SB Nation's Chris Dobbertean, editor of Blogging The Bracket, is back with another edition of Bracketology.
With less than three weeks left before Selection Sunday, we have a new leader in the race for the final number one seed. Purdue, the new boss in the Big Ten, jumps up to replace Villanova, who started the week with a home loss to UConn and ended it with a defeat at Pitt. That win for the Huskies was big, as it helped paved the way for their return to my projection. (But their follow-up win over Rutgers was just as important.)
The Boilermakers, on the other hand, extended their winning streak to nine, thanks to victories over Ohio State and Illinois. Those, combined with Michigan State's struggles, means Purdue leads the Spartans and Buckeyes by a half-game.
Kansas (Midwest), Syracuse (South) and Kentucky (East) return to on the top line with Purdue taking the top spot in the West.
Before I get into some of this week's other storylines, here's a quick look at who is in and out this week.
Teams are listed in S-curve, or selection, order.
Top seeds: Kansas, Syracuse, Kentucky, Purdue
Last Four In: UAB, St. Mary's, Connecticut, San Diego State
First Four Out: Marquette, Charlotte, Mississippi State
Next Four Out: Mississippi, Notre Dame, Washington, Arizona State
Big Ten: 5
Ohio State (3),
Atlantic 10: 4
Temple (5), Richmond (7), Xavier (7), Rhode Island (9)
New Mexico (3), BYU (3), UNLV (7), San Diego State (11)
Conference USA: 2
UAB (11), UTEP (13)
West Coast: 2
Gonzaga (5), St. Mary's (10)
One Bid Leagues: 22
America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, Ivy, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Pacific-10, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Southwestern, Summit, Sun Belt, Western Athletic
While the top seeds came into more focus this week, there was a lot of shuffling for the remaining 12 protected seeds.
2 seeds: Villanova drops down here after an 0-2 week, while Kansas State and West Virginia, both 3 seeds seven days ago, are also newcomers. While K-State struggled to get by Nebraska and used a late surge to beat Oklahoma, those victories mean they've won six straight and have an impressive overall profile, as the worst of their four losses was against Ole Miss (a team who's now out) in Puerto Rico. The Mountaineers, on the other hand, rebounded from a rough week by sweeping past Providence and Seton Hall to move to 21-5. Duke, who held off Virginia Tech Sunday, is the only holdover from last week.
3 seeds: There are two Mountain West 3 seeds this week, as New Mexico jumps up to join BYU, passing them on the S-curve in the process. The two meet on Saturday in Provo, with the Cougars looking to avenge the 76-72 loss they suffered in Albuquerque one month earlier. But BYU can't get caught looking ahead, as they host San Diego State -- another new entry in this week's bracket -- on Wednesday night. Georgetown drops here after they followed their loss last Sunday to Rutgers with a very different type of defeat Thursday. The Hoyas fell to Syracuse by four, despite rallying from a 23-point deficit. The Hoyas need to start winning again, otherwise all of their early good work could be for naught, from a seeding perspective anyway.
Michigan State is another team who also needs to start winning, as they fall down to line 4 after a Sunday home loss to Ohio State, who jumps all the way up to a 3 from a 5 with the win. The Spartans haven't beaten a Tournament-caliber team since topping Illinois at home on January 16. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, now have two in three games, as they defeated Illinois on Valentines' Day, with a three-point loss to Purdue in between.
4 seeds: The Spartans are joined on this line by Wisconsin, who dropped a 16-point decision at Minnesota on Thursday. The Badgers have only managed to win at Penn State, Northwestern and Michigan this season, a stat that may cost them. Pitt jumps up after they grabbed a win at Marquette and a hard-fought home triumph over Villanova. The Panthers now own a five-game win streak and 10-4 Big East mark. Vanderbilt also joins the group of protected seeds, despite a dumbfounding home loss to Kentucky Saturday night. The Commodores have won 20 games and sit at 9-3 in the SEC, playing in the much stronger East.
Gonzaga slips down to a 5 (still playing in Spokane) after Thursday's loss at Loyola Marymount. (The Bulldogs rebounded against Pepperdine Saturday night.) Temple also slips, but this is more of a function of what other teams did.
Thanks to so many conferences being involved in BracketBusters action over the weekend, there weren't a lot of changes among the automatic qualifiers. However, Friday and Saturday's contests impacted the at-large chances for several conference leaders.
Siena's only route into the field is via the MAAC Tournament, which they host. The Saints lostt at Horizon regular season champion Butler was their last chance to grab something resembling a marquee win.
The CAA had a horrible weekend, as auto bid holder Old Dominion fell at Missouri Valley regular season champ Northern Iowa, which seriously dented their at-large hopes, while simultaneously moving the Panthers to near lock status. The Monarchs still have life though, thanks to their early season win at Georgetown.
In other CAA games, co-leader Northeastern, whose resume was lacking in the first place, fell at home to Louisiana Tech. William & Mary, who I seriously considered putting into the bracket mid-week, was blasted at Iona, knocking them off the bubble. On the plus side, VCU managed to beat Akron, but six conference losses don't help their case. The CAA's best chance at getting two is for ODU to win out and reach the CAA final, with a close win for the Monarchs' opponent.
Cornell is very close to grabbing the Ivy crown from Princeton. The Big Red swept past Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend, while the Tigers followed up a win over Yale with a loss to Brown. Cornell can all but wrap things up when they host Princeton Friday night.
Normally I would have talked about who's in and who's out of this week's bracket by this point. However, as we're getting close to Selection Sunday, I'd like to introduce a new feature, NCAA Bubble Watch. For the next three weeks, you can head here to see who's safe, who's just in the field, and the teams who still have work to do to make it into the bracket.
You'll want to check in regularly, as I'll be providing updates, and quick previews and recaps of all the key bubble games between now and March 14.
It's going to be a fun three weeks, so buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Thoughts? Comments? Questions? E-mail me at bloggingthebracket at gmail dot com or follow me on Twitter @BracketDobber.