Bracketology: Shakeup on the top line

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse moves to the No. 1 overall spot thanks to a combination of the Orange's thrilling win over Duke and Arizona's loss to Cal hours later. The Wildcats remain a one seed despite the defeat, while Florida and Wichita State rise to the top line.

Welcome to February! We are now deep into the conference season, as all leagues have played at least half of their schedules. (Except for those slackers in the Ivy League.) This is the time when the national contenders really start to separate themselves from those squads that haven't been able to build on their November and December successes.

This stratification is starting to become apparent in the bracket, even among the teams battling for a place among the top four protected seed lines. Over the past week, 12 of the top 20 teams in last Tuesday's projection lost, led by No. 1 seeds Arizona, Kansas and Michigan State. Now, a single loss on the first day of February won't bar those three from the top line in less than six weeks -- though significant injuries for the Wildcats (Brandon Ashley's foot) and Spartans (Branden Dawson's hand and Adreian Payne's foot) might very well limit their chances. However, some of this week's other losers -- Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh, UMass and Wisconsin, for example -- might need to start preparing for a more difficult draw than they were expecting just a few short weeks ago.

I'll sum up the race for places in each multi-bid league after today's bracket and rundown.

New teams are indicated by an asterisk (*), while teams shifted for bracketing purposes are marked with a caret (^).

(1) EAST
New York (Fri/Sun)
(2) WEST
Anaheim (Thu/Sat)
Buffalo (Thu/Sat) San Diego (Fri/Sun)
1 Syracuse (ACC) 1 Arizona (Pac-12)
16 Chattanooga/Coastal Carolina *16 Weber State (Big Sky)
8 California ↓ 8 88 Oklahoma
9 George Washington 9 North Carolina
San Diego (Fri/Sun) Spokane (Thu/Sat)
55 5 Wisconsin 5 5 Saint Louis (A-10)
12 Southern Miss. (C-USA) 1212 Green Bay (Horizon)
4 Kentucky 4 Virginia
13 Mercer (A-Sun) 13 Delaware (CAA)
Milwaukee (Thu/Sat) Raleigh (Fri/Sun)
6 Memphis 6 UMass
11 Xavier ^11 Baylor/Oregon
3 Michigan 3 Duke
14 Stephen F. Austin (Southland) 14 American (Patriot)
Spokane (Thu/Sat) Buffalo (Thu/Sat)
7 Pittsburgh 7 Connecticut
10 SMU 10 Colorado
2 San Diego State (MW) 2 Villanova (Big East)
*15 Murray State (OVC) 15 N.C. Central (MEAC)
(4) MIDWEST
Indianapolis (Fri/Sun)
(3) SOUTH
Memphis (Thu/Sat)
St. Louis (Fri/Sun) Orlando (Thu/Sat)
1 Wichita State (MVC) 1 Florida (SEC)
16 Southern/Utah Valley 16 Robert Morris (NEC)
8 VCU 8 New Mexico
9 Providence 9 Minnesota
San Antonio (Fri/Sun) Orlando (Thu/Sat)
5 Texas 5 Louisville
*^12 Tennessee 12 Florida State/LSU
4 Creighton 4 Iowa State
13 Canisius (MAAC) 13 Toledo (MAC)
San Antonio (Fri/Sun) Raleigh (Fri/Sun)
6 Oklahoma State 6 Ohio State
11 Arizona State 11 Kansas State
3 Iowa 3 Cincinnati (AAC)
*14 UC Santa Barbara (Big West) 14 Georgia State (Sun Belt)
St. Louis (Fri/Sun) Milwaukee (Thu/Sat)
7 Gonzaga (WCC) 7 UCLA
10 Stanford 10 Harvard (Ivy)
2 Kansas (Big 12) 2 Michigan State (Big Ten)
15 Stony Brook (AE) *15 IPFW (Summit)
FIRST FOUR (Dayton)
Tuesday: To Buffalo Tuesday: To Orlando
16 Chattanooga (SoCon) 12 Florida State
*16 Coastal Carolina (Big South) *12 LSU
Wednesday: To St. Louis Wednesday: To Raleigh
16 Southern (SWAC) ↓ ^11 Baylor
16 Utah Valley (WAC) ↓ ^11 Oregon

BIDS BY CONFERENCE AVOIDING DAYTON ARRIVALS DEPARTURES
Big 12: 7 Kansas State Coastal Carolina Belmont
Pac-12: 7 Arizona State IPFW Missouri
ACC: 6 Xavier LSU North Dakota State
Big Ten: 6 Tennessee Murray State Northern Colorado
AAC: 5 LAST FOUR IN Tennessee Richmond
A10: 4
Baylor UC Santa Barbara UC Irvine
Big East: 4 Oregon Weber State Winthrop
SEC: 4 Florida State

MW: 2 LSU

1-Bid Conferences: 23 FIRST FOUR OUT


Missouri


Richmond


Indiana


BYU


NEXT FOUR OUT


Georgetown


St. Joseph's


Clemson


N.C. State

Teams are listed in the conference rundowns in seed list order. This post contains information about how I determine automatic bids before the conference tournaments, and my preseason bracket includes a rundown of the new bracket rules for this season. All RPI and SOS data is courtesy Basketball State ($) and reflects games against Division I opposition only that were completed before Monday, February 3, 2014.

American

Bids This Week (5): Cincinnati (auto bid), Louisville, Memphis, Connecticut, SMU

The Bearcats, winners of 14 in a row, have jumped into the top 16, thanks to last week's impressive win in Louisville and a home squeaker over USF. Considering the struggles of so many previous occupants of the protected seed group, it's a no-brainer to place Cincinnati in that class right now.

On the other hand, the defending national champion Cardinals, still without a win over a team in the RPI Top 25, continue to look like a team that's going to earn a lower seed than you would expect. Likewise, Memphis, which struggled in winning at UCF before being blasted by SMU three days later, is once again playing like a team that will end up a couple of seed lines below its preseason forecast.

On the other hand, UConn has room to grow, particularly if the Huskies can consistently play like they did in Thursday's demolition of Houston. They visit Cincinnati on Thursday. Finally, SMU's win over Memphis was simply vital for the Mustangs' hopes, particularly after a Tuesday night loss in Tampa. The Ponies get their second crack at league-leading Cincinnati on Saturday -- at Moody Coliseum.

Five Games To Watch
Louisville at Houston, Wednesday 9 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Connecticut at Cincinnati, Thursday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Cincinnati at SMU, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Gonzaga at Memphis, Saturday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Connecticut at USF, Sunday 6 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Atlantic 10

Bids This Week (4): Saint Louis (auto bid), UMass, VCU, George Washington

The Minutemen, who held a five seed last week, were passed by the Billikens in this week's pecking order. UMass has dropped three of their last four, and the good luck Derek Kellogg's team had in its early-season close games (except for a loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl Classic) seems to have left it. Conversely, Saint Louis was able to escape winless George Mason after overtime on Saturday to extend its unbeaten league mark and push its record against Division I competition to 19-2, with the losses coming against Wichita State and Wisconsin.

VCU, sitting a game behind Saint Louis in the conference race, has somewhat quietly won five in a row. A pair of meetings between the Rams and Billikens -- on February 15th and March 1st -- might just decide both the Atlantic 10 regular season title and which team receives a better seed on Selection Sunday, barring a third meeting in Brooklyn early that afternoon.

At the other end of the bid picture, George Washington fell at Dayton on Saturday, a result that boosted the Flyers' chances more than it damaged the Colonials,' especially since GW was shorthanded. That's more than can be said for Richmond, which fell heavily on the road to the A10's top two, a pair of results that knock the Spiders out of this projected field after a short week's stay. St. Joseph's, on the other hand, picked up two nice wins -- at Dayton and over UMass at Hagan Arena -- to move closer to a berth.

Five Games To Watch
La Salle at UMass, Wednesday 7 p.m. ET (CBS SN)
Saint Louis at St. Joseph's, Wednesday 7 p.m. ET (A10 Network)
Saint Louis at La Salle, Saturday 5 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
VCU at St. Joseph's, Saturday 8 p.m. ET (CBS SN)
UMass at Rhode Island, Sunday 4 p.m. ET (CBS SN)

ACC

Bids This Week (5): Syracuse (auto bid), Duke, VirginiaPittsburgh, North Carolina, Florida State (First Four)

The Blue Devils' performance in Saturday's loss in the Carrier Dome was so impressive, particularly after Jabari Parker, Amile Jefferson and Andre Dawkins all fouled out, that the Blue Devils actually moved up my seed list after the defeat. Once again, Duke has a great chance of playing just a stone's throw from Durham, a result that's not looking likely for Tobacco Road's other great power.

On Sunday, Virginia won at Pitt in a game that looked like one that was scheduled to tip six hours before the Super Bowl kicked off. That result, ugly as it was -- combined with Pitt's previous home loss to Duke eight days ago -- pushes the Cavaliers past the Panthers this week. While Virginia has a 5-4 mark against the Top 50, Pitt is 1-4 against that same group, with the lone win coming against Stanford in the Legends Classic final, which was played just before Thanksgiving.

North Carolina has been able to separate itself from the bubble morass a bit, thanks to three consecutive wins, including home triumphs over Clemson and N.C. State. The Tigers and Wolfpack both defeated Florida State this week, a pair of setbacks that knock the Seminoles down to the First Four. Normally, a week like that would have cost FSU a place outright, but a pair of neutral-court Top 50 wins and a lack of bad losses keep the Noles in (for now) with this bubble. Clemson and N.C. State, and Maryland and Wake Forest for that matter, each need a quality-win RPI boost to sneak in at this point. The Terrapins and Tigers have chances to grab such a victory this week.

Five Games To Watch
Maryland at North Carolina, Tuesday 8 p.m. ET (ACC Network Regional/ESPN3)
North Carolina at Notre Dame, Saturday 12 p.m. ET (ACC Network Regional/ESPN3)
Florida State at Maryland, Saturday 3 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Clemson at Syracuse, Sunday 6 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Maryland at Virginia, Monday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Big 12

Bids This Week (7): Kansas (auto bid), Iowa StateTexasOklahoma StateOklahoma, Kansas State, Baylor (First Four)

This week's big mover in the Big 12 is the Longhorns, who drubbed the Jayhawks from the get-go in Austin and now sits just a game behind Kansas in the conference race. While seemingly everyone else in the conference is dropping games and bracket position, Texas is bucking the trend.

On Monday night, Iowa State sent Oklahoma State further down the seed list with a thrilling triple-overtime win. The Cyclones, meanwhile, are still among the top 16. Oklahoma's position remains rather steady, even after a Saturday loss in Ames.

The Big 12's bubble is starting to grow a bit. Baylor keeps hanging around, with Saturday's win in Stillwater preserving the Bears' place for another week. However, they're now joined by a Kansas State team which is far less secure that it was a couple of weeks ago, thanks to three losses in its last four. And might West Virginia, which handled the Wildcats in Morgantown on Saturday, be ready to make a late push? The Mountaineers, whose best wins came last week against K-State and at Baylor, still have a lot of work to do, but eight of their remaining nine games come against bid contenders, starting at home against Oklahoma on Wednesday night.

Five Games To Watch
Kansas at Baylor, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Oklahoma at West Virginia, Wednesday 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Texas at Kansas State, Saturday 1:30 p.m. ET (Big 12 Network/ESPN3)
Baylor at Oklahoma, Saturday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Kansas at Kansas State, Monday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Big East

Bids This Week (4): Villanova (auto bid), CreightonProvidenceXavier

While Villanova and Creighton keep on racking up wins en route to their February 16th rematch in Omaha, Providence and Xavier both saw their NCAA chances take a hit last week. The Friars left their cozy home arena for the first time in 12 days and struggled mightily -- falling at Marquette and barely defeating DePaul. Meanwhile, the Musketeers dropped a home game to Seton Hall (an unexpected 3-2 in Big East road games) on Saturday and were blown out of the Pavilion by 'Nova on Monday night. While Xavier should have the talent to withstand its current struggles, Providence may have issues down the stretch, thanks to a very short bench.

Georgetown helped its case significantly by defeating Michigan State at Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon. The Hoyas now have three Top 50 wins, with all of them coming on neutral courts. However, a pair of losses to teams from outside the Top 100 mean GU's RPI ranking hovers right around 60th. In other words, a few more quality wins are needed to get John Thompson III's team back in the field, particularly with a five-game losing streak just beyond the rearview mirror.

Five Games To Watch
St. John's at Providence, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (FS1)
Seton Hall at Villanova, Friday, 7 p.m. ET (FS1)
Butler at Georgetown, Saturday 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Providence at Xavier, Saturday 3 p.m. ET (FS1)
Providence at Georgetown, Monday 7 p.m. ET (FS1)

Big Ten

Bids This Week (6): Michigan State, Michigan, IowaWisconsin, Ohio State, Minnesota

The overall depth of the Big Ten is starting to take a bit of a toll on its teams' seeding prospects. Over just the past seven days, Michigan lost at Indiana, Iowa fell at home to Michigan State (which promptly dropped from the top line after a non-conference loss), Wisconsin slipped twice in a 72-hour span at home, and Northwestern defeated Minnesota at the Barn. Amazingly, the 12-11 Wildcats now sit in fourth place, a half-game up on Ohio State, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Indiana in the conference race.

While the Spartans, Wolverines and Hawkeyes all sit among the Top 16 today, the Badgers, losers of five of their last six, have dropped down to the five line. Minnesota, 2-4 in its last six, is moving ever closer to the bubble, which currently doesn't feature many Big Ten contenders. Indiana is in the "First Four Out" group, though the Hoosiers really need a road win at this point. Conversely, Purdue and Illinois, currently on four- and seven-game losing streaks, respectively, have been all but eliminated from the at-large picture.

Five Games To Watch
Ohio State at Iowa, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Minnesota at Purdue, Wednesday 8:30 p.m. ET (BTN)
Michigan at Iowa, Saturday 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Indiana at Minnesota, Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET (BTN)
Michigan State at Wisconsin, Sunday 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Mountain West

Bids This Week (2): San Diego State (auto bid), New Mexico

The Aztecs and Lobos, a combined 16-1 in the conference, continue to lead the way. However, a potential third contender emerged on Saturday night in Las Vegas, where UNLV roared back late to defeat Boise State. That result moved the Runnin' Rebels into fourth place, a game behind at-large non-factor Nevada. Now, UNLV's most likely path is still the auto bid, thanks to an RPI ranking north of 100th, an unimpressive 2-4 record against the Top 100 and a trio of bad losses. But all is not lost for the Rebels' regular season, as they have yet to play SDSU and can still sweep New Mexico.

Five Games To Watch 
San Diego State at Boise State, Wednesday 9:15 p.m. ET (CBS SN)
UNLV at Colorado State, Wednesday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
Boise State at Utah State, Saturday 6 p.m. ET (CBS SN)
Nevada at San Diego State, Saturday 10 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
Wyoming at UNLV, Saturday 10 p.m. ET (ESPN3)

Pac-12

Bids This Week (7): Arizona (auto bid), UCLA, CaliforniaColorado, Stanford, Arizona StateOregon (First Four)

With Oregon State's home win over UCLA on Sunday afternoon, the Pac-12 race is a bit of a jumble at the midway point. Sure, Arizona leads the way at 8-1, but it will be curious to see how the Wildcats adjust to the absence of Brandon Ashley for the remainder of the season. Cal and UCLA sit two games back at 6-3, with both in pretty good shape bracket-wise. However, there's now a five-way tie for fourth at 5-4, featuring bid contenders Colorado, Stanford and Arizona State, alongside likely non-factors Oregon State and Washington.

At this point, it looks like Arizona should have no trouble earning a protected seed -- though staying on the top line may be a lot to ask without Ashley in the lineup -- and everyone else looks like a mid-bracket team. That's because Colorado (2-4 without Spencer Dinwiddie), Oregon (2-6 since a 13-0 start) and Arizona State (3-6 against the Top 100) all still have significant amounts of work to do if they want to receive invites on Selection Sunday.

Five Games To Watch
Stanford at California, Wednesday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Oregon at Arizona, Thursday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Oregon State at Arizona State, Thursday 11 p.m. ET (FS1)
Oregon at Arizona State, Saturday 5 p.m. ET (FS1)
Washington at Colorado, Sunday 8 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

SEC

Bids This Week (4): Florida (auto bid), Kentucky, TennesseeLSU (First Four)

The Gators and Wildcats are entrenched in the Top 15 of the RPI table -- and the top four lines of this bracket. Beyond them, however, the SEC's bid hopes are very much up in the air. Tennessee sneaks in after dropping Ole Miss and Alabama this week, though the Volunteers' RPI ranking of 39 and the increased prestige of a dominant December home win over Virginia helped their cause.

Missouri, one of three SEC teams sitting between 50th and 60th in the RPI, dropped out after a disappointing performance against Kentucky at home on Saturday. The Tigers are replaced by one of the other two teams in that class, LSU. The Bayou Bengals knocked off both Kentucky and Arkansas in Baton Rouge in the past seven days. The trio's third member, Ole Miss -- who fell to Tennessee and barely got by woeful South Carolina last week -- remains on the outside looking in.

Five Games To Watch
Ole Miss at Kentucky, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Missouri at Florida, Tuesday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
LSU at Georgia, Thursday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Alabama at Florida, Saturday 12 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Missouri at Ole Miss, Saturday 5 p.m. ET (SEC on FSN/ESPN3)

Single-Bid Conferences

Automatic Bids This Week (23): Stony Brook (America East), Mercer (Atlantic Sun), Weber State (Big Sky), Coastal Carolina (Big South), UC Santa Barbara (Big West), Delaware (Colonial), Southern Mississippi (Conference USA), Green Bay (Horizon), Harvard (Ivy), Canisius (Metro Atlantic), Toledo (Mid-American), N.C. Central (Mid-Eastern), Wichita State (Missouri Valley, in as at-large), Robert Morris (Northeast), Murray State (Ohio Valley), American (Patriot), Chattanooga (Southern), Stephen F. Austin (Southland), Southern (SWAC), IPFW (Summit), Georgia State (Sun Belt), Gonzaga (West Coast, in as at-large), Utah Valley (Western Athletic)

It was yet another lousy week for mid-major at-large candidates. Indiana State, still lacking a Top 50 win, now has a loss to a team from a team outside of the Top 250, thanks to Wednesday's 19-point drubbing at Southern Illinois. The Sycamores host No. 1 seed contender Wichita State on Wednesday, but even a win over the Shockers probably won't help the Trees enough at this point.

The WCC's two at-large contenders not named Gonzaga met in Provo on Saturday night, and BYU overcame a sluggish start to defeat St. Mary's, the Gaels' second loss of the week. While those setbacks knocked Randy Bennett's team out, barring a run in Las Vegas during the early part of Championship Week, the Cougars are still alive. BYU's RPI ranking of 50th and 4-5 record against the Top 100 are pluses; however, four losses against teams from outside of the Top 100 may give the Selection Committee pause.

Five Games To Watch
Eastern Michigan at Akron, Wednesday 7 p.m. (TWCS/ESPN3)
Wichita State at Indiana State, Wednesday 8 p.m. ET (FS Midwest/CSN Chicago/FCS Atlantic/ESPN3)
Murray State at Belmont, Thursday 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
Manhattan at Canisius, Friday 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Gonzaga at Memphis, Saturday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

That's bracketology for the first Tuesday on February, but don't worry, as I'll have a quick update on Friday to prepare you for the weekend. In the meantime, head over to Blogging the Bracket for my daily TV previews and morning recaps and follow me during each night's action on Twitter @ChrisDobbertean.

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