug and weapons charges. The four have been indefinitely suspended, and with dismissals being a possibility, the Vols' season is up in the air. They drop from a 3 seed to the 6 line in this projection because of the uncertainty surrounding the program.
At this point, a three-line drop would be a blessing for USC. After a sweep of Arizona and Arizona State, the Trojans were riding and eight-game winning streak and looking like a team that could make a Tournament run. That ended Sunday morning, when the university decided to ban the team from the postseason because of NCAA violations committed during the recruitment of O.J. Mayo.
After that news broke, I had to scramble to move the Trojans out of the bracket. In their place is the only other 2-0 Pac-10 team, Oregon. (See last week's bracket post for my criteria for determining auto bids.) The Ducks swept through the Evergreen State over the weekend, beating Washington State in double OT on New Year's Eve and making conference co-favorite Washington look terrible on Saturday.
Before I get too far into analysis, here's a quick look at this week's top seeds and the race at the bottom of the bracket. Teams are ordered based on their place on the S-curve (the 1 to 65 ranking of the team's in the field).
Top Seeds: Texas, Kansas, Kentucky, Purdue
Last Four In: Baylor, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech
First Four Out: Richmond , California, St. John's. Northwestern
Next Four Out: Oklahoma State, Illinois, Marquette, UTEP
Here's a conference by conference list of who's in, again presented in S-curve order with seed numbers in parentheses.
Duke (2), North Carolina (3), Florida State (4), Clemson (6), Georgia Tech (7), Miami (9), Wake Forest (12), Virginia Tech (12)
Big East: 7
West Virginia (2), Syracuse (2), Villanova (2), Georgetown (3), Cincinnati (8), Connecticut (8), Pittsburgh (9)
Big 12: 7
Texas (1), Kansas (1), Kansas State (3), Texas A&M (4), Texas Tech (9), Missouri (11), Baylor (11)
Kentucky (1), Mississippi (4), Mississippi State (5), Tennessee (6), Florida (10), Vanderbilt (11)
Big Ten: 5
Purdue (1), Michigan State (3), Wisconsin (5) ,Ohio State (6), Minnesota (7)
Atlantic 10: 3
Temple (7), Rhode Island (9), Dayton (10)
Mountain West: 3
New Mexico (4), BYU (5), UNLV (7)
Washington (6), Oregon (12)
West Coast: 2
Gonzaga (5), St. Mary's (10)
One Bid Leagues: 22
America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Conference USA, Horizon League, Ivy League, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Southwestern, Summit, Sun Belt, Western Athletic
Movers And Shakers
Here's a look at the teams who made significant moves -- good and bad -- based on what happened on the court.
Top seeds: Fittingly, the nation's four remaining unbeatens are the four 1 seeds. Texas, Kansas and Kentucky remain from last week, but Syracuse fell to the 2 line after falling to Pitt in the Carrier Dome on Saturday. Unbeaten Purdue replaces them after their dominant win over previously unbeaten West Virginia on New Year's Day,
Two seeds: The 2 line is the domain of teams who have only lost once. The Orange join the Mountaineers, who probably would have moved up with a win in West Lafayette, and holdovers Duke and Villanova.
Four seeds: Ohio State is clearly missing Evan Turner. They've fallen from the group of protected seeds thanks to back-to-back losses to Wisconsin and Michigan. The Badgers used that New Year's Eve win and one at Penn State Sunday to make the jump to the 4 line. New Mexico joins them thanks to a convincing home win over Texas Tech and a closer one against Dayton. Florida State moved up to the four line, mostly because of some uncertainty surrounding Texas A&M, who dropped down to a five seed. The Aggies are still adjusting to the loss of Derrick Roland, who suffered a gruesome leg injury in their loss at Washington before Christmas. Mississippi is the lone holdover among the 4 seeds from last week.
The middle: Gonzaga made a big move up to a 5 seed thanks to two contrasting victories within 48 hours. The Bulldogs beat Oklahoma in the very last game of 2009, one that extended into the first moments of 2010 on the East Coast thanks to a delay caused by a broken backboard. The Bulldogs then flew halfway across the country and beat Illinois in overtime Saturday, after blowing a big lead. I placed the Zags in Spokane, as the games will be played at Spokane Arena, where the Bulldogs only play once this season.
Mississippi State, another 5 seed in this projection, has won nine in a row since losing to Richmond on South Padre Island over Thanksgiving weekend. The Bulldogs pounded Mississippi Valley State and won at San Diego, avenging last year's surprise home loss.
Even though Cincinnati beat UConn, both teams are 8 seeds this time. The Huskies and Bearcats should be able to move up if they keep building momentum, which is a big if for a UConn squad that's failed to impress so far this year. However, they did close the week with a good home win over Notre Dame, while the Bearcats won at Rutgers.
Temple, on the other hand, dropped a line, from a 6 seed to a 7, thanks to the beating they suffered at the hands of Kansas Saturday.
Last week, I described another Atlantic 10 team, Rhode Island, as a bid thief. This time around, they are in on merit, even if they hold the conference's auto bid at the moment. The Rams won a squeaker at Drexel and knocked off a good Oklahoma State squad at the Mohegan Sun Saturday.
Departures: Northwestern went from ranked last Monday to out of this bracket, thanks to back-to-back losses to Illinois and Michigan State. St. John's suffered a similar fate, even though they didn't make the AP poll like the Wildcats did. The Rankings Reject is now a bracket reject as well, thanks to the previously mentioned loss to the Hoyas and a home loss to Providence Sunday.
Richmond dropped out after losing to Wake Forest in overtime on New Year's Eve. They would have stayed in had Washington beaten Oregon and claimed the Pac-10 auto bid for the week.
Arrivals: On the other hand, the Demon Deacons enter this week's bracket thanks to their extra work. Not only did they beat the Spiders after an extra session, they topped Xavier after a double overtime thriller in the inaugural Skip Prosser Classic Sunday.
Virginia Tech moved into this week's bracket, thanks an overtime win of their own. The Hokies topped Seton Hall in Cancun Saturday, capping the Pirates' week of woe. If the Hall had managed to win even one of their three close calls over the past nine days, they could have easily made this projection.
Among the other newcomers, Pitt roared into this projection based on five straight wins, including the win at Syracuse, and Baylor routed Arkansas and South Carolina on the road to move to 11-1 on the year.
The other two new entries got in by not screwing up. Vanderbilt got big home wins over Manhattan and Southern Miss; while Missouri won their fifth and sixth in a row against Missouri-Kansas City and Georgia.
Auto Bids: There were two more at-large bids up for grabs this week, as the Horizon League and Missouri Valley Conference returned to single-bid status.
In the CAA, William & Mary moved up to an 11 seed this week as they picked up their second win over an ACC opponent, Maryland, of the season. Saturday, the Tribe before squeaked past Hofstra in conference play.
The WAC is represented by Louisiana Tech, not traditional powers Utah State or Nevada. Kerry Rupp's squad beat the Wolf Pack in Ruston to kick off the conference season Saturday night. The Bulldogs went 12-2 over their non-league slate, and their looking to continue that level of play in one of the more underrated conferences in the country.
Games To Watch
To help you plan your viewing week, here's seven days worth of games to check out. Visit Blogging the Bracket for more on these games, and the many that didn't make the cut, throughout the week. Seeds in this bracket are in parentheses, with bubble teams represented by a B.
(9) Pittsburgh at (8) Cincinnati, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
(7) Minnesota at (1) Purdue, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
(4) New Mexico at (B) San Diego State, 10:30 p.m. ET (the mtn.)
(4) Wisconsin at (3) Michigan State, 6:30 p.m. ET (Big Ten)
(B) Memphis at (2) Syracuse, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
(B) Charlotte at (6) Tennessee, 7 p.m. ET (SEC on CSS/Full Court)
(3) Georgetown at (B) Marquette, 8 p.m. ET (Big East/Full Court)
(2) Duke vs. (B) Iowa State in Chicago, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
(B) Seton Hall at (8) Connecticut, 9 p.m. ET (Big East/Full Court)
(7) UNLV at (5) BYU, 10 p.m. ET (the mtn.)
(15) Oakland at Oral Roberts, 8 p.m. ET (Fox College Sports/Full Court)
Western Kentucky at (13) South Alabama, 8 p.m. ET (Fox College Sports)
(6) Washington at (B) Arizona State, 10:30 p.m. ET (FSN Regional)
(8) Connecticut at (3) Georgetown, 12 p.m. ET (ESPN)
(10) Florida at (11) Vanderbilt, 12 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
(1) Purdue at (4) Wisconsin, 1:30 p.m. ET (BIg Ten)
(5) Mississippi State at (4) Ole Miss, 1:30 p.m. ET (SEC/Full Court)
(2) Duke at (7) Georgia Tech, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)
(3) Kansas State at (11) Missouri, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
(B) Marquette at (2) Villanova, 2 p.m. ET (Big East/Full Court)
(6) Ohio State at (7) Minnesota, 3:30 p.m. ET (Big Ten)
(10) Northern Iowa at (B) Illinois State, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
(7) UNLV at (4) New Mexico, 4 p.m. ET (Versus)
Hofstra at (B) Old Dominion, 4 p.m. ET (CSN Regional)
Boston College at (6) Clemson, 4 p.m. ET (Raycom/Full Court)
(14) Murray State at Austin Peay, 6 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
(12) Wake Forest at (9) Miami, 6 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
(8) Cincinnati at (B) Seton Hall, 6 p.m. ET (Big East/Full Court)
Oklahoma at (11) Baylor, 6 p.m. ET (Big 12/Full Court)
(B) Tulsa at (B) Houston, 7 p.m. ET (CBS College)
(2) West Virginia at (B) Notre Dame, 8 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
(9) Texas Tech at (B) Oklahoma State, 8 p.m. ET (Texas Tech & OSU pay-per-view/FS Southwest/Full Court)
(5) BYU at (B) UTEP, 9 p.m. ET (CBS College)
(5) Gonzaga at Portland, 10 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
USC at (B) California, 10:30 p.m. ET (FSN)
(1) Kansas at (6) Tennessee, 1:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
(B) Northwestern at Michigan, 2:30 p.m. ET (Big Ten)
(4) Florida State at (B) Maryland, 5:30 p.m. ET (FSN)
(12) Virginia Tech at (3) North Carolina, 7:45 p.m. ET (FSN)
Oregon State at (12) Oregon, 10:30 p.m. ET (FSN)