As January winds down, and the serious business that is February basketball approaches, all four top seeds from last Tuesday's bracket and Friday's bracket count edition of Bubble Watch remain on the top line, but not without a few shifts.
Ohio State remains on top, but Pittsburgh slides down to the four spot, the top of the West, after Monday night's home loss to Notre Dame (a newly-minted three seed), which allows Duke to jump into the second slot overall and the more geographically convenient East Region, Kansas, who still owns the top ranking in the RPI (depending on which service you use), are in the third slot after their loss on Saturday at home to Texas.
Speaking of the Longhorns, they jump up to the two line after they ended the Jayhawks' 69-game home winning streak. Texas is there along with the three Big East teams who were there last week--Connecticut, Syracuse, and Villanova--while still unbeaten San Diego State drops to line three.
Why do I have three twice-defeated teams (including the Orange, who lost two in a row) over one of the nation's two remaining undefeateds? It simply boils down to the schedule.
San Diego State is 8-0 against teams ranked in the RPI Top 100 (as of Monday), 3-0 against the Top 50. That trio of wins came at home, against a trio of teams (UNLV, St. Mary's, and Wichita State) who are all but assured of a place in the field. The Aztecs' best two road wins fit in the 51-100 category, as the early promise of games at California, a team struggling in the Pac-10, and Gonzaga, who just lost consecutive West Coast Conference games for the first time in 11 years, has turned into frustration for Aztec fans.
As for the current crop of two seeds, their wins are a bit stronger. All four own more top 50 victories than the Aztecs; Syracuse has one more top 100 win; and Connecticut joins the Aztecs on eight. Villanova (7) and Texas (5) have fewer. In fact, the Aztecs main rival in the Mountain West race, BYU, has one more top 50 win than Steve Fisher's team, though none of their victims (Arizona, Utah State, St. Mary's and UNLV) are locks yet either.
And yes, the quartet has suffered a total of nine total losses, and newcomer Texas' defeat at USC (RPI No. 93) is by far the worst. However, there isn't a bad loss in the other eight. The lowest RPI ranking out of that group belongs to No. 17 Tennessee, who beat Villanova.
Basically, San Diego State's troubles with non-conference scheduling, something teams outside of the Big Six conferences regularly deal with (particularly ones as talented as the Aztecs), could hurt them in the long run. For example, the record you see says the Aztecs have 20 wins, but the record the selection committee uses has a big 18 written on it. Why? Well, Steve Fisher and the San Diego State athletic department had a rough time getting teams to come to the Viejas Center, so they had to book a pair of local non-Division I teams to come in. Those games don't count towards a team's profile.
One thing working in the Aztecs favor is that it's likely there will be some separation among that cluster of Big East teams on the two line, which will help them jump up if they keep winning. Another plus--double-digit wins away from home have a way of boosting a profile.
The big stumbling block to Aztec progress, however, is Brigham Young.
Thanks to the prohibition against BYU playing on Sunday, the Cougars will have to be slotted in the West or Southeast regions on Selection Sunday. That means Wednesday's game in Provo between San Diego State and the Cougars (CBS College Sports, 10 p.m. ET) is the first of two, and potentially three, meetings that will help determine which of these two will get to stay in its natural region. With the regional just up I-5 in Anaheim, expect the Aztecs to be motivated to stay close to home. But you cannot discount Steve Rose's team's chances of grabbing that plum seeding for themselves.
Here's how this week's field shakes out.
This week, I've added even more information to the breakdown profiles for teams with halfway decent at-large hopes, listing their RPI Top 50 and 100 wins and their losses, bad and good.
Last Four IN (First Round): Richmond vs. Butler, UCLA vs. Old Dominion
Next Four IN: (Second Round): Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Marquette, Gonzaga
This week, the First Round features a game for each region, but the two at-large games are set for Tuesday.
First Four OUT: Penn State, Washington State, Baylor, UCF
Next Four OUT: Dayton, Colorado, Wichita State, Maryland
Breakdown of those Outside Looking In
If Penn State had played, and won, over the weekend, they'd likely be in right now. Both the Nittany Lions and Butler have significant profile issues, but the Bulldogs get the edge for the moment, thanks to stronger work outside of their conference. However, Butler's margin of error is very thin.
UCF, meanwhile, went from a nine seed to out of the field in the span of a week. The Knights, who still boast RPI top 50 wins over Florida and Miami, have lost four straight Conference USA games--two at home. Colorado was another team who took a tumble, albeit after a much shorter one-week stay in the bracket, after a disappointing loss at Nebraska and a downright bad one at Oklahoma.
There's little change here this week. The Big Ten and Big 12 each lose a team, but remain tied for second in the race among conferences, a distant second behind the Big East. The Atlantic and Pac 10s each pick up a team, both of whom find themselves in the First Four. Conference USA falls from the ranks of the multi-bid leagues, but the Horizon replaces them.
Seeds in Parentheses
Big East: 11
Pittsburgh (1), Connecticut (2), Syracuse (2), Villanova (2), Notre Dame (3), Georgetown (5), Louisville (6), West Virginia (6), Cincinnati (9), St. John's (10), Marquette (11)
Big Ten: 6
Ohio State (1), Purdue (3), Wisconsin (5), Illinois (5), Michigan State (6), Minnesota (7, natural 6)
Big 12: 6
Kansas (1), Texas (2), Texas A&M (4), Missouri (4), Oklahoma State (11), Kansas State (11)
Duke (1), North Carolina (7), Florida State (8), Boston College (9), Virginia Tech (10)
Kentucky (4), Vanderbilt (5), Florida (6, natural 7), Georgia (7), Tennessee (9)
Atlantic 10: 3
Xavier (7), Temple (8), Richmond (12, 1st Rd.)
Mountain West: 3
San Diego State (3), BYU (3), UNLV (8)
Washington (4), Arizona (9), UCLA (12, 1st Rd.)
Old Dominion (12, 1st Rd.), VCU (13)
Cleveland State (12), Butler (12, 1st Rd.)
West Coast: 2
St, Mary's (9), Gonzaga (12)
One Bid Leagues: 20
America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Conference USA, Ivy, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern (1st Rd.), Missouri Valley, Northeast (1st Rd.), Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland (1st Rd.), Southwestern (1st Rd.), Summit, Sun Belt, WAC
When my next projection arrives, it will be a new month, and the inaugural "First Four" will be a mere six weeks away. Once again, a Bracket Math edition of Bubble Watch on Friday serves as our checkpoint heading into the weekend. In the meantime, be sure to visit Blogging The Bracket and follow me on Twitter, for a bracket-focused look at the nightly TV slate.