On Wednesday night, Boise State‘s Jeff Elorriaga calmly sank a three-pointer moments before the buzzer sounded at Laramie's Arena-Auditorium, knocking the host Wyoming from the ranks of the undefeated. In the four days that followed, the three teams that joined the Cowboys in that select class entering midweek play would also fall. Arizona rallied late but lost at Oregon on Thursday night. In one of Saturday's early finals, Duke fell on its visit to neighbors N.C. State. Then, on Sunday, Michigan dug itself a deep, 21-point first-half deficit on the home court of ancient rivals Ohio State, who prevailed despite a late Wolverine push, ensuring that once again no Division I team will finish the season with a zero in the loss column.
While those results certainly created movement in the polls, as expected, they didn't have the same effect on bracketology, since the focus is on teams' overall body of work, as opposed to the polls' emphasis on a "snapshot in time." So, the top two lines of this week's bracket projection are roughly the same as last week's, since we're now comparing one- and two-loss teams instead of zero- and one-loss ones. So, Duke, Michigan, Kansas and Arizona remain in the top four spots overall on this Tuesday. On the other hand, Louisville, the newly-crowned No. 1 in the AP and coaches' polls, sits on the two line, thanks to a lower RPI and relative lack of quality wins when compared to the four top seeds. New No. 2 Indiana, also a second seed, suffers from the same two issues.
After the bracket and the rundown, I'll again go through the bid picture conference-by-conference. Starting this week, these capsules will close with a short list of key league games to watch between now and next Tuesday.
|BIDS BY CONFERENCE||LAST FOUR BYES||ARRIVALS||DEPARTURES|
|Big Ten: 7||Wyoming||BYU||Davidson|
|Big 12: 6||Colorado||Charleston Southern||Detroit|
|Big East: 6||North Carolina||College of Charleston||Eastern Kentucky|
|MWC: 6||Wisconsin||Florida Gulf Coast||Hawaii|
||LAST FOUR IN||Iona||Indiana State|
||Texas A&M||Long Beach State||Kentucky|
|Pac-12: 4||Belmont||Memphis||Loyola, Md.|
|SEC: 4||Iowa State||Mississippi||Maryland|
|MVC: 2||Colorado State||Montana||UNC Asheville|
|OVC: 2||LAST FOUR OUT||North Dakota State||USC Upstate|
|WCC: 2||Kentucky||Stony Brook||Tulsa|
|1-Bid Conferences: 20||Arizona State||Tennessee State||Vermont|
|Indiana State||Wisconsin||Weber State|
|NEXT FOUR OUT||Wright State||Western Illinois|
|BYU||11 down to 12|
|Memphis||12 up to 11|
Also considered (in order): Lehigh, California, La Salle, Villanova, Arkansas, Rutgers, Virginia, Iowa, Stanford, Seton Hall, St. Joseph's, Southern Mississippi, Xavier, Alabama, Dayton, Massachusetts, Richmond, Tennessee
Bids This Week: 5/Last Week: 5
After a strong early season showing and two straight road wins to open A-10 play, Butler is in line for a protected seed in mid-January, a prospect that will become even brighter should the Bulldogs top Gonzaga on Saturday night. Of course, if Rotnei Clarke is unavailable for that one, thanks to a neck sprain suffered in a scary fall at Dayton on Saturday afternoon, Butler's chances in the mid-major showdown will take a hit.
VCU, Charlotte and Xavier join the Bulldogs at the top of the league, though the Rams have by far the best at-large chances of this trio. The 49ers again appear in the bracket as the auto bid holders, thanks to the fact they own one more Division I win than Butler. As for the Musketeers, they'll need to make a significant run through league play to get in, thanks to their non-league struggles. Temple, who fell to Chris Mack's team on Thursday, and Saint Louis, losers to the Owls 48 hours later, are the class of the gaggle of 1-1 teams that follow the lead pack, thanks to their non-conference results.
Five A-10 Games To Watch
Dayton at La Salle, Wednesday 7 p.m. ET (FS Ohio)
Richmond at Butler, Wednesday 7 p.m. ET (WNDY/WTVR 6.3)
St. Joseph's at VCU, Thursday 9 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
St. Bonaventure at Temple, Saturday 1 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
Gonzaga at Butler, Saturday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Bids This Week: 4/Last Week: 6
The ACC is in real danger of sending only three teams to the NCAAs this season, as Maryland and Virginia drop out of this projection after going a combined 0-4 last week. The Cavaliers' losses were especially egregious, particularly when compounded by their early bad losses against Colonial opposition. North Carolina is barely hanging on, saved by Saturday's win over Florida State.
N.C. State jumped up to the No. 3 line with its win over Duke Saturday and Miami is breathing down both teams' backs, meaning the race for the regular season crown will continue to be worth watching. Note that if the Blue Devils are without Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry for an extended period of time and struggle as a result, they're likely to drop from the top seed line.
Five ACC Games To Watch
N.C. State at Maryland, Wednesday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Georgia Tech at Duke, Thursday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Maryland at North Carolina, Saturday 12 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Florida State at Virginia, Saturday 4 p.m. ET (ACC Network/ESPN3)
Clemson at N.C. State, Sunday 6 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Bids This Week: 6/Last Week: 6
This conference has six teams in this projection and four teams that aren't really close to the bubble. Kansas, sitting at the third overall spot on the top line, is the squad in best position seeding-wise by far, with Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma occupying spots in the middle of the bracket. Iowa State, on the other hand, may regret letting the Jayhawks off the hook on Wednesday night in Lawrence, as it sits perilously close to the cut line. The Cyclones cannot afford to slip up against either West Virginia or TCU this week.
Five Big 12 Games To Watch
West Virginia at Iowa State, Wednesday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Kansas at Texas, Saturday 2 p.m. ET (CBS Regional)
Oklahoma at Kansas State, Saturday 4 p.m. ET (Big 12 Network/ESPN3)
Oklahoma State at Baylor, Monday 5:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Texas at Oklahoma, Monday 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Bids This Week: 6/Last Week: 6
Louisville, Syracuse and Marquette enter the week with unbeaten conference records, with the Cardinals and Orange meeting on Saturday on the banks of the Ohio River in a game with significant implications at the top of the bracket. Of course, Syracuse will be at a disadvantage in the titanic clash should senior sharpshooter James Southerland's eligibility issues remain unresolved.
Notre Dame, Cincinnati and Georgetown are the Big East's other three entrants this week, with the Fighting Irish and Bearcats in better position than the inconsistent Hoyas. Pittsburgh was in position to earn some consideration after their resounding win over Georgetown on Tuesday night, but a home, overtime loss to Marquette Saturday sent the Panthers tumbling back down. Villanova‘s inability to defeat depleted Syracuse hours earlier also cost it a further look.
Five Big East Games To Watch
Connecticut at Pittsburgh, Saturday 12 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Syracuse at Louisville, Saturday 4 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Marquette at Cincinnati, Saturday 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Cincinnati at Syracuse, Monday 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Georgetown at Notre Dame, Monday 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Bids This Week: 7/Last Week: 6
With its win over still top-seeded Michigan, Ohio State crashes the group of protected seeds, replacing Illinois, which still seems to have an issue with mid-to-late-season fades. The Fighting Illini have lost three of four. Minnesota remains on the No. 2 line, even after Saturday's loss at Indiana, since the Golden Gophers' overall profile is still a high-quality one. They can make a further statement at home against Michigan on Thursday.
Wisconsin re-enters the field after a 3-0 Big Ten start, capped by a resounding home win over Illinois on Saturday afternoon. The Badgers have another chance to boost their case on Tuesday, when they face Indiana at Assembly Hall. Meanwhile, Michigan State ‘s recent play has been a bit concerning, as the Spartans have struggled in consecutive outings, a road win at Iowa and a home triumph over Nebraska. With five games in a row against teams in this projection following Wednesday's trip to Penn State, we will soon know a lot more about the March prospects for Tom Izzo's team.
Five Big Ten Games To Watch
Wisconsin at Indiana, Tuesday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Michigan at Minnesota, Thursday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Northwestern at Illinois, Thursday 8:15 p.m. ET (BTN)
Ohio State at Michigan State, Saturday 6 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Wisconsin at Iowa, Saturday 8 p.m. ET (BTN)
Bids This Week: 2/Last Week: 3
Thanks to Indiana State‘s disappointing loss at Southern Illinois on Saturday night, the chances the Missouri Valley needs a surprise Arch Madness winner to secure three bids ticked up. Creighton and Wichita State are still in great position, though the Shockers' seeding took a slight hit after a road loss at the hands of Evansville. The Aces are one of a group of teams, along with the Sycamores, Bradley and Northern Iowa, which might be capable to making a bubble-busting run in St. Louis.
Five Valley Games To Watch
Northern Iowa at Creighton, Tuesday 8 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
Missouri State at Indiana State, Wednesday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
Illinois State at Wichita State, Wednesday 8 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
Creighton at Wichita State, Saturday 4 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Evansville at Indiana State, Saturday 8 p.m. ET (FS Midwest/CSN Chicago Plus)
Bids This Week: 6/Last Week: 6
New Mexico, San Diego State and Boise State stand unbeaten after the first week of Mountain West play, though the Broncos played just once, while UNLV, Colorado State and Wyoming all picked up defeats. All six remain in the field, with the Lobos and Aztecs among the top 16 and the Rams remaining in the First Four. Had Larry Eustachy's squad won at San Diego State on Saturday night, which would have been a significant feat given the Rams' struggles in Mountain West road games last season, it would be in far better position than it is today.
The league grind will be in full effect this week. UNLV faces a daunting pair of road games, shifting from San Diego on Wednesday to Fort Collins on Saturday. New Mexico visits Boise State in its only game of the week, while the Broncos visit a dangerous Air Force squad over the weekend. Meanwhile, the Aztecs follow their home game against the Runnin' Rebels with a trip to the altitude of Laramie. All those showdowns mean it's going to be difficult for anyone to remain unblemished in league play for much longer.
Five Mountain West Games To Watch
New Mexico at Boise State, Wednesday 9 p.m. ET (ROOT Sports)
UNLV at San Diego State, Wednesday 10 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
Boise State at Air Force, Saturday 4 p.m. ET (ROOT Sports)
UNLV at Colorado State, Saturday 7 p.m. ET (NBC Sports Network)
San Diego State at Wyoming, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET (TWC SportsNet)
Bids This Week: 4/Last Week: 4
Don't look now, but after sweeping its the Rockies swing, UCLA holds the Pac-12 lead by a half-game over Oregon and Washington and is knocking on the door of a protected seed. The Bruins' non-conference struggles are holding them back on that front, much like the Huskies' early issues keep them out of the field for the moment. Both squads look like they'll challenge Arizona for the regular season crown, which means the Wildcats will be hard pressed to stay on the top seed line.
Colorado, off to a 1-3 Pac-12 start, is in danger of sliding out if it can't right the ship quickly, a task that will be made more difficult by this week's Seattle-Pullman trip. Meanwhile, a pair of rivalry matchups with significant bubble impact are on tap for Saturday. Arizona State hosts Arizona with a signature win in its sights, while the loser of the season's first California-Stanford contest will have a difficult path to an at-large.
Five Pac-12 Games To Watch
Colorado at Washington, Wednesday 11:30 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
Arizona at Arizona State, Saturday 2:30 p.m. ET (FSN/FCS Pacific)
Oregon at UCLA, Saturday 4 p.m. ET (CBS)
California at Stanford, Saturday 4:30 p.m. ET (FSN/FCS Pacific)
Colorado at Washington State, Saturday 11 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
Bids This Week: 4/Last Week: 3
Your eyes aren't deceiving you. Kentucky, last season's national champions (you can't truly say the Wildcats are defending their title, given the roster turnover) are not in this week's bracket after a home loss to Texas A&M on Saturday. The Wildcats have just one win against a team ranked in the RPI Top 100. That victory, against Maryland in Brooklyn, came on the first night of the season. The Aggies enter the field this week, though their seeding is rather low, thanks to their non-conference performance.
Mississippi is the fourth SEC entrant, as it owns the auto bid by virtue of having won one more game than Florida, though the Rebels would be one of the last at-large teams anyway. The Gators, meanwhile, can establish themselves definitively as league favorites provided they make it through their lone Thursday-Saturday swing of the conference season, not a given as the injury bug has hit just in time for a trip to College Station and home contest with Missouri. The Tigers are seeing their own position slip, as they're struggling without Laurence Bowers. On the wrong side of the cut line, Tennessee are in poor position after an 0-2 start, while Alabama and Arkansas both rebounded from midweek losses to get to .500 in the league and stay on the fringe of the bid conversation.
Five SEC Games To Watch
Tennessee at Kentucky, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Florida at Texas A&M, Thursday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Arkansas at Mississippi, Saturday 1:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network/ESPN3)
Missouri at Florida, Saturday 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Texas A&M at Alabama, Saturday 6 p.m. ET (SEC on FSN/ESPN3)
At-Large Bids This Week: 2/Last Week: 1
The number of at-large bids for the remaining 22 Division I leagues doubled this week, thanks to early conference scheduling imbalances in the Ohio Valley and West Coast Conferences. Belmont again returns as one of the last at-large teams in the field, thanks to the fact Tennessee State owns one more OVC win. The two meet in Nashville on Saturday, and the Bruins host 4-0 Eastern Kentucky two nights earlier, so that discrepancy should resolve itself before my next projection.
BYU is in as the WCC leader, as the Cougars have one more conference win than Gonzaga. Dave Rose's team might just find itself in the field next Tuesday (and quite possibly beyond, at least as an at-large), as it hosts St. Mary's and San Diego in conference play this week, while the Bulldogs play just one WCC game. They visit Portland before their trip to Indianapolis to take on Butler.
Note that the Cougars visit Spokane on Thursday, January 24th.
Conference USA again has just one team in the field, though it is Memphis this week. The Tigers may not hang around for long though, again thanks to schedule imbalance. Memphis plays only at Rice in league play this week before welcoming Harvard to FedEx Forum on Saturday, while Southern Mississippi and UTEP, who share the early C-USA lead with the Tigers, play a pair against conference opposition.
Six Mid-Major Games To Watch
St. Mary's at BYU, Wednesday 11 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Valparaiso at Detroit, Thursday 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Stony Brook at Vermont, Friday 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Harvard at Memphis, Saturday 12:30 p.m. ET (FSN/FCS Atlantic)
Illinois-Chicago at Detroit, Saturday 6:30 p.m. ET (FS Detroit/Horizon League Network)
Utah State at Denver, Saturday 6:30 p.m. ET (ROOT Sports)
My next update will come on Tuesday, January 22nd. Be sure to follow me on Twitter for my thoughts in the meantime.