Bracketology 2012: Duke Finally Steps Up To The No. 1 Line

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 08: Austin Rivers #0 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates with teammates Seth Curry #30 and Quinn Cook #2 after hitting a game-winning 3 pointer to defeat the North Carolina Tar Heels 85-84 during their game at the Dean Smith Center on February 8, 2012 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The Blue Devils join Syracuse, Kentucky, and Missouri on the top line of Chris Dobbertean's weekly bracket.

In last week's bracket, Missouri jumped onto the top line after grabbing victories over Texas and Kansas. The Tigers kept it going this week by winning at Oklahoma and handing Baylor its fourth conference loss of the season. Those wins mean Mizzou now sits solidly behind Syracuse and Kentucky as the third No. 1 seed-at the top of the Midwest Regional, which happens to conclude in St. Louis.

Duke fills in the fourth top spot. My explanation follows the bracket.

Note: All RPI information is as of 02/12/2012 and from BBState.com.

(1) EAST
Boston (Thu/Sat)
(2) SOUTH
Atlanta (Fri/Sun)
Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat) Louisville (Thu/Sat)
1 Syracuse (Big East) 1 Kentucky (SEC)
16 Long Island U. (NEC) 16 MVSU/UNC Asheville
8 Vanderbilt 8 Kansas State
9 Saint Louis 9 Connecticut
Portland (Thu/Sat) Nashville (Fri/Sun)
5 San Diego State 5 Temple (A-10)
12 Seton Hall 12 Arizona/N.C. State
4 Michigan 4 Wisconsin
13 Miami/Texas 13 Davidson (SoCon)
Albuquerque (Thu/Sat) Albuquerque (Thu/Sat)
6 Creighton 6 Gonzaga
11 BYU 11 Minnesota
3 Baylor 3 UNLV (MWC)
14 Akron (MAC) 14 Oral Roberts (Summit)
Columbus (Fri/Sun) Greensboro (Fri/Sun)
7 Florida 7 Memphis
10 West Virginia 10 Cincinnati
2 Michigan State (Big Ten) 2 North Carolina
15 Bucknell (Patriot) 15 Valparaiso (Horizon)
(4) WEST
Phoenix (Thu/Sat)
(3) MIDWEST
St. Louis (Fri/Sun)
Greensboro (Fri/Sun) Omaha (Fri/Sun)
1 Duke 1 Missouri (Big 12)
16 Stony Brook/UT Arlington 16 Norfolk State (MEAC)
8 Mississippi State 8 New Mexico
9 California (Pac-12) 9 Southern Miss. (C-USA)
Nashville (Fri/Sun) Portland (Thu/Sat)
5 Wichita State (MVC) 5 St. Mary's (WCC)
12 Long Beach State (Big West) 12 Alabama
4 Louisville 4 Indiana
13 Drexel (CAA) 13 Middle Tenn. (Sun Belt)
Columbus (Fri/Sun) Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)
6 Murray State (OVC) 6 Virginia
11 Purdue 11 Harvard (Ivy)
3 Marquette 3 Georgetown
14 Iona (MAAC) 14 Nevada (MAC)
Omaha (Fri/Sun) Louisville (Thu/Sat)
7 Florida State 7 Notre Dame
10 Illinois 10 Iowa State
2 Kansas 2 Ohio State
15 Weber State (Big Sky) 15 Mercer (A-Sun)
FIRST FOUR (Dayton)
Tuesday: To Louisville
Tuesday: To Portland
16 Miss. Valley St. (SWAC)
13 Miami
16 UNC Asheville (Big South) 13 Texas
Wednesday: To Greensboro Wednesday: To Nashville
16 Stony Brook (America East) 12 Arizona
16 UT Arlington (Southland) 12 N.C. State

Thanks in part to Thursday's win over North Carolina, the Blue Devils get the nod out of a group that includes the Tar Heels, Kansas, Michigan State, and Ohio State--a move they would have made last week had they not lost to Miami on Super Bowl Sunday afternoon. Sure, Duke's 6-4 record against the RPI Top 50 is the same as the one every other team on that list owns (except for the Spartans, who are 6-5), but the Blue Devils' advantage grows when you look at how they've handled lesser competition, as they've gone 6-0 in games against teams ranked between 51 and 100 in the RPI. Kansas comes closest at 5-1 against the second RPI tier, with their loss coming against Davidson, a team Duke defeated.

If you look at the teams' records against the Top 200, Mike Krzyzewski's group continues to dominate, sitting at 19-4 (with a 21-4 overall record). That's three wins better than either North Carolina or Ohio State, who are tied for second among the No. 1 seed contenders in that category. Throw in the Blue Devils' record away from Durham (10-2), their RPI (2), and their strength of schedule (1, bolstered by that lack of games against teams sitting at 201 or worse in the RPI), and the decision for this week was pretty simple. However, a lot can change (and probably will) during the final three weeks of the regular season and in the conference tournaments.

Former top seed Baylor drops all the way down to a No. 3 this week after back-to-back losses to Kansas and Missouri. While those are the only two teams to defeat the Bears this week, and their computer numbers are still strong (RPI: 6, SOS: 11), Baylor's best RPI win is over San Diego State, who just cracks the Top 20. Every team on the top two lines, save Syracuse, has a victory over a team in the top 5, and the Bears don't have a one-loss record to fall back on.

After this week's rundown, a look at how things are unfolding at the other end of the bracket.

BIDS BY CONFERENCE LAST FOUR BYES ARRIVALS DEPARTURES
Big East: 9
Purdue Arizona Belmont
Big Ten: 8 Seton Hall Mercer Cleveland State
ACC: 6 Minnesota N.C. State Colorado State
Big 12: 6 Alabama Texas Northwestern
SEC: 5
LAST FOUR IN Valparaiso Washington
MWC: 3
N.C. State

WCC: 3 Miami

A-10: 2 Texas

C-USA: 2
Arizona

MVC: 2 LAST FOUR OUT

Pac-12: 2
Xavier

1-Bid Conferences: 20 Northwestern


Dayton


Colorado State


NEXT FOUR OUT


Mississippi


Washington


Wyoming


UCF

N.C. State finally breaks through, helped in part by Miami, who remains in. As the Hurricanes' schedule has gotten tougher, their RPI has jumped, which means the Wolfpack finally own a Top 50 win, with the potential for more in the next two weeks. Arizona moves in as the second Pac-12 team in the field for the week, even though the Wildcats struggled mightily with Utah on Saturday afternoon. Texas also enters the field, as its win over Kansas State got them to .500 in the strong Big 12. The Longhorns get in at the expense of Northwestern, who missed a chance to get themselves to 6-6 in the stronger Big Ten Sunday evening.

Colorado State drops out, thanks to a loss at TCU, meaning the Mountain West is down to three bids, the likely final total for that conference. Wyoming would have received some consideration for a First Four spot, but the Cowboys' offense never got going in the second half of their game against New Mexico, a game they lead by four after 20 minutes.

The days of five Atlantic 10 teams in the bracket are a memory, as Temple (8-2) and Saint Louis (8-3) have separated themselves slightly from the four- and five-loss teams. The Owls handled Xavier Saturday night, and it would be easy to classify that as a "missed opportunity" for the Musketeers. But can you really call a game a team was never really in an "opportunity"? Regardless, Xavier and their archrivals from Dayton are out on this Monday, as is UMass, who lost at St. Joseph's.

Hopes for a surprise mid-major at-large or two continue to fade, especially as two fringe contenders suffered critical defeats on Saturday. Cleveland State lost the Horizon League lead to Valparaiso on Thursday night. That setback turned into a streak when the Vikings fell to Butler early on Saturday afternoon. Southern Conference leader Davidson may have a win over Kansas, but a loss to College of Charleston (especially when combined with a January 28th defeat at Samford) all but extinguished the Wildcats' chances of a bid should they fail to claim the conference tournament title. Both will have chances to rebound at home during BracketBusters, as the Vikings welcome CAA co-leader Drexel and the Wildcats host Missouri Valley frontrunner Wichita State, but it may be a case of too little, too late.

Finally, here's a sampling of this week's games with bracket impact. There are plenty of contests to pay attention to, even on Valentine's Day. Plan accordingly.

TV info from MattSarzSports.com.

Monday, February 13
Syracuse at Louisville, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
It's been nearly 6 years since the Orange last defeated the Cardinals, that 2005-06 Louisville team was headed for the NIT. This week's No. 1 overall seed looks to end that seven-game streak tonight.

Iowa State at Baylor, 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
The Cyclones can actually pass the Bears in the Big 12 standings with a win in the first of their two meetings this season.

Kansas at Kansas State, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
The Wildcats could use a victory to shore up their suddenly shaky position, while a Jayhawks' win would keep them in the think of the hunt for the final top seed.

Tuesday, February 14
Florida at Alabama, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
This game will likely be discussed in the Committee room, as the Gators will be without defensive/rebounding force Will Yeguete (concussion) and Mike Rosario (hip pointer). On the other hand, Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant has suspended his top four players indefinitely. Alabama is only just in this week's bracket. If the suspensions continue, they will soon drop out.

Texas at Oklahoma, 8 p.m. ET (Big 12 Network/Full Court/ESPN3)
The Longhorns are back in the at-large picture after their 11-point comeback win against Kansas State on Saturday. They can't afford a loss to a Sooner team that's dropped four straight.

Ohio State at Minnesota, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
A win over the Buckeyes would give the Golden Gophers a boost, particularly after a heartbreaking loss to Wisconsin on Thursday night. At the other end of the bracket, top seed candidate Ohio State needs a big response after Saturday's loss to Michigan State.

VCU at George Mason, 9 p.m. ET (CSN Mid-Atlantic Plus/Comcast Network Philly/CSS)
Considering both teams' BracketBusters matchups won't provide much punch, a win tonight in Fairfax is vital, especially since the third CAA co-leader, Drexel, visits 5-22 William & Mary.

Wednesday, February 15
Northwestern at Indiana, 6:30 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
The Wildcats face their most difficult remaining road game, a trip to Assembly Hall, where the Hoosiers have lost just once this season. An upset win would not only be one of the season's biggest surprises, but also a significant boost to a borderline profile.

North Carolina at Miami, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
A home win over the Tar Heels would be a nice complement to the road win at Duke that's already on the Hurricanes' profile.

Temple at St. Bonaventure, 8 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
It's a rare televised game from the Reilly Center, where the Bonnies have yet to lose in A-10 play. They'll look to knock the Owls, winners of eight straight, off the top of the league table.

Murray State at Southeast Missouri State, 8 p.m. ET (Racer TV/Full Court/ESPN3)
The Racers followed up Thursday night's loss to Tennessee State, their first, with a resounding win over Austin Peay. On Wednesday, they travel to Cape Girardeau to take on a Redhawk team that gave them fits in their first meeting back in Kentucky. Murray State cannot get caught looking ahead to Saturday's visit from St. Mary's (and Dick Vitale).

Arkansas at Tennessee, 8 p.m. ET (SEC Network/Full Court/ESPN3)
The Razorbacks are still looking for their first road win, and they aren't likely to get it against a rapidly improving Volunteer team.

Missouri State at Wichita State, 8 p.m. ET (KY3/Cox Kansas/Full Court/ESPN3)
The Shockers can clinch at least a tie for the Missouri Valley title with a victory tonight.

Purdue at Illinois, 8:30 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
If the bubble was a bit stronger, both of these teams would be planning for the NIT. Yet, thanks to 37 at-large spots being available, the Illini, 1-6 in their last seven, and Boilermakers, 2-4 in their last six, still have life.

Oklahoma State at Missouri, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
The Tigers host the Cowboys, looking to avenge the worst of their two losses.

New Mexico at San Diego State, 10 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
With UNLV likely to win at TCU, the Lobos and Aztecs are probably playing to remain in a first-place tie with the Runnin' Rebels.

Loyola Marymount at St. Mary's, 10:30 p.m. ET (CSN California)
The Gaels defeated the Lions by seven on January 26th. Again, they can't get caught looking ahead to their BracketBusters game at Murray State.

Thursday, February 16
Wisconsin at Michigan State, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
The Spartans will attempt to complete a season sweep of the Badgers and move closer to a possible No. 1 seed.

Virginia Tech at Florida State, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
This is exactly the type of game that is likely to give the 2011-12 version of the Seminoles trouble. However, two things work in Florida State's favor: 1) the Seminoles won at Blacksburg on January 10th, and 2) the game is in Tallahassee.

West Virginia at Pittsburgh, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
The Mountaineers are squarely on the bubble after losing five of six. A second loss to the Panthers in an 18-day span would put a serious damper on their hopes. Pitt's renaissance was short lived, as Jamie Dixon's team has followed a four-game winning streak with a two-game slide.

Vanderbilt at Mississippi, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
The Rebels need to get themselves above .500 in the SEC to have a chance at selection. Their closing stretch, starting with a home game against the Commodores, probably won't help them reach that goal.

Arizona at Washington State, 9 p.m. ET (FSN/Comcast SportsNet)
The Wildcats need to be wary of this trip, as the Cougars have already defeated California and Stanford at home.

N.C. State at Duke, 9 p.m. ET (ACC Network Regional/Full Court/ESPN3)
The Wolfpack open a make-or-break stretch at Cameron Indoor. If N.C. State fails to win tonight, all is not lost, as home games with Florida State and North Carolina will follow.

Oregon at California, 10:30 p.m. ET (OSN/CSN California/CSN Northwest)
The Ducks (9-4) would love to knock the Golden Bears (10-3) out of a tie for the Pac-12 lead, while bolstering their slender at-large chances in the process.

My next full update will come next Monday, with Bubble Watch, featuring a rundown of a very busy weekend slate, out on Friday.

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