On Saturday, Ohio State, the top overall seed in last week's NCAA Tournament Bracketology and Bubble Watch, suffered its first loss of the season Wisconsin in Madison, a defeat that cost Buckeyes basketball the top spot in the polls for this week.
Bracketology isn't the rankings: however, so the nation's new No. 1, Kansas, didn't automatically rise up to the top position in the bracket. This can be viewed as a wise decision, as KU was pounded by bubble team Kansas State on Monday night, a defeat that leads to the Jayhawks dropping down to the two line.
Kansas' fall means we have a new number one seed for the first time in three weeks, as Duke rises up to the head of the West region, the fourth and final No. 1 seed. Thanks to their overall body of work, Ohio State keeps the overall top spot and anchors the East Region. Texas stays in second, heading the Southwest, while Pittsburgh slides over to number three and the Southeast.
That single change at the top of the bracket is nothing compared the anarchy on display throughout the rest of the S-curve.
The revolving door continues to spin at the bottom of the at-large pool, as there are three new at-large teams in this week's bracket, all of whom would find themselves in Dayton for the First Four based on this projection.
Last Four IN (First Round): Butler vs. Michigan State and Colorado State vs. Kansas State
It's opening round perfection again this week, as there's a game in each region and an auto bid and at-large game for both Tuesday and Wednesday. And yes, I project that there will be a rematch of the first of last season's national semifinals in Dayton on March 16th.
As for Kansas State, they slip down into the First Four despite their big win over Kansas simply because that's their first win over a top 50 opponent all season (and it took place at home to boot).
Next Four IN: (Second Round): Cincinnati, Georgia, Virginia Tech, Memphis
First Eight OUT: Baylor, VCU, Gonzaga, Colorado, Oklahoma State, Washington State, Cleveland State, Missouri State
Thanks to Xavier's win over Duquesne on Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh and Alabama's defeat at Vanderbilt Thursday night, the at-large picture in this bracket is an accurate one, since there aren't any bid thieves keeping a worthy (well, as deserving as possible for this season) team out of the field.
Eleven conferences receive multiple bids in this projection, with the Horizon the newest addition to the group, and an unlikely one at that.
It's not often that a team who was completely missing from Bubble Watch on Friday finds its way into a Tuesday bracket, but thanks to the teams around them falling and some good results by their opponents, Butler scratches its way back into the field, as one of the First Four. Six wins in a row by Milwaukee has seen the Panthers rise into a tie for third in the Horizon with the Bulldogs, while boosting their RPI ranking to 108, which means the team's sweep of Butler, while damaging, isn't harming their computer numbers as much a few weeks later. (Though a loss to Youngstown State is an anchor.)
In the power conferences, things remain roughly the same. The Big East keeps its 11 teams in, though there's been a significant amount of separation among the seven teams in play for protected seeds (which should become even more apparent over the next few weeks). Plus, St. John's has jumped ahead of Marquette and Cincinnati, thanks to wins over the Bearcats and Connecticut last week, and are looking like strong bets to become another lock for the conference.
The Big 12 drops down to five teams, as Baylor and Oklahoma State take the revolving door out. Colorado is also in play, thanks to a season sweep of Kansas State, but they need to pick up some more wins to boost sagging computer numbers.
Alabama's departure means the SEC now has just five entrants, all from the East. Florida, not Kentucky, owns the best position in the bracket, thanks to an 8-1 mark against the RPI Top 50, a mark that's better than the one held by each of the top four seeds (Ohio State [6-1], Texas [7-2], Pitt [6-2], Duke [6-2]). However, the Gators also have losses against fading UCF, Jacksonville, South Carolina, and Mississippi State on their profile, which means they're a three seed at the moment, instead of a two or one.
Keep an eye on the ACC, where things could get interesting as the regular season winds down. Not only are Boston College, Virginia Tech, Clemson, and Maryland all playing for one of the last few spots, but Florida State, a team that currently sits as an eight seed on my S-curve (I bumped them to a seven in the bracket for procedural reasons) isn't out of the woods because of a significant injury.
In the first half of Saturday's 63-56 win over Virginia, Seminole forward Chris Singleton fractured his foot, an injury which will keep the FSU star out for at least the rest of the regular season. Florida State looked to be in decent position to finish third in the ACC, earning them a bye to the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament and keeping them away from an RPI damaging First Round game in Greensboro. However, when you consider that Singleton is the primary weapon on a defensively-gifted, but offensively-challenged, team (I advise that you wear goggles when reviewing their KenPom.com profile.), even the Seminoles' upcoming games against Wake Forest and N.C. State could be a challenge.
There's a quartet of Mountain West teams in this week, as Colorado State finally breaks through after a home win over New Mexico on Saturday night. The Rams are in the First Four for the moment, but a Saturday home game against UNLV, a team they defeated in the desert, and trips to BYU and San Diego State (who remain on the two line) give them opportunities to rise. As for the Runnin' Rebels, a sweep at the hands of Colorado State could be damaging, given the 0-4 mark Lon Kruger's team put up against the Cougars and Aztecs.
The two coastal 10 conferences, Atlantic and Pacific, each provide a trio of teams, all of whom are starting to solidify their places and improve their seeding.
The Colonial Athletic Association and Conference USA join the Horizon League as two-bid leagues this week. Of these three leagues, I suspect the CAA has the best chance at actually entering more than one team in the field of 68. The conference's two entrants this week, George Mason and Old Dominion, both own solid profiles, and VCU, who sits just outside the field thanks to three particularly bad losses, gets the conference tournament not far from campus. Meanwhile, the at-large entrants for C-USA (Memphis) and the Horizon (Butler) both sit perilously close to the cut line.
Here's the breakdown of bids by league for this week.
Seeds in Parentheses
Big East: 11
Pittsburgh (1), Notre Dame (2), Georgetown (3), Connecticut (3), Villanova (4), Syracuse (4), Louisville (5), West Virginia (7), St. John's (8 [natural 7]), Marquette (9), Cincinnati (11)
Big Ten: 6
Ohio State (1), Wisconsin (3), Purdue (4), Illinois (8), Minnesota (9), Michigan State (12, 1st Rd.)
Duke (1), North Carolina (4), Florida State (7 [natural 8]), Boston College (11), Virginia Tech (11)
Big 12: 5
Texas (1), Kansas (2), Texas A&M (5), Missouri (6), Kansas State (12, 1st Rd.)
Florida (3), Kentucky (5), Vanderbilt (6), Tennessee (9), Georgia (11)
Mountain West: 4
BYU (2), San Diego State (2), UNLV (8), Colorado State (12, 1st Rd.)
Atlantic 10: 3
Temple (6), Xavier (6), Richmond (10)
Arizona (5), Washington (7), UCLA (7)
George Mason (9), Old Dominion (10)
Conference USA: 2
Memphis (12), UTEP (13)
Butler (12, 1st Rd.), Valparaiso (12)
One Bid Leagues: 20
America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West (1st Rd.), Ivy, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland (1st Rd.), Southwestern (1st Rd.), Summit, Sun Belt (1st Rd.), West Coast, WAC
As football season is truly over, more casual fans are starting to pay attention to college basketball. Even though the devil on my shoulder wants to chide these latecomers, I'd rather be helpful. So, between now and Selection Sunday, I'm going to conclude each Bracketology and Bubble Watch post with a list of the upcoming nights' games with bracket impact. This first list will span from tonight through Thursday.
Note: Seed numbers in this projection are in parentheses. Teams with a (B) in front of their names are currently out of my projection, but under consideration.
Tuesday, February 15
(9) George Mason at (B) VCU, ESPNU (7 p.m. ET)
(B) Maryland at (11) Virginia Tech, ACC Network/TheACC.com (ACC territory) or ESPN3/Full Court (elsewhere) (8 p.m. ET)
(12) Michigan State at (1) Ohio State, ESPN (9 p.m. ET)
(8) St. John's at (9) Marquette, ESPNU (9 p.m. ET)
Air Force at (8) UNLV, The Mtn. (10:30 p.m. ET)
Wednesday, February 16
(3) Wisconsin at (4) Purdue, Big Ten Network (6:30 p.m. ET)
(5) Louisville at (11) Cincinnati, ESPN (7 p.m. ET)
(6) Vanderbilt at (11) Georgia, ESPNU (7 p.m. ET)
(B) UAB at (12) Memphis, CBS College Sports (7 p.m. ET)
South Carolina at (9) Tennessee, SEC on CSS/ESPN3/Full Court (7 p.m. ET)
(3) Georgetown at (3) Connecticut, Big East Network/ESPN3/Full Court (7 p.m. ET)
(12) Colorado State at TCU, The Mtn. (8 p.m. ET)
(12) Valparaiso at Milwaukee, Horizon League Network (8 p.m. ET)
(B) Michigan at (8) Illinois, Big Ten Network (8:30 p.m. ET)
(B) Oklahoma State at (1) Texas, ESPN2 (9 p.m. ET)
(B) New Mexico at (2) San Diego State, The Mtn. (10:30 p.m. ET)
Thursday, February 17
(9) Minnesota at (B) Penn State, ESPN2 (7 p.m. ET)
(B) Clemson at N.C. State, ESPN (7 p.m. ET)
(10) Richmond at (6) Temple, CBS College Sports (7 p.m. ET)
(B) Washington State at (5) Arizona, FSN/Comcast SportsNet (8:30 p.m. ET)
(B) Alabama at LSU, ESPN (9 p.m. ET)
(7) UCLA at Stanford, FSN/Comcast SportsNet (10:30 p.m. ET)
I'll have a list of games for the weekend at the end of Friday's Bubble Watch. For more specifics and analysis, please visit Blogging The Bracket for my nightly viewing picks.
Over on the blog, I'm also rolling out a new feature this week, updated S-curves on most mornings when Bracketology or Bubble Watch doesn't run (Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday), as events warrant. Be sure to follow me on Twitter for those updates and my other random observations.