I wasn't planning on putting seven-loss Kansas on the top line after both it and Syracuse lost on Saturday, but a couple of factors made me reconsider. The most important is that the Jayhawks are guaranteed some sort of conference title. As I wrote last year very early on Selection Sunday morning, the Selection Committee weighs trophies heavily when awarding No. 1 seeds.
Further research over the offseason confirmed my original suspicions. Since the NCAA Tournament was first seeded in 1979, when I was a mere child, 140 No. 1 nods have been handed out. Only 10 of those have been awarded to teams boasting neither a conference regular season or tournament title. Plus, half of those honors were given out between 1979 and 1984, when being an Independent in Division I didn't basically disqualify you from postseason participation.
That's a mark in Kansas' favor. Add the Jayhawks' sterling computer numbers (scoff if you must, but that's the system we have) and Syracuse's recent fade, and the choice is fairly simple. Florida (South) once again leads the way with Arizona (West) in the No. 2 position. Wichita State (Midwest) would be the Wildcats' possible Final Four opponent in this scenario, while Kansas (East) would oppose the Gators. Curiously, the New York-based East Region unexpectedly has a top seed that doesn't make geographic sense.
Joining the Orange (East) on the two line are Villanova (Midwest), Duke (West) and newcomer Wisconsin (South). Today's three seeds are ACC Tournament top seed Virginia, Creighton, Michigan and San Diego State. Rounding out the Top 16 are Iowa State, American co-leaders Cincinnati and Louisville, and sliding Michigan State, which hasn't won consecutive games since January 18th and 21st.
At the other end of the field, newcomers Arkansas and Oregon consolidated their positions with weekend wins, so there are no new at-larges on the first Monday of March.
I'll have more on each multi-bid conference, one last time, after today's bracket and rundown.
|(1) SOUTH |
|Orlando (Thu/Sat)||San Diego (Fri/Sun)|
|1||Florida (SEC)||1||Arizona (Pac-12)|
|16||Alabama State/Weber State||16||Davidson (SoCon)|
|8||Kansas State||8 88||George Washington|
|Spokane (Thu/Sat)||San Diego (Fri/Sun)|
|↑ 55 5||Oklahoma||5 5||Texas|
|*12||Toledo (MAC)||^↓12||Gonzaga (WCC)|
|4||Cincinnati (AAC)||↓ 4||Michigan State|
|↓ 13||North Dakota State (Summit)||↑ 13||Iona (MAAC)|
|Raleigh (Fri/Sun)||Milwaukee (Thu/Sat)|
|↑ 3||Virginia (ACC)||↓ 3||Creighton|
|↓ 14||Delaware (CAA)||↑ 14||Georgia State (Sun Belt)|
|Milwaukee (Thu/Sat)||Raleigh (Fri/Sun)|
|7||New Mexico (MW)||↓ 7||Ohio State|
|↓ 10||Baylor||↓ 10||Colorado|
|15||UC Irvine (Big West)||*15||Florida Gulf Coast (A-Sun)|
|(4) EAST |
New York (Fri/Sun)
|St. Louis (Fri/Sun)||St. Louis (Fri/Sun)|
|↑ 1||Kansas (Big 12)||1||Wichita State (MVC)|
|16||Robert Morris (NEC)||16||High Point/Utah Valley|
|↑ 9||St. Joseph's||9||Arizona State|
|San Antonio (Fri/Sun)||San Antonio (Fri/Sun)|
|5||Saint Louis (A 10)||↑ 5||North Carolina|
|↑ 12||Green Bay (Horizon)||↓ 12||Harvard (Ivy)|
|*13||Louisiana Tech (C-USA)||13||Belmont (OVC)|
|Spokane (Thu/Sat)||Orlando (Thu/Sat)|
|↓ 6||Kentucky||↑ 6||UMass|
|3||San Diego State||3||Michigan (Big Ten)|
|14||Stephen F. Austin (Southland)||↑ 14||Boston U. (Patriot)|
|Buffalo (Thu/Sat)||Buffalo (Thu/Sat)|
|↑ 10||Xavier||↑ 10||Oklahoma State|
|↓ 2||Syracuse||2||Villanova (Big East)|
|15||N.C. Central (MEAC)||↓ 15||Vermont (AmEast)|
|FIRST FOUR (Dayton)|
|Tuesday: To Orlando||Tuesday: To Milwaukee|
|16||Alabama State (SWAC)||11||Arkansas|
|16||Weber State (Big Sky)||^11||BYU|
|Wednesday: To St. Louis||Wednesday: To Raleigh
|16||High Point (Big South)||↑11||Minnesota|
|16||Utah Valley (WAC)||^11||Providence|
|BIDS BY CONFERENCE||AVOIDING DAYTON||ARRIVALS||DEPARTURES|
|Big 12: 7||Baylor||Florida Gulf Coast||Mercer|
|Pac-12: 7||Colorado||Louisiana Tech||Southern Mississippi|
|Big Ten: 6||California||Toledo||Western Michigan|
|A 10: 5||Oregon|
|AAC: 5||LAST FOUR IN|
|Big East: 4||Arkansas|
|WCC: 2||FIRST FOUR OUT|
|1-Bid Conferences: 22||Tennessee|
|NEXT FOUR OUT|
Also considered: LSU, Indiana, Marquette, Clemson, N.C. State, Illinois
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 Sunday, March 2, 2014.
Note: Teams in bold have clinched the top seed in their respective conference tournaments. They will remain in the bracket until the end, barring a loss.
Bids Today (5): Cincinnati (auto bid), Louisville, Connecticut, Memphis, SMU
With both Cincinnati and Louisville losing on Saturday, the race for the top seed at the AAC Tournament in Memphis comes down to the final week. Considering that the Bearcats host Memphis and visit Rutgers, while the Cardinals travel to SMU before hosting UConn and the Mustangs head to FedEx Forum after welcoming the Huskies, it would be a surprise if Mick Cronin's team didn't claim the trophy. That would go a long way toward preserving a place for Cincy on the top four seed lines.
At this point, all five squads should hear their names called on Selection Sunday night.
Five Games to Watch
Louisville at SMU, Wednesday 7 p.m. ET (CBS SN)
Memphis at Cincinnati, Thursday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
SMU at Memphis, Saturday 12 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Cincinnati at Rutgers, Saturday 12 p.m. ET (ESPNews)
Connecticut at Louisville, Saturday 2 p.m. ET (CBS)
Bids Today (5): Saint Louis (auto bid), UMass, VCU, George Washington, St. Joseph's
In The Hunt (2): Dayton, Richmond
Thanks to a howler of a home loss to hapless Duquesne and a disastrous road trip to VCU, Saint Louis' grip on the Atlantic 10 regular season crown is a tenuous one. St. Joseph's is now just a game behind with arguably an easier final week schedule -- at George Washington and La Salle at home -- compared to Dayton and at UMass for the Billikens.
SLU, the Hawks, and VCU are just about assured of quarterfinal byes at this point, while George Washington and UMass, tied at 9-5, are in the best position to earn the fourth. Bubble teams Dayton and Richmond, meanwhile, are basically playing for their at-large lives at 8-6 in the league. The Flyers, 7-1 in their last eight, are now in far better position than the Spiders, who picked up a pair of bad road losses at the hands of George Mason and Rhode Island last week.
Five Games To Watch
Dayton at Saint Louis, Wednesday 9 p.m. ET (CBS SN)
St. Joseph's at George Washington, Wednesday 9 p.m. ET (CSN Mid-Atlantic Plus. CSN Philadelphia/SNY/A 10 Network)
VCU at Richmond, Thursday 9 p.m. ET (CBS SN)
Richmond at Dayton, Saturday 7 p.m. (WTVR/WHIO)
Saint Louis at UMass, Sunday 2 p.m. ET (CBS SN)
Bids Today (5): Syracuse, Duke, Virginia (auto bid), North Carolina, Pittsburgh
In The Hunt (3): Florida State, Clemson, N.C. State
Duke's resurgence and Virginia's historic ACC title means that the conference will likely have three protected seeds in the actual bracket, a possibility that seemed ridiculous back when conference play began in December. Despite Syracuse's slide, I think it's possible for the Orange to regain a spot on the top line, though the road to the title in Greensboro will be difficult with a third meeting with Duke the most likely semifinal and a possible rematch with Virginia following that -- particularly if the team is not 100 percent healthy.
Of the ACC's other five bid contenders, only North Carolina is 100 percent safe right now. Pitt still has just one Top 50 win to its name, is struggling mightily at the moment, and faces two hungry bubble teams (N.C. State home and Clemson away) in the final week. Florida State has crept into the picture with three wins in its last four, but still needs a couple more wins. The Wolfpack and Tigers, meanwhile, really need so much more (read as, "wins in Greensboro") to earn a place at this point.
Five Games To Watch
Georgia Tech at Syracuse, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (ACC RSNs/ESPN3)
Miami at Clemson, Tuesday 8 p.m. ET (ACC Network Regional/ESPN3)
North Carolina at Duke, Saturday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Virginia at Maryland, Sunday 12 p.m. ET (CBS)
Syracuse at Florida State, Sunday 2 p.m. ET (ACC Network/ESPN3)
Bids Today (7): Kansas (auto bid), Iowa State, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Baylor
In The Hunt (1): West Virginia
While Kansas is in the thick of the chase for a top seed and Iowa State, Oklahoma, and Texas should each wear their white unis in the Round of 64, the Big 12's bubble teams did a nice job of consolidating their positions this week. Kansas State defeated the Cyclones to pick up a seventh Top 50 win. That should be more than enough for the Wildcats, even if none of those victories came outside of the state of Kansas. Oklahoma State is perfect since Marcus Smart returned from his suspension, capped by Saturday's huge home win over KU. Baylor, meanwhile, has won five of six to get back on the right side of the cut line.
Things aren't quite so rosy for 16-13 West Virginia, which sits ahead of both Baylor and OSU in the standings, but looks to be pretty far away from the bubble at the moment. However, wrapping up a season sweep of Oklahoma and topping Kansas in Morgantown might put the Mountaineers right back in the thick of things heading into Championship Week.
Five Games To Watch
Kansas State at Oklahoma State, Monday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Iowa State at Baylor, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
West Virginia at Oklahoma, Wednesday 9 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Baylor at Kansas State, Saturday 1:30 p.m. ET (Big 12 Network/ESPN3)
Oklahoma State at Iowa State, Saturday 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Bids Today (4): Villanova (auto bid), Creighton, Xavier, Providence (First Four)
In The Hunt (3): St. John's, Georgetown, Marquette
Thanks to Creighton's (13-3) Saturday loss at Xavier, the Big East title is now Villanova's (14-2) to lose. However, the path is not easy for either team, as each plays a pair of bubble teams in its final two games. Both the Bluejays and Wildcats take on Georgetown, a team desperate to get back into consideration, with Creighton having to travel to D.C. before the Hoyas visit Philadelphia on the final Saturday of the regular season. Villanova travels to Xavier, conquerors of the Jays, first on Tuesday, while Creighton finishes its season up with a visit from Providence, the very last team in today's field.
Not only do the Friars travel to Omaha this week, they welcome Marquette, whose hopes took a hit with a Sunday loss at Villanova, to the Dunkin' Donuts Center. The Golden Eagles follow that bubble game up with another -- a visit from St. John's. That happens to be the Red Storm's lone game of the week.
It's just going to be another week of shuffling in a conference with only two clear locks. And I didn't even mention that one of the bubble teams (Georgetown, at the moment) will have to play in the Big East Tournament's Opening Round. A loss to a non-contender on the Wednesday would surely doom that unlucky team to the NIT.
Six Games To Watch
Creighton at Georgetown, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (FS1)
Marquette at Providence, Tuesday 9 p.m. ET (FS1)
Villanova at Xavier, Thursday 7 p.m. ET (FS1)
St. John's at Marquette, Saturday 12 p.m. ET (FS1)
Georgetown at Villanova, Saturday 2 p.m. ET (FS1)
Providence at Creighton, Saturday 8 p.m. ET (CBS SN)
Bids Today (6): Wisconsin, Michigan (auto bid), Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa, Minnesota (First Four)
In The Hunt (3): Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois
Michigan, two games up with two to play, will almost assuredly be the top seed in Indianapolis, though a pair of games against teams that are edging closer to consideration might cause a nervous week for Wolverine fans. I strongly suspect that whoever advances the furthest between Michigan and Wisconsin on Selection Weekend at the Fieldhouse in Indy will end up with a No. 2 seed, but the rest of the Big Ten's slots look a bit hazy. Michigan State is slipping down the bracket, thanks to an inability to win consecutive games. Ohio State and Iowa are sliding because of some late inconsistency, while Minnesota is barely hanging on.
Curiously, the Big Ten's bubble has expanded slightly thanks to Indiana and Illinois taking advantage of the locks' struggles. The Fighting Illini have suddenly defeated three bid contenders in a row (Minnesota and Michigan State away and Nebraska in Champaign), while Indiana took out both Iowa and Ohio State in Bloomington. As for the Cornhuskers, they're 6-1 in their last seven, and that loss to Illinois doesn't look quite so bad in context.
With the Hoosiers' and Illini's late resurgence and much Big Ten Tourney positioning still at stake, this week's schedule is even more packed than originally thought.
Seven Games To Watch
Michigan at Illinois, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Nebraska at Indiana, Wednesday 7 p.m. ET (BTN)
Iowa at Michigan State, Thursday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Indiana at Michigan, Saturday 6 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Illinois at Iowa, Saturday 8:30 p.m. ET (BTN)
Michigan State at Ohio State, Sunday 4:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
Wisconsin at Nebraska, Sunday 7:30 p.m. ET (BTN)
Bids Today (2): San Diego State, New Mexico (auto bid)
These two will meet on Saturday night with the Mountain West regular season title on the line, though each could get caught looking ahead on Wednesday night. Obviously, with the Aztecs on the road, they're in a bit more danger, especially since they last defeated UNLV at the Thomas & Mack in 2011 (twice).
Three Games To Watch
Air Force at New Mexico, Wednesday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
San Diego State at UNLV, Wednesday 11 p.m. ET (CBS SN)
New Mexico at San Diego State, Saturday 10 p.m. (CBS SN)
Bids Today (7): Arizona (auto bid), UCLA, Stanford, Arizona State, Colorado, California, Oregon
On Sunday night, Arizona claimed the outright Pac-12 title with a win over Stanford, who continues to remain firmly in the middle of the bracket, alongside Arizona State and Colorado. Provided it doesn't trip up in Washington next week, UCLA is in position to claim the two seed in Las Vegas. However, the race for the final two quarterfinal byes will come down to the wire, as a half-dozen teams are within two games of third-place ASU.
Then there are the bubble complications. Oregon gets a great opportunity to solidify its position, as both Grand Canyon State schools visit. The Bay Area teams host their Rocky Mountain rivals, with everyone in those matchups alive for the No. 4 seed. In short, there could be some changes coming over the next seven days.
Six Games To Watch
Arizona State at Oregon, Tuesday 11 p.m. ET (FS1)
Colorado at Stanford, Wednesday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Utah at California, Wednesday 11 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Utah at Stanford, Saturday 2:30 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
Arizona at Oregon, Saturday 4 p.m. ET (CBS)
Colorado at California, Saturday 6:30 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
Bids Today (3): Florida (auto bid), Kentucky, Arkansas (First Four)
In The Hunt (2): Tennessee, Missouri, LSU
This week, Florida will visit South Carolina and host Kentucky, who lost in Columbia on Saturday, with the goal of wrapping up a perfect SEC campaign. Their league rivals, meanwhile, all have some level of work to do. The Wildcats will need a win over the Gators to rejoin the Top 16 following consecutive losses. Arkansas, who defeated Georgia after completing a sweep of UK, has a pair of dangerous games to close the regular season out -- Ole Miss at home and Alabama away. Tennessee and Missouri meet in a potential bubble elimination game on Saturday, but both will need to win at midweek first. The Vols travel to Auburn, while the Tigers host Texas A&M. LSU, meanwhile, can put itself in better position by taking care of Vanderbilt in Nashville and Georgia back in Baton Rouge.
Still, the SEC's bid picture won't be totally clear until everyone gathers in Atlanta and we do this all over again.
Five Games To Watch
Ole Miss at Arkansas, Wednesday TBA (ESPN3)
Kentucky at Florida, Saturday 12 p.m. ET (CBS)
Missouri at Tennessee, Saturday 4 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Arkansas at Alabama, Saturday 4 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
Georgia at LSU, Saturday 5 p.m. ET (SEC on FSN/ESPN3)
Likely Single-Bid Leagues
Auto Bids Today (22): Vermont (America East), Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun), Weber State (Big Sky), High Point (Big South), UC Irvine (Big West), Delaware (Colonial), Louisiana Tech (Conference USA), Green Bay (Horizon), Harvard (Ivy), Iona (Metro Atlantic), Toledo (Mid-American), N.C. Central (Mid-Eastern), Wichita State (Missouri Valley, in as at-large), Robert Morris (Northeast), Belmont (Ohio Valley), Boston U. (Patriot), Davidson (Southern), Stephen F. Austin (Southland), Alabama State (SWAC), North Dakota State (Summit), Georgia State (Sun Belt), Gonzaga (West Coast, in as at-large), Utah Valley (Western Athletic)
At-Large Bid (1): BYU
It's looking increasingly like the Cougars will be caught from behind by a surging power conference team and be left with only the potential for several NIT home games as a consolation. As I wrote last Tuesday, I think Gonzaga cannot rest on its past successes and must also win the WCC's auto bid. The fun in Las Vegas starts for those two in the quarterfinal round on March 8th.
Head over to Mid-Major Madness for full schedules and broadcast information for the mid-major tournaments as they become available. Given how crazy this season has been, there's no telling how many top seeds find themselves in the NIT on Selection Sunday.
Keep in mind that we could see our first bid handed out on Friday night, when Harvard (11-1) travels to Yale (9-3). While the Bulldogs won at Lavietes Pavilion on February 8th, they'll need to sweep the weekend and hope that the Crimson also falls at Brown on Saturday to force a one-game playoff for the Ivy's auto bid.
Five Games To Watch (Other Than Tournament Action)
Buffalo at Akron, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (TWCS/ESPN3)
Hawai `i at UC Santa Barbara, Thursday 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
Harvard at Yale, Friday 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Western Kentucky at Georgia State, Saturday 2:30 p.m. ET (WKYU/ESPN3)
Central Arkansas at Stephen F. Austin, Saturday 7:30 pm. ET (ESPN3)
My next bracketology will come tomorrow. 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.